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Health Prog. 1992 Mar;73(2):28-33.

Preserving Catholic identity in mergers--an ethical and Canon Law perspective.

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Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN.


A merger or joint venture between a Catholic healthcare facility and a non-Catholic healthcare facility that provides procedures the Catholic Church believes to violate moral principles raises a number of issues to be considered by diocesan bishops. The 1983 Code of Canon Law provides bishops with guidelines to help establish the Catholicity of a Catholic hospital that has affiliated with a non-Catholic hospital. The diocesan bishop exercises his authority through a threefold ministry of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. These ministries stand as a reminder of his decision-making authority in matters that affect the spiritual state and growth of those entrusted to his care. Catholic identity, as it is presented in the Code of Canon Law, can be determined through the presence of a relationship between an institution and ecclesiastical authorities, the legal establishment of the entity, and a degree of control that the Church exercises over the institution. When evaluating a possible merger of joint venture between a Catholic hospital and a non-Catholic hospital that is performing procedures not in accord with Catholic Church teaching, the diocesan bishop must consider what limits must be observed. The good effects of the affiliation must be intended and direct, and the harmful effects must be perceived as unintended and indirect. The difficulties in determining and protecting the identity of Catholic hospitals in possible mergers or joint ventures should not prevent facilities from considering alternative forms of corporate structures. The Code of Canon Law and the Church's ethical teachings provide guidelines to ensure these possibilities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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