WASHINGTON, DC, January 6, 2011 ( – The president of the Catholic Health Association (CHA), who famously lent crucial support to the health care reform law in defiance of the U.S. bishops, has sided with an Arizona hospital that lost its Catholic standing by performing a direct abortion.

In a statement dated December 22, CHA president Sister Carol Keehan declared that St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix “correctly” applied the bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) when they directly killed an unborn child in order to relieve its mother’s pulmonary hypertension.

“[St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center] had been confronted with a heartbreaking situation. They carefully evaluated the patient’s situation and correctly applied the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services to it, saving the only life that was possible to save,” stated Keehan.

CHA later released a “clarification” stating that Keehan’s statement had been “misinterpreted” and that their “difference of opinion” on the ERDs’ application does not change their position that an individual bishop has the right to interpret them in his diocese.

The ERDs themselves directly forbid direct abortion (which St. Joseph staff had admitted was the means by which the child was killed) in any circumstance.

“Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted,” they state. “Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo. Catholic health care institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation.”

In addition, the Doctrinal Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) explicitly supported Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted when he announced the automatic excommunication of Sister Margaret MacBride, then vice president of mission integration at St. Joseph’s, and other staff who cooperated in the procedure. The committee clarified that, while needed therapy that may indirectly cause the death of an unborn child may be permissible, a direct abortion never is.

Leonard J. Nelson, III, a professor at the Cumberland School of Law of Samford University, criticized the CHA for contradicting Olmsted’s decision in a public statement. “This defiance of Bishop Olmsted’s authority is setting a dangerous precedent, and could presage a further secularization of Catholic health care,” said Nelson.

After months of discussions between Olmsted, St. Josephs, and Catholic Healthcare West, the company that owns the hospital, Olmsted announced that the facility refused to obey the ERDs and therefore was no longer Catholic.

CHA president Keehan had risen to fame earlier last year when it was revealed that she directly defied U.S. bishops by supporting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act throughout its journey into law, despite the sweeping legislation’s lack of protection for unborn children.

USCCB president Cardinal Francis George later specifically blamed Keehan for the passage of the bill, saying that CHA’s defiance delivered a “wound to Catholic unity” and that, “The Catholic Health Association and other so-called Catholic groups provided cover for those on the fence to support Obama and the administration.”

Contact information:

To respectfully contact the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life:

His Eminence the Cardinal Prefect +39. 06. 69884121
His Excellency Archbishop Secretary +39. 06. 69884584
receptionists +39 06. 69884128 and +39. 06. 69892511
FAX +39. 06. 69884526
E-mail: [email protected] (Prefect)
[email protected] (Secretary)
[email protected] (information)


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