The Sale of Caritas Christi: A Boston Tragedy

The Archdiocese of Boston has agreed to sell its hospital system to a private equity group. Caritas Christi Health Care will be acquired by Cerberus Capital Management. The ‘love of Christ’ will belong to the three-headed hound from Hades.

I would like to say that ‘all hell has broken loose’, but that’s not true. Something more like weary resignation hits the tone more truly.

The Archdiocese is still suffering the financial and – most importantly – psychological aftershocks of the pedophile priest earthquake. That scandal at once highlighted the need for management – not better management – of a highly decentralized operation and caused revenue shortfalls at just the time when it needed more money.

As a result, Caritas Christi, 60 or more parish churches and hundreds of educational facilities – from seminaries to grade schools – have become of necessity mere balance sheet assets.

What has happened to the Boston Archdiocese is tragic.

Actually, it is a classical tragedy of ego and hubris and demons unleashed from the depths of souls in desperate need of salvation. At the same time, it is an infinite number of small human tragedies, of the defeated hopes of individuals – lay and religious – represented in the missions of the Archdiocese’s assets now being liquidated.

Only the stoniest of hearts would be unmoved by the stories of parishioners ‘occupying’ their beloved but surplus property, for example.

For the most part, the Archdiocese has avoided the cant that accompanies business restructurings or forced sales of this dimension. Nonetheless, the Archdiocese is having to redefine its mission and focus only on its core activities.

I began this post with the intention of laughing – as I have before and before – at what corporate names tell us. As I looked up links, a feeling of deep sadness arose in me.

Caritas Christi’s sale is a tragedy for many – workers and professionals made redundant, the faithful who looked to Church-run healthcare. For non-Catholics, it is yet another rip to the web of local institutions that defined Boston in the last century.

The Archdiocese’s is a story as old as capitalism and, given its history of great reforms, as the Church. But this morning the clear, cool air carries no sound of church bells. This time, the tragedy is a bit quieter.