LOUISVILLE, Ky., August 11, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A potential showdown looms between Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Catholic leaders over a proposed merger of a local Catholic health system with a public hospital.  Beshear says the new entity, which would be controlled by Catholic stakeholders, must have a “public mission” and so offer procedures such as sterilization and abortion.

The proposal would see a merger between Lexington-based St. Joseph Health System, which is owned by the Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives, and the University of Louisville Hospital, along with Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare.  Catholic Health Initiatives would own 70 percent of the new company, appoint a majority of board members, and follow the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Service.”

Beshear met Wednesday with state officials and representatives of the three health care organizations planning the controversial merger. “We had a good meeting,” Beshear told the Louisville Courier-Journal.  “We public officials have concerns about the public mission of U of L Hospital. … Overall, what we want to make sure of is the public mission of U of L Hospital remains the same.”

Beshear added that approval by the Federal Trade Commission, as well as by his own office, were prerequisites to any decision on the merger.

However, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville pointed out that he and Bishop Ronald Gainer of Lexington must also give approval for the new entity to be officially called a Catholic institution.

“If something calls itself a Catholic ministry, it is the responsibility of the bishop to ensure as best we can that that indeed is an accurate title,” the archbishop told a meeting of the Rotary Club of Louisville.

In the archdiocesan newspaper, The Record, Archbishop Kurtz further stated that if Catholic Health Initiatives merges with the University of Louisville Hospital, as well as two other hospital companies, the church’s teaching on medical care must be given precedence while acknowledging the “faith-based and academic heritages of the partners.”

“Our Catholic moral and social teaching, as reflected in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, is informed by a concern about the dignity of the person and the common good,” the archbishop explained.

“We do not believe, for example, that the destruction of the child in the womb serves mothers, children, or families, and we do not see this as a legitimate healthcare service,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “Does it truly serve the common good to require us or any healthcare provider to violate important issues of conscience or principle in order to provide for the health of persons within our community?”

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told LifeSiteNews that he believes Gov. Beshear will find a way to bring the merger to completion without asking the Catholic organizations involved to compromise the church’s teaching on health care.

“When the Catholic League sent every governor a nativity scene, free of charge, last Christmas, one of the first governors we heard from who agreed to publicly display it was Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear,” Donohue observed.  “Given his religion-friendly leanings, we fully expect that he will find a way for the proposed hospital merger to go through without asking Catholics who are party to it to compromise their beliefs.”

Contact info:
Gov. Beshear
Main Line: (502) 564-2611
Fax: (502) 564-2517
http://governor.ky.gov/contact/contact.htm