In response to criticism of its affiliation with the Phoenix hospital whose Catholic identity was revoked by the local bishop, Creighton University’s School of Medicine says it is “confident we can maintain the Catholic and Jesuit values” that have marked the school since its founding in 1892, the school’s dean.

Dr. Rowen Zetterman  said the opening of the Phoenix regional campus of the Catholic medical school based in Omaha, Neb., had been in the works for three and a half years.

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix had been taking Creighton medical students for one-month rotations since 2005. The hospital approached Creighton about the possibility of a closer affiliation that would bring “full-time, faith-based medical students” to Phoenix for two years of their training.

The first class of 42 third-year medical students started in Phoenix in June, while another 110 third-year students remain at the Omaha campus.

In late 2010, Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted revoked the Catholic affiliation of the hospital after officials there acknowledged that an abortion was performed. He prohibited the celebration of Mass on the hospital’s campus and ordered the Blessed Sacrament removed from the hospital’s chapel.

After the Creighton students arrived at the beginning of summer, Bishop Olmsted reiterated that St. Joseph’s “is not a Catholic institution” and “does not faithfully adhere to the ‘Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

“Catholics, and all people of good will, are advised that they cannot be guaranteed authentic Catholic health care at St. Joseph’s Hospital,” he added.

Creighton’s Zetterman said even if the hospital had no Catholic roots or did not recognize the Catholic tradition, the collaboration could continue. “Even in Omaha, the students work at non-Catholic hospitals” such as the VA Medical Center and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, he said.

St. Joseph’s Hospital is owned by Dignity Health, a San Francisco-based health system.