Statement on Bishop Olmsted’s Action Regarding St. Joseph’s Hospital
December 23, 2010
Bala Cynwyd, PA – December 23, 2010
CONTACT: John Brehany, Ph.D., S.T.L. Executive Director & Ethicist
In response to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s declaration about St. Joseph Hospital in Phoenix on December 21, 2010, CMA President Leonard P. Rybak, M.D., Ph.D., issued the following statement:
The decree by Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted that St. Joseph’s Hospital can no longer be considered authentically Catholic is a momentous moment in the history of the Catholic health care ministry in the United States. It represents a significant step by a bishop to exercise his legitimate role as teacher and defender of the faith in his diocese as well as an unfortunate refusal of hospital officials to respect the bishop’s role as a teacher and pastor.
While the case involving an abortion performed at St. Joseph’s was complex both clinically and ethically, there should be little doubt now that it involved the direct taking of an innocent human life. Moreover, the responsibility of the local bishop to ensure the integrity of Catholic ministries in his diocese and to interpret the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) are not matters of dispute. The CMA recognizes the essential role that bishops play in exercising their teaching office for the benefit of the Church and commends Bishop Olmsted for his diligence in fulfilling his episcopal responsibilities.
In this regard, the CMA objects to the Catholic Health Association’s recent statement that those at St. Joseph’s Hospital “correctly applied” the ERDs in this case. In fact, the ERDs recognize the bishop’s essential responsibility to act as a teacher and “ensure the moral and religious identity of the health care ministry in whatever setting it is carried out in the diocese.” An interpretation of the ERDs expressly contradicting the formal teaching of the local bishop is per se not a correct application of the ERDs.
Catholic health care providers are entering a period of unprecedented challenges driven by technological developments, an aggressively secular culture, and upheaval in health care law and financing. It is critically important for Catholic providers to present a clear, consistent, and compelling witness in the face of these challenges. This will only be possible if Catholic health care providers are unified and in union with Christ and his Church. Again, we are saddened that Saint Joseph's has chosen a path of disunity and pray that they will seek to reestablish communion with their bishop.
Founded in 1932, the Catholic Medical Association is the largest association of Catholic physicians in North America. For more information, go to http://www.cathmed.org.
See CMA's prior statement on this issue here.