The dispute between Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmstead and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in his city has been brewing for some time. (For a quick recap of the situation, see Jerry Filteau’s story: Phoenix hospital still belongs to Catholic Health Association.)
The bishop and the hospital differed in their moral evaluation of a November 2009 procedure, by which doctors removed a diseased placenta to save the woman’s life and in the process brought about the death of her 11-week-old unborn child.
The doctors claimed that it was an indirect and unintended abortion -- allowed by the Catholic Church -- while the bishop insisted that the procedure was a direct and intended abortion, and therefore immoral.
In the eyes of the bishop the blame for the procedure fell upon Mercy Sr. Mary Margaret McBride, who had been a member of the hospital’s ethics committee that had approved of the decision. Olmstead said that by her action McBride had excommunicated herself and he also stripped St. Joseph’s Hospital of its Catholic identity Dec. 21 because of its supposed violation of “authentic Catholic moral teaching.”t