Friday, March 18, 2011


Catherine Elizabeth McAuley was born in 1781 in County Dublin, Ireland.  A powerhouse of determination and faith, she practiced acts of charity and devotion while seeking an organizational home for her vision.  In 1828 she founded the Sisters of Mercy.  Miss McAuley chose the name with the intent of making works of mercy the distinctive feature of her community.  In 1843 the Sisters of Mercy were welcomed to Pittsburgh and soon opened a school, and orphanage and hospital in Western Pennsylvania.  By 1895 the Sisters were in Phoenix where they opened a small hospital, St. Joseph's.  Today, The Sisters of Mercy in the United States teach 100,000 children in their parochial schools,  care for 3,834 orphans, and operate 53 Hospitals.  Among the largest of the hospitals is the 700-bed St Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.

Last December the Bishop of Phoenix excommunicated St. Joseph's Hospital.  He issued a decree revoking their affiliation with the Catholic Church after 115 years of operation and broad acclaim for quality of care.  As a result of his decision Mass can no longer be celebrated in the hospital's chapel and all items considered Catholic were removed.  The issue between the Bishop and St. Joseph's is the hospital's reproductive procedures.  Contraceptive counseling, provisions of contraception, voluntary sterilizations, and an abortion to save the life of a mother constituted a "scandalous situation" which the Bishop said "needed to change".

You can read the statement from St Joseph's President, Linda Hunt.  You can explore their website and meet their ethical leader, Sister Margaret McBride.  You can imagine .the careful consideration undertaken by the the medical and religious leadership in charting their path through the complex relationship of standards of care, Medicaid and Medicare contracts, private insurance provisions, and their own conscience.  You can decide for yourself what constitutes a work of mercy.  The executive team at St. Joseph's already has.

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