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“The saint goes marching out”

If you’re in favor of having medical practices at what may be the only hospital in your region determined by the doctrine of a specific religious organization, than you may find what happened in Bend to be unfortunate.

The rest of us may see it as a hopeful harbinger for the future.

The Catholic Diocese of Baker, which has been the church’s sponsor for the St. Charles Medical Center at Bend, said this week it will end that relationship:

Recently, hospital administrators and Baker Bishop Robert Vasa have “respectfully disagreed” on the meaning of some of the directives. In particular, St. Charles offers patients tubal ligations, a form of permanent female reproductive sterilization, which, Bishop Vasa says, goes against the church’s teachings.

“It is my responsibility to ensure the hospital is following Catholic principles both in name and in fact,” Bishop Vasa says. “It would be misleading for me to allow St. Charles Bend to be acknowledged as Catholic in name while I am certain that some important tenets of the ethical and religious directives are no longer being observed.”

Bishop Vasa asked St. Charles in 2007 for an audit of the hospital’s compliance with the ethical and religious directives. The hospital openly provided the bishop with the information. Since that time, Bishop Vasa and hospital officials have had a number of discussions about the future of the hospital as a Catholic institution.

In the context, this seems amicable enough – an agreement to disagree and a logical move forward. The two organizations seemed both saddened by it, and no doubt some people are: St. Charles has been a Catholic hospital for close to a century. A tradition is ending.

(In many respects, the changes may be subtle: “Mass will no longer be celebrated in the hospital’s chapel and all items considered Catholic will be removed from the hospital and returned to the church. The St. Charles name will remain the same and the cross will remain on top of the building.”)

Others from the Bend area, probably plenty of Catholics included, may see this as a tradition worth ending. The connection between religious organizations and hospitals never seemed entirely logical (in the modern era), except maybe in the sense of fostering a general sense of unifying medical provision with charitable work – and we all know how well that’s worked out. Catholics in Bend will still be able to manage their own health within the constraints of their church’s doctrine, if they choose to; but there’ll b no pressure now for non-Catholics to do so.

There are plenty of other Catholic hospitals, at present, in the Northwest. This move may reverberate.

(H/t for the post headline, to Bend or Bust.)

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