By Fr. George Welzbacher
July 29, 2012
It seems as if Kathleen Sebelius, our Secretary of Health and Human Services, working in concert with President Obama every step of the way, is committed to driving right out of business all of our Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable agencies. These justly cherished institutions have chosen-God be praised!-NOT to "go gentle into that [dark] night." INSTEAD THEY'RE FIGHTING BACK IN OUR NATION'S COURTS, in vigorous defense of that full and free exercise of religion that our Constitution's First Amendment guarantees.
In the words of Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago: "This is the issue now before a court. It is also the issue before a NATION THAT PORTRAYS ITSELF AS 'THE LAND OF THE FREE' ..... the intransigence of the Department of Health and Human Services has made it necessary to defend in court WHAT EVERY AMERICAN COULD TAKE FOR GRANTED UNTIL THIS YEAR." [Emphasis added].
William McGurn, one of the Wall Street Journal's most perceptive commentators on political and social trends, recently turned the spotlight on how - and why - Chicago's Catholic Charities is fighting back. Here is Mr. McGurn's "take" on the situation.
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The Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2012
Saul Alinsky may have dedicated his "Rules for Radicals" to Lucifer [as indeed, tongue in cheek? he did]. Even so, the father of community organizing knew that his efforts would have gone nowhere in his hometown of Chicago without the help of an institution that had been serving the city's poorest communities long before he arrived: the Catholic Church.
In 1939, Alinsky famously worked with the church to organize the "Back of the Yards" slum on the edge of the Chicago stockyards. Nearly 50 years later, a young Columbia graduate named Barack Obama followed in his footsteps. From an office in the rectory of Holy Rosary Church on the city's South Side, the future president began his career as a community organizer.
Now the one-time allies are at loggerheads. On Monday, Catholic Charities of Chicago--the social- welfare arm of the archdiocese-joined other Illinois Catholic organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration's mandate that would force these Catholic groups to offer free contraceptives through their insurance, in violation of church teaching. The suit's message is direct. Mr. President, your mandate will make it IMPOSSIBLE for us to do our job .... the president appreciates the political harm his mandate is doing. At a campaign stop last Thursday in Ohio, he repeated what has become a stock line: "When I first got my job as an organizer for the Catholic churches in Chicago [actually he was simply GIVEN office space in Holy Rosary rectory from which to do his own "community organizing"] ... they taught me that NO GOVERNMENT PROGRAM CAN REPLACE GOOD NEIGHBORS AND PEOPLE WHO CARE DEEPLY ABOUT THEIR COMMUNITIES [AND] WHO ARE FIGHTING ON THEIR BEHALF." [SO?].
In terms of religious liberty, the new lawsuit breaks no new legal ground. What it does is offer a window into how much the decency of daily American life depends on churches using their free-exercise rights. Our nation's third-largest city provides an especially compelling example.
Chicago's Catholic Charities employs 2,700 full- and part-time staffers delivering relief aimed at helping people achieve self-sufficiency. They do everything from stocking food pantries to helping people with HIV/AIDS, resettling refugees, housing seniors, and training people for jobs.
Last year alone, that translated into 19 million meals in the form of groceries for single moms, another 2.5 million meals served to the hungry or homeless, 458,000 nights of shelter for families and children, and 897,481 hours of homemaker services for seniors. And these numbers don't include the thousands of inner-city children served by the archdiocese's Catholic SCHOOLS but NOT on the CATHOLIC CHARITIES budget.
When you ask the Rev. Michael Boland, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, what percentage of those he serves are Catholic, he answers that he doesn't know, because THEY DON'T ASK. The Obama administration's MANDATE would CHANGE that. Particularly galling, he says, is the charge that his church is engaged in a "WAR ON WOMEN"--when 80% of those his organization serves are women and children.
As the lawsuit puts it: Enforcing the mandate could soon require Catholic Charities to "STOP providing educational opportunities to NON- Catholics, STOP serving NON-Catholics and FIRE NON-Catholic employees-actions that would betray their religious commitment to serving ALL in need WITHOUT regard to religion," [actions that additionally would expose these institutions to lawsuits launched by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). One can imagine with what glee this administration must have celebrated the devising of this perfect trap!]
Yes, the bulk of the Catholic Charities budget these days comes from government funding. There's a perfectly legitimate public question about what accepting that funding means for both society and the church.
It's not, however, the only public question. Another important one is this: Will our society rely on civic institutions or the government to deliver these services? Does anyone really believe we would be better off turning over the work of Catholic Charities to states or the feds-with their higher costs, greater bureaucracy, and loss in efficiency?
In a recent report Catholic Charities notes that it costs Medicaid (read: taxpayers) $43,000 per year for every senior in a nursing home. By contrast, Catholic Charities provides day care for seniors at $6,461 per year, home-delivered meals at $1,188 and services such as housecleaning for $4,028. Any one of these services can keep an elderly citizen in HIS OWN house instead of being sent to a nursing home (one of the great drivers of Medicaid's escalating costs).
Overall, 92 cents of every Catholic Charities dollar goes to recipients, which is one reason Catholic Charities is so often chosen for contracts. The church can provide such value because for every staffer, it has nearly seven VOLUNTEERS. That works out to a volunteer army of 17,000 people, larger than Chicago's police force.
It's worth asking what Chicago might look like if these religious volunteers were limited to employing and serving ONLY those who share their faith. And not just Chicago. Across America, volunteers with other faith groups are also reclaiming lives and neighborhoods in a way that even Mr. Obama says is far superior to any government program.
Something he might want to mention to his secretary of health and human services.
* * * * *Time was (up through the 1950's) when no American president would have entertained for an instant the thought of launching a full-scale assault on the Catholic Church in America; mounting such an assault would have been tantamount to political suicide, given the furious reaction such an attack would have evoked from American Catholics BACK THEN. But that was THEN; this is NOW! In the intervening half-century American Catholics have become divided, and confused. Satan's strategy - "Divide and Conquer!" - has worked, thanks to the collaboration, knowing or not, of an arrogant cabal of priest-theologians of greatly divergent intellectual prestige, ranging from the incoherently reasoning but demagogically effective Charlie Curran to the smoothly deceptive Robert Drinan, S.J.. This conventicle of rebel theologians, supported by a multitude of parish priests, seemingly misperceiving the real demands of compassion, led a revolt in the late 1960's against the teaching of the Church on sterilization and contraception, the teaching reasserted by Pope Paul the Sixth in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (July, 1968). Appetite and passion played a not insignificant role in securing widespread support for the rebellion from the laity. As a result many of those Americans who choose today to identify themselves as "Catholic" have become in essence Protestant, picking and choosing the doctrines of the Church that they happen to like, while rejecting those that they don't. For them the ultimate authority in determining the truth is the individual's autonomous mind rather than the Holy Spirit Who speaks through Christ's Church. Thus the Church in today's America, polarized and dispirited by ever-widening dissent, has become a target of choice for the forces of militant secularism.
* * * * *The editors of the British publication The Economist, viewing our nation, so to speak, from afar, and thus more easily seeing the forest rather than just your close-at-hand thickets of trees, summed up, to my way of thinking quite accurately, the state of American Catholicism today. Here is The Economist's assessment.
* * * * *A Contentious Flock
America's Catholics Are Becoming More Polarized and Diverse
The Economist, July 7, 2012
A FIFTEEN-DAY, 2,700-mile bus tour came to a sweltering end at noon on July 2nd over the street from the United States Capitol. The bus carried a group of nuns from Iowa [enthusiastic supporters of the now much-in-the-news Leadership Council of Women Religious] who led prayer vigils and held rallies to protest at what Sister Simone Campbell, at the final rally in Washington, called a "budget that rejects church teachings on solidarity, inequality, choice for the poor and the common good". [The budget in question is presumably the one proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan as an instrument for slowly reducing our 16 TRILLION dollar debt. Harry Reed, as majority leader in the Senate, has, in explicit contravention of the law, prevented any budget from being so much as discussed, let alone passed, in the Senate for over three years].
Two days later another extended flexing of Catholic political muscle ended, this one in a ringing of church bells across the country. July 4th capped the "Fortnight for Freedom", called by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in response to what they see as "the incursion of the United States Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty". Dozens of Catholic organizations (though not yet the USCCB) are suing the HHS over a part of Barack Obama's health reforms requiring Catholic institutions, like all other employers, to offer their employees health-insurance plans that pay for birth-control coverage. The reforms exempt explicitly religious entities such as churches, but the groups suing the HHS think that the exemptions are too narrow....
American Catholics remain a large and politically heterodox group. Official church doctrine opposes birth control, yet American Catholic women use it at similar rates to non-Catholic women. Despite the church's opposition to homosexuality, a 2010 Pew Forum poll found that more American Catholics favour than oppose gay marriage. Both the Catholic priests who served in Congress [one of whom was the aforesaid Robert Drinan] were Democrats, as were all three Catholic big-party presidential nominees (Al Smith, John Kennedy and John Kerry); yet five of the six Catholics on the Supreme Court were nominated by Republican presidents. American Catholics mostly supported Barack Obama in 2008, George Bush in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000.
Around one in four American voters is Catholic. That proportion has held steady for decades, largely because of immigration, but there has been a shift in American Catholicism's center of gravity, from its traditional bastions in the urban north-east both southward and westward.
That shift also has political consequences. Between 2008 and 2011 the number of American Catholics who identified themselves as, or leaned towards, the Democrats fell by five points, while those who were, or leaned, Republican rose by six; Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, enjoys a commanding lead among "very" or "moderately" RELIGIOUS white Catholics. Among WHITE Catholics, the rightward drift has been more pronounced, while the opposite is true for HISPANIC Catholics, 71% of whom identify or lean Democratic, as opposed to 68% in 2008.
All of this suggests two things about American Catholics. First, there is NO coherent "Catholic vote" that coalesces around distinct issues and cuts across ethnic lines. White Catholics largely display the political preferences of white Americans, and Hispanic Catholics of Hispanics. Catholicism contains teachings that find a natural home on America's left (opposition [with exceptions] to capital punishment) and on the right (opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage). Catholics of either party can find doctrines to justify their position.
Second, RELIGIOUS CATHOLICS are increasingly finding common cause with OTHER RELIGIOUS CHRISTIANS. Several of the plaintiffs suing the HHS are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-partisan law firm that defends all forms of religious expression. The plaintiffs have also found strong support among evangelical Protestants. Conservative Catholics and conservative Protestants may disagree on papal infallibility and transubstantiation, but they share a common enemy .... [viz., the forces promoting abortion, same-sex marriage and the suppression of religious liberty].
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