St. Joseph Health Services withdraws from CHA membership

Read the letter below

Posted:

WASHINGTON — Following a statement issued by the the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressing regret that health care reform came with the possibility of expanded abortion funding, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin sent a letter March 29 to Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Organization, requesting that St. Joseph Health Care of Rhode Island be dropped from the organization’s membership and expressing his disappointment that the CHA, under her leadership, publicly endorsed the legislation that was signed into law.

Breaking with the position of the U.S. Bishops who support health care reform without federal funding for abortion, Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, said that "while not perfect, the reform law significantly expands coverage, especially to low-income and vulnerable populations, and is a tremendous step toward protecting human dignity and promoting the common good."

In a March 21 statement, the CHA leader said the bill "represents great progress in the long effort to make health care available and affordable to everyone in the United States."

Bishop Tobin noted in his letter that the views expressed by Sister Keehan was in opposition to church teachings.

“This action was taken despite the fact that the legislation will very possibly provide additional public funding for abortion and threaten the freedom of conscience of Catholic individuals and institutions,” he wrote. “Your enthusiastic support of the legislation, in contradiction to the Bishops of the United States, provided an excuse for members of Congress, mislead the public and caused serious scandal for many members of the Church.

“Accordingly, I am writing to request that St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island, sponsored by the Diocese of Providence, be removed from the membership list and mailing list of the Catholic Health Association,”?Bishop Tobin continued, describing the association with CHA as “now embarrassing.”

Bishop Tobin said that he hopes that in the future the CHA?“will review its mission and will renew its commitment to human life, including that of unborn children,” and that the association will “clearly support the teaching mission of the Church as expressed by the bishops, whose obligation it is to preach the Gospel of Christ and apply the teachings of the Church to the important moral issues of our time.”

Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, said in a legal analysis that executive orders are not subject to legal challenge as long as the president is acting within his constitutional authority.

But in a March 21 memo to congressional staffers, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said that the statutory mandate construed by the courts would override any executive order or regulation.

With reporting by Brian J. Lowney, Rhode Island Catholic

BISHOP'S LETTER TO CHA

March 29, 2010

Sr. Carol Keehan, DC

President and Chief Executive Officer

Catholic Health Association

1875 Eye Street, NW

Ste 100

Washington, DC 20006-5440

Dear Sister Carol:

I was very disappointed that the Catholic Health Association, under your leadership, publicly endorsed the recent health care legislation that was passed and signed into law. This action was taken despite the fact that the legislation will very possibly provide additional public funding for abortion and threaten the freedom of conscience of Catholic individuals and institutions. Your enthusiastic support of the legislation, in contradiction to the position of the Bishops of the United States, provided an excuse for members of Congress, misled the public and caused serious scandal for many members of the Church.

Accordingly, I am writing to request that St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island, sponsored by the Diocese of Providence, be removed from the membership list and mailing list of the Catholic Health Association. It is my understanding that as a “distressed hospital,” St. Joseph Health Services has not been required to pay membership fees for some time. Nonetheless, even the association with CHA is now embarrassing, and for that reason I request that our name be removed.

I hope that in the future the Catholic Health Association will review its mission and will find new opportunities to renew its commitment to human life, including that of unborn children. I also hope that the Association will clearly support the teaching mission of the Church as expressed by the Bishops, whose obligation it is to preach the Gospel of Christ and apply the teachings of the Church to the important moral issues of our time.

With prayerful best wishes, I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Thomas J. Tobin

Bishop of Providence