Skip to content

Anti-Catholic Bias at US Dept. of Health and Human Services

November 2, 2011

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, the Director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has written an indictment of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its denial of continued funding to the Bishops’ Conference for its work on behalf of refugees.

In short: the Bishops clearly do the best work on behalf of refugees; HHS doesn’t like the bishops’ denial of abortion and contraceptive referrals; HHS denied the funding.  Sr. Walsh sees ABC (anyone but Catholics) at work in this organization.

I wonder whether this obvious act of bias will, in the long run, be a good thing.

Let me be clear: I am deeply concerned that this kind of bigotry will ultimately hurt refugees the most.  In the short term, they will not have the institutional support of the organization that is most able to reach out to serve them.

But in the long term, I hope that this move does several things:

1. It disabuses people of the notion that the Obama administration supports Catholic Social Teaching.

2. It mobilizes Catholics to recognize and act on the link between their faith and the demand for justice.

3. It forces a conversation within the Church about why the Church’s positions on abortion and birth control are rooted in the same care and concern for the poorest of the poor.

4. It makes clear that Catholics cannot rely on government funding for the promotion of faith and the service of justice.

I remember reading about an African missionary priest in the US who prayed for persecution in the Church, so that Catholics would clearly understand the value of their faith in the face of the diminished visions of social good and salvation offered by contemporary US society.  I wonder if a moment like the one that Sister Walsh is pointing to here, and others that cluster around the grave concern of religious freedom, are hatching such a situation.

Tim Muldoon is a Catholic theologian and author of several books, who teaches in the Honors Program at Boston College.

  1. November 2, 2011 11:24 am


    I question this is exactly what is happening here. What it sounds like to me is that funding for programs like this are down (thank you GOP!). With less funding, less programs will be chosen to get grants. One must be careful and not say “you are discriminating against me because of my beliefs” in such situations. It could be true. But I somewhat doubt it is the case here. I have often found economic claims from Sister Walsh to be faulty, and I think her bias against Obama is reading into the situation and accepting anonymous claims at face value. We have denials that this was the case, as well. And instead of accepting the denials with charity and looking deeper into it, Sister Walsh does a hit piece without proof. I find that wrong.

  2. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 2, 2011 11:25 am


    I would like to know how you would see the difference between this and what could easily be called “bigotry” by another faith group in a similar situation. Let’s say that the Christian Science Church claimed grave bias and bigotry because the government will not just let that religious community treat people, and especially but not only children, with prayer instead of medical care. That seems to be an analogue of this situation.

    As I see it the case in extremis would be the Chinese policy which forces people to do something against their will — that is NOT have children. I have not gone over these proposals with a fine-toothed comb, but they seem far from extreme in any real sense.

  3. muldoont permalink
    November 2, 2011 11:53 am

    I’ll respond to both Henry and Peter Paul. Henry, the Washington Post story that I read emphasizes that the Bishops’ work with refugees was clearly the best, and so the abrupt removal of funding to give it elsewhere strikes me as a stronger move than (say) just choosing not to fund a new program. Similarly, to your point, Henry: the Bishops had funding for many years. It has been taken away for reasons that sound an awful like “we don’t like the Bishops’ stands on abortion and contraception, so we’ll stop funding their refugee work.” The analogy to Christian Science (CS) is therefore not apples to apples: the government has never funded them. They know CS posture is different from that of the government.

    • November 2, 2011 12:16 pm


      That still doesn’t deal with the situation as it is today. There is a lot of speculation and hearsay being used, and of the kind of distortion which I saw going in with “Obamacare.” It’s easy to cry foul. “We had it before” doesn’t mean one will still get it. Often, programs are moved around to help encourage many groups, not just to keep to one making it look like discrimination as well (always going with the USCCB? are you discriminating against us?). See, this is a dangerous accusation, and it is not so easy to prove; it is worse when Sister Walsh basically compares this to Nixon! Sorry, this isn’t a scandal of any such proportion. Even if it is proven that there was unjust discrimination. However, when you go in looking for foes, and trying to read everything Obama does as bad, as some in the USCCB have done (Sister Walsh, imo, often doing this), it’s easy to have confirmation bias leading to a conspiracy theory when no conspiracy is there.

      • November 2, 2011 12:26 pm


        Please. Just because the right-wingers are paranoid doesn’t mean that the Obama administration isn’t out to undermine the Church! All the evidence that’s available, including the online article detailing the decision, suggests that there was indeed intervention for political reasons. In fact, if you read the Washington Post article detailing the fiasco, you’ll discover that the grant scoring process rating the USCCB’s application as superior to others, and that the grant was expected to be approved prior to the involvement of Sebelius’ aid.

        “The original story on the web, which was later scrubbed of some quotes for whatever reason, was even more telling than what appeared in print.

        Said the Washington Post original online version (still available on yahoo here):

        “But some HHS staffers objected to the involvement of the secretary’s office, saying the goal was to exclude the Catholic bishops, individuals familiar with the matter said.

        “It was so clearly and blatantly trying to come up with a certain outcome,” said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official” was not authorized to speak to the media. “That’s very distasteful to people.”

        • November 2, 2011 12:31 pm


          Yes, why did the WP remove it? Perhaps they found out the so-called insiders were not even working at the HHS? We don’t know who they are, nor their credibility. The fact that someone has a “higher score” doesn’t mean one will get anything because of it. Often contracts go into far more details than that. Again, we are dealing with hearsay and speculation. It’s not proven — and people at the HHS are denying this is the case. Again, one has to make a better case than fear mongering. It is possible, but right now, the story is not convincing, and the way it is being reported is way out of line. “We lost funding! Religious persecution!” Sorry, real religious persecution is found in Egypt, in the Sudan, in Iran, etc. This is not religious persecution.

  4. November 2, 2011 12:18 pm

    I think that Sr. Walsh is correct here. There is evidence to suggest that Sebelius put personal pressure on staff to ensure that the USCCB not receive funding. My suspicion is that this is a calculated move to galvanize liberal support in advance of the election. It’s something that Obama can point to to motivate his base, since all his economic and foreign policies run contrary to his interest. This is playing cultural politics, Democratic Party style.

    • November 2, 2011 12:25 pm

      It is possible she is correct; on the other hand, it is possible it is other people, so-called pro-life people who speak to the USCCB, who are the ones trying to garnish support, creating systematic fear and panic of oppression. As we saw with the health care mandate, such voices were able to convince the USCCB of economic falsehoods, and the USCCB repeated those falsehoods. This sounds like similar voices to me.

      • November 2, 2011 12:29 pm

        Read the archived Washington Post article, Henry. Why do you think that those dissenting voices from within the HHS office were removed from the print version of the article? What’s the most likely reason for this, given the incestuous relation between the Post and the government?

        • November 2, 2011 12:32 pm

          Once again, who are these people? Why are they automatically speaking the truth? Skepticism needs to be kept in mind, especially in the hard sell!

  5. November 2, 2011 12:19 pm

    sorry, “their” interest. Obviously Obama’s economic and foreign policies are in his own interest, since they are in the interest of his handlers.

    • November 2, 2011 12:32 pm

      Here’s the original online Washington Post article. I’ll let readers decide whether Muldoon’s and Walsh’s interpretation is the correct one. (I think it’s nearly impossible to remain non-committal in this case.)

      • November 2, 2011 12:35 pm

        The ending quote is important:

        A subcontractor working for the bishops, Catholic Charities in Virginia, several years ago fired four social workers after they helped a 16-year-old immigrant teenager obtain birth control and an abortion, Amiri said.

        The Obama administration recently renewed that grant. Amiri said the ACLU is in “discussions” with HHS over “how the needs of these teenagers can be met.’’ The bishops conference declined to comment.

        That goes against the whole “they are out against us because we are against abortion” claim. No comment, eh?

      • Thales permalink
        November 2, 2011 2:57 pm

        What’s your point here? That it’s impossible or improbable for the HHS to be motivated to deny the trafficking grant based on a political disagreement with the bishops, since the HHS renewed a different grant on a different occasion? I don’t find that compelling.

        • November 2, 2011 3:01 pm


          I didn’t see it is impossible. I, however, say that we are not getting the full story, and indeed, things within the story contradict the claims — the fact that we continue to see other funding for those who are still anti-abortion show this. I find the charges and claims without sufficient backing the equivalent of political gossip.

  6. M.Z. permalink
    November 2, 2011 12:25 pm

    As the USCCB becomes a more partisan organization, they will be treated as partisans. Their analysis and coordination with Republican organizations in the health care debate was contemptible (most notably because their analysis was wrong). They still haven’t recanted their claims of abortion funding despite absolutely no evidence for it. The USCCB has gall complaining about fairness when they have been anything but fair in their dealings with the Obama administration in general and HHS in particular.

  7. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 2, 2011 12:34 pm


    I see your point on my question specifically, and more largely it is reasonable to say that the Catholic Church’s work with refugees is very good, and thus this whole situation is highly regrettable. But I think the perspective for all this is a bit skewed because discussions on the topic almost never factor in the more basic background assumption. Namely, that in a strict sense the government does “fund” all churches by way of tax exemption. We are all so used to this, that we scarcely get anymore what a giant subsidy it is. The freedom of religion guaranteed in the constitution is not a slam-dunk for not being taxed. Religions keep a huge amount of money for that reason on the basis of a philosophical desire on the part of government not to potentially interfere by way of taxation. One of the reasons organizations like the Church can afford to do so much charity is precisely because they don’t pay taxes on a huge percentage of their holding. Thus, they can help the poor in addition to spending lavishly on things like seminaries, priest mental health, clerical salaries, etc. They are only able to balance things this way because the state already gives them a gift. So it is not the case that we cannot factor in any relevant datum about toleration of diverse moral choices as it relates to any other in regards religion, because prima facie they are all in the same boat.. These diverse tolerations are fungible, as accountants like to say.

    It is unfortunate that there has not been a pragmatic solution to this vis-a-vis the Catholic Church to avoid a confrontation. The government should be in the business of avoiding such confrontations on ideas it might find objectionable. But make no mistake, that is what is going on here;; in all cases the government is actively tolerating religious viewpoints. I certainly understand intellectually why Catholics object to humane birth control, but it is folly to not at least assess the societal factor in all this. That is, that it appears as a sort of atavistic and regressive belief to the vast majority of people actually involved in health care. On that basis, the government is in its right to make a value judgment based on community standards, and the opinion of the majority of the medical community is a perfect and easy indication of such. That is a long way from bias, or bigotry.

  8. Darwin permalink
    November 2, 2011 1:00 pm

    Good post, Tim.

    And a fascinatingly indicative set of responses…

    • LongtimeReader permalink
      November 2, 2011 7:05 pm

      Darwin – and a completely unsurprising dig aimed at anyone who looks deeper into the situation from you. Politics is being played by a non-Catholic – clutch the pearls! Certainly Catholics never play politics with funding, right?

  9. Kurt permalink
    November 2, 2011 1:01 pm

    I don’t say this lightly, but Sister Walsh is a liar.

    There does not in any way seem to be a rule that “anyone but Catholics” may win HHS contracts. While Sister’s comment would usually be passed over as political rhetoric coming from some hack, it is an untrue statement. First of all, there is a difference between discrimination against Catholics and the USCCB just as discrimination against Blacks and the NAACP are not the same. Catholics, organizations headed by Catholics and Catholic organizations win contracts regularly under the Obama Administration. We had a sad time in this country when Catholics, like Jews and racial minorities, suffer personal discrimination in employment, housing and other matters. Sister has no right to falsely appropriate the rightful distaste for those past practices for her current political agenda.

    But even if Sister wanted to amend her statement to “ABUSCCB” rather than “ABC”, the USCCB and other Catholic agencies continue to receive hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars in contact awards under this Administration.

    In this issue, there are legitimate questions for the USCCB to raise. Instead Sister behaves like a dishonest political hack. She degrades herself, her vocation, the Conference and the Church.

    M.Z.’s post above hit the nail on the head.

    Lastly, let me note that suddently the impartiality of the contracting process is so important and sacred. So what about Planned Parenthood?

    • November 2, 2011 1:19 pm


      To be charitable, I think it is quite possible she is being misled.

      • Kurt permalink
        November 2, 2011 2:13 pm

        I simply can’t accept that she sincerely believes that Catholics cannot be the winning bidder on government contracts in this Administration.

        I can accept that she has decided that a vowed religious with an apostolate as a communicator for the American Episcopate is now rightly allowed to engage in the kind of partisan hyperbole hackery that has become commonplace in talk radio and certain other forums and that is not considered to be lying because it is not meant to be taken seriously.

        In charity, I can accept she has been told no one expects actual truth when spokepersons are using clever phrases to gets media attention and produce a strong reaction. After all, “everyone else is doing it” and everyone understands that she “was not intending to make a factual statement.”

  10. November 2, 2011 2:00 pm

    My suspicion is that many persons’ prior disagreements with the USCCB on this blog–at least on the health care issue (I never hear people carping about Economic Justice for All and the Challenge for Peace on this site)–is distorting their ability to call a spade a spade. The resulting positions range from an incredible hermeneutic naivete that suggests there is nothing to the story after all, to an almost vindictive pleasure in seeing the USCCB receive their comeuppance for getting involved in the health care debacle. These two positions aren’t consistent: if you think there is no attempt by HHS to blackball USCCB organizations on political grounds you can’t also think that the USCCB is getting what it deserves.

    What is frankly remarkable to me is the rush to defend the Obama administration (and Sebelius in particular, whose views are well known) against the Church here, however you understand that defense. The enemy of your enemy is not your friend.

    • November 2, 2011 2:08 pm


      Speculation, speculation, and more speculation. Speculating on the motive of others is very dangerous. That is what causes all kinds of false witness. The fact that there is speculation going on, and that the speculation doesn’t seem to fit the whole story (such as the administration is giving money for projects, including to those who object to abortion) seems to suggest that the real story is something else. It is not “vindictive pleasure.” It is seeing that the same source which continued to claim “Obama this, Obama that” which were wrong, continues with “Obama this, Obama that, with scaremongering, making a joke out of real religious persecution (see Egypt).

      It is a desire to see the full story, and not rush to accept accusations from a source which has lost credibility (Sister Walsh). It is not hate. When similar things happened under Bush, no one was saying “we’re doomed.” When what is normal happens, a normal response is expected, not outrageous conspiracy theories based upon gossip.

    • M.Z. permalink
      November 2, 2011 2:52 pm

      I stopped defending the USCCB when they engaged in campaign that maliciously lied about the health care bill. Do I still hold a grudge on it? Yes. If they issued a press release that the sky was blue, I would go outside and check.

      As to the substance, who really cares? The USCCB has no divine right to administer any federal program. Assume for the sake of argument the decision was made out of malice. It doesn’t change anything. I thought that was the whole point of martyrdom: to die for standing up for your beliefs. It is just plain unbecoming to beg for martyrdom and then whine when it happens.

      • Thales permalink
        November 3, 2011 3:59 pm

        As to the substance, who really cares? The USCCB has no divine right to administer any federal program. Assume for the sake of argument the decision was made out of malice. It doesn’t change anything.

        Well, at the very least, it hurts victims of human trafficking, at least in the short term, as Tim points out.

        M.Z., I guess I find your response to this whole issue curious. Okay, let’s assume that the USCCB was wrong to oppose the health care bill. Wouldn’t you concede that the USCCB and the Church in general still does plenty of good work for the poor, the suffering, etc., and that this trafficking initiative was a good thing, something that actually helps refugees? So the USSCB is a flawed institution and has made mistakes in the past (again, assuming it was wrong on the healthcare bill) — but so what? It’s still trying to (and succeeding in) doing many good and just things for many groups of marginalized people. It’s almost as if you don’t mind seeing the USCCB get its “comeuppance” for a past mistake, even though this “comeuppance” is in no way justified (that is, if the decision was made out of malice, as you say for the sake of argument) and even though the USCCB is doing some very good things. Petty “getting even” is not a virtue; two wrongs don’t make a right. And then, on top of that, you’ve got marginalized refugees who are going to be negatively affected by the decision. So I find your response to the issue — where you’re not bothered by a petty political tit-for-tat that actually stops a worthy initiative and negatively affects people in need — a little strange.

  11. Ronald King permalink
    November 2, 2011 2:21 pm

    Tim, please correct me if I am wrong. All this means to me is that we Catholics must stop being dependent on government subsidies to care for the refugees and provide the financial support and resources and pay for it ourselves. We still have religious freedom and along with this freedom we must exercise more responsibility to care for those suffering rather than blowing smoke about the government taking away our freedom. I am so tired of the whining.

    • muldoont permalink
      November 2, 2011 3:35 pm

      Bingo. Let’s be faithful to Christ and get out of bed with a government that wants us to warp our values to suit their agenda. We do have religious freedom. At least for now.

  12. Rodak permalink
    November 2, 2011 2:28 pm

    Unless I missed it, it would seem that nobody in the the discussion above has taken the nature of the population that this grant which was denied “the Bishops” was meant to serve: victims of human trafficking. It would seem to go without saying that this is a group whose members would certainly be unusually needful of exactly those kinds of medical services that a Catholic organization would not be willing to provide to them.
    Catholics might argue that such services would do these persons more harm than good. But that is a strictly sectarian opinion; not based on medicine, but rather, on theological doctrine.
    The decision not to fund “the Bishops” was a correct one, based not on anti-Catholic bigotry, but on the obvious fact that a Catholic organization is not the best choice to serve this particular population.

    • Thales permalink
      November 3, 2011 4:01 pm

      It would seem to go without saying that this is a group whose members would certainly be unusually needful of exactly those kinds of medical services that a Catholic organization would not be willing to provide to them. ….The decision not to fund “the Bishops” was a correct one, based not on anti-Catholic bigotry, but on the obvious fact that a Catholic organization is not the best choice to serve this particular population.


      You’re going to have to explain this to me. I don’t understand how victims of human trafficking are hurt by a Catholic organization and are better off not being served by a Catholic organization.

  13. November 2, 2011 2:40 pm

    I wouldn’t call this denial of funding an example of bigotry, but I can’t imagine that it’s not political. The Obama administration clearly wants to expand access to abortion and otherwise advance pro-choice policy. The Catholic Church (along with the GOP, surprisingly) has been not only an obstacle, but also a counter force to this effort. You don’t push in politics without getting pushed back. You can’t defund Planned Parenthood and not expect retaliation. You exercise power to limit abortion rights; expect that power to be attacked. This is how the game is played. You play it, you pay the price. If the Catholic Church works against the Obama administration, the administration will seek, where it can, to weaken the Church’s overall political, social, and cultural influence. What else would it do?

    Expect more of this.

  14. Rodak permalink
    November 2, 2011 3:14 pm

    Yes, Kyle. That is precisely what an honest article would have pointed out to its readers.

  15. Kurt permalink
    November 2, 2011 3:20 pm

    I wouldn’t call this denial of funding an example of bigotry, but I can’t imagine that it’s not political.

    That it might be political is something worth exploring. Falsely suggesting that Catholics can’t get government grants because one institution lost a grant is a sure fire way to send the discussion in a different direction.

    The Obama administration clearly wants to expand access to abortion and otherwise advance pro-choice policy.

    I think the Administration by its own actions has disproven this theory. I would look at the unwillingness to allow these women access to contraception as a possible factor in the grant going to a different bidder.

    That being said, this might be an opportunity to renew a committment to merit contracting, setting aside whatever prejudices folks have against Planned Parenthood or the USCCB.

    • November 2, 2011 5:28 pm

      So, wait, you don’t think the Obama administration is interested in advancing a women’s “right to choose”? What are they? Indifferent? Pro-life?

      • Kurt permalink
        November 2, 2011 8:19 pm


        I should amend my statement, as I was speaking to abortion funding. The Administration is pro-choice, that is widely known. However, I think they have recognized this is an issue of great social division and have left the status quo in place rather than try to advance abortion funding. But I do think they are inclined to take an activist approach when access to contraception is the issue.

  16. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 2, 2011 4:28 pm

    Having just read over the comments here, I want to raise another explanation. I know it will sound a bit like a gratuitous rubbing-salt-in-wound, but please read on, because I mean it a different way. Is it possible that the genesis for this fracas lies in a more general moral objection, or more precisely, distaste from some of those making the decision cased by recent scandals. To wit, if the issue is “human trafficking”, then an organization that has gone through such scandals in recent times involving minors may be prima facie ruled out in some people’s eyes. Now I have written repeatedly, and I think even often, that based on my own experience in the Church, which was hardly a bowl of cherries, that I find it incredible that people could construe the majority of priests this way. But I do think it is fair to say that the Church has not been able to make this fundamental distinction very well because it has not made accountable the many Bishops who were involved administratively in turning a blind eye. So it is is perforce not an unreasonable assumption, if a person has not known many priests personally, to at least have some questions about the whole matter. And I ask you, given these circumstances, is it utterly unreasonable that decision-makers would be wary of an organization that presents with this in its resume??

    • November 2, 2011 5:09 pm

      Peter Paul,

      You’re right; that would be a more general “moral” objection to the USCCB administering this kind of program. I would be open to hearing such an objection spelled out, as I am generally in favor of making bishops uncomfortable. However, I don’t happen to think that Sebelius’s decision to override an approved grant to a USCCB institution via a proxy high-level staffer is motivated by such a concern, however moral it might be when articulated by you. She may have decided to override the grant because Thor spoke to her in her dreams, but I don’t think that’s a likely explanation, and I see your hypothesis–at least if we’re talking Realpolitik–as having similar standing.

      Note that I’ve never said that, at the end of the day, it’s a *bad* thing for the Church to be feeling pressure from the State. I happen to agree with Muldoon and some others that this is probably good for the Church; I also happen to think that it’s probably bad for victims of trafficking (contra Rodak, who has an interesting view on the matter); but, then, again, welcome to the vale of tears.

      My view is only that we should be willing to recognize a state agency as acting to thwart the normal ministering of the Church when it does so; it’s just hard to argue with in this case.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        November 2, 2011 7:33 pm


        I am in the very weird position, as sometime critic of the Catholic Church, to have to disagree with your view here. Though let me accent I applaud your –what Ortega y Gasset would have called — perspicaciousness. Though I think this view may have influenced the matter in an conscious or unconscious way, is absurd on its face. it is a pure trope of paranoia that whole groups are caught up in some secret hidden perversion. Vices are spread evenly in populations at all periods. Period. But, tragically, the fact that this absurdity is not recognized is not the fault of the people perhaps influenced by it. For as you right seem to intuit, the Catholic Bishops need some kind of goad, and the desire the preserve the reputation of their priests apparently is not a good goad enough amazingly. I really have wept internally for some of the very fine guys I knew in the priesthood. I am not in contact with them, but I can imagine their pain.

        A perfect example of this was a recent article I was involved with for the online “news” site Gawker. (Please note the quotes around news here). I participated because the journalist who sought out my participation seemed very sharp and impressive to me. And I still think that. But the article that got produced about my, other former seminarians’ time in the Miami seminary had a side-car rider I never imagined. Namely they published a sort of dossier by a group of fanatical right-wing Catholic reactionaries about all sorts of priests in the diocese. Let me state that I am still happy that I participated, because I felt finally some of this story would get out in a form that is not just my own online reflections. But I regret that it was coupled with that dossier, because it was a work of the gravest paranoia. All sorts of priests I knew were somehow turned into big sex maniacs. And as I wrote in the comment section for a local paper on the issue, it would have been hard to believe they were such sex maniacs when I knew them nearly 30 years ago. Now we are talking old men, and this dossier is ridiculously alleging that this geriatric set was suddenly like the Hockey team on a bender. This is just one colorful example of how bizarre and absurd the whole issue has become. But note, that it was right wing Catholics that are perpetrating it. So how can one blame government leaders for being confused, and even taking guidance from their dreams, as you jokingly aver, in such an absurd environment. Whose fault is it?? Not necessarily the government officials.

  17. LongtimeReader permalink
    November 2, 2011 7:40 pm

    An example of other Catholic services defunded – by the Republican House.

    I have no political dog in this fight as I am sickened by both “sides” as well as the infighting among Catholics – now even on this blog through offhand comments and ever so cleverly worded jabs. I have some knowledge of the grantmaking and funding process and it is highly political and at times even arbitrary. Is it fair, no. But I find the accusations of prejudice a bit dramatic as it’s always ok when it happens to the other guy’s organization, but not to your own. I agree with Ronald above – they will have to depend on donations, just like a whole bunch of nonprofits in my city who stand to lose hundred of thousands of dollars in funding due to state budget cuts.

  18. muldoont permalink
    November 2, 2011 8:16 pm

    To echo LongtimeReader’s observation, my “dog” in this fight is that I’m pretty disillusioned with both Democratic and Republican politicking compromising the Church. My dog is the integrity of the gospel and the Church’s teachings. I’m pretty well convinced that Democrats are more vicious in their attacks, though by no means are Republicans always friends.

    I take Kyle’s point that the issue may simply be politicking: i.e. maybe it’s not truly bigotry. Maybe it’s that the current administration is simply militantly anti-life and see the Church (specifically, the USCCB) as a political adversary. On the other hand, I smell bigotry on the part of those who sneer at the Church’s advocacy, even if that bigotry is not articulated in department briefs or official policies.

    • Kurt permalink
      November 2, 2011 8:22 pm

      When Catholic University of America came out against the NAACP, was that proof they were racist?

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 2, 2011 8:32 pm

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Democratic and Republican parties are two dead ends in the same blind alley. The degree to which one is a faithful member of either is the degree to which one is unfaithful to the Church and the gospel.

    • November 3, 2011 12:08 pm

      True, the stench of anti-Catholicism does linger, even if it isn’t as choking as it once was.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        November 3, 2011 12:18 pm


        What really lingers in this country is religious intolerance per se. Many people are still convinced that their particular religious view should somehow be quietly triumphant behind the scenes. And to the extent that secularists get all worked up, trying to de-nature society from all religious symbolism and discourse, I would identify that as another form dogma and corresponding intolerance.

  19. November 3, 2011 8:59 am

    I hope this move does several things: …4. It makes clear that Catholics cannot rely on government funding for the promotion of faith and the service of justice.

    This is a problematic desire. From the Catholic point of view they are tightly bound in a living faith. But from the secular view they are clearly separate and the ‘service of justice’ is subject to all the vagaries of secular thought and motivation. Also, the status of refugees is not a Catholic issue per se but a human rights issues. As Catholics we can’t assemble in a ghetto watching out for our own concerns and we can’t single handedly take on the problems of the entire world (or nation in this case).

    The combined human rights or charitable activities of Church and State will always be problematic but it has some mysterious amalgam of grace and national interest that permeates the overall endeavor. There are circumstances when this approach will be positive, othertimes it will recoil upon the Church, and still other circumstances when we will be accused of ‘selling out’.

  20. Anne permalink
    November 3, 2011 5:56 pm

    I’ll call a spade a spade: Republicans are on the upswing inside the USCCB and other church organizations, and they spin every potentially negative move a government agency makes as a sure sign the Democratic president is anti-Catholic and about to commit some major injustice against Catholic consciences or the unborn, for which there’s only one answer: Vote Republican and throw the bastards (or “baby killers”) out. The USCCB and most Catholic social welfare agencies have been dominated by Democrats in the past, and few in either the Catholic or secular media either saw this coming or realize what’s happening now.

    Why, most neutral observers would ask, would a Democratic president risk losing large numbers of Catholic votes by angering the bishops, especially when traditional Democratic voting blocs are already in such jeopardy? The answer is he wouldn’t. In fact, when it came to his historic health care reform, Obama actually risked offending one of his most loyal voting blocs, feminists, by supporting wording that offended their interests in the hope of shoring up the bishops’ support, support that seemed both necessary and probable since the Catholic bishops had always backed the cause of universal health care. What he hadn’t counted on was the depth of animosity and distrust that had been brewing inside all the major pro-life groups, including the bishops. With that fragile web of trust allowing cooperation among “fellow travelers” broken, every gesture, every attempt at acceptable compromise was thwarted by the claim that no matter what this or that clause said or seemed to say, only the elusive perfect sentence would do, since the “enemy’s” motives could never be trusted. In the end, the bishops chose to forego their common cause rather than trust Obama.

    None of this would have been possible just a generation ago, moral disagreement among bishops and politicians notwithstanding. But why? I think it’s obvious: You trust your friends, and you tend to distrust the people your friends tell you to distrust. There was a time when the Catholic bishops were fairly chummy with Democratic politicians, but thanks to a combination of several factors, not just abortion, Democrats on the national level, including Barack Obama, have few, if any, friends at the USCCB, although it’s easy to forget Obama himself worked with the Chicago archdiocese back when he was a community organizer. On the other hand, during the last Bush administration, prominent Catholics and leaders of the pro-life lobby hobnobbed at the highest level with Republicans in power. That’s heady stuff. In any case, those loyalties didn’t change when Democrats suddenly swept into office at not only the White House but in government agencies where pro-lifers had only recently felt some influence.

    None of this is either earth shaking or scandalous. Politics happens everywhere. In Catholic groups and organizations, Democrats once held sway where Republicans now dare to tread. So? So I think this is a factor that needs to be taken into account when evaluating these alleged “anti-Catholic” moves by the administration in power. Like others, I suspect this particular defunding had little directly to do with abortion politics, while much of the finger-pointing over it does.
    Certainly, if this were a purposively political move on the part of Democrats, it would have been a particularly stupid one, and at a very bad time. Not that stupid moves don’t happen; they often do. Just not on purpose.

  21. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 3, 2011 10:29 pm


    You have said it all with this:

    “I’ll call a spade a spade: Republicans are on the upswing inside the USCCB and other church organizations, and they spin every potentially negative move a government agency makes as a sure sign the Democratic president is anti-Catholic and about to commit some major injustice against Catholic consciences or the unborn, for which there’s only one answer: Vote Republican ”

    When an entity like the Bishops’ conference becomes an agent of a political party, a certain caution with it is justified. Even by people who accept it as a form of “teaching authority”. The only responsible way to see this situation is a form of undue influence, and perforce, corruption. And as Jesus exhorted people to be the salt of the earth, one should also take whatever these fellows say with a big grain of sodium. For it is likely to be a republican talking-point.


  1. What Cersei Lannister Can Teach the Catholic Church « Vox Nova

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: