Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ultimatum: Phoenix bishop set to revoke Catholic status of hospital that performed abortion

PHOENIX, December 15, 2010 ( - The Catholic bishop of Phoenix has warned that a local hospital where doctors directly killed an unborn child late last year will lose its status as a Catholic institution unless it submits to a review to ensure it will comply with Catholic church teaching.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted issued the warning to Lloyd Dean, president of the San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), in a November 22 letter obtained by The Arizona Republic. CHW is the parent company of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, where the abortion was performed.

The conflict began in May of last year, when Olmsted announced that Sr. Margaret McBride, then the hospital’s vice president of mission integration, and any other staff member that directly facilitated the murder of the unborn baby had automatically excommunicated themselves from the Church by doing so.

Hospital officials claimed that killing the unborn child at 11 weeks gestation was necessary to save the life of its mother, who was suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that can be aggravated by pregnancy.

Though the details of the case remain confidential, other experts deny that it would be necessary to perform an abortion even in the case of severe pulmonary hypertension, and say that the mother should have been able to remain stable at least until the baby could be prematurely delivered.

The Catholic Physicians Guild of Phoenix came out in support of Olmsted the same month, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops supported Olmsted’s assertion that a direct abortion - unlike forms of therapy that may indirectly lead to the child’s death - is always a grave transgression of Catholic moral guidelines.

Olmsted’s letter, which copied San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, warned Dean that he expected allowance to oversee the Catholic identity at the hospital in his diocese, and that, “Until this point in time, you have not acknowledged my authority to settle this question.”

“There cannot be a tie in this debate,” the bishop wrote, according to The Republic. Olmsted said he “must act now” to prevent further abuses and “repair the grave scandal to the Christian faithful that has resulted from the procedure.”

Olmsted said that, in order to remain in good standing with the diocese, the hospital would have to backtrack on its endorsement of the abortion, submit to a diocesan review and certification for compliance with Catholic moral teaching, and agree to ongoing training for medical staff on the U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives.

Both the hospital and CHW have yet to respond publicly to the letter.

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