Catholic Relief Service Cuts Relief Services

Catholic Relief Services is providing services to the needy in Gaza. NCR reports, “For second time in months, Catholic Relief Services forced to cut funding to Gaza.” Why did Catholic Services stop serving the needy? It has nothing to do with the Vatican or Church policy. The U.S. government, in an effort to starve terrorists, cut certain government spending. It turns out that Catholic Relief Services is basically spending public funds. While the Catholic Church boasts of its charitable services, they are funded by American taxpayers, not the Vatican or charitable donations.

According to Hilary DuBose, a representative of Catholic Relief Services, “The needs are still great in Gaza… No donor has stepped up to fill the huge gap left behind by the lack of U.S. government funding… So it's likely the number of hungry people, the number of untreated chronic illnesses, the number of jobless youth and adults, and the number of children going without critically needed mental health services will only continue to grow.” She notes that Catholic Relief Services primary source of funding was USAID, but that it is still able to provide some services. NCR provides no information about funding for these Catholic Services.

This is true of nearly all Catholic services, including hospitals, orphanages, etc. They spend public money, not charitable funds. Catholic hospitals live off of Medicare and Medicaid funding, just like ordinary for-profit hospitals. The problem is that the public gets virtually no information about the use of its money once it is in Catholic hands. In some cases, Catholic institutions try to have it both ways. Thus Catholic hospitals assert their Catholicism as a basis for refusing to provide various contraceptive services. While living off of government funds, they refuse to abide by normal government rules. In fact, they use government funding to lobby for special exemptions. But usually they insist they are just hospitals, and if someone tries to treat them differently than normal hospitals, they scream religious persecution.

Clearly there are some good reasons for using government funds for some Catholic institutions in some applications. But separation of church and state is a basic principle of our government, and such uses of government funding should be more the exception than the rule. At a minimum, there should be strong reporting requirements, and strict regulations concerning how public money is spent. In general, preference should be given to non-religious institutions.

Use of government funds for religious institutions has become increasingly corrupt. I think this is particularly clear with evangelical institutions, which have used their political leverage to win funds used in part for religious purposes. I suspect Catholic institutions mastered this type of corruption much earlier, which helps account for the number and size of such groups. We are talking about many billions of dollars annually. The public deserves to know much more these practices.

 

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