Navigate Up

What Does It Mean to be a Catholic Hospital?

There is one fundamental commandment for a Catholic hospital: All life, from conception to the moment of natural death, is profoundly sacred. All life must therefore be treated with awe, respect, and dignity. This fundamental commandment comes without a “but,” “if,” or “however.” There is no qualification, no exception.

To put that into practice, a Catholic hospital operates according to the directives established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Directives for Catholic Heath Care Services are contained in a 12-page document that interested readers may read.

The Catholic understanding of health care is rooted in the basic scriptural understanding, outlined in the bishops’ document, that the healing mission of Jesus “touched people at the deepest level of their existence: He sought their physical, mental, and spiritual healing.” Throughout its history, the church has dedicated herself in service to the sick and all those in need.

The social responsibility of Catholic health care services is guided by five essential principles outlined in the bishops’ document:

  • To promote and defend human dignity: The right to life of every human being means the right as well to adequate health care and must be basic to every Catholic institution involved in medical service and science.
  • To care for the poor: No one can ever be turned away from a Catholic hospital because of an inability to pay. This attention to the poor, the underinsured, and the uninsured must be paramount at a Catholic hospital.
  • To contribute to the common good: Catholic health care services are meant for the entire community. These services should be instigators of social change that lead to a greater respect for fundamental human rights and for the economic, social, political, and spiritual health of the entire community.
  • To exercise responsible stewardship: As the bishops state, “Catholic health care ministry exercises responsible stewardship of available health care resources. A just health care system will be concerned both with promoting equity of care – to assure the right of each person to basic health care is respected – and with promoting the good health of all within the community.”
  • Adherence to the moral teachings of the Church: In our society today, any Catholic health care service will be approached, or even pressured, to provide medical procedures that are contrary to Catholic teaching. But by refusing to provide or permit such medical procedures, Catholic health care affirms what defines it: a commitment to the sacredness and dignity of human life from conception until death.

Reprinted with permission by Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, 2008

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |