Phoenix's St. Joseph Hospital May Lose Catholic Status

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St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix may lose its Catholic status on Friday if its parent company, Catholic Healthcare West, doesn't meet the demands of the city's Catholic bishop, who insists an abortion was performed at the hospital, according to a USA Today report.

The incident in dispute occurred last November when physicians at St. Joseph's terminated the pregnancy of a young mother. The medical staff said she was near death with pulmonary hypertension, which was exacerbated by hormones produced in the uterus during pregnancy. The surgery was performed with the approval of the hospital's ethics committee, which includes a Catholic nun.

This spring, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted condemned the surgery as an abortion, while the hospital argues the case was akin to removing a pregnant woman's cancerous uterus, which is permissible under church doctrine. After months of discussion, Bishop Oldmsted wrote San Francisco-based CHW a letter, saying he didn't believe the parent company intended to change its policies and he would revoke its Catholic status unless the company met his demands.

Oldmsted's three demands for CHW are to:

•Acknowledge Bishop Olmsted was right and the hospital was wrong in its interpretation of a church healthcare directive regarding "indirect abortions."
•Submit itself to a diocesan review and certification "to ensure full compliance" with Catholic moral teachings. (Bishop Olmsted compared this certification to other hospital accreditations.)
•Agree to give medical staff ongoing training on the Ethical and Religious Directives, a document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that explains Catholic moral teachings for healthcare providers.

St. Joseph's and CHW did not release a comment on the letter.

If the hospital is stripped of its Catholic status, the diocese website would also post a public advisory on its website, stating the hospital is no longer recognized as Catholic by the diocese.

However, the hospital would not be required to stop calling itself Catholic, according to the report. It would also be able to offer ministry to the sick by priests and church ministers.

Read the USA Today report on St. Joseph's Hospital, Catholic Healthcare West and Phoenix's bishop.

Read more about Catholic Healthcare West:

- Catholic Healthcare West Pays $257K to Resolve Discrimination Allegations

- California's Valley Presbyterian CFO Resigns to Join Catholic Healthcare West

- CHW Devotes Additional $400M to Expand EHR Rollout


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