Friday, May 21, 2010

When is a Catholic Hospital not a Catholic Hospital?

The Diocese of Phoenix has a very direct Q & A regarding the direct, procured abortion at St. Joseph hospital and the consequent excommunication of hospital administrator Sister Margaret McBride. The statement ends on a curious note that has fueled some speculation. After discussing the St. Joseph Hospital situation the statement turns to another Catholic Healthcare West owned hospital:

Moreover, Catholic Healthcare West has not followed the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Church in at least one of their institutions, Chandler Regional Hospital. These realities are a scandal to the faithful and must cease if CHW wishes to be maintain its recognition as a Catholic institution in the Diocese of Phoenix.

To wonder what Chandler Regional Hospital may have done to violate the “Directives” is to read too much, or rather too little, into the statement. Chandler Regional Hospital is not a Catholic hospital and like several other non-Catholic hospitals operated by Catholic Healthcare West it does not claim to follow the Directives at all.

CHW’s website section on Ethics explains:

In all our deliberations, we are guided by two foundational documents. Our Catholic hospitals observe The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Our non-Catholic hospitals observe the CHW Statement of Common Values, which outlines the values CHW shares with our secular partners.

In short, CHW’s non-Catholic properties, by design, do not adhere to the Directives. They are bound to adhere to the CHW Statement of Common Values which prohibits direct abortion, assisted suicide and artificial reproductive services.

As an aside, the section on abortion is quite revealing:

1) Direct abortion is not performed. Indirect abortion is performed in certain medically indicated cases. An indirect abortion is a termination of pregnancy that is not directly intended and in which the sole purpose is the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of the mother, when the treatment cannot be safely postponed until the fetus is viable.

That’s probably not phrased as well as it could be. I think it would be better to say that an indirect abortion is a life-saving procedure which results in a termination of pregnancy as a foreseeable but unintended consequence. But at least it shows that CHW president Lloyd Dean’s expressed confusion and request for clarification on the issue from Bishop Olmsted means at minimum that he’s not familiar with his own Mission and Values statement.

There is plenty in the Directives not covered by the Statement of Common Values and I imagine that discrepancy is what the Diocese of Phoenix is referring to. The section on “Health Information” which is identical at all CHW hospital websites (Catholic and non-Catholic) contains non-judgmental descriptions of treatments options clearly opposed by the Church, including voluntary sterilization, contraception and RU-486.

The section describing these comes with the caveat that “Not all of the treatments or interventions described in this site are available at CHW hospitals.” Which are and which aren’t available at either CHW Catholic or non-Catholic hospitals is not explained. And whether a particular CHW hospital is Catholic or not is far from transparent as they all bear the Catholic Healthcare West logo and Cross.

The Diocese of Phoenix’ conclusion that these realities call into question CHW’s continued recognition as Catholic is one that should probably be considered wherever CHW operates non-Catholic hospitals (and apparently a few Catholic ones).