Catholic Healthcare West cuts ties with Church

Catholic Healthcare West, the multi-billion-dollar hospital conglomerate based in San Francisco that operates institutions in California, Arizona and Nevada, is shedding its Catholic name — apparently in the interest of profit.

The conglomerate announced yesterday it was changing its name to Dignity Health and would no longer be “an official ministry of the Catholic Church.” In a statement provided to California Catholic Daily, the Archdiocese of San Francisco said Archbishop George Niederauer had given a nihil obstat to the change.

Since its founding in 1986 with 10 hospitals operated by the Sisters of Mercy, Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity Health) has grown to become the fifth largest healthcare conglomerate in the U.S., with 40 hospitals in three states and annual revenues topping $11 billion. 

But, apparently, the conglomerate’s links to the Catholic Church are now crimping its expansion. According to Kaiser Health News, Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, acknowledged that the conglomerate’s Catholic identity had “hampered some potential deals.”

“I have been contacted over the last couple of years by many, many different constituencies who have an interest in Catholic Healthcare West and what we have accomplished,” Dean was quoted by Kaiser Health News as saying. “But one of the things when we get down to what I’ll call the real discussions as they confer with their boards is, ‘What does the future mean if we’re a non-Catholic entity? Will we have to become Catholic? What will be the Catholic influence?’”

In a news release issued yesterday, Catholic Healthcare West said that de-linking itself from the Church “will position the organization to succeed in a changing health care environment.”

“Under the new governance structure, Dignity Health is a not-for-profit organization, rooted in the Catholic tradition, but is not an official ministry of the Catholic Church,” said the news release. “The new structure and name enable the organization to grow nationally, while preserving the identity and integrity of both its Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals. The organization’s Catholic hospitals will continue to be Catholic, directly sponsored by their founding congregations, and adhering to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Dignity Health’s non-Catholic hospitals will continue to be non-Catholic, adhering to the Statement of Common Values.”

“The changes follow several years of discussions between the organization’s sponsoring congregations, board of directors, and management team about the future of health care and how to best extend its healing mission,” said the news release. “Dignity Health’s long term strategic plan is focused on integrated care and enhanced quality that reduces costs. Growth plans anticipate expanded partnerships, which will include both Catholic and non-Catholic care centers. The system currently owns or operates 25 Catholic hospitals and 15 non-Catholic hospitals.”

“I would like to point out that the Archbishop gave a ‘Nihil Obstat’ after consulting widely with other Bishops and moral theologians (one of them was Dr. John Haas) before making this decision,” San Francisco archdiocesan spokesman George Wesolek said in an email to California Catholic Daily.

Haas, a well-respected moral theologian, is president of the National Center for Catholic Bioethics. In June 2010, Pope Benedict XVI named him as a governing member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“I would also point out that the reorganization will enable the enhancement of the Catholic identity of the Catholic hospitals within the system,” Wesolek said.

“The six communities of Catholic religious women who sponsor CHW formally approached Archbishop George Niederauer in February of 2011 to consult him about proceeding with this reorganization,” said the archdiocesan statement released yesterday. “Because Archbishop Niederauer is the bishop of the diocese where CHW is headquartered, it was his responsibility to evaluate the proposed changes in light of the norms of Catholic moral teaching and church law.”

After extensive consultations and “formal consultations with leading Catholic moralists and authorities in church law who are expert in matters relating to health care,” Archbishop Niederauer concluded the “restructuring does not conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” said the archdiocesan statement.

Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity Health) had been run by a complex management system, with top level governance by “corporate members” from the six women’s religious orders, who in turn appointed CHW’s board of directors. Under the changes announced yesterday, Dignity Health will be run by a nine-member board of directors, with just two women religious.



Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 3:46 AM By East Coast Tom
Inspired by the 1964 Land-O-Lakes statements by Catholic college and university presidents such as Notre Dame’s Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, many of those institutions shed their link with the founding order or diocese by re-establishing themselves as a secular corporaton independent of the order or diocese. The late Fr. Vincent Miceli called that the greatest alienation/secularization of Church property since King Henry VIII suppressed the monasteries and convents in England to give their properties to his favorites to curry their support for his break with the Church. Is this action by Catholic Healthcare West and the earlier on by the former Caritas Christi Health Care of Boston (now the for-profit Steward Health Care) a new wave of voluntary alienation/secularization of Church property?

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 6:38 AM By Prof Helen
More proof positive that you cannot serve God and mammon. (money for you youngsters out there)

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 6:49 AM By Sandra
Cut the cancer and remove Catholic support. Wesolek’s statement–huh?

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 7:51 AM By Bud 
And….they continue calling this a “non-profit” organization? What is happening to the 6 women’s religious orders involved? Who are they? Who are the “just two women religious” and the 9 member boardCHW board of directors?

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:10 AM By Brad
“…the conglomerate’s Catholic identity had “hampered some potential deals.”” …for what shall it profit a man, if he may gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:30 AM By Brian
A most peculiar situation! The non-Catholic hospitals appreciate and want to LIKE the Catholic (West) Hospitals in their caring for the ill. BUT, then they are afraid that the Catholic name could harm their hospitals? Just a lot of anti-Catholic flakes refusing to accept that the Catholic Tradition of providing Catholic Hospital Care for all thru the sacrifice of the many nuns whom over the years have provided the wonderful care for the sick. Hope the Catholic Traditions are not diluted or abandoned!

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:53 AM By Patrick
So long as the hospitals can now have abortion on the grounds, prescribe sterilizations and hand out birth control, making more money, all is well with them. It is money that is running Dignity Health.

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 9:09 AM By Life Lady
Can I please have a list of the honestly Catholic hospitals so I can avoid (like the plague) the “dignity ” ones. I would like to avoid having to argue my way out of being euthanized because I have the “right to choose ” when I can die. If THAT is “Dignity” no thank you.

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 10:00 AM By JMJ
To be Catholic or not to be? Just how “catholic” were they with the “sisters of mercy” at the helm & it is strange about John Haas, this is the same fellow that Pope John Paul II had many problems with because of his stands that went against the teachings of the Church. He has many Bishops & Cardinals fooled, as they look to him for answers instead of going to the source: the Pope. This is the guy that said the soul enters into the baby’s body the instant that this new life is created. Really? Where did he get this information from? How long will it take for Archbishop to wake up & to change his approval to disapproval? How many abortions & sterilizations will they do & how about all of the “pills” that they will be selling before he finds out that he has been taken for a ride? +JMJ+

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 10:31 AM By FrMichael
I vote for changing the name of the medical system to “Iscariot Health.”

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 10:37 AM By Camille
So, this is the fulfillment of the “have your cake and eat it too” mentality. This allows the remaining so-called Catholic connected hospitals to cushion their bottom line with payments for aborting babies and sterilizing women, without getting their hands dirty. Is this the prelude to the Bishops’ acquiescence to Obama’s health care insurance mandate?

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 10:43 AM By Connie
Is there a way to find out if St Jude’s, now a ‘Catholic Hospital in Fullerton, Orange County, belongs to ‘Dignity’ or is it still a Catholic Hospital? Does St. Jude’s belong to Catholic Health Care West? Thank you

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 10:55 AM By Mary
JMJ–I am confused by your remark that John Haas “is the guy that said the soul enters into the baby’s body the instant that this new life is created. Really? Whre did he get this information from?” Isn’t that Catholic teaching? Am I missing something. Please clarify and, if you can be specific on ways that Haas “went against the teachings of the Church”, that would be of interest, too. Thank you.

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 12:01 PM By pjd
Googled hospitals belonging to this group. That is a lot of once-Catholic hospitals! Now a hospital called St. Mary’s is not Catholic. It is my opinion Lloyd Dean and the rest should be fired and the sooner the better. All those hospitals are Catholic and should remain Catholic. Dean and the rest are spitting in the face of Jesus, St. Francis, St. Claire and all the rest of Catholics who have cared for the sick and they are doing it for “30 pieces of silver”. Let’s stop this now.

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 12:33 PM By John M
When my dear wife was in Sequoia hospital (CHW) preparing for major heart surgery I asked at the desk “Where is the chapel?” A number of folks said they did’nt have one and then someone directed us to the Meditation room.What a joke! I could not pray for my dearest with incense and budda.I’m glad they took Catholic out of their name,but saddened by the loss of what could have been, I pray that our dear nuns get back to their calling..Lord hear our prayer

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 12:47 PM By budforlife
Years ago I did some investigating of our Mercy San Juan Hospital and then CHW. I found that leadership were big Obama supporters and that employing identified abortionists was not a problem for them. Stand by. It will not be long before they are dispensing contraceptives/abortifacients and next, abortions in the name of mercy.

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 1:20 PM By Lupe
In the long run, it is all about abortion, contraception, an sterilization. CHW was losing out on too much profit.

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 3:31 PM By bev
Unfortunately, Catholic hospitals (of which I was an employee), and Catholic universities (where I was a student) are no longer able to financially exist based on Traditional Values.

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 4:27 PM By MIKE
This is the parent company of the St.Joseph Mercy Hospital in Phoenix. The good Bishop Olmstead told them they could no longer use the name “CATHOLIC” Bishop Olmstead said in Dec 2010 that through its involvement in the Mercy Care Plan, the bishop said Catholic Healthcare West has been responsible for a litany of practices in direct conflict with Catholic teaching. These include: contraceptive counseling, provision of various forms of contraception, voluntary sterilization and abortions. (Full story about Bishop Olmsted’s pastoral action in 2010 can be found on internet by CatholicNewsService.)

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 6:40 PM By OneoftheSheep
Interesting. I just came from mass at the chapel at Mercy San Juan Hospital, a CHW hospital, I presume. Will they remove the newly renovated chapel? Will they remove the Blessed Sacrament? Will Father no longer say mass there? I watch closely, as the Mercy System provides healthcare for me. Fine time to notify us after open season has come and gone. I will not support abortion providers Catholic or not.

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 11:31 PM By Clinton
How tragic is it that now after most Catholic colleges and universities have sold out the Faith in the name of profit, Catholic hospitals have done the same. I guess CHW is doing Obama’s dirty work themselves.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 6:07 AM By Amy
What part does Sister Carol Keehan plan in all of this. How many remember the picture of her standing next to President Obama as he signed into law the Obama Health Care Bill. She was even given one of the pens he used to sign the bill. And I also believe that CHW received $800,000 somewhere along the line. In the old days this was referred to as 30 pieces of silver. We truly need to pray for these people who are selling their Catholic ideals and principles down the river. And then trying to sell them to us. God help them.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 6:08 AM By Traditional Angelo
It was once Nuns from Religious Orders that founded and ran these Hospitals, for the purpose of caring for the sick. The funds came from people who cared for the sick. Religious Orders rebelled from their Divine calling. What is happening now are the fruits of their vain God forsaken labors. And they want us and Rome to believe all is just fine. The tragedy is right before our eyes and yet they want to force us to believe all is in perfect order. Nonsense!

Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 1:12 PM By Lynne Santamaria
Pope Benedict said early in his pontificate that; ” we may have to become a smaller Church to be a more Faithful Church”. I like a smaller and better house myself.

Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 1:26 PM By k
Lynne Santamaria, can you cite a source for that quote?

Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 5:27 PM By Juergensen
To paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI, the Church needs to become smaller and purer. Out with the dissenters and heretics: let them fill the pews left empty by the Anglican converts to the Catholic Church.

Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 6:40 PM By JLS
Jacob’s Ladder has a stream of souls going up and another going down. Obviously there are fewer people reaching and staying at the top than descending and staying at the bottom.

Posted Saturday, January 28, 2012 7:36 AM By Jeannie
I am scratching my head. Lloyd states”Catholic identity hampered deals” and Wesolek states”It will enhance Catholic identity of the Catholic hospitals within the system”? Logic doesn’t makes sense. Catholic hospitals gave up their name to take on Dignity? Also, we don’t know what John Haas of NCCC advised as their work is confidential. The implication is that he agreed to this. It seems to me, the statement needs to be revised.

Posted Saturday, January 28, 2012 9:27 AM By k
Jeannie, its a network that includes both Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals. The umbrella organization is what will no longer be a ministry of the Catholic Church. The individual hospitals that are Catholic will still be Catholic hospitals. Those who aren’t Catholic will remain non-Catholic.

Posted Saturday, January 28, 2012 11:56 PM By Abeca Christian
JLS there is a song called Jacob’s ladder. I don’t know if it be a protestant song but I like that song. It goes like this “we are climbing Jacobs ladder, we are climbing Jacobs ladder etc” Sorry this is a tuneless example through these posts. LOL

Posted Sunday, January 29, 2012 3:28 PM By Dorinda Sears
None of this conforms to reason. The umbrella corporation will indubitably become ‘the’ new corporate identity. It will overshadow the identity of its member hospitals. I don’t see how this new corporation will manage speaking to the public in a way that will preserve the integrity and identity of our Catholic hospitals, when the truth is that they must now remain loyal to both sides of the debate on life and human dignity. What’s the old saying “you cannot serve two masters.”

Posted Monday, January 30, 2012 8:25 PM By JLS
For those who do not know what Jacob’s Ladder is: The Patriarch Jacob was given a dream of a ladder rising to Heaven and with angels ascending and descending it.

Posted Wednesday, February 01, 2012 5:07 AM By Abeca Christian
JLS thank you my dear friend for clarifying. You are awesome because I know of this song and it’s meaning but neglected to explain assuming all knew. You are awesome!

Posted Sunday, March 04, 2012 7:35 PM By Catholic Defender
This is a grand design as many of the so-called “Catholic” hospitals who are secularizing themselves are exposing themselves as corrupt and in bed with the present Adminstration. They are setting themselves up for the implimentation of Obamacare. Should the Republicans win the Novemeber 2012 election, what will these hospitals do? They are already pledged to walk the plank.