Exactly so. Very few Catholic hospitals are owned by the Church itself. Many, if not most, were owned by religious orders, and many have sold themselves out to secular institutions. Most that are “owned” by religious orders have secular governance. Most Catholic colleges are the same way. The Church doesn’t run them, and never did. A long time ago, the religious orders that ran the hospitals and colleges were faithful to the Church, so it didn’t matter that the bishops (and the Vatican) actually had no direct control over them.
When the religious orders went into decline, either in numbers or fidelity or both, many of their institutions remained “Catholic” in name only. The bishops have no power over them at all. That’s why Notre Dame paid no attention to either the local bishop or the Vatican in having Obama as its commencement speaker. That’s why so many “Catholic” colleges have college-sanctioned “Gay and Lesbian” organizations. And that’s why we will very soon see many, if not most, “Catholic hospitals” do whatever the government tells them they must do. If the government says “do abortions or get cut off from Medicare”, they’ll do abortions. Either that or they will figure out a way to participate by “referring them out” as seems to be the case in Boston.
The age of “Catholic institutions” such as Catholic hospitals and colleges is over, and has been for quite awhile. And the decline and/or infidelity of religious orders is the primary reason for it. It has just taken a long time for people to finally start realizing it. Most probably still don’t.
It would be nice if truly Catholic institutions began from scratch, and some are. There are, it seems, more truly “Catholic colleges” now than there were perhaps a couple of decades ago. It may well be that someday there will be more than a mere handful of genuinely “Catholic hospitals”, operated by religious orders or dioceses. But it takes a tremendous amount of money to establish institutions like that, and a lot of years to do it, and “starting over” in the face of high taxation is a tough thing to accomplish.
When you think of the generations of Catholics who donated money to what were then truly Catholic schools or hospitals, it breaks one’s heart to think what has become of them. But they were “sold out” by the orders. No question about that. And perhaps worst of all, some of those “religious orders”, mere vestiges of their former selves, are not much more than secular political foundations now. No members to speak of, but a bunch of money gained from selling the hospital or whatever the asset was, to donate to their favorite quasi-charitable, but fundamentally political causes.
Catholics in the U.S. have been very seriously betrayed, and not only by the nearly defunct religious orders. The USCCB itself, one may remember, nearly gave ACORN a million dollars last summer, and only refrained because the brother of its CEO stole a million from the organization. I shudder to think what all the USCCB has given money to in the last few decades. Was there not a seminary in Africa to which it could have given the million it wanted to give to ACORN? Was there not a truly Catholic charitable hospital or unwed mothers’ home somewhere to which the money could have been given?
It’s sad. Really sad. But we really do have to start completely over.