Healthcare reform law divides Catholics in Pennsylvania

The ads go on to remind voters that the hospitals have been a "fixture" since the Sisters of Mercy opened their doors in 1917 and blame the two congressmen for their closing.

CatholicVote.org is part of the conservative Fidelis public policy organization. The group says it's concerned that the hospitals could be sold to a secular organization that would provide "procedures against Catholic teaching."

The hospitals in question are Mercy Hospital in Scranton and Mercy Special Care Hospital in Nanticoke — both of which are in Kanjorski's district — and the Mercy Tyler Hospital in Tunkhannock, in Carney's district.

The debate over the sale flared up last week after the hospitals' boss, Mercy Health Partners CEO Kevin Cook, told a television reporter that the new law "absolutely" factored into the decision to sell them. Healthcare reform foes immediately jumped on the statement to argue that the new law caused the sale, and several people pushed back, including the president and the chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association who was an important White House ally on health reform. 

"Reports that health reform is the primary motive behind the sale are completely false, misleading and politically motivated," Sister Carol Keehan said in a statement Friday. "Deliberations to sell the facilities began well before the Affordable Care Act became law and did not hinge on enactment of the legislation."

On Sunday, Cook released a new statement: 

"Mercy Health Partners recently announced our intention to explore the sale of our facilities in Northeastern Pennsylvania," he wrote. "The rationale for our initiative has been mischaracterized by certain politicized media outlets and severely distorted by some special interest groups."

Adding to the political drama: Biden himself was born in one of the hospitals.