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Funding the Bishops’ causes January 22, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Society.

I got a letter this week, from our Bishop, Kevin Farrell.  Personally signed by an auto-pen and everything.  The letter was requesting that my family and I make our annual donation to the Bishop’s annual appeal.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline, for several reasons.  I am very concerned about the manner in which money is spent for Catholic charities at the diocesan, state, and national level.  The main source of this concern is, of course, CCHD.  Issues of life and death are incredibly important to my family.  We go far out of our way to try to insure, to the fullest extent possible, that none of our money will go to sources that may have agendas not in communion with Catholic moral teaching.   The numerous recent scandals at CCHD have led me to believe that CCHD is a broken organization, ill-begotten and committed by its very nature to efforts that are at cross purposes with Catholic belief.  Money is fungible, and even if I don’t support CCHD directly, increasing donations to one Diocesan or national conference charity frees up money to fund CCHD. 

Secondly, I disagree with the agendas of many of the Diocesan aid agencies themselves.  I think many are wonderful, but, again, we have the issue of the fungibility of money, and there are some aid agencies at the Diocesan level that are very involved in political lobbying.  You see, many of these aid organizations have become strongly wedded to the belief that more funding is always better, regardless of the source.  And what is best is stable, dependable funding, which allows them to plan out their programs with ease.  The people are too inconsistent – sometimes they give, sometimes they don’t.   Or not enough, anyway.  But the government………..the government, state or federal, is great.  The money is always there, within a few percentage points, and it comes right on time.  So, these aid organizations have sought, and received, a huge amount of local, state, and federal money – YOUR money.  And, they are always engaged in lobbying to insure they receive at least as much, if not more money, next year.  

Unfortunately, I find this problematic, because the government never gives anything for free.  The government lays on rules and regulations, policies that have to be upheld.  And some of those policies, especially recently, are increasingly antithetical to Church doctrine.  We see this in the ‘health care’ debate, where the Bishop’s conference has confused motives, at best.  On the one hand, they emotionally like the idea of ‘health care for all,’ even if it isn’t, and have enormous financial incentives to support a massively increased federal involvement in the health care field.  But, there are many politicians that would tie that financial windfall for Catholic hospitals to a requirement to perform abortions and terminate ‘unproductive lives’.  Even if the current legislation does not fund abortion, eventually a Congress and President will insure that it does.   And so, we see the on-again, off again approach the USCCB has taken to the pending health care legislation, while they know that federal funding for abortion under any public payer scheme is virtually guaranteed in the foreseeable future.  Because of these issues of advocacy and the tendency for government funding to cause numerous moral dilemnas, I’m hesitant to support some Catholic aid organizations.  In addition, I find the frequent championing of government social programs by the Catholic hierarchy in this country to be misguided, at best.  All government monies are taken with the implied threat of force – either you pay your taxes, or you go to jail.  I think the Bishops and their staff would receive a far better result encouraging the faithful to be more generous, rather than encouraging them to vote for certain politicians or parties that the hierarchy feels will provide that steady opiate drip of government money. 

And finally, I can’t support the annual appeal because I like to have a more direct control over where my money goes and how it is spent.  My wife and I support many charities directly, some of which are Catholic, some of which are not.  We spend time researching the charity before giving to it, to insure that its practices are acceptable to us, and, what’s more, that the charity has a very low ratio of overhead expenses.  Organizations like Food for the Poor have very low administrative costs – almost 98% of money given to them benefits the poor.   Catholic Charities USA does a pretty good job, but has a much higher ratio of administrative costs.   Alot of those administrative costs go to pay for activities like lobbying the government for more funding, and also to report back to the government, down to the last cent, how an organization has spent that public money.  I just don’t feel that such efforts are appropriate, or even beneficial, as I recently related to the Texas Catholic Conference, an organization whose main purpose is to lobby the state government for more funding.  There are just too many strings attached to government funding.

So, sorry, Bishop Farrell.  I’d very much like to support your efforts, but for the reasons I give above I just can’t.  I pray that the leadership of our Church will prayerfully consider whether being so dependent on government funding for their charitable programs, and always lobbying for more, is really the best way to provide aid to those in need.  There are many organizations that are not so dependent on government funding, and have more control over how they spend their money.   I pray that all Catholics will more generously support the charities of their choice.  But, in the end, I pray most that the Church will divorce itself from government aid programs, and rely on the more messy, but vastly more virtuous, alms of the faithful.


1. A powerful example….. « A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics - January 25, 2010

[…] to make a compassionate decision, and money will always trump all.  That is the reason I have blogged that the US Bishops (USCCB) has put themselves into a precarious position with their support for […]

2. TravelerWithChrist - January 25, 2010

I am beginning to see a problem with giving to organizations such as CCHD for another reason.

I’d like to present a passage from John 13:5. “After that he put water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” This says to me that the bishops, and all of us, should do more to be directly involved. In today’s time, it might read “Jesus rolled up his sleeves and got to work, caring for the sick, helping the poor.

Nowhere in scripture do I see that I should donate to a larger organization that decides where my money should then go (perhaps implying that I am not smart enough to make the decisions), but the opposite. God game me intelligence to evaluate organizations and then decide where my money should go. And in sending my money to those organizations, I receive graces.

In the case of the CCHD, 80% goes to community empowerment and economic development grants. These are not “food for the poor”- direct organizations. And how much overhead cost money is used for each of these?

The other aspect to this reading is that he washed the feet of his disciples, the men who were first appointed as bishops and a pope. Go to verse 14 to see that he directs these men to then do the same.

I don’t do as well as I should, but I continue to try – bringing a meal to a family with illnesses or other issues, donating outgrown clothing and toys to families, or at least organizations, and even offering a smile and kind words to those I meet. Yes, somehow Haiti needs financial support. I don’t directly know anyone in Haiti, but I send money – to an organization that will get the money and supplies directly to them.

And in thinking about each and every person I come in contact with, how I might be able to serve him or her, it changes my attitude and, I pray, my heart. I cannot say, “I’ve written a check to ‘XYZ’, my job is done”, I must constantly be ready and willing to serve Christ in everyone I meet.

3. tantamergo - January 26, 2010

Most of these “community empowerment” organizations have overhead approaching 100% – their sole reason for existence is to provide jobs for certain kinds of left-wing activists. They provide little in the way of goods or services to those truly in need – their goal is to lobby the government to provide more funding for left-wing projects. That, in turn, provides more largely pointless jobs for leftist activists that want to sit around and think big, socialist thoughts all day. Planning the world for the rest of us, as it were. It’s all essentially a giant jobs program for far-left people with little in the ways of jobs or skills.

Rev. Clifford G. Smith - January 27, 2010

You failed to make clear that money donated to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal did not have to go to Catholic Charities. (By the way, only 12% of the whole … and they are opening an office in Collin County this year to get us more help.) For 10 years we have had the option of directing donation broadly “across the board” or narrowly to just Catholic Education, Catholic Ministries, Support for Priests … or Catholic Charities. That’s throwing the baby out with the bath water! Instead encourage people to donate to support the Vocation Office, Seminary Training and On-going Formation of the Clergy.

4. tantamergo - January 27, 2010

I don’t disagree. My family and I are supporting some seminarians at present – both diocesan and some in orders. We do so directly. We also help support some religious.

I know that what I have said, and our present position, is hard. It’s hard on the diocese, and it’s a hard stance. But, for the time being, I do feel called to send a message, here and through our donations. I do not think the increasing funding of Church activities from government organizations is wise, or good, for the Church now or long term. There’s also the factor of “no doctrine, no dollars.” The doctrinal issues are long and complicated. They are beyond the scope of this reply combox.

I do not want anyone to think this is a cheapskate’s way of foresaking his obligation to support the Church, either. That is not the case, at all.

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