Bishop Removes Hospital From CHA Over Health Care Bill

06/14/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) A health care system in Rhode Island has withdrawn from the national Catholic Health Association in a lingering dispute over the health care bill Congress passed last month.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., demanded that CHA remove St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island from its membership rolls, calling its affiliation with CHA "embarrassing."

In a March 29 letter to CHA President and Chief Executive Officer Sister Carol Keehan, Tobin said CHA had "misled the public and caused serious scandal for many members of the church."

The CHA supported the health care bill, saying it would not increase public funding of abortion. The U.S. Catholic bishops disagreed, and urged the bill's defeat. The bill passed on March 21, after President Obama promised to sign an executive order upholding a longstanding ban on federal funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and the poor health of the mother.

Tobin said the CHA's support for the bill, "in contradiction to the position of the bishops ... provided an excuse for members of Congress" to vote for it. The bishop has been an outspoken critic of Catholics--particularly politicians--who do not support making abortion illegal.

St. Joseph Health Services is sponsored by the diocese and is its only Catholic hospital, said diocesan spokesman Michael Guilfoyle.

CHA spokesman Fred Caesar said Tobin's request was granted and that one other hospital said it may not renew its membership in the association, but no others have left. Caesar declined to name the hospital, or where it is located.

The CHA represents more than 620 Catholic hospitals and 60 health care systems in the U.S.

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