Readers, forgive the incompleteness of this post, but with vacations and a “breaking story,” we’re going to be a bit short of words today. Over at Caritas Christi, the healthcare network about to be sold to private equity firm, Cerberus, the spin-meisters have been saying for months that the Catholic identity would be preserved forever. Fr. Bryan Hehir, Cardinal O’Malley, and Vicar General Erikson have also been saying the same thing, but many pro-life Catholics have been skeptical, and now we start to see why the skeptics are justified.
Over at Boston Catholic Insider, their most recent post on Cronyism says “numerous reports received indicate that (Ralph) de la Torre (Caritas’ CEO) has already authorized the removal of symbols of Catholic faith and Catholic identity at Caritas hospitals. If anyone has photos of the lobby of St. Elizabeth Hospital before and after the portrait of Cardinal O’Malley was removed, please send them our way and the same holds for before/after photos of the statue of the Blessed Mother which has also apparently been removed from the Emergency Room area at St. E’s. These moves would seem to validate the fears voiced previously.”
If the removal of symbols of Catholic faith and Catholic identity has already begun before the deal is even approved and finalized by the Vatican, Archdiocese, Attorney General, and SJC, then we believe Catholic faithful are entitled to know whether the Caritas Board, which includes Fr. Bryan Hehir as the Archdiocese’s representative, approved these moves. Never ones to pass up an opportunity for a good story, we asked one of our friends over at St. Elizabeth’s to help out. They said that the picture of Cardinal O’Malley near the entrance was actually removed more than a month ago. Here is a photo snapped a few minutes ago of the empty location where his picture once was:
None of the marketing brochures promoting Caritas mention the word “Catholic” in them. We will post a scanned copy of one of the new Caritas brochures separately.
In the Catholic Church, symbols of the faith matter. Taking down the Cardinal’s picture as the Archbishop of Boston and expunging the word “Catholic” from promotional materials are symbolic of a dismantling of the Catholic identity at Caritas, as would be the removal of statues and religious articles from the hospitals. These moves would run counter to what has been said publicly:
The main point is that it’s designed to last forever. That’s the prevailing hope of everyone involved, that…the Catholic tradition of Caritas Christi stays in place forever.’’ (Charles Murphy, Caritas spokesman, in the Boston Globe, April 28, 2010)
We announced yesterday that an agreement has been reached with Cerberus that ensures the Catholic identity of the Caritas Christi hospitals. The sale is still pending as the Attorney General has to review it, but this stewardship agreement was a key component for us because it will preserve the Catholic identity of Caritas. (Cardinal Sean’s May 7, 2010 blog)
The Stewardship Agreement memorializes Steward’s commitment to maintain the Catholic identity of the Caritas Christi Healthcare system and its fidelity to the mission of the Church’s healthcare ministry.” (Fr. Richard Erikson, Vicar General, quoted in The Pilot, May 14, 2010)
This is a substantive and structural commitment by the archdiocese and Steward to operate this hospital system by the religious and moral directives of the Catholic Church.” (Fr. Bryan Hehir, Secretary for Healthcare and Social Services, quoted in The Pilot, May 14, 2010)
The recently-signed agreement between the archdiocese and Steward provides that the Archbishop of Boston will oversee that the Caritas hospitals run in accordance with the bishops’ directives. The agreement allows the archbishop to have final authority in disputes involving the directives. The agreement also allows the hospital to maintain its existing ethics committees, and allows the archdiocese to hire its own medical ethicist. Additionally, the hospitals can still provide chapels, employ chaplains, and display Catholic imagery. (The Pilot, May 14, 2010)
If Cerberus deems it is materially burdensome to maintain a Catholic identity, it can terminate the religious affiliation by making a $25 million payment to a charity of the Archdiocese of Boston’s choosing. If that happens, critics of the deal said yesterday, procedures such as abortions could one day be performed at the hospitals. Neary also said Cerberus might decide to develop some of the hospitals’ properties for other uses. Caritas spokesman Chris Murphy… said most of the group’s complaints were unfounded. “The wild speculation engaged in today is absurd,’’ Murphy said. (Boston Globe, July 28, 2010)
We believe that Cardinal O’Malley had sincere intentions for Caritas to maintain Catholic identity post-acquisition. But the agreement and actions say otherwise. If Caritas is already treating imagery and words that communicate Catholic identity as “burdensome” enough that they are being removed before the deal is even approved, then how can Catholic hospital workers be assured that something admittedly tougher–protecting their conscience rights for years ahead in the future–will happen as promised? (After all, their Archdiocesan Caritas board representative Fr. Hehir said in April that conscience clauses “adjudicate deeply held convictions and positions in this pluralistic society” and if we are not careful, we could harm the individual who needs abortion services). And if Catholic imagery is being removed, how can the Archdicoese be assured that Cerberus will not quickly find that maintaining Catholic religious and ethical directives (that ban abortions and other immoral procedures) is also too “burdensome”? Do Fr. Hehir and the Archdiocese know and approve of what is happening at Caritas already? Who exactly is in charge?