ERIE, PA, July 8, 2013 ( – The bishop of Erie, Pennsylvania, has declared the city's largest hospital may no longer be considered a Catholic institution, after its new owners have signaled they will begin performing sterilizations in violation of the Catholic faith.

St. Vincent Health System is transitioning to new ownership, from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania to the Pittsburgh-based Highmark Inc.


In a statement, Bishop Lawrenc Perisco explained that binding Vatican “directives state that Catholic institutions and hospitals may not promote or condone contraceptive practices or direct sterilization of men or women. We do not have a guarantee that these procedures will not be condoned or performed.”

“Therefore, the Sisters of St. Joseph and their leaders understand and know that I can no longer call Saint Vincent Health System a Catholic institution.”

“As the bishop of the diocese, I have a responsibility as pastor, teacher and priest to inform the faithful of this decision,” he declared.

“It's basically the contraceptive issue of tube-tying and male vasectomies,” said Sister Mary Hermann, president of the order that had held controlling interest on St. Vincent's board of directors since 1875. “I anticipate, and so does the bishop, that Highmark will start to do those in the future.”


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Saint Vincent President and CEO Scott Whalen obliquely defended the change in the name of progress.

“The future of health care in Erie has changed, and Saint Vincent must be in a position to provide a full continuum of care for all residents in this region,” Whalen said.

Bishop Perisco made clear that his statement “does not mean that Catholics cannot avail themselves of the services of Saint Vincent Health System.” Rather, it means that the facility may no longer be identified as explicitly Catholic and thus bound to abide by the religious and ethical precepts of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Sisters of St. Joseph will continue their ministry within the complex, as well.

Highmark acquired the hospital from the religious order in exchange for $65 million over three years. The hospital, Erie's largest, has 428 beds. 


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