Abortion Hospital Decree & Pushback

Parts in this series: one, two, three, four, five, six

The Diocese of Phoenix has now made available the decree of Bishop Olmsted revoking his permission for St. Joseph’s Medical Center to use the name “Catholic.” This is a welcome development, since it is always good to see the instrument itself by which such things are done (and they are only very rarely done)—as opposed to an explanatory text, which is what we initially got yesterday.

One of the things that had been missing from the public discussion up to now was the canonical basis on which Bishop Olmsted acted. The leaked correspondence did not contain references to the possible canons on which he could act. I assume that those canons were mentioned in other, unleaked correspondence with Catholic Healthcare West (CHW).

As I suspected, the Bishop was exercising his authority under Canon 216 (there are other potential canons that could have been cited, but this was the most relevant). This canon, as you will recall, states:

Can. 216 Since they participate in the mission of the Church, all the Christian faithful have the right to promote or sustain apostolic action even by their own undertakings, according to their own state and condition. Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.

So, with that as background, here is the official decree itself . . .


Revoking Episcopal Consent to Claim the “Catholic” Name according to Canon 216

By virtue of my Episcopal authority as the Ordinary of the Particular Church of the Diocese of Phoenix, and in accord with Canon 216 of the Code of Canon Law, I hereby revoke my consent for the following organization to utilize in any way the name “Catholic.”

• St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ

After much time and effort in cooperation with the leadership of Catholic Healthcare West and having studied the matter carefully with the assistance of experts in medical ethics, moral theology, and canon law, it has been determined that the aforementioned organization no longer qualifies as a “Catholic” entity in the territory of the Diocese of Phoenix. For the benefit of the public good, particularly amongst the Christian Faithful, I decree that the organization listed above may not use the name Catholic or be identified as Catholic in the Diocese of Phoenix.

The reason for this decision is based upon the fact that, as Bishop of Phoenix, I cannot verify that this health care organization will provide health care consistent with authentic Catholic moral teaching as interpreted by me in exercising my legitimate Episcopal authority to interpret the moral law.

This Decree of Removal of my consent goes into effect as of this day, and will remain in effect indefinitely, until such time as I am convinced that this institution is authentically Catholic by its adherence to the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops, in addition to the standards of Catholic identity set forth in official church documents,
Caholic theology, and canon law.

Given this day, December 21, 2010 at the Chancery of the Diocese of Phoenix

+ Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix

Sr. Jean Steffes, CSA

The Diocese of Phoenix has materials devoted to the case on its website, HERE. This includes video of a press conference with Bishop Olmsted.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center has done its own press conference and issued its own statement. You can find them here.

Finally, the National Catholic Reporter (not Register) is reporting that the Catholic Health Association is backing the hospital over the bishop:

Daughter of Charity Sr. Carol Keehan, CHA president and CEO, said, “St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix has many programs that reach out to protect life. They had been confronted with a heartbreaking situation. They carefully evaluated the patient’s situation and correctly applied the ‘Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services’ to it, saving the only life that was possible to save.”

NCR received Keehan’s statement in an e-mail late Dec. 21. [SOURCE.]

So, the pushback to the Bishop’s decision has begun. The story will grow more involved.

What do you think?