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HOSPITAL-GIULIANI (UPDATED) Sep-13-2004 (990 words) With photo posted Sept. 10. xxxn

Naming center at Catholic hospital for Giuliani raises questions

By Tracy Early
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The naming of a new center of a Catholic hospital in New York for former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has raised questions in light of the U.S. bishops' policy of refusing honors to politicians who support legal abortion.

Ground was broken Sept. 1 for the Rudolph W. Giuliani Trauma Center at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, which is part of the St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers of New York.

The medical centers complex was formed in 2000 by a merger of the Catholic Medical Centers of Brooklyn and Queens with two agencies of the Sisters of Charity -- St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center and Sisters of Charity Healthcare in Staten Island. The Diocese of Brooklyn and the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, which has its motherhouse in the Bronx, are sponsors of the complex.

In a statement adopted June 18 at a special assembly in Englewood, Colo., the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared, "The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."

"They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions," the statement continued.

Father Frank Pavone, a priest of the New York Archdiocese and president of Priests for Life, saw the hospital's action as troubling and a clear violation of the bishops' policy.

In a Sept. 8 telephone interview, he said naming a unit of a hospital for someone was clearly an honor and that support for legal abortion was a basic violation of Catholic principles.

He said, however, that the focus should not be on what bishops were allowing politicians to do, but "what politicians are allowing the abortionists to do."

Michael Fagan, media director for the medical centers, said the naming of the new trauma center was considered appropriate because of the roles both the hospital, located in lower Manhattan, and Giuliani had in responding to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

He said the decision about the naming was made in 2002, long before the bishops adopted their statement.

At that time, the former mayor, a Catholic and a Republican who supports legal abortion, was named executive honorary chairman of a $100 million capital campaign for the medical centers, and, more recently, his wife, Judith Giuliani, has been named executive director of the campaign.

When the decision to name the trauma center for Giuliani was announced at a press conference Sept. 6, 2002, the board of the centers was co-chaired by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan of Brooklyn and Charity Sister Elizabeth A. Vermaelen, Fagan said. Currently, Bishop Sullivan and Sister Jane Iannucelli, a Sister of Charity, are vice chairs, he said.

Fagan said he was not aware of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers receiving protests about the naming from any church authorities.

Bishop Sullivan said in a telephone interview Sept. 10 that he favored honoring Giuliani because of the good he did following the attack on the World Trade Center, and particularly his intervention then to help St. Vincent's Hospital keep functioning and subsequently to raise money for the trauma center.

But since the bishops nationally have adopted a new policy document, he will follow it loyally in future decisions despite personal doubts he might have about it, he said.

Bishop Sullivan said he attended the June meeting where the policy was adopted and did not oppose it.

"I knew the way the conference was going, and I didn't object," he said. "I would have some questions about it."

He said more good was done by maintaining relationships and trying to win people over than by condemning. "I'd rather build a bridge," he added.

The bishop said he disagreed with Giuliani's position on abortion, but considered him "pro-choice" rather than "pro-abortion," which he said was "a legitimate distinction."

During Giuliani's time as mayor of New York, Bishop Sullivan was "opposed to a lot he stood for regarding the poor and welfare reform," he said.

"But not recognizing the good that people do doesn't win the church understanding or appreciation," the bishop said.

Frank DeRosa, spokesman for the Brooklyn Diocese, said Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio regretted Giuliani's support for legal abortion, but did not wish to comment on the naming decision since it was made before he came to Brooklyn last year.

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, said Cardinal Edward M. Egan had not expressed any view on whether naming the trauma center for Giuliani violated the bishops' policy.

Although the trauma center is located in the archdiocese, Zwilling pointed out that Cardinal Egan has no control over the St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers because of its organizational separation from the archdiocese.

A call to Sister Dorothy Metz, president of the Sisters of Charity, was referred back to Fagan.

Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco, director of the USCCB's communications department, told CNS he had "no comment on this particular situation."

"The local bishop decides these matters according to his own pastoral judgment," he said in an e-mailed response.

"Factually the matter of honors for politicians who oppose the church's teaching on the sanctity of life seems to arise most often in connection with commencement addresses, honorary degrees, and other academic honors, but the statement by the USCCB last June is not restricted to those honors only," he added."

Jesuit Father Thomas J. Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America, based in Manhattan, said in a telephone interview Sept. 9 that it would be objectionable if the bishops applied their policy to universities and not to hospitals and other Catholic institutions.

In any case, their statement, "Catholics in Political Life," was "fundamentally flawed," he said, because while it called for "more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials" it imposed restrictions that would keep universities, a logical place for dialogue, from giving the officials a platform.


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