A plan by the Obama administration to funnel up to $100 million to Catholic Charities has come under fire from conservative Catholics who say church agencies should rely on voluntary support.
Details of the funding were announced in August. According to media accounts, Catholic Charities applied for the grant late in 2008 to help victims of natural disasters. Under the terms of the contract, Catholic Charities would provide long-term aid to victims, tracking their needs for as long as 18 months.
The Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said the contract, which was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is proof that the church-affiliated agency has the experience to do the job.
But some conservative critics of Obama were not pleased.
“Catholic Charities does a lot of good,” Michael O’Dea, director of Christus Medicus, a group that promotes Catholic insurance plans, told the National Catholic Register. “They need the money. But I would prefer that the money would come from the generosity of the Catholic community. When you take government money, the government can start telling you what to do.”
Others speculated that Obama had steered the grant to Catholic Charities to soften Catholic criticism of his policies on abortion.
“The political party in power can give its support of Catholic Charities so it can make the case, ‘We’re not as bad as people say we are,’ even though they are the most pro-abortion administration in human history,” said the Rev. Robert Sirico, a Catholic priest who works with the libertarian-oriented Acton Institute.
Sirico also complained that Catholic agencies “should not become dependent upon the government because it changes their focus to the donor and transforms them into becoming lobbyists for various forms of government largesse….”
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is a pro-choice Catholic and a frequent target of criticism from the orthodox wing of the church.
Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services say political considerations played no part in the grant award. The agency’s Kenneth Wolfe, deputy director of public affairs, told the Register that all contracts are awarded by panels of experts, who are not political appointees.