Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Michael Sean WintersAugust 07, 2009

Cardinal George, whose call for renewed unity we applauded yesterday, has his work cut out for him. And, he needs to start in Kansas City-St. Joseph where the "Catholic Key Blog" produced by the staff of the diocesan newspaper, also known as the "Catholic Key," is out of control. Yesterday, they attacked Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is the CEO and President of the Catholic Health Association (CHA).

I met Sister Carol about fifteen years ago when a newspaper wanted an article about unusual living arrangements for people. Sister Carol was then the President of Providence Hospital, a large urban hospital here in D.C. that is run by the Daughters of Charity. Her office was large and there was a stack of Medicare regulations in her desk and yards of bookshelves with book titles that did not suggest the contents were light reading. I pointed to the Medicare regulations and commented, "That must be fun to read," and Sister Carol replied, "I took a vow to help the poor. In this day and age, that means knowing Medicare and Medicaid regulations." Sister Carol then showed me the sisters’ living quarters. She, like all the other nuns, had a small room, like a dorm room, with a small bed, a small desk and one comfortable chair, a devotional book on the table beside it. There was a closet holding half a dozen habits and blouses. This was certainly not how most hospital executives lived. Sister Carol's supreme confidence in discussing any and all aspects of health care management was matched by a complete absence of pride or protocol. You only had to watch her for five minutes as she interacted with the hospital staff to realize that she was as down-to-earth as she was competent, as solicitous of others as she was unafraid to make a decision on her own.

I last saw Sister Carol about a month ago at the offices of the USCCB where she took part in a conference call with Cardinal McCarrick and others in announcing guidelines for resolving labor issues in Catholic health care. All the participants on the call cited Sister Carol’s hard work and expertise and patience. Afterwards, she asked after the priest who had first introduced us, wondering about his health which has been worrisome for some time. Then, Cardinal McCarrick pulled her away to solicit her opinion on something.

This is the sister whom Mr. Jack Smith, who is the editor of the Catholic Key, decided to attack yesterday. He questioned why Sister is supporting health care reform. Well, actually, Smith adopts the weasel-like passive voice, as in, "For her public support of the president's pro-abortion appointees to her campaign to enact health care reform now, she is accused of being at odds with the USCCB and the prolife cause." Accused by whom? I do not recall hearing anyone at the USCCB accuse Sister Carol of anything.

Mr. Smith then goes on to question Sister Carol’s motives. "CHA does not represent patients or the poor. Their board is composed of, and Sister Carol represents, the very highly compensated chief executives of large health care conglomerates throughout the country." Excuse me, but as a Daughter of Charity, Sister Carol does most definitely represent the poor, not only in her work but in every aspect of her life, indeed becoming like the poor to better emulate the love of the Lord. She represented the poor when she was President at the Hospital and she represents them now. She will, if she ever retires, represent the poor in her prayers. Serving the poor is what Daughters of Charity do.

He finishes his little post with a complete indictment of Sister Carol’s motives, after noting her actual salary. "Sister Carol does not keep her salary. It goes to her order. It's noted here to demonstrate that her compensation at CHA is much more in line with a trade association lobbyist than the head of a charity. Reporters and news consumers should keep that in mind when soliciting CHA for comment on health care reform. Moral concerns are not their bottom line. The bottom line is." I admit it is always refreshing to see a conservative admit that the profit motive and moral concerns do not always cohere. But, Smith misses the mark because, as is the case with a certain type of religious zealotry, his perspective does not permit him to recognize that human life often permits, even demands, that several motives exist side-by-side. For anyone seized with the Inquisitorial itch, it is always "moral concern or the bottom line," it is always "my way or the highway," it is always "my understanding of orthodoxy or damnation." Please, sir, scratch the itch, get a little witch hazel, but stop impugning the motives of a sister who has dedicated her whole life to serving the poor.

Let me be clear. I do not want to guess what possessed Mr. Smith to write this attack on Sister Carol. If he had spent five minutes with her, he would not be so cavalier in questioning her motives. Indeed, he would have seen that she has spent her whole life dedicated to serving the poor, including the arduous task of reading and mastering mind-numbing Medicare regulations, reading them in the light of the Church’s moral teaching, and working every day to make Catholic Health Care better able to serve the needs of the poor. The Bishop of Kansas City, who owns the Catholic Key, should demand that Mr. Smith issue an apology – as public and as direct as his indictment – of Sister Carol. And, Cardinal George should cite this whole nastiness as precisely the kind of thing that impedes the unity for which he called.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
John Murphy
14 years ago
Aren't you being a little coy about Sr. Carol Keehan? You dodged the reason the KC blog was critical of the sister. She endorsed the health bill which contained provisions for support of abortion funding. In addition, the USCCB had condemned the Bill, which would seem sufficient to give pause to the sister's endorsement of the Bill. Shame on America.
Chuck Farley
12 years 2 months ago
Let's see how tough "Sister" Carol is when she's sent packing with two weeks severance and no health benefits.

Never before have so many anti-Catholics been respected as legitimate sources on Catholic belief. 
14 years 9 months ago
Robert Finn, the bishop of the diocese that released this blog entry is the same one who has described the abortion controversy to a war.
14 years 9 months ago





/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";

I just posted a comment on the Catholic Key.    The post was so insulting to Sr. Carol that
I had to respond.    Clearly they were
not interested in learning anything about her or her background.   I saw firsthand the work she did in
advocating for the poor of Washington D.C., a city with some of the worst
health care problems in the country.     And as president of Providence Hospital in northeast D.C., she certainly
has plenty of firsthand experience with the challenges of providing high
quality health care with inadequate resources.   (Full disclosure: I was on the ethics
committee there while she was president.)  The depiction of Sr. Carol as mostly
interested in protecting highly paid executives is just so very, very wrong.    No one could be a better defender of the poor and vulnerable or a better promoter of their dignity.  
14 years 9 months ago
Ah, not surprised at all, it just confirms what a bunch of Pharisees these trads are.  And Jesus hated Pharisee behavior.
14 years 9 months ago
Mr. Smith's attack on Sr. Carol is wrong but some of what he says is right. Not all Catholic hospitals or their administrations have so much sensibility for the poor; I believe this is a battle that Sr. Carol has taken on. The "bottom line" is truly the only motivation some people are aware of and concerned for. Isn't that what business schools teach or insinuate? Business, or capitalism if you will, is seen as morally neutral. Not true but truly taught. Proof - the present recession cause.
I personally have helped out a patient who was physically dragged from a hospital by medical personnel, stuck in a cab, and dumped on a city street a mile away. The guy had pneumonia so we at the Catholic Worker helped him get to a bed so that 24 hours would pass so that he could be admitted to the county hospital for treatment. He nearly died. The Catholic hospital that dumped him was a well know facility. Does this sound like helping the poor? I've written about this before but no longer use the name as so much time has passed that nobody there probably remembers and hopefully things have changed.
I believe that there is a real basis for even questioning the tax free status of some medical facilities which have religious sponsors. They may not pay their profits to shareholders, but they sure make money for some doctors and administrators to say nothing of board meeting in Hawaii, for instance. And, to say nothing for some outrageous expenses like squirting holy water fountains and plush carpets so thick you can't wheel a wheelchair down the hall to complain!
So, Mr. Smith is out of line on Sr. Carol but if he would aim his arrows at his colleagues in the business world in general he will no doubt hit some bullseyes. Maybe check out some bishops's facilities too while at it including the offices of the USCCB!
14 years 9 months ago
Robert Finn also went on two secular talk shows the day before the election to say that Catholics who voted for Barack Obama were in danger of going to hell. Who does Finn think he is, anyway, cutting in on James Dobson's action? And what is it with these Missouri blowhard bishops?
14 years 9 months ago
Unfortunately it is not out of place to question the financial arrangements of those in religious orders, especially those involved in health care, which is field of ministry which has proved extremely... lucrative for many orders involved. Sister Carol makes $856,093 a year, which is, in fact, in line with what other high-powered executives make. It's also true that she is the head of a trade organization and the membership includes heads of other "non profit" organizations who in spite of that non-profit status manage to pay them six or seven figures a year.
Sister Carol is a Daughter of Charity, but a similar example is the Sisters of Charity. The motto one tends to hear nowadays is "no margin, no mission" and they have a one billion (that's billion, with a b) investment portfolio to show for it - or so it was when I heard about it, perhaps it's grown since then. "Margin" is another word for PROFITS, by the way. Among financial professionals they are sometimes mockingly called "the Sisters of Currency" for their devotion to the bottom line.
14 years 9 months ago
I don't want to wander off topic, but I think that there is a relationship between questioning Sr. Carol's actions and motives and the Visitation of the LCWR. I find it all quite sad and it all has a sadly Inquisition-like feel to it.
It sounds as if Sr. Carol has done some great work and I thank you for writing about this today.
14 years 9 months ago
The diocese is the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph, in Missouri.
14 years 9 months ago
You go Michael!  Up with truth.  Using passive voice does not get accusers off the hook. Truth and justice will out!  Keep the lights on these hypocrites.
14 years 9 months ago
The free market as determined that Sister's skills are valued at that figure. CHA is a lobby group with a financial interest in pending legislation. This makes them no different than say, defense lobby groups who pay highly skilled executives to advance their financial interests regarding pending legislation. 
Both groups like to emphasize their implied non profit roles.  For example, defense contractors will often use themes like needed "security", "protection", "safety" when advancing their interests. CHA uses terminology like "care for the poor" in advancing their interests. 
Defense lobbyists do care about the security of our nation and CHA does care about the poor. Both groups, however, have a profit motive as well. Material from both groups should be read very carefully.  Neither group should be glorified, neither group should be demonized.  
14 years 9 months ago
Jack Smith is by no means alone in his vicious attacks on Roman Catholic sisters.  He and similar self-styled "orthodox" Catholics spew incredible volumes of venom at our sisters, and seem to think themselves Good Christians in their behavior. They point out that Daughters of Charity have very few younger members, while traditional cloistered orders (most visibly the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration seen on EWTN) have quite a few novices among them.  This they claim as proof that "their" way is the only "true" way.
It probably would be an overstatement to say that all the anti-nun propaganda is a major reason why young women don't join orders like the Daughters of Charity.  Yet it would be an exceptional young woman who has both the temerity to stand against the hate-mongering and the humility to take take vow of obedience.  The Jack Smiths of the world are not helping the Church at all with their behavior.
14 years 9 months ago

Sr. Carol is one of the best things that ever happened to the Catholic Church.  Her heart is in the right place...it's with the poor.  I was beaming as she put TV host Arroyo in his place during a recent broadcast. I can hardly standing watching the Cathoic channel knowing he's allowed to represent the Church. He even suggested Catholic charities can handle the health care of the poor. As Sr. Carol laughed out loud, I, too, was wondering how she could take care of 60 million people! Give Sr. Carol a TV show and get rid of Arroyo. God bless Sr. Carol. May God grant her many years.

14 years 9 months ago

Late to the thread, but how about this?

How about the day we see Michael Sean Winters entitle a plaintive post, "Why would anyone attack Pope Benedict XVI?" with reference to this magazine, Commonweal and NCR?

Will that day ever come? Somehow...I doubt it.

Karen Brauer
14 years 6 months ago
Better late than never. 
It helps to understand some of what has the pro-life Catholics all stirred up about CHA.
Those of us inside the hospitals know that while abortions and other related services not condoned by the Catholic teaching are not supposed to be happening at hospitals with Catholic affiliation,  they really do.
That would include 'fake' D&Cs, ectopic pregnancies that aren't really ectopic, (abortions), Yuzpe regimens or Plan B, elective sterilizations, etc. 
These things are against policy, but they happen.  Health care workers who wish not to cooperate are  marginalized at some of these facilities.
A good deal of financial support of Catholic affiliated institutions is from those who envision these facilities as the last bastion of respect for human life in health care.
It is quite likely that the job of health care administrators involves a need to schmooze with politicians in order to obtain the most benefit for their institutions.  The degree of  schmoozing with prospective and current appointees of our  radically socialistic, pro-abortion/infanticide administration generated a good deal of dismay among those most aware of the governmental policies in store for us. 
The congratulatory release  from Sr. Carol Keehan to prospective HHS Secretary Daschle (who was unable to accept the position, due to financial corruption) inspired me to write to her a  letter that she did not appreciate.  (Unfortunately, Sebelius, Daschle's  replacement, is even worse.)
Government run health care absolutely involves rationing. It is nonsensical to believe otherwise when faced with the realities of other government systems and our own medicare, medicaid and VA systems.
Rationing will lead to coercive policies which direct us to provide assisted, premature death.  As in Europe and Canada,  the Catholic affiliated facilities will be increasingly involved in this.   My letter to the good Sister was a reminder that some of the very best health care providers would be forced to leave the professions, and that many benefactors of Catholic institutions would lose the inspiration to generosity.
The Investors Business Daily recently put out a survey indicating that 45% of U.S. physicians (for various reasons including the one above) plan 'early retirment' if Obama-care comes to fruition.
This  pharmacist is also pondering the next career, as there is a religious constraint against willfully causing the deaths of humans.

The latest from america

Today’s text from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith makes clear that henceforth, as a rule, the Holy See will not declare any alleged spiritual phenomenon, such as an apparition, as authentic‚ that is, “of divine origin.”
Gerard O’ConnellMay 17, 2024
Cardinal Robert McElroy, Bishop Robert Barron and Bishop Daniel Flores joined moderator Gloria Purvis for a roundtable discussion on the rise of polarization in the church.
Michael O’BrienMay 17, 2024
Whether carefully reflected upon or chosen at random, picking a confirmation name is a personal and spiritual journey for Catholics, reflecting a connection to the saints or a loved one and a commitment to embodying their virtues.
America StaffMay 17, 2024
In young people preparing for confirmation, I see a yearning for something more in their lives, beyond the noise and distractions of technology and social isolation.
Mitchell RozanskiMay 17, 2024