He said that in the process of the negotiations he had discovered a pattern of serious ethical violations at both St. Joseph’s and in the wider Catholic Healthcare West system in Arizona.
He said the abuses had been going on “throughout my seven years as bishop of Phoenix and far longer.”
He faulted the institutions’ participation in the so-called “Mercy Health Plan,” through which it receives federal and state monies to provide health care services to the poor — including abortion, birth control, and sterilization.
Although St. Joseph's does not provide these services itself, by setting up and managing the conditions under which other hospitals provide these services, St. Joseph’s was “formally cooperating” in these unethical procedures, the bishop charged.
The bishop said that representatives of St. Joseph's and Catholic Healthcare West had acknowledged they understood that their administration and participation in the Mercy Health Plan made them morally responsible for its actions.
In his press conference, Bishop Olmsted also questioned the hospital’s motivations and priorities, noting that revenues from its participation in the Mercy Health Plan will reach nearly $2 billion this year.
For the past 26 years that the plan has been in existence, he said, St. Joseph’s hospital has made more than $100 million per year.
In a statement, St. Joseph’s president Linda Hunt said the hospital was “deeply disappointed” by the bishop’s actions. She again justified the abortion and said the hospital “will continue through our words and deeds to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus."
With its Catholic identity stripped, St. Joseph will be forced to remove the Eucharist from its chapels, and is prohibited from celebrating Mass at the hospital.
“For seven years now, I have tried to work with St. Joseph's,” the bishop said, “and I have hoped and prayed that this day would never come, that this decree would not be needed. However, the faithful of the diocese have a right to know whether institutions of this importance are indeed Catholic in identity and practice.”
The diocese has launched a new informational website at www.arizonacatholic.org, "to provide information and resources" on St. Joseph's ethics violations and Bishop Olmsted's decision to declare the hospital "no longer Catholic."
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