The Sixteen Million Dollar Nun…oops, Religious Sister

Carol Keehan, the director of Catholic Health Association, is said to earn a fairly substantial salary – up to seven figures by some reports. As a ‘religious sister’, her vows are to conduct ‘good works’ and not to accept a life of poverty. The Citizen doesn’t have a problem with paying for talent. Running a multi-million dollar business is something that should not be left to amateurs; sometimes you save money when you pay for talent. I am not sure of Keehan’s business, political, and medical bona fides. Unfortunately, her lack of religious bona fides is a problem that the Citizen can not overlook.

The Catholic Health Association is a trade association – a lobbying organization – that represents Catholic hospitals. According to their IRS statements, they had $16 million in annual revenues, spent some $800,000 in lobbying, and more then $4 million on ‘advocacy’ activities. Lobbying is strictly controlled by government watchdogs, advocacy is more nebulous. Mailing annual reports, editorial letter-writing campaigns, open houses, meeting with Congressional officials, feature articles in magazines and newspapers, websites….all of these are advocacy activities that are designed to promote the organization and create support among politicians and citizens.  Again, there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. Even lobbying – used wisely, ethically, and legally – has it’s purpose in the political process. Advocacy and grassroots activities inform and motivate the public  – how can this be a bad thing?

When the message is contrary to the Magisterium.

Under Keehan, the CHA Board has become a platform for liberal Catholics, many demonstrating pro-abortion tendencies as evidenced by their political support. A Newsmax article reported that several members of the CHA Board supported openly pro-abortion politicians. Some people will argue that politicians – even Catholic politicians – need to be accountable to the needs of all of their constituents. The Citizen thinks this is nonsense. How can people trust an elected representative who will betray a basic tenet of their faith? The Board – as appointed members of a Catholic association of Catholic hospitals – are not answerable to non-Catholic constituents. They are answerable to the millions of Catholics who entrust the CHA with the dollars they give in church and during annual Bishop Appeals. One member of the Board donated $10,000 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in 2008.

This is the team that Keehan put together.

Keehan supported Tom Daschle for Secretary of HHS. Daschle has a 50% approval rating from NARAL, so that’s not too bad, right? Not really.While he voted against partial-birth abortions, he has voted to support abortion on military bases, voted to support abortions performed by military health care providers overseas, and voted to expand the ‘lines’ available for embryonic stem cell research.  Embryonic stem cells come from aborted fetuses. Why did Daschle get a 50%? NARAL doesn’t like people to say ‘no’ – ever. His stance against partial-birth abortion is the only position he takes that is contrary to their agenda. And Keehan, a ‘religious sister’ of the Catholic Church, supported this man.

Keehan supported the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act’ – often referred to as Obamacare. Her support was remembered by a grateful regime who rewarded Catholic Charities with a $100 million federal grant. That’s substantially more than 30 pieces of silver – I wonder if it was worth the price? Well, she also got one of the 21 pens that Obama used to sign the bill into law.

One can argue that this is her job – to advocate for her association. Earning markers for throwing the significant weight of the Catholic hospitals to promote a political agenda. To win over the support of thousands of Catholics who see a Catholic health organization supporting this legislation – despite the protests of a handful of grassroots activists and some bloggers. One can make that argument – and be wrong.

Catholic social teaching is not a balance scale. We cannot as a religion support legislation that advances some worthwhile goals at the expense of actions that are inimical to the Magisterium. Catholic Bishops speaking individually and as a body through the USCCB, categorically stated that this bill as it was passed was contrary to the teachings of the Church and cannot be endorsed by the Catholic Church. As the body of Catholic bishops in America, the USCCB spoke not simply as a collection of Bishops but for all Catholic organizations and agencies that fall under their purview. Carol Keehan chose to ignore this injunction, joining a large number of Catholics lay and religious who are disobedient to the teachings of the Church.

Keehan was recently asked to resign her position on the board of a Catholic hospital run by the Knights of Malta, provoking a spate of controversy and bringing her in spotlight. Perhaps this is the beginning of the movement to reclaim the Catholic in Catholic health care.

One can only hope.

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