March 26-27, 2012 at Seton Hall University School of Law, Newark NJ

A Background on Catholic Hospitals in the United States  


The Roman Catholic Church, through the efforts of religious congregations and the laity, has been a significant participant in the delivery of health care services in the United States, primarily through the founding and the operation of community-based, charitable hospital corporations.  Today, of the 5,815 hospital corporations in the United States, 561 are Catholic (OFFICIAL CATHOLIC DIRECTORY, J.P. Kenedy & Sons, 2010).  These corporations are the vehicles through which a religious congregation carries out one of the works, such as health care, entrusted to it by the Church.  Religious congregations are the link between the hospital corporation and the Church.  The stability of this Catholic presence in the civic community is now undergoing dramatic changes resulting from both internal Church demographics and external economic, political and social pressures affecting Catholic hospitals. One result of these pressures is the sale of Catholic hospitals to for-profit corporations.

This Symposium will gather theologians, ethicists, canonists and experts in religious culture to engage with experts in corporate law, intellectual property law, labor law, health law and policy, economics, management, business ethics and organizational theory, and public policy to develop a framework for analyzing the questions arising from this phenomenon.

Additionally, Symposium papers will explore whether the differences between for-profit corporation law and not-for-profit corporation law on matters such as ownership of assets, governance and management autonomy necessarily impact the delivery of health care as a ministry in substantively different ways.  For example, are the differences in legal structures more controlling on providing health care as a ministry than the control by  state laws, suppliers, bondholders, network participants, third party payers, federal  regulators and independent medical staffs  that are common to not-for-profit and for-profit corporations?

There is no significant research on the impact of corporate for-profit law on the long term operational religious identity of a Catholic, for-profit corporation. The focus on the for-profit corporate structure and practice necessarily involves two related issues; what is the relationship between Catholic identity of a corporation and Catholic health care ministry; and is there something about the nature of health care that makes one corporate form preferable to another?

The interrelationship of the discussions of these questions which are foundational to any discussion of the use of a for-profit corporation for a ministry has enormous significance for the Roman Catholic Church, theologically, ethically and pastorally.