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Hospital doing transgender surgeries is not Catholic, San Fran archdiocese says

St. Francis Memorial Hospital, identified in a recent report as performing transgender surgeries, is not actually a Catholic hospital, the Archdiocese of San Francisco clarified Wednesday.

St. Francis Memorial Hospital. Credit: Dignity Health.


St. Francis was included in a recent report by the Lepanto Institute, which said that CommonSpirit Health, the nation’s largest Catholic health system, is violating Catholic moral teaching by performing transgender surgeries, providing contraception, performing abortions, and engaging in other immoral practices.  

The report lists some four dozen hospitals and medical clinics that are affiliated with CommonSpirit Health through mergers with other health systems.

St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco is included on the list as reportedly offering transgender surgeries and therapies, and performing surgical sterilizations.

Peter Marlow, executive director of communications for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, clarified that St. Francis - which was founded in 1905 by a group of local doctors - is not a Catholic hospital, despite its name.

“CommonSpirit Health is a Catholic hospital system and has only Catholic hospitals in it,” Marlow told The Pillar.

“It is aligned with a different system that includes the non-Catholic hospitals that were in the former Dignity Hospital system. St. Francis is one of those.”

Marlow explained that when the relationship was established, “a special carve-out was made for the non-Catholic hospitals that would continue to do direct sterilizations.”

However, he added, the non-Catholic hospitals agreed to abide by other guidelines contained within the U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services – they do not perform abortions, physician-assisted suicide, or in-vitro fertilization. 

Transgender surgeries are a relatively new issue, Marlow continued, and were not originally included in the ERDs, which are currently in their sixth edition.

However, he said, “[t]he agreement provided that other ethical and religious issues in the future could be included in the ERDs among those that the non-Catholic hospitals do not perform.”

Marlow suggested that new guidelines surrounding these issues could be forthcoming.

The U.S. bishops, at their plenary assembly in Orlando this week, will vote on whether to authorize their doctrine committee to begin revising their Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. 

Revisions could allow the ERDs to be updated with guidance on transgender surgeries, as well as other procedures.

Other hospitals under the Dignity Health merger are also accused in the Lepanto report of providing transgender hormone therapies and offering a health care plan including transgender “services.”

None of the hospitals from the Dignity Health merger were listed in the report as performing abortions and providing contraceptives, although other facilities operating under a separate merger agreement were. 

The report does seem to indicate that Catholic hospitals are among those offering contraceptives, transgender hormone therapy, and health care plans with transgender “services,” but are not among those performing transgender surgeries or abortions.

The U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services document recognizes the possibility of partnerships with non-Catholic entities, but also gives guidelines for assessing such partnerships.

“Catholic health care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization,” the directives state.

When weighing possible partnerships that involve remote material cooperation in immoral actions, “Catholic institutional leaders must assess whether scandal might be given and whether the Church’s witness might be undermined,” the directives continue.

“In some cases, the risk of scandal can be appropriately mitigated or removed by an explanation of what is in fact being done by the health care organization under Catholic auspices. Nevertheless, collaborative arrangement that in all other respects is morally licit may need to be refused because of the scandal that might be caused or because the Church’s witness might be undermined.”

In March 2023, the U.S. bishops’ Doctrine Committee rejected transgender surgeries as immoral, noting that such surgeries “do not repair a defect in the body: there is no disorder in the body that needs to be addressed; the bodily organs are normal and healthy.”

“Instead, rather than to repair some defect in the body or to sacrifice a part for the sake of the whole, these interventions are intended to transform the body so as to make it take on as much as possible the form of the opposite sex, contrary to the natural form of the body. They are attempts to alter the fundamental order and finality of the body and to replace it with something else,” the committee wrote.

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