Saturday, August 28, 2010

Archdiocese of Boston: Caritas Christi and Cerberus Capital

As I noted in a previous post, "It is only through fidelity to its proper mission that a Catholic hospital or health care system maintains its identity. Let us heed the U.S. Bishops:

'On the one hand, new partnerships can be viewed as opportunities for Catholic health care institutions and services to witness to their religious and ethical commitments and so influence the healing profession. For example, new partnerships can help to implement the Church's social teaching. New partnerships can be opportunities to realign the local delivery system in order to provide a continuum of health care to the community; they can witness to a responsible stewardship of limited health care resources; and they can be opportunities to provide to poor and vulnerable persons a more equitable access to basic care.

On the other hand, new partnerships can pose serious challenges to the viability of the identity of Catholic health care institutions and services, and their ability to implement these Directives in a consistent way, especially when partnerships are formed with those who do not share Catholic moral principles. The risk of scandal cannot be underestimated when partnerships are not built upon common values and moral principles. Partnership opportunities for some Catholic health care providers may even threaten the continued existence of other Catholic institutions and services, particularly when partnerships are driven by financial considerations alone. Because of the potential dangers involved in the new partnerships that are emerging, an increased collaboration among Catholic-sponsored health care institutions is essential and should be sought before other forms of partnerships.' (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services)."

Most of you are well-aware of the ongoing controversy surrounding the sale of Caritas Christi in the Archdiocese of Boston. As the good folks over at Boston Catholic Insider have noted, Father Bryan Hehir made a "rather emphatic statement" in the October 27th, 2007 edition of The Boston Globe. Father Hehir said, "The idea that the archdiocese would sell Caritas to a for-profit system - it's not going to happen..the position of the archdiocese is that we do not intend to sell either the Caritas system as a whole or any of its parts to a for-profit entity.' BCI then explains how, "Two years later, in November 2009, after Caritas had new management and had just announced turning a $30 million profit, the CEO of Caritas met with Cerberus Capital to set in
motion the deal to sell Caritas and make it for-profit.." (See here).

Cerberus Capital has a reputation which is, to say the very least, rather disturbing. As Mark Ames writes, "Cerberus Capital, one of Wall Street's most notoriously leveraged buyout firms (or 'private equity firms' in PC speak), recently made a $1.8 billion killing on its human plasma investment, a company called Talecris. Talecris was purchased for a mere $82.5 million just four years earlier, meaning Cerberus made 23 times its investment on human plasma. This was accomplished by the most savage, heartless means possible: by paying peanuts to impoverished human plasma donors, who increasingly come from Mexican border towns to blood-pumping stations set up on the American side, jacking up the price of plasma restricting supply (a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission accused Cerberus Plasma Holdings of 'operating as an oligopoly'), and then selling the refined products to the most desperately ill patients suffering from hemophilia, severe burns, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune deficiencies.." ("Cerberus Capital: Literally Blood-Sucking the Poor to Make Their Billions," Full article here).

Cardinal Sean O'Malley notes on his Blog how, "This past Thursday was Mother Teresa's 100th birthday. In 1995, we were honored to have her visit us in Massachusetts. So many people here got to meet her personally. These encounters were a special encouragement to all of us to be better Catholics and to be better witnesses of the Gospel and servants of the poor."

I wonder if Mother Teresa would view the practices of Cerberus Capital as consistent with being "better witnesses of the Gospel and servants of the poor"?

Related reading here.

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