Archive of August 20, 2009

Bishop Stika expected to fully recover from mild heart attack

Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Knoxville Richard F. Stika is in good humor as he recuperates from a mild heart attack in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida hospital.

He suffered the attack on Saturday. It was brought on by diabetic shock likely caused by vomiting and dehydration because of the flu, the Diocese of Knoxville reports. His symptoms indicated that he did not have swine flu.

Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, said that the bishop was “stable and responding very well to treatment, and all his attending physicians are optimistic of a full recovery.”

The deacon reported that he had “a wonderful long conversation” with Bishop Stika on Tuesday. Though the bishop is tired, Deacon Smith reported, “his sense of humor is back, and he wanted to express his deep appreciation for all the prayers and support he’s had.”

“He wanted everybody to know that he’s praying for them as well, and he can’t wait to get strong enough to come back home to be with his Christian faithful.”

Following reports of the heart attack, rumor spread that it was far more severe and had put the bishop at death’s door with kidney failure.

However, Deacon Smith repeated that the heart attack was “very mild.”

“His heart was thoroughly examined and found to be in great shape, and his kidneys are working normally.”
The bishop had bypass surgery five years ago. His cardiologist in Florida has examined his bypasses, pronouncing them to be strong.

On August 14 Bishop Stika had flown to South Florida to see his friend Archbishop Francis Mansour Zayek, retired from the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn. Archbishop Zayek was himself ill and was going to return to Lebanon permanently, Deacon Smith reported.

Bishop Stika’s flu symptoms began Friday evening and he collapsed in his hotel’s lobby Saturday morning.

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, a friend of Bishop Stika, visited the prelate on Tuesday morning.

A friend and former parishioner of Bishop Stika, Tim Trout, was on vacation with his family in Palm Beach, Florida at the time of the bishop's heart attack.

“Tim has been with him ever since and has been my liaison with the doctors all this time,” Deacon Smith said, according to the diocese. “He returned his rental car, checked him out of his hotel room, and paid the bill. He’s been a Godsend.”

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Pro-life Coalition: Health care bill threatens largest expansion of abortion since Roe

Washington D.C., Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - Sixteen pro-life leaders have made a new YouTube video to express their opposition to taxpayer funded abortion in President Barack Obama’s health care proposal. They said the plan threatens to create the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.

Pro-life groups and individuals have formed a coalition called Stop the Abortion Mandate (STAM). The coalition charged that the legislation’s proposed health care plan will force taxpayers to fund abortions, create an “abortion mandate” and decide who has the right to live or die.

In the 90-second video, talk show host Carmen Pate called aspects of the health care bill the “largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.”

David Bereit of the 40 Days for Life campaign said the proposal would force taxpayers to pay for abortion on demand, while Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said abortion will be included in any healthcare reform bill unless it is explicitly excluded.

“Do you want your tax dollars to be used to fund abortion on demand?” Jim Sedlak of the American Life League asked in the video.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” said Kristen Day of Democrats for Life of America.

Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said that abortions will “dramatically increase” if pro-life opponents of abortion provisions in the proposed bill fail.

“For us, this isn’t a political fight; it isn’t only a fight over a massive national debt or a government takeover of health care,” said Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America.

The video concluded with speakers urging viewers to contact their senators and representatives and also to visit the STAM website.

Explaining the video in a press release, Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America and a member of the STAM coalition, described the video as “a powerful display of unity and urgency” against President Obama’s health care bill.

“Whether or not they are pro-life or pro-choice, Americans do not want to be forced to pay for abortions, which is exactly what Obama’s health care plan does,” she added.

The STAM website is at

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In face of Planned Parenthood attack, USCCB official insists abortion is not health care

Washington D.C., Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has criticized the U.S. Catholic bishops’ work to exclude abortion coverage from health care legislation. In response, an official with the conference insisted that taking human life is not health care and warned that pro-abortion politics are endangering the entire proposal.

Writing in an August 18 opinion piece at the Huffington Post, Cecile Richards characterized the bishops’ desire to exclude abortion coverage from health care reform as one that denies “comprehensive reproductive care” which she claimed to be supported by the majority of Americans.

She also argued that the Catholic position was an ongoing effort to eliminate the “legally protected right to abortion” from American health care.

Citing the website of the USCCB, Richards criticized the Catholic bishops for holding that condoms can worsen the AIDS pandemic in Africa, that contraception is not basic health care and should not be covered under most health care plans, and that “emergency contraception” will not reduce the need for abortion or unintended pregnancy.

“Seems that, if the U.S. Conference had its way, the national health care system would make American women second-class citizens and deny them access to benefits they currently have,” she charged.

In Richards’ view, the bishops’ pro-life stand constituted “hard-line opposition to women’s rights” and has endangered women around the globe.

She said the root cause of “unsafe abortion” is unintended pregnancy which could be prevented by affordable contraception for women. She also claimed the correlation between higher contraceptive use and lower maternal mortality is “well established.”

Richards argued that increased access to contraception would lower the abortion rate and the “epidemic” rates of sexually transmitted infections. She then stated that she would welcome the bishops’ commitment to focus on such problems, insisting that to do so would stand on the side of women in health care reform.

Speaking to CNA on Wednesday morning, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the USSCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, addressed Cecile Richard's claims.

Doerflinger said Richards erred in claiming most Americans favored “comprehensive reproductive health care.”

“This is not supported by majority of Americans. The majority of Americans describe themselves as pro-life.

“We don’t see the taking of human life, at any stage, as health care at all. Most Americans do not want to pay for abortions,” he remarked.

“We mean by universal coverage what everybody but Planned Parenthood means. That is, we need to cover all the people. We know that people need health care throughout life from conception to natural death. That is why fetology is a branch of human medicine, which Richards seem unaware of,” Doerflinger said.

“Universal coverage doesn’t mean that Americans are forced to pay for absolutely everything a doctor might be willing to do,” he continued, adding that health care would presumably not pay for euthanasia or legitimate but elective procedures like cosmetic surgery.

Doerflinger explained to CNA that in his understanding of the current health care legislation, a U.S. House bill would cover abortion in the public health insurance plan. The legislation itself would provide coverage for abortions in a “very limited” way, but the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services will have the power to mandate coverage for all abortions in the public plan.

“We’re very much against that and hope it can be amended out,” he added. Under the House bill, the federal government will require anyone who purchases the plan to purchase abortion coverage,” he said.

The Senate presents a “more fluid situation” because there is no released draft.

“We hope it will be better than the House bill,” Doerflinger stated.

Asked to respond to Richards’ criticisms of U.S. bishops’ actions on condoms and the AIDS pandemic, he replied:

“The Catholic Church has done more to fight AIDS in Africa than Planned Parenthood has. Planned Parenthood doesn’t want people to know that hormonal contraception has actually been associated with an increased risk of contracting AIDS. It has nothing to do with preventing AIDS, something to do with making it worse.

“Our major arguments on this have not been about contraception,” he clarified. “She likes to change the subject.

“But it is the case that there is a great deal of evidence that contraceptive programs fail to reduce abortions. We cite the primary sources for that on our website so that people can read them for themselves.”

On emergency contraception, Doerflinger said there have been 23 major studies of the effects of emergency contraceptives.

“None of the 23 was able to find any effect in reducing abortions,” he reported, saying these facts had been reviewed by scientists unopposed to emergency contraception.

He said it was necessary to stop “running away from the facts” and “citing contraception as the cure for everything” when the evidence is otherwise.

Doerflinger said the bishops’ materials about health care reform have been centered on supporting universal coverage, but opposing mandated abortion coverage.

“She keeps talking about how we’re trying to diminish a right,” he said of Richards. “A mandate is not consistent with a personal choice. If what she’s talking about is people’s personal ability to choose whether or not to buy abortion coverage, we’re not going to oppose legislation that allows that.

“We’re talking about the government mandating that people purchase abortion coverage against their will. Why would she be against that if she favors ‘choice’?

“To get into the government-run health plan you must buy abortion coverage. That’s contrary to personal choice. Maybe she should be joining us in our effort.”

“We think the abortion issue is paramount, because we see it as really the taking of a life in existence.”

Doerflinger then summed up his objections to Planned Parenthood’s position:

“I think what Planned Parenthood is saying is that millions of people must continue to go without basic health care unless they can get their wish list of making everyone pay for abortions. I think that the charge of being ‘single issue’ falls squarely back on Planned Parenthood’s side, because this is not the kind of health care that most Americans want to purchase or have to pay for.

“This issue could bring down health care reform. We hope that that does not happen, but an insistence on this one issue on their part might do so.”

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Gynecologists in Spain plan to choose jail before performing an abortion

Madrid, Spain, Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - Dr. Esteban Rodriguez, spokesman for the organization Right to Life (Derecho a Vivir) in Spain, responded yesterday to comments by the country’s Minister of Justice, Francisco Caamano, who said there was no room for a conscience clause in the new law on abortion. 

“We are willing to go to jail rather than following a criminal law, Rodriguez said, “and we are willing to commit the supposed crime of disobedience before the crime of abortion.”
“We will not kill our patients, nor will we commit a crime against the public health deliberately harming the heath of women, no matter how much the Minister of Justice threatens us and abuses his power,” the doctor said.
“We doctors are not soldiers, nor policemen, nor executioners. There is no civil disobedience in the refusal to kill a human being, but rather the fulfilling of our professional obligation,” he added.
If the government carries out the threat by the Minister of Justice to penalize conscientious objectors as disobedient, Rodriguez said that a “new category of victims of the laws on abortion and the regulation of conscience will be created in the gynecologists who wish to carry out their moral obligations in the face of an imposed ideology.”
After recalling that the statute in the Spanish constitution allowing conscientious objection must be respected, Rodriguez expressed his surprise that the law would shield from prison some doctors who have been convicted of performing illegal abortions, while punishing with prison those doctors who have fought to defend the lives of their patients and the health of women.
“We recommend they think about creating a new level of officials at the ministries of Justice and Equality: fetal executioners,” Dr. Rodriguez remarked.
“We find the totalitarian intentions of the Ministry of Justice, in conjunction with those of Equality, to be highly troubling. If the former Minister of Justice stirred things up with officials in the judiciary, this one is going to accomplish the same thing with medical professionals,” he warned.

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Pope Benedict fulfills dream of armless young Sri Lankan

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - Rajiv Janine is an 18 year-old Sri Lankan who was left without his arms after a train accident. On Wednesday he fulfilled his dream of meeting Pope Benedict XVI and receiving his blessing after yesterday's general audience.
Rajiv told the Holy Father his story and asked for a special blessing for his brother, who will soon be ordained to the priesthood, and for his sister who is a nun in the Philippines. His older sister who helps take care of him was also present at the audience.

The prosthetic arms that Rajiv wears were purchased with help from a group of Italians that is also engaged in a series of solidarity projects in Sri Lanka to aid those affected by the 2004 tsunami, Fr. Giuseppe Iasso explained.

He told L’Osservatore Romano the money raised to help Rajiv was collected by “sending letters and knocking on the doors of parishes and families until $56,000 dollars were raised.  Many kids gave all of their savings and even an elderly woman in a wheelchair helped us with her savings.”

The meeting with Pope Benedict took place after the priest sent a letter to the Holy Father recounting Rajiv’s story.

“I opened my priestly heart to him and Benedict XVI wanted to personally meet with this young man to encourage him.  Rajiv’s testimony, with his serenity despite all the pain of his handicap, is an invitation for all those who suffer not to be discouraged and to never lose hope,” he said in conclusion.

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Argentinean bishops call for protection of children’s human rights

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - During the 153rd meeting of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina, the bishops’ executive committee, led by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, asked the different episcopal committees to work on proposals for protecting the human rights of children.
The task for coming up with proposals will be coordinated by the Bishops’ Committee on Social Ministry, Caritas Argentina and the National Commission for Justice and Peace.
“Amidst the social emergency, unprotected children must be the priority,” said conference spokesman, Father Jorge Oesterheld.
The Church “has been working for years on different initiatives of a social nature and will continue to do so as we approach the bicentennial celebrations” of 2010-2016, he said, explaining that the bishops believe the fight against poverty must not be a momentary issue that disappears after three or four days in the media.”
“The Church wants to draft a proposal in order to safeguard the human rights of children to nourishment and a life of dignity,” Father Oesterheld stated.
For this reason, he said, the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina has decided to hold a congress on Social Doctrine in 2011 in order to study the issue of poverty in light of the Church’s teachings.

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Bishop Nickless provides deeper insight into health care reform

Sioux City, Iowa, Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, Iowa recently criticized the health care reform legislation under consideration in a letter to his diocese. He explained to CNA why health care beyond the basics is a "political right" and what the government should consider in any reform effort.

In his letter, titled “Voice your concern over health care reform” posted on the Sioux City diocesan website, the bishop noted that health care is not a natural right, such as food, water and air, but rather it is a political one. 

In an email to CNA, Nickless explained that when he calls health care a “political right,” he means “that it depends on other factors than just the nature and dignity of the human person,” such as “practical details” and “our political structures.” 

“Our bodies and minds don’t naturally tend to provide health care,” he added.  “We have to make concrete choices, and make them together as a political society, in order to succeed in providing health care,” he said.

Government's Role

Writing in his letter, Bishop Nickless explained that the decision about whether or not the government should provide health care is a matter of prudential judgment.

In fact, he stated, “the Catholic Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care.”

The bishop also explained to CNA that he believes the risks of the “government provision” of health care “outweigh the advantages.”

This “is because a monopoly on health care inevitably fails to respond to the real physical, moral, and spiritual needs of the people,” he said.  Though this is also true of a private monopoly, he noted.

However, if the government provides health care, it would involve “excessive taxation,” as well as “bureaucratic violations of the unborn and people in persistent vegetative states,” the Sioux City bishop said.

Though “such risks clearly outweigh the benefits,” this “doesn’t mean the government should have nothing to do with health care,” stated Nickless. Rather, the role the government should play is one dedicated to protecting “conscience rights of patients and health care providers, to foster the proper kinds of market competition, and to curb abuses.”

Affording Health Care

In his letter, the bishop explained that it is best to spread health care costs over a large amount of people.  In doing this, he continued, we are building a culture of life.  However, since we lack a “growing population of youth, our growing population of retirees is outstripping our distribution systems. In a culture of death such as we have now, taxation to redistribute costs of medical care becomes both unjust and unsustainable.”

When asked how the government can promote life, the bishop responded that besides laws to protect the dignity of the human person, the government can do two things.  First, it can make a commitment to the “proper regulatory and adjudicatory roles of government” instead of a commitment to “government provision of direct services.” In most areas, he continued, this would help build “more popular engagement in civil life, and more of the proper respect for authority.”

Bishop Nickless also noted that both churches and church-run hospitals provide a large amount of social and health care to all citizens at a fraction of the cost of government programs.

“Rather than government taking that role away from churches, government should actively support how our churches do these things,” he said.

In his letter to the faithful, Bishop Nickless also tackled the HR 3200 House reform bill, explaining that it provides a public insurance option lacking adequate limits, thereby giving smaller businesses “a financial incentive to push all their employees into this public insurance.”

“This will saddle the working classes with additional taxes for inefficient and immoral entitlements,” he explained.

The bishop then referred to Bishop William Murphy’s July 17 letter to Congress which suggested that the government “could directly support poor families up to 200 percent of federal poverty level by subsidizing their monthly health insurance premiums, and could directly support poor children by mandating Medicare for all children up to 150 percent of federal poverty level, and CHIP up to 300 percent.  It seems to me that these kinds of levels are more reasonable and practicable than the 400 percent of poverty level subsidized in the Senate HELP bill, and the lack of designated limits in the House bill HR 3200.”

In closing his letter, the bishop encouraged the faithful to contact their congressional representatives about the issue and to pray for them as well. 

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Vatican paper delves into new Twilight movie

Vatican City, Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - In an article entitled, “The Secret of Twilight,” the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reviewed the first of the Twilight movies. The film tells the story of a lonely teen who doesn’t fit in and a young vegetarian vampire who has decided to abstain from human blood.
Reporter Silvia Guidi begins by questioning the reason for the success of the movie, which “fascinates millions of people (not only teens, as there is also a Twilight fan club of moms).”  “Bella—together with the fans of the series—has been conquered by the fascination with difficult love, which is worth the risk,” she writes of the main character.
Twilight is a “maximalist” story capable of conquering readers and viewers by giving voice to the deepest expressions that are censored by contemporary culture, expectations of the human heart, Guida says.
Reflecting on Edward Cullen, the vampire played by Robert Pattin, and Bella Swan, the teen who falls in love with him, Guida writes,“eternity is not only about living forever, but above all about living more, with an intensity that is unknown to ‘normal’ people.”
Edward, she goes on, “has the reactions and feelings of a teenager but the maturity of someone who has lived 108 years.  He doesn’t choose to be good, but he changes because of the example he sees in his adoptive father, the ‘vegetarian’ vampire Carlyle, and because of the encounter with his ideal prisoner” in the movie.
In the background “are the separated parents of Bella, symbols of those who reject the ‘forever.’  To them…eternal love is only such as long as it lasts. Her father, Charlie, loves her but literally does not know what to say to her.  Living with him means routine beer drinking, entire nights in front of the television watching sit-coms neither one of them like, eating in the car once a week, affection that is solid but unable to be transformed into real accompaniment in her life.”
Bella, Guida continues, “loves her father but does not expect much from him. She experiences the kind of discouragement that imprisons kids when they ask an adult a very important question and get a generic or completely unrelated answer.”
She also “sees in Edward’s loneliness her own unease: both are isolated, him because of his hidden ‘monster’ nature, her because she fakes interest in things she doesn’t care about: the cult of shopping, expectations for the prom, desperation over wanting to be in latest edition of the school magazine, chatting with her friends.”
Both of them, when they are together, “are condemned to receiving special attention: Bella knows she is risking her life; Edward, in order to accept loving her, must consent to hiding his bad side. This is the exact opposite of the 'Just Do It' mentality of young people.” Rather, the characters exhibit an attitude that says if they can try, “the world is there, they only need to take it.”
Reality “does not follow this law, as every fable teaches us,” Guida writes.  “Cinderella knows she must leave the dance at midnight, unless she wants to see everything disappear and the carriage become a pumpkin, even seeing the enchantment of love end.”
“The question is not so much why is Twilight so successful, but rather, how can a kid watch it with indifference?” Guida wonders.

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Charity and social justice consequences of following Christ, said Bishop Goic

Santiago, Chile, Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic, called on Chileans this week to live out solidarity following the example of St. Alberto Hurtado. “Living out charity and promoting social justice,” he entreated, are “vital and indispensable consequences of following Christ.”

During Mass at the Shrine of Father Hurtado, the bishop said solidarity with those most in need “should not be limited to campaign slogans or to a sort of ‘social tourism’ in which we occasionally spend some time with the poor.”

“Authentic solidarity implies two dimensions: on the one hand, human love and mercy, compassion and tenderness, especially towards those who suffer most; and on the other, the necessary search for the transformation of social, political and economic conditions through the responsible exercise of our rights and duties as citizens,” the bishop said.  “Because, in the words of St. James, faith without works is dead,” he added.

Bishop Goic taught that solidarity is learned at home, cultivated in schools and applied at work.  “Solidarity cannot flower for just one day, be a passing fad or sensibility limited to certain dates, certain campaigns, tragedies or disasters,” he said.

In this sense, he said St. Alberto Hurtado understood the words of Christ, who calls us to act like the Samaritan.  “The Church has recognized in this Chilean priest of the Society of Jesus a holy manner of seeing Christ in the poor,” he stated.

“St. Alberto understood well that giving is more than just opening one’s wallet, because he felt the concern of the Samaritan who looked suffering in the eyes.  It would have been easier for him to have paid for the service: with his money another could have cured and accompanied the wounded man.  But the Samaritan wanted to wash and cure the wounds with his own hands.  He wanted to stay and take responsibility for his brother,” Bishop Goic said.

He called on Chileans to pray that Christ “will widen our hearts and that, through the intercession of our mother, Mary, he will help us to put ourselves in the shoes of those who suffer, to alleviate their pain and take responsibility for curing all of their wounds.”

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Students of Belmont Abbey criticize contraceptive discrimination ruling

Washington D.C., Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - Students at Catholic universities, citing religious freedom concerns, have voiced their opposition to a federal ruling that Belmont Abbey College engaged in unlawful discrimination by refusing to fund contraceptives in its health care plan.

After a faculty member discovered that contraception, abortion and voluntary sterilization were covered by the North Carolina college’s health care policy, the drugs and procedures were removed from the plan in December 2007.

Some faculty opposed the move and appealed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Though the EEOC ruled in the college administration’s favor in March, it reversed its decision on August 5.

On that day Reuben Daniels Jr., Director of the EEOC Charlotte District Office, ruled that the health care policy change was discriminatory because only women take oral contraceptives.

Last week Belmont Abbey College president Dr. William Thierfelder told that he understood that the reversal came after the case had gone to Washington, D.C. However, he did not know whether complainants themselves brought the case to that higher level or the EEOC had revisited the issue on its own initiative.

Thierfelder has stated that Belmont Abbey College would close rather than provide contraceptive coverage.

Ann Visintainer, a senior at the college, said the debate was part of “an ongoing political struggle” between the faculty and the administration, adding that it “entirely excludes” the students and the monks of the Abbey.

“We here at the Abbey pray the conflict may be resolved in a respectful and peaceful way, and in the meantime, we will continue to support and cherish human life in all its forms.”

Larry Meo, president of De Sales University Students for Life, characterized the EEOC decision as “an incursion into private religious belief.”

“The EEOC is attempting to impose a set of values on a certain group of colleges, and this is the very thing the president [Obama] spoke against during his campaign," he continued.

The president of the American Life League, Judy Brown, wrote to EEOC chairman Stuart Ishimaru noting Catholic belief that contraceptive use is an evil. It is “certainly not the sort of 'treatment' one would expect to find in a health insurance plan designed for staff at a Catholic facility.”

She charged that the Commission’s actions against the college were themselves “discriminatory” and “unfounded and unconstitutional.”

“People need to wake up!” said Michael Barnett, American Life League's director of leadership development and its LiveCampus college outreach program. He charged that under President Obama the federal government is forcing a religious institution to act in a way that “violates its core values.”

“This is religious persecution and a clear signal of what Obamacare would bring. This is the government imposing its will against the people's will."

Katie Prejean, a member of the pro-life group Crusaders for Life at the University Dallas, also linked the dispute to the Obama presidency.

"True Catholic academies are no longer safe from the Obama administration's desire to manipulate every citizen's health care, regardless of religious freedom," she said.

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Catholic sisters to take control of two Denver-area hospitals

Denver, Colo., Aug 20, 2009 (CNA) - Concluding years of controversy over whether a Catholic health care group should take control of Denver-area non-Catholic hospitals, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System (SCLHS) and the Community First Foundation (CFF) have signed a Memorandum of Transfer that gives CFF’s control of health care company Exempla, Inc. to the Sisters of Charity.

SCLHS will become the sole member of Exempla, taking over both Exempla Lutheran hospital in the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge and Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette, Colo. SCLHS already runs St. Joseph Hospital in Denver.

The Wednesday announcement said the transfer aimed to meet three goals originally requested by Exempla: to simplify Exempla’s governance and structure, increase access to capital, and to keep Exempla together as a viable health care system.

Single ownership of all three hospitals will allow additional leverage to borrow for expansion projects, the Denver Post reports. Possible projects include a new wing at Lutheran, modernization of St. Joseph’s, and investment in a children’s medical campus.

For four years the sale of the hospitals has been controversial because under their new owners the hospitals will adopt Catholic standards of medical ethics. The two hospitals will no longer provide tubal ligations, vasectomies or abortions.

The group Coloradoans for Patients’ Rights has sued to block the policy change. It charges that adherence to Catholic ethical directives at the hospitals will cause financial hardship and inconvenience those in Jefferson County, the Denver Post reports.

In a February 22, 2008 letter Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput defended the Sisters of Charity from their critics.

“They can't compromise their Catholic beliefs without undermining their whole mission,” he wrote.

None of the Denver-area Catholic hospitals are owned by the archdiocese.

In 2008 the two hospitals performed two abortions and 362 tubal ligations and vasectomies, compared with one abortion and 419 sterilizations in 2006, according to the Denver Post.

Sisters of Charity officials said that patients who would have visited Lutheran and Good Samaritan for sterilization procedures and other procedures affected by Catholic ethical directives can get that care nearby.

William Murray, president and CEO of SCLHS, said in an announcement that the move continued a long tradition of “responding to need and working with members of the communities we serve.”

“We value our relationship with CFF, and appreciate its continued involvement on behalf of the local community. Together, we look forward to working with hospital leadership, clinicians and staff to continuously improve the quality and safety of patient care.”

CFF was once the fundraising arm of Lutheran Medical Center but became co-sponsor of the Exempla system in 1997 as a cost-saving measure.

Under the agreement, Exempla, Inc. would lose ownership of both hospitals but remain the operating company. It fought the transfer, saying it was trying to protect the original mission of the nonsectarian Lutheran and Good Samaritan hospitals.

An arbitrator rejected the argument but agreed with Exempla that CFF could not sell its stake in the hospitals to SCLHS for the $311 million.

Instead, the transfer of control includes no monetary compensation. The Exempla system will remain intact and will be governed by a newly constituted board of directors, equal numbers of whom will be appointed by CFF and SCLHS.

Exempla’s board will meet on Monday to consider whether to continue its opposition.

"There are probably a million and six different alternatives that the board could take," Jeff Selberg, president of Exempla, told the Denver Post. "In light of our concerns, do we want to take a step that would express concern to the sponsors, or is it better for these hospitals and the community not to take that step?”

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