Catholic group hopes to block Caritas sale

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | August 12, 2010
Group hopes pope will step in.
A Catholic coalition is petitioning the pope to block the sale of the six-hospital Caritas Christi Health Care system to a private equity firm, likening aspects of the sale to Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

The owners of the Boston, Mass.-based hospital system are considering selling to Cerberus Capital Management, which has promised to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the hospitals and take on their debt.

At issue is a clause in the agreement that would let Cerberus remove the hospital's religious affiliation if it proves "materially burdensome." In exchange, Cerberus would have to donate $25 million to a charity of the Archdiocese's choice.

"That possibility should never have been allowed," R. T. Neary, chairman and founder of the group Coalition To Save Catholic Health Care, wrote Tuesday in an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI.

"The $25 million dollars can only be likened to 25 pieces of silver," he said, in reference to the 30 pieces of silver that apostle Judas received to betray Jesus, according to the gospel of Matthew.

Neary's coalition worries that by losing its Catholic affiliation, the hospital system could open up to "in-vitro fertilization, embryonic stem cell research, chemical abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide," and other practices forbidden by the church.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, as well as the state's Department of Public Health and Boston's archbishop, Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

And it does have powerful backers. On Tuesday, Massachusetts senators John F. Kerry (D) and Scott P. Brown (R) sent a letter of support to state Attorney General Martha Coakley, who will prepare the recommendation.

The coalition comprises four Catholic and anti-abortion groups, including ProLife Massachusetts, Concerned Roman Catholics of America Inc., Life Issues Institute Inc. and the Pro-Life Action League, according to the Boston Globe.