Catholic Bishop Gives Hospital Til Tuesday for Abortion Recant

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 17, 2010   |   8:05PM   |   Phoenix, AZ

Bishop Thomas Olmsted has given a Catholic hospital until Tuesday to confirm its policies on abortion to those of the Catholic Church or face decertification of its status as a Catholic hospital.

Olmsted had originally given Catholic Healthcare West, the parent of St. Joseph’s Hospital until Friday to change its abortion policy but has extended the deadline to Tuesday after some late-minute confidential communication between the two.

“The Diocese of Phoenix has been in continuing conversation with Catholic Healthcare West about their Catholic identity and adherence to the teachings of the Church regarding their facilities within the Diocese of Phoenix,” the diocese said today. “Late on Thursday, Dec. 16, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted was in receipt of further communication from Catholic Healthcare West officials.”

“Given the ongoing communication and attempts to rectify the situation, Bishop Olmsted is extending his deadline until Tuesday, Dec. 21,” the statement added.

The two have been squabbling over an abortion done on a terminally ill woman’s unborn child supposedly in order to save her life. Olmsted has declared the surgery an abortion, saying doctors should have concentrated on saving both mother and child.

The hospital has been facing questions for the better part of a year over a 2009 abortion which the hospital’s ethics committee deemed necessary to save the life of the mother and it defended itself yesterday.

“St. Joseph’s and Catholic Healthcare West continue to be in dialogue with Bishop Olmsted and we hope to achieve a resolution. We believe that all life is sacred. In this case we saved the only life we could save, which was the mother’s,” the hospital said in a brief statement.

The Diocese of Phoenix released a statement as well Wednesday indicating the two parties appear to be in discussion about the letter Olmsted sent November 22 to Lloyd H. Dean, president of Catholic Healthcare West about the abortion after CHW relied on the analysis of Therese Lysaught, an associate professor of theology and director of graduate studies at Marquette University, to justify the abortion. Olmsted said it is his job, not the hospital’s to interpret and explain Catholic moral teachings on abortion and enforce them within the diocese.

“The bishop and his staff are working together with Catholic Healthcare West and St. Joseph’s Hospital to find the best way to provide authentic Catholic health care in accordance with the Church’s teaching,” Bishop Olmsted’s spokesman said.

In that letter, he said St. Joseph’s Hospital should align itself with the policies of the National Catholic Bioethics Center or submit to a review of its policies by the diocesan medical ethics board to continue to remain in good standing with the Catholic Church.

“Failure to fulfill these requirements will lead me to decree the suspension of my endorsement of St. Joseph’s Hospital, forcing me to notify the Catholic faithful that St. Joseph’s Hospital no longer qualifies as a ‘Catholic’ hospital,” the bishop wrote.

But he said he doesn’t expect CHW to change its policies.

An official with a pro-life Catholic group says the Catholic bishop is correct to hold the hospital accountable.

“Bishop Olmsted is setting an important precedent,” says Thomas Peters of CatholicVote. “Catholics hospitals derive the right to bear the name “Catholic” from the permission of their bishop. This is because the local bishop is responsible for “quality control” at catholic hospitals, so that Catholics in his diocese can know with certainty that their health care will be administered according to the ethical principles formulated and defended by the Church.”

He said Catholics should “support Bishop Olmsted’s simple request that a hospital in his diocese which bears the name Catholic also acts Catholic.”