CLEVELAND, September 27, 2013 ( – The Akron Beacon Journal reported late Thursday that Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland has put the brakes on a proposed merger between a Catholic health care system and a secular hospital chain, after the latter said it would not stop performing abortions and sterilizations and would continue to dispense contraceptives.

The proposed $250 million-dollar merger between Catholic Health Partners and Summa Health System would have given CHP a 30 percent stake in Summa, seats on its Board of Directors, and a number of management positions within the company.

But the contract explicitly stated that Summa and its employees would not be bound by the Catholic Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs), the rule book for Catholic health care providers that prohibits, among other things, “immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortions, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization.”


Because CHP is affiliated with the Catholic Church, it had to submit the plan to the Bishop Lennon for approval, which was denied.

“In light of the consistent message issued by officials of SHS [Summa Health System] regarding delivery of services, many people have contacted me regarding their concerns that such a relationship between SHS and CHP gives the message that CHP is supporting healthcare issues contrary to Catholic teachings,” Lennon wrote in a letter to CHP vetoing the merger.

“I am troubled by a Catholic entity knowingly entering into a transaction where the ERDs are set aside,” the bishop added, according to the Beacon Journal.

CHP has now withdrawn from the deal, but it will soon be reconfigured so that HealthSpan Partners, a subsidiary of CHP that does not have official ties to the Church will merge with Summa instead.

“We appreciate Bishop Lennon’s careful consideration regarding our partnership with Summa Health System,” CHP spokeswoman Liz Vogel told local media. “As a Catholic health care organization, we understand and respect his point of view, which has led us to restructure the transaction.”

Vogel asserted that because HealthSpan Partners is “an auxiliary organization, which is a secular, tax-exempt entity that invests in innovative health-care ventures,” approval from the bishop will no longer be required.

Summa spokesman Mike Bernstein said in a statement that “We are pleased to begin working with HealthSpan Partners, which is Catholic Health Partners’ auxiliary organization that will now invest $250 million to become a 30 percent owner of Summa Health System.”

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“We are excited about the outcome of our two-year process to seek a like-minded, not-for-profit partner to enhance our ability to meet the health-care needs of Northeast Ohio,” Bernstein added.

A call by to the Cleveland Diocese seeking comment was not immediately returned.


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