Is a For-Profit Structure a Viable Alternative for Catholic Health Care Ministry?

March 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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symposium-header21On March 26-27, Seton Hall Law will be home to a two day Symposium entitled “Is a For-Profit Structure a Viable Alternative for Catholic Health Care Ministry?” Funded through the generosity of a number of contributors, the Symposium is being hosted by Seton Hall Law’s Center for Religiously Affiliated Nonprofit Corporations and its Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law & Policy, in collaboration with the University of St. Thomas, John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy and the Veritas Institute.

In an April 2010 article, a reporter for The Boston Globe pondered whether “… for-profit Catholic health care is an oxymoron, or whether profitability and religious mission can be integrated.” This Symposium will examine whether a for-profit structure is a viable alternative for Catholic health care ministry.

The Program will provide a unique forum for dialogue among practitioners, academics and scholars in law, finance, theology and Catholic social teaching to “drill down” to specific legal, financial and operational issues relevant to an objective examination of the relationship of the for-profit legal and financial structure to the Catholic tradition of health care ministry. The Symposium will consist of a sequence of presentations intended to provide an objective overview of the relevant issues with opportunity for audience interaction. The first day, presenters will provide foundational descriptions of changes in law and finance that may occur when converting from a nonprofit legal structure to a for-profit structure. The second day, theologians, canonists and scholars in applied Catholic Social Thought will respond to the legal and financial descriptive presentations. The panelists will frame the conversation, in part, by referencing examples of for-profit models in Catholic health care.

In asking the Symposium’s question, “Is a For-Profit Structure a Viable Alternative for Catholic Health Care Ministry?” the proceedings are designed to engage scholars and practitioners from multiple disciplines to develop an objective framework for analyzing the following questions:

  1. Is the delivery of health care as a ministry compatible with providing that care through an investor-owned company publicly identified as Catholic?
  2. If not, why not?
  3. If yes, are there any management, governance or other structures or processes that may need to be developed to accommodate Catholic health care as a ministry?

The Symposium will not take a position on whether such conversions, in any of its forms, should or should not occur. The Symposium will provide the audience participants with the range of issues that may impact their specific decision.

An Examination of the Key Issues

The legal and financial differences between a non-profit and for-profit corporation will be analyzed from the perspective of Roman Catholic canon law, ethics and Catholic social teaching. The Symposium, focusing on these disciplines, will address questions such as the following:

  1. What is the relationship between the theological understanding of health care as a ministry and the legal definition of health care as a public good or a private commodity?
  2. Is Catholic identity in the legal purpose clause of a corporation subject to treatment as a trade or a service mark?
  3. Is Catholic identity an intangible asset subject to valuation?
  4. If the charter of the corporation is a contract between the investor and the corporation, what is the shareholder purchasing in terms of Catholic identity?
  5. If a corporate culture is rooted in values, is it necessary to use religious language to describe values rooted in the Catholic tradition to create a culture consistent with Catholic ministry? Or is it sufficient to describe Catholic identity in terms of objectively discernable proscriptions and prescriptions?
  6. If professional managers tend to be beyond effective shareholder controlĀ  and shareholders cannot instruct the board of directors, each of whom cannot be removed without cause, by whom and how is Catholic identity determined or monitored?
  7. What is the relationship between corporate law and Catholic Social Thought on private property, labor and capital, subsidiary, the distribution of goods and services, and human rights to social goods such as health care?
  8. In states adopting corporate constituency statutes instructing directors that they either may, or must, take into account the interests of constituencies other than shareholders in exercising their powers, does Catholic identity create new, discreet constituents other than shareholders or those identified in statutes?
  9. Are new benchmarks necessary to determine Catholic corporate success? If so, do these new benchmarks differ or align with benchmarks for success for any corporation having no religious affiliation?
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