The controversy over allegations that a doctor who works part-time at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare performs abortions is boiling over, prompting La Crosse Bishop William Callahan to label it “scandalous.”
The imbroglio began March 5, when Leif and Karen Arvidson of La Crosse began leading almost-daily pickets outside Mayo-Franciscan, based on their contention that Dr. Carl Rose of Mayo in Rochester, Minn., had advised an abortion during a difficult pregnancy in 2012.
Neither Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare nor Mayo Clinic have unambiguously said whether Rose performs abortions.
The dispute is likely to heat up more on Wednesday, when anti-abortionists plan to escalate their protests at Mayo-Franciscan because, they say, Rose will be working as a consultant on high-risk pregnancies there that day.
The Arvidsons said they met with Callahan on June 24, when he gave them a statement he had given to Mayo-Franciscan administrators and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, a La Crosse-based religious order that co-sponsors the hospital with Mayo Clinic.
The couple posted it, along with Callahan’s picture, on their “Expose Mayo” website Friday, saying Callahan had told them they could disseminate it as they saw fit.
However, the diocese said Monday that the statement wasn’t official because it didn’t come from diocesan headquarters. It then issued an official statement.
The unofficial statement, dated May 31, said Catholic hospitals must follow the U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services, which ban abortion services and counseling.
“It must be said that the recent concerns regarding the association of Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare with possible abortion counseling or referral is scandalous,” the statement said.
“It must be noted, however, that abortions have not been performed in the past, nor will they be tolerated in the future, at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare,” the statement said.
“As shepherd of the Diocese of La Crosse, I soberly call upon all involved to protect vigorously the implementation of the ERDs in accord with Catholic teachings through regular evaluations and reviews of policies, procedures and internal actions with the established ethics committees who work in collaboration and consultation with me as the local bishop,” said the statement to Mayo-Franciscan and FSPA leaders.
Mayo-Franciscan and the FSPAs also issued reactions Monday in response to requests for comments on the bishop’s original statement.
Mayo-Franciscan CEO Dr. Tim Johnson said, “The organization is very appreciative of the bishop’s support of the Catholic hospital in La Crosse and its benefit to the community, and the dialogue we’ve been able to have with him on this issue over the last several months. We also appreciate the guidance we have received from our sponsors, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
“Franciscan Healthcare remains committed to compassionate, high-quality health care for all of our patients in accord with its Catholic mission and our legal and medical obligations,” Johnson said.
The FSPA statement quoted Sister Karen Lueck, the order’s president, as saying, in part, “We move forward, together with Bishop Callahan and Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, continuing to honor our responsibilities as stewards of the Gospel ministry of healing. We do this by answering the bishop’s call in his statement for continued regular evaluations and reviews of policies, procedures and internal actions.”
FSPA leaders will work with Mayo-Franciscan and the bishop to “ensure that all ethical and religious guidelines are communicated effectively to and evaluated regularly with all of our partners in our sponsored ministries.”
The diocesan statement issued Monday quoted Callahan as saying, in part, that Mayo-Franciscan, “founded on Catholic principles and maintained by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, has a long history of providing health care that closely follows the Ethical and Religious Directives,” Callahan said.
“We are convinced that all parties will continue to work towards the common goals that support the ideals of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and the teachings of the church regarding Catholic health care,” the new statement said.
Mayo in Rochester also issued a statement in response to a query about whether Rose does abortions there. Although not addressing abortions specifically, a hospital spokesman said, “Perinatologists in Rochester provide highly specialized care to patients with high-risk pregnancies and bring their expertise to La Crosse to assist patients locally. At times, a patient may opt to travel to Rochester when a higher level of care is necessary for a variety of conditions.”
The anti-abortion protesters say they will be satisfied with nothing less than forcing Mayo-Franciscan to end its relationship with Rose.
“We’re confident that will happen because there’s such a large movement to have Dr. Rose and any other doctors who do abortions removed,” said Leif Arvidson, who also is executive director of Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in La Crosse.
That movement will include expanding the picketing time Wednesday from the usual noon to 2 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Arvidson said.
“It’s not appropriate to have an abortion provider treat pregnant women and babies,” Arvidson said. “This community won’t accept abortion doctors at the Catholic hospital.”