Phoenix: Bp. Olmsted strips St. Joseph’s Hospital of its Catholic status

And now we will get to watch the CINOs go bananas.   Who will be the first to throw a nutty tantrum about the nerve of that bishop in some fly-over state to undermine health care for the poor, to continue the patriarchal oppression of women?


Phoenix diocese strips St. Joseph’s Hospital of Catholic status
by Michael Clancy

The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has removed St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center’s status as a Catholic hospital for failing to strictly adhere to Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s demands that the hospital comply with church moral teaching.

The decision, announced at a Tuesday news conference by the diocese, came after negotiations between Catholic Healthcare West and the bishop failed to resolve major ethical differences. [Apparently they refuse to acknowledge the Bishop’s proper role and won’t promise not to perform abortions.]

The diocese and the hospital spent months trying to reach agreement over the bishop’s belief that the hospital violated the church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care in a case in which the pregnancy of a terminally ill woman was ended to save her life.

Olmsted has declared the surgery an abortion, while St. Joseph’s has argued that the procedure was allowable under church-approved exceptions to the abortion policy. The exceptions allow for termination of the fetus if that is not the direct purpose of a surgery, such as in cases of uterine cancer or a blockage of a fallopian tube.

The bishop, in a letter dated Nov. 22, said he disagreed with an extensive analysis by Marquette University theologian M. Therese Lysaught that argued that the intention of doctors involved in the case, and the mother, was primarily to save the mother’s life – not to end the life of the fetus.

Discussions between the bishop and officials of Catholic Healthcare West, St. Joseph’s parent company, have been going on for more than a year, ever since the surgery was reported to the bishop. Hospital officials later said they did not believe the informant violated federal health-care privacy laws.

The ultimatum from the bishop followed his request over the summer that CHW provide him with a moral analysis of the case. The request for the analysis was passed on to Lysaught in August. She completed her work and forwarded her analysis to Lloyd Dean, CHW president, in late October. By the end of November, the bishop had rejected her conclusions.


The Diocese of Phoenix set up a separate website for this issue.  They will update it.



Arizona Hospital Loses Catholic Status Over Surgery:

The decree removing the hospital’s Catholic status. HERE.

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  1. SimonDodd says:

    It is a little disappointing how toothless the sanctions are, but this is a positive move. Perhaps someone should carbon copy it to Bp. Robert Finn of Kansas City.

  2. frjim4321 says:

    This is probably one of the top ten Catholic news stories of 2010. It will be interesting to see how it will pan out, and what the fallout will be for the U.S. episocpacy and the U.S. Catholic health care institutions. I wonder how this would have been handled in a diocese with a more centrist/moderate bishop? Time will tell where wisdom lies . . .

  3. Charles says:

    Ah! The faulty “principle of double effect” at work again (in the Marquette prof’s reasoning). So long as it’s not intended, you can do whatever you want. This is the same thought reflected in Fr. Rhonheimer’s piece on “prophylactic intention”. The need for robust treatments of understanding the moral object of the act is still so pressing.

  4. rakesvines says:

    This reinforces our conviction about the sacredness of life and delineates a clear stance against Liberal Catholics who compromise the truth or disregard the authority of the bishops. If we don’t live as we believe, we will believe the way we live. So, it is not toothless. What would have been weak is for the bishop to do nothing as in the case of Carol Keehan, the LCWR & CHA. Even now, people are still confused that she and her coven are running unscatched. Consequently, they think that the magisterium of nuns is an acceptable source of a second opinion. So, I support Bishop Olmstead wholeheartedly and hope that other bishops follow suit.

  5. SimonDodd says:

    rakesvines, if that was aimed at me, you have misunderstood my point. I fully agree that it is a positive step, especially in the broader sense. Even if CHW had believed it was doing something wrong, the legacy of a latitudinarian episcopacy is such that CHW had no reason to believe that it would actually be subject to any sanctions. It’s the same thing with politicians: they have no incentive to conform themselves to the Church’s teaching because so many have gotten away with not doing so for so long. What Bp. Olmsted has done here—and what would happen with one or two high profile excommunications—is to dust off the stick, and make clear that sanctions may be imposed. That changes the calculus for would-be dissenters. For instance, imagine what might have happened if Notre Dame had had reason to believe that it could face actual sanctions for inviting President Obama.

    Nevertheless, I stand by the remark that the sanctions are toothless in this particular case, because CHW will not be forced to change anything. (Cf. Ed Peters’ comment here.) They will continue to call themselves “Catholic Healthcare West,” and it is hard to imagine that anyone who didn’t care about them being a disobedient Catholic hospital yesterday will suddenly care that they have been stripped of the name today. And the hospital administration itself is clearly untroubled by these sanctions beyond whatever effect—as I said, limited, one must imagine—it has on patients. The broader significance of the case has greater resonance than its particulars, in my view.

  6. TonyC says:

    It will be interesting to see how they react, which will further tell us if they really care if they are Catholic or not!

  7. rakesvines says:

    @SimonDodd: Not aimed at you bro. I get what you’re saying i.e. there should have been more punitive damages that can’t be simply laughed away and rolled off like water from the back of a duck. My point is the sanctions does the faithful good even if the faithless are unaffected. Peace.

  8. frjim4321 says:

    Under civil law, I don’t know that the bishop has the authority to change the name of an entitiy that he does not own.

  9. basilorat says:

    Quite frankly…it is rather “toothless”. No one really cares.
    1. The Church lacks the ability in civil law to regulate the name “Catholic” and how it is used.
    2. Most people really don’t care which hospital they go to when it comes to a faith issue.
    3. The people who should care (the religious orders), do not.
    4. Catholic healthcare is going to go the way of the dinosaurs and Catholic education. And it’s not just Obamacare. People no longer value religion or Christianity. Most who do, don’t believe in a God of Revelation, or if they do, revelation is a personal encounter, and not a revelation to “the Church”. It is part of the post-modern era where truth is what one actualizes for him/her/itself.

    I wish I were wrong, but I’m fairly certain I’m not. I wish it were different. But its not. I applaud the bishop for what he has done, becuase as Cardinal Burke has been saying for quite some time now, in so many words, and to paraphrase, ‘we need to know who is truly Catholic, and who is just saying they are, so as not to cause scandal or confuse those who are authentic or searching.

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  11. Oneros says:

    There’s nothing wrong with “double effect” on principle Charles. This just wasn’t one of those cases.

    “the intention of doctors involved in the case, and the mother, was primarily to save the mother’s life – not to end the life of the fetus.”

    Very likely true. But intent is only one of the three fonts of moral action, and all must be good. If the moral object is still evil, then the whole act is, regardless of good intent or consequences.

    I think the loss of the traditional Catholic distinction between “intention” and “moral object” (ie, intended end vs proximate end) is one of the huge causes of misunderstandings and disagreements about morality today:

  12. Ralph says:

    Bishop Olmsted is the Bishop of my diocese’s northern neighbor. So I get to see him fairly often

    It’s important to remember that when the Holy Father JP II, RIP, appointed him to his post, Phoenix was in shambles. The previous, VERY LIBERAL, Bishop had avoided jail for vehicular manslaughter by the skin of his teeth. The former Vicar General was a heritic who ended up forming his own “church” in a strip mall. He walked into a major mess.
    Since his appointment, he has really tried to clean things up. He is pushing for a true Catholic identity. He invited Poor Clair Nuns to come into the diocese. He started a strong Pro-Life movement. He has encouraged the use of the EF. In short, he’s a true God send.

    Remember to pray for him. He is in a hard spot.

  13. EXCHIEF says:

    FYI Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Baker essentially did the same thing not long ago with St. Charles Hospital in Bend, Oregon. Same consequences, as Bishops have no authority to regulate use of the term Catholic particularly with a hospital that is part of a “chain” of hospitals which have incorporated the title Catholic in their corporation name.

    As noted by others it is a shame there are so little “teeth” in the Bishop’s actions. The average person, which includes CINO’s, has little or no respect for the teaching or regulatory AUTHORITY of a Bishop. In fact the notion that there is something called authority, or something called obedience to authority is pretty much gone in this all about me society.

    I do wish, in spite of minimal consequences, that every Bishop faced with a St. Josephs or St. Charles would take the same action. Correct actions (in fact morally imperative actions) need to be taken with or without consequences. Just like, if I were the General who spoke so eloquently against the repeal of don’t ask/don’t tell, I would have resigned my commission immediately upon the passage of the repeal. Sometimes we all have to stand up for what is right and I laud the Bishop for doing so.

  14. templariidvm says:

    It is a first step – institutions that claim to be Catholic must toe the line. Could the politicians, who garner votes by proclaimed Catholic identity, without up holding Catholic morality, be next?
    Even steps that seem small, can be the pebbles that start the avalanche.

  15. I put this up in an earlier thread by accident…

    The CINO’s are going nuts alright, over at Jimmy Akin’s blog lead by “Anne Rice” who “quit Christianity”.

    I think a little balance could be used in the combox over there if anyone wants to help.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    People do care about the name “Catholic”. All hospitals and health care units which support contraception, abortion, euthanasia, vasectomies, fertility treatments outside of Catholic teaching, should have the name removed. Such labels cause confusion among the laity.

    Same should happen to colleges and universities. Only St. Louis University is the one I know which cannot and does not advertise as Catholic. What about Loyola Chicago, Boston College, Marquette Chicago, Georgetown, Notre Dame…all, all should be stripped of the title Catholic.

  17. TNCath says:

    This is a very good move on the part of Bishop Olmsted. Hopefully, other bishops will do the same in their dioceses to the hospitals as well as the schools and colleges in their respective jurisdictions. Unfortunately, a lot of what has been said is true: the bishop’s removal of the Catholic status will make little difference to the average person, Catholic or non-Catholic. The hospital will retain its name and will proudly boast that it is “in the Catholic tradition,” no matter what the bishop says.

  18. Depending on which bishops are involved, this whole chain should be stripped of it’s Catholic status. If memory serves, it is based in the San Jose, CA diocese.

    Bishop Vasa hit the first pitch. Now +Olmsted. Let’s pray that other bishops step up to the plate on hospitals and universities. Let’s pray especially that these institutions choose to remain Catholic, and not in name only.

    Just as newer Catholic colleges have opened that are not CINO, hopefully truly Catholic hospitals will emerge.

  19. I should clarify by saying that depending on which bishops are involved the entire chain could be stripped. Hopefully, those discussions between bishops are taking place and others who have hospitals in this chain will follow +Olmsted’s lead.

  20. ckdexterhaven says:

    Diane, thanks for directing me to the NCRegister thread. How depressing. No wonder the Catholic Church in America is hurting. I have no doubt that most of those commenting are Catholic, yet how can they be so wrong about what the Church teaches? What Jesus teaches? What’s up with Mark Shea comparing Anne Rice’s views to Dick Cheney’s views on torture? gag.

    Ralph, thanks for reminding how much Bishop Olmsted has done (with God’s help) to turn around the Diocese of Phx. I lived there during the dark times, one of my kids was even baptized by the ex-communicated priest who now preaches in a mall church. It’s tough to overstate how bad things were when Bishop Olmsted arrived.

  21. TKS says:

    While most people may not notice exactly what the bishop is doing, some people will notice that he is doing something. Until very recently, no one has stood up for the Truth about CINO anything, so I am thrilled, be it hospitals, schools, etc. It WILL gather force with God’s Hand.

  22. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Good for him. Catholicism is not an ethnic identity but a lived and living belief in God and all that we know of God. Vegetarians who eat meat are not considered vegetarians. Catholic hospitals who perform abortions are not longer Catholic.

  23. brjeromeleo says:

    I am grateful to Bishop Olmsted and applaud his courage. I sent a e mail thanking him and assuring him of my support and prayers. I hope others might do the same. The address is:

  24. PM says:

    All of this is very sad. It was a genuinely hard case–the kind that, proverbially, makes bad law.

    I really wish things had been better handled all around, although I myself certainly have no idea of how they could have been. Given how the events played out, Bishop Olmsted certainly had to stand on principle. And there is every indication that the other side is sincere in its conviction of its own principles.

    One of the many depressing things about this is that there is no indication that in the loss of its Catholic status the hospital, or its administration, or the Sisters of Mercy, and certainly the World at large think that there has been the loss of anything worth having. And, extrapolating, if “Catholic” status doesn’t matter here, perhaps it does not matter elsewhere.

    Things look pretty gloomy in the short run. i hope there will be some sort of benefit in the long run. And we must trust in God, since here there seem to be few grounds to trust in man.

    God bless the baby; God bless his mother; God bless Bishop Olmsted; God bless the horrible Sisters of Mercy.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Let it go. Make them take Catholic out of the name and cease claiming to be affiliated with the Catholic Church. They want to compete. Let them. Without us.

    It’s a million times more important to stand up for what the Church has decreed is the truth than to run some hospital someplace.

  26. Hidden One says:

    However many or few teeth, His Excellency did the right thing. This is exactly what he should have done, and he did it. Thanks be to God! Let us all continue to pray for Bp. Olmsted.

  27. trespinos says:


    I believe you’ll find that Catholic Healthcare West is headquarted not in the San Jose Diocese, but in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. (You may be thinking of the Jesuit School of Theology, which we were informed in another thread is based, on paper, in Santa Clara, in the San Jose Diocese, in what may be a manouver to mislead regarding its actual location in Berkeley, in Bp. Cordileone’s Diocese of Oakland.) Bp. Olmsted cc:ed Abp. Niederauer because CHW was in his archdiocese, but I won’t speculate about whether we will hear the archbishop’s view on the matter.

  28. Thanks trespinos!

    @Father Z – I think this is the video you will want to embed. It is Bishop Olmsted reading his statement, followed by a 15 minute Q&A.

  29. spock says:

    It will be notable to see how the hospital behaves now that it is no longer an official Catholic institution. Will there be more abortions? (pray God, NO!)

    That will another indicator of their real sentiments on this.

    The Church builds up these institutions only to have them de facto taken away by secular society.

  30. Rich says:

    I am sure this bishop faced much pressure from his brother bishops. God bless him for his courage and strength to lend meaning again in the public square to what it means to Catholic.

  31. TJerome says:

    Good for the bishop. May others follow his example.

    On an issue like this, so integral to the Faith, the result should be the same, whether the bishop is liberal, moderate or conservative on other matters. A bishop who does not defend the Faith is not worthy of his high office.

  32. catholicmidwest says:

    Spock, you said, “The Church builds up these institutions only to have them de facto taken away by secular society.” Yes, well, we’re not primarily in the business of real estate, or at least, I hope not anyway. The day we are is the day we’re in deep trouble. Our business is supposed to be spreading the Gospel. So, let it go. It’s all good, Spock.

    I agree, TJerome & Rich. Good for Bishop Olmsted, who has behaved with fidelity and courage!

    PS, Fr Z, let the CINO’s rage. It does them good because the louder they are, the greater chance they have of hearing themselves rant and realizing something.

    Catholicmidwest, who once ranted with the best of them and heard her own echo one day in a moment of silence……

  33. mrsmontoya says:

    A pretty good Immaculate Heart Radio (Phoenix, AZ) special regarding the recent happenings re: St. Joseph Hospital. Very illuminating. His Excellency, Bishop Olmstead and two of his advisers address the situation. It was far worse and the Sisters of Mercy far more sinister than we had known. God Bless Bishop Olmstead.

    Posted by Mr.A/Shihanrob (Mrs. Montoya’s hubby)

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