Catholic hospital system severs ties with Church, changes name


Catholic Healthcare West, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, is ending its governing board’s affiliation with the Catholic Church and changing its name, two steps intended to help the system expand throughout the states in which it operates _ California, Arizona and Nevada — and beyond.

The changes, which executives plan to announce Monday, underscore the unique challenges facing Catholic hospitals in the marketplace, where there are tremendous financial pressures for hospitals to merge or form formal alliances with other health care providers in order to survive and thrive.

The change will have no effect on any patients or the medical care provided at the 25 Catholic and 15 secular hospitals in the system. But executives hope it will make it easier to merge or affiliate with other hospitals, doctors’ practices and other health care providers.

In the past few years, proposed mergers between Catholic and secular hospitals in Louisville, Ky., and Sierra Vista, Ariz., have collapsed in part because of concerns about the church’s bans on abortions, in-vitro fertilizations and sterilizations. Other mergers have succeeded only with the help of unusual contortions, such as in Troy, N.Y., where a separately licensed maternity ward free from Catholic doctrine was created on the second floor of a secular hospital taken over by a Catholic system. In Seattle, Swedish Medical Center last fall agreed to fund a Planned Parenthood office next door to quell objections about its planned affiliation with a Catholic system.

Lloyd Dean, the president and CEO of Catholic Healthcare West, said the concerns about his system’s Catholic affiliation have 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 said. “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?’ ”

The San Francisco-based system, which has $11 billion in revenues, making it the fifth-largest in the country, is seeking to triple in size and build a national footprint. It treated 6.2 million patients last year.

As of Monday, the system’s new name will be Dignity Health. Dean said the system’s change to a non-denominational board will create “a tremendous opportunity that will help accelerate our growth.”

Read more.


  1. Mike Andrews says:

    It is a model of treachery against the Church and her people. How corrupt.

  2. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going.

  3. ron chandonia says:

    DIGNITY Health? How about EXPEDIENCY Health?

  4. Keep voting Democrat. First they closed down Catholic adoptions, now its the hospitals, next its the schools.

    “Obama Rejects Contraception Exemption for Catholic Hospitals, Schools
    Jan 20, 2012 3:45pm

    The Obama administration today said it would move forward with a new mandate requiring most U.S. employers – including religiously affiliated hospitals and schools – to provide health care plans that cover contraceptive services for female employees free of charge.”

    But we saw it coming a few years ago with Obamacare.

    “Obama Healthcare Spells Uncertainty for Catholic Hospitals
    July 27th 2009

    Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have rejected attempts to include specific language in proposed legislation that would rule out an abortion coverage mandate.”

  5. Forgot to add this tidbit. The 2012 March for Life Youth Rally gathering was just demonstrated by the Occupy Wall Street crowd, shouting pro-Abortion slogans.

    Classy folks.

    Video of incident on 21 Jan 2012

  6. FTA: Future secular hospitals added to the system will be required to adhere to the “Statement of Common Values” that apply to Catholic Healthcare West’s secular hospitals. In addition to abortions, those rules prohibit in-vitro fertilizations but not sterilizations such as tubal ligations.

    I am so impressed that they’ll have a Statement of Common Values. /s How does that work?

  7. I hope we lay people develop a greater committment to lay apostleship. Catholic Charities, hospitals and schools are great–but a personal apostolate by all Catholics is preferable. Our personal witness is needed a lot now.

  8. “President Barack Obama says the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is the chance to recognize the “fundamental constitutional right” to abortion and to “continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”

  9. I predicted this would happen just the other day. I expect to see more of it. It is about $$$ not necessarily what is right.

  10. Actually, adoption services have been a very small part of Catholic charities work for several years. You can guess as to why it peaked in the early 70′s. There’s just not enough work available for counselors.

    “It is a model of treachery against the Church and her people.”

    A curious statement, coming from a commentariat that often suggests the door to “bad” Catholics. It’s kind of a damned-if-you-do-or-don’t situation, isn’t it? Just go to another hospital, eh?

  11. No, it’s our market system doing what it’s supposed to do. The majority of people in this country are not devout Catholics and have no wish to have their health care decisions made for them by someone else’s beliefs. The market is responding to that reality.

  12. Simple. They have decided to sell their soul for gain in a world increasingly controlled by Satan and becoming ever more remote from one nation under God. Those who support the party of death and the abortion mills partner in the white hose should be proud of how far they are taking this country toward ruin. As we walk for Christ, we walk from light into darkness. No wonder people are seeing things going horribly wrong.

  13. Infradig Health. Despicable.

  14. I’m not sure the government closed down anything. They enforced the conditions for taking government funding. If the Catholic Church and its services don’t agree with those conditions then the Catholic Church should not take government funds.

    If the Catholic population is large enough and willing to use only Catholic institutions for health and adoption services then government funding won’t be needed anyway — the market system would work in the Church’s favor.

    The Catholic Church is also large enough and populous enough to offer their own nation-wide health insurance plans. Successful ones would beat the government at its own game.

    If it is found that health/adoption/insurance plans by and for the Catholic population are untenable even with the large Catholic population, then the failure is in the pulpit, not in the government. And it is wrong to demand the government underwrite that failure by making exceptions.

  15. Excellent points, Jake.

    You know, the Knights of Columbus initiated a fine tradition of providing a need, life insurance, at their inception. Why couldn’t they or the bishops initiate medical insurance?

    This whining about misfortune is so unbecoming. The Church is absolutely free to do so much–so what’s stopping us? Only a lack of imagination and creativity and too much of a sense of entitlement.

  16. I think that the Catholic “partners” here are deluding themselves.

  17. Todd:
    I agree. (That is just what I proposed in a previous comment.) Also, when we did not want the Protestant orientation in the public schools, we started our own. Why not? I think that this emphasis on anti-Catholicism and ministerial exceptions may just backfire.

  18. Whatever else can be said about this (which is a lot!), this is more evidence that the name “Catholic” is being taken more seriously.

  19. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    When blog themes collide! ;-) Good observation, Ed.

  20. CHW sold itself out. I recently retired from a Catholic hospital and it is sometimes a real struggle to speak up for the Directives when challenges are met. We are Catholic and need to be proud of it and speak out against abortion, end of life practices that are not moral, sterilization, etc. Catholic healthcare is extremely important in this country- today, more than ever.

  21. In 2006 Baptist Health System and St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Jacksonville forged an alliance. Four years later the merger ended.

    The local newspaper in Jacksonville wrote:

    “This marriage, it turns out, wasn’t made in heaven. The turbulent health care marketplace changed the merger’s prospects and possibilities. Now, Baptist’s board wants an annulment.”

    Why? The Baptist board members decided they did not have the same vision or interests as Catholic St. Vincent’s.

  22. Mr.Peters,
    Was this an affiliation that had no financial benefits to the Church? I am just wondering if the Church will be losing money from this change. Was this an affiliation of names and beliefs only? I’m curious because I have never understood the relationship between the various Catholic health systems and the Church. And before I get attacked, I have no hidden agenda in these questions, I am just honestly curious about how the money flows.

  23. pagansister says:

    Catholic hospitals have some restrictions that secular ones don’t. Given a choice, and both being equal in care, I’d go to a secular hospital.

  24. friscoeddie says:

    The non profit hospitals usually lose money..

  25. Me too, to the point that there will be a stipulation in my own advanced care and living will documents that I must never be admitted to a Catholic hospital if I am seriously or terminally ill. There is much more to this issue than abortion and contraception. Under a new directive of the USCCB as of a couple of years ago, Catholic hospitals, not you, will control your end of life care decisions. That means, for example, they will install and maintain a feeding tube if your in a vegetative state, regardless of your stated wishes.

  26. Yes, a Catholic hospital will refuse to starve someone to death. Horrible…

  27. pagansister says:

    IMO, Amy, that would be refusing to do as a person wishes—if that person has a legal directive, it should be followed.

  28. That’s my guess, too, though I am not privy to hard data on it.

  29. Do you admit that there are any “legal directives” a person might have that should not be followed? Or perhaps one would prefer not to go to a hospital where one’s intent to starve oneself to death under certain circumstances would not be presumed?

  30. It is horrible if it means trapping someone in their body against their wishes and dooming them to years or decades as a corpse with a pulse. To do that against someone’s express wishes is monstrous. It is a grotesque abuse of patient trust which should be a criminal offence and lead to the revocation of someone’s medical license.

  31. Is this a joke? Suppose you are hit by a truck, you think they will check your wishes before you get to a hospital?

  32. never

  33. I don’t understand how you lose money with 11 billion dollars in revenue.

  34. Jake, better solution is not to have federal government funds in anything that involves healthcare. Where they have, it has distorted the entire industry. then you have fools come along and say that since government funds are involved, that they have the right to ignore the constitution which clearly made religious freedom the first and thus by that fact the most important right in the bill of rights. If Catholic Hospitals are not offering services which violate Catholic teaching, then if there is demand for those products or services, the market will provide them.
    I would take your lame argument the other way. If there are non Catholic people who want a hospital that provides these services, they should get together and fund it rather than demand an institution that is Catholic violate their teaching. Catholics pay for taxes that are used in non Catholic hospitals every day. This is simply an open attack on religious freedom and the usual suspects who support the party of death and thus great evil in our society are there to defend the Partner of the abortion mills, Obama.

  35. Occupy grows daily in slime and every stance they take is closely tied to the democratic party. Having watched the anti war movement grow ever more violent in the 60′s until we saw mass riots in the streets, I see this movement headed the same way. And of course back then you had it as an integral part of the Democratic Party as well. That of course led the vast majority of Americans to overwhelmining vote against that party. Every time this type of thing happens to groups like this fighting for the unborn child, even those who are somewhat supportive of pro abortion positions are turned off by these type of actions.

  36. This of course is also a start down the line where the government will tell hospitals what else they have to do under the government death panels part of Obamacare.

    Grandma is to old for help and needs to be put to death brought to you by ObamaCare.

  37. “I don’t understand how you lose money with 11 billion dollars in revenue.”

    Because the government has huge control on everything you do and requires idiotic things to be done that destroy efficient operation.

    Want to have well run healthcare? get government out of it.

    Have spent a lifetime in healthcare industry and since 1965, it has all been going the wrong way with the intro of big government in the form of medicare and everything else since attached to it.

  38. Not surprising that many who support abortion president and party also support death by starvation. Hard to see these commenters as really Catholic and if not, why such interest in a Catholic blog?
    just curious.

  39. No, but they damn sure should respect wishes regarding your long-term disposition in cases where you have made it clear in writing in advance and/or empowered someone else to make those decisions in light of your values.

  40. I’m not Catholic, but it’s an issue that affects everyone. Catholic-affiliated hospitals are a big part of the health care system, and in some communities, the only game in town. In that case, church doctrine becomes something more than an abstract thing one can take or leave via church membership.

  41. So they can look forward to wisecracks about “death with Dignity”.

  42. An honest difference of opinion is necessary and welcome in a discussion of this serious topic. The use of the (semi-)derogatory adjective “lame” was unnecessary and uncalled for.

  43. Well said, Mark.

  44. I have been thinking about this since yesterday. Maybe this is a good thing.


    Because instead of us (Catholic Church) running multi-million dollar fundraisers for hospitals, we can take that time, energy and funding and begin to pump it into
    (1) small local clinics which allows us to help those who cannot afford to do so, in our own manner. We may not be able to reach 400 a day, but reaching 20 a day and doing quality care/work within our own faith, is a much better deal
    (2) not bilk insurance companies and individuals who can pay, to cover the cost of those who do not pay, while exhorting the faithful to give even more.
    (3) begin to focus more of our fundraising on Catholic schools
    (4) watch as the health care costs skyrocket even higher, quality of care go down, and say with all honesty: “When we were part of the system, it wasn’t like this. You can thank Mr. Obama for it.”

  45. What if you have $ 11.01 B in expenses? Read Dickens.

  46. Mark, Grandma’s healthcare won’t be paid for by Obamacare. Grandma is already on Medicare, which is a government healthcare program. I took both of my parents through their last years of life on Medicare, and believe me, the incentives are all for doctors to do too many surgeries and procedures, not for them to terminate their patients’ lives prematurely. It was the private insurers (my parents had supplemental insurance) who were trying to ration care.

  47. Strongly agree with Jake, Todd and HMS. The bishops should be relying more on the pulpit, and less on seeking political solutions to moral problems. I recall sitting in church years ago, and hearing a letter from Cardinal O’Connor read from the pulpit. The Cardinal was lamenting Gov. Pataki’s budget cuts, and asking us to write to object to the cuts that would affect Catholic welfare agencies. At the time, I thought, “Why ask us to lobby? Why not ask us to be more generous in our donations?” I feel the same about the present day controversies. Approach these issues through evangelization, not secular politics.

  48. pagansister says:

    RomCath: None of this is a joke. My parents and in-laws had instructions on what they wanted to happen incase they could not tell anyone when the situation arose. NO extraordinary measures. Nature took it’s course before that decision had to be made, but we would have honored their wishes. They had their instruction written way before time. Obviously if one is hit by a truck before one’s medical wishes are known—and there is family then they have to make tough decisions, incase the truck does major damage and the victim is unable to make any decisions. Key word on valid/legal instructions is Legal—this IMO should be followed. I have POA for my husband and he also has legal papers stating his wishes. If the case should arise, I will do as he asks. However, where we live he won’t be in a Catholic hospital. He has been in Catholic hospitals in the past, and the care was extrodinary. However, he wasn’t in for life or death care then.

  49. pagansister says:

    Mark, no one is going to Kill Grandma because of Obamacare. I’m in that age group and so far, no one has tried to kill me. In fact I’ve been very pleased with my Medicare, thank you very much. That bologna that someone is trying to take me out is put out by those that disagree with President Obama. :o)

  50. I always wonder about those who are making decisions about something like the use of a feeding tube or hydration if they have ever personally witnessed someone being killed by the refusal of food and water. A very good friend of mine was honoring his mothers request not to have a feeding tube and hydration when she had a stroke. She survived for nine painful days in the most horrible death one might imagine. You could say it was clearly her choice, but we might want to think about those we love how will probably be by our sides during those days and who probably will have them part of their memory for life. I think Church teaching on calling for the basic necessities of food and water are something that is humane. We had the huge issue of those who got upset with the issue of torture and the arguments for human dignity and many on the left fought a good fight arguing against this type of activity while some argued that to save lives, that it is enhanced interrogation. I find it interesting that those who might have fought against “torture” with strong feelings would support the starvation death of a human being and not see it as loss of dignity to the victim and their families. Just food for thought.

  51. But what are the expenses? Inflated salaries? Wasted allocations? It is easy to hide profit in “expenses”

  52. Why is it that our society sees dying of starvation in Africa as inhumane and starvation of the dying as humane?

  53. I am also confused to how the money flows from church to hospital. My questions are (please, these questions have no derogatory meaning)
    1) What benefit does a hospital received from being joined to a Catholic Entity? Finance? Tax breaks? etc. etc.

    2) What benefits does the community the hospital serves gain from the hospital being Catholic? Free or low-cost care for the poor? Are they required to do this?

    3) If would seem secular hospitals would still honor the wishes of Catholic patients and follow the ERDs per patient’s wishes (either verbal or Advance Directives). Is this correct? Or would Catholic patients who go to a secular hospital, be refused a feeding tube, ventilator support, etc.e tc. if physicians/hospital felt the cost outweighed the benefit (by the way, this is futile care and many hospitals evoke the “futility” on many, many patients)….

    I am just looking for any and all opinions – I truly am confused! Thanks.

  54. The Catholic founders (usually religious orders) of the original hospitals didn’t give a darn about the market–they saw a need and did what the Lord asked them to do, regardless of patients’ race, religion, etc., well before the government stepped in and started regulating and making decisions.
    Let’s see how the patients will enjoy secular bean-counters making compassionate health care decisions for them rather than Catholics with an eternal perspective who know they must answer to a much higher authority than an insurance wonk.
    Seems to me that the first Catholic health care decision (side from direct miraculous healings by the Lord and His Apostles) was to rescue those little babies who were cast out into the hills above Rome–the Church is just being consistent, Kenneth.


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