By Patrick B. Craine

BEND, Oregon, February 16, 2010 ( – The Catholic Diocese of Baker, Oregon announced yesterday that it has severed ties with St. Charles Medical Center, in Bend, because the hospital has adopted practices that violate Catholic teaching and will not back down on them.

“It is my responsibility to ensure the hospital is following Catholic principles both in name and in fact,” said Bishop Robert Vasa.

The hospital, founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph 92 years ago, became a community non-profit organization in the 1970s. A statement from the diocese explained that the hospital continued its relationship with the Catholic Church and has voluntarily followed the U.S. Bishops’ Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services.

The hospital has insisted on interpreting the directives in its own way, however, which has involved, in particular, performing tubal ligations, which is a form of sterilization for women and is thus in violation of Church teaching against such procedures.

“It would be misleading for me to allow St. Charles Bend to be acknowledged as Catholic in name while I am certain that some important tenets of the Ethical and Religious Directives are no longer being observed,” explained Bishop Vasa.

The bishop discovered that the hospital was performing tubal ligations after he asked it in 2007 to account for its compliance with the directives. ABC News reports that approximately 200 of the procedures were being performed every year.

James Diegel, president and CEO of Cascade Healthcare Community, which runs the hospital, explained in the diocese’s statement that they were “saddened” by the decision due to the historical relationship the hospital has with the Catholic Church. He defended the sterilizations, however, by insisting that the hospital has “an obligation to provide comprehensive health care services to our patients while remaining true to our values of compassion and caring for all.”

Diegel says that the hospital will continue to use the directives, and will be adopting their own version soon. As a result of the decision, Mass will no longer be celebrated in the hospital’s chapel and all Catholic articles will be removed, though the name will stay the same and a cross will remain on the roof.

Despite the separation, Bishop Vasa has encouraged the hospital to remain true to Catholic principles of health care. “St. Charles has gradually moved away from adherence to the requirements of the Church without a clear knowledge that it was doing so,” he said. “Unfortunately, that distance is now too great to sustain a formal sponsorship relationship but I believe that using the Church’s Directives as a basis for their local ethical guidelines is a good idea.”

Contact Information:

Bishop Robert Vasa
Diocese of Baker
P.O. Box 5999
Bend, Oregon 97708-5999
Fax: (541) 388-2566
Email: [email protected]

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