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Cash-Strapped Bishops Declare War On Trump Budget

June 4, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

On May 19, five of the USCCB’s leading bishops sent a letter to every senator and representative, denouncing President Trump’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 as “profoundly troubling.” Invoking “moral criteria” and the “common good,” the bishops insist that Congress abandon Trump’s cuts in federal welfare programs. In a bow to fiscal responsibility, they endorse cuts in defense spending instead.
Essentially, the bishops are calling on Congress to preserve the spending priorities that prevailed during the Obama administration.
Apparently that includes Obama’s support for full funding of Planned Parenthood, which the letter does not mention. And curiously, while the bishops express a new-found affection for “diplomacy,” they don’t mention President Trump’s unprecedented move to protect unborn life by expanding the Mexico City Policy, which will reduce to zero the billions of taxpayer dollars that Obama has sent every year — through “diplomacy” — to fund abortion worldwide. No, as we shall see, for the bishops, “diplomacy” means money — money for the bishops, that is.
By now the faithful are resigned to watching our bishops embrace clericalism, so often condemned by Pope Francis, to portray their personal political agendas as Gospel. But their letter’s pointed refusal to acknowledge the radically pro-life priorities in Trump’s budget is simply stunning. In fact, their silence invites closer scrutiny.
In recent years, the bishops have relied increasingly on federal dollars to fund their various welfare agencies. The Pew Trust reports that 30 million Catholics have left the Church, a figure confirmed by Timothy Cardinal Dolan when he was president of the USCCB. Moreover, as key bishops have privately admitted, voluntary donations from those faithful who remain have plummeted since the abuse-and-cover-up scandals, when a majority of America’s Catholic bishops insisted on staying in office even after it was revealed that the bishops had protected homosexual child abusers for years.
The bishops’ financial problems became even more desperate under the Obama administration. His bureaucrats attacked Catholics in countless ways, from the HHS Mandate to mandatory LGBT hiring policies enforced on schools and other institutions receiving federal funding.
Among those other institutions we find two of the bishops’ largest welfare agencies, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Both agencies receive the majority of their funding not from voluntary donations, but from the taxpayer. They are essentially subsidiaries of the government with a Catholic label. They must act — and hire — accordingly. After all, they have to please their federal paymasters.
The bishops’ letter does not mention that salient fact. But bearing it in mind, let’s consider their sudden fear that Trump’s budget will somehow daunt their desired “robust diplomatic efforts.” Whence does this concern arise?
Foreign Policy magazine has the answer. Trump’s budget folds the Agency for International Development (AID) into the State Department. Hence, it will “slash aid to developing countries by over one-third…[while] rechanneling [remaining] funding from development assistance into a program that is tied closely to national security objectives.”
And that means “slashing aid” to CRS, which relies on AID for the majority of its funding (about half a billion taxpayer dollars a year).
One wonders: Are the bishops objecting to Trump’s cuts for personal financial reasons? Or solely on the basis of “moral criteria”?
In April, Robert Cardinal Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, told an interviewer: “The Church is gravely mistaken as to the nature of the real crisis if she thinks that her essential mission is to offer solutions to all the political problems relating to justice, peace, poverty, the reception of migrants, etc., while neglecting evangelization.”
All too true. But unfortunately, such evangelization is forbidden in federally funded projects. When pressed, CRS admits that it cannot “proselytize,” but is still proud that it is a “Catholic agency.” While CRS hires many non-Catholics, all employees are “required to uphold Catholic teaching in their work.”
During the Obama administration this balancing act became extremely difficult. Washington already has one of the highest concentrations of sodomites in the world; under Obama, they penetrated every level and branch of government even more. Bearing in mind that AID has always been one of the most anti-Catholic agencies in town, could CRS maintain good relations with its benefactors there and still be proudly Catholic?
The crunch came in 2015. One Rick Estridge, the agency’s vice-president for overseas finance, was for years a key player in the CRS-AID funding relationship. In 2013, when the Lepanto Institute reported that Estridge was “married” to his male partner, it caused a crisis. Washington’s radical homosexual groups raged at the “hurtful” revelation, and CRS removed Estridge’s name from its website but kept him on while the agency tried to play damage control.
When Estridge finally “stepped down” six weeks later, CRS plaintively blamed the fiasco on the hiring policy of the bishops — the same bishops who supposedly govern the agency. Ever since, the agency has been roiled by questions about how genuinely “Catholic” it really is.
CCUSA faces the same identity crisis. In April 2009, three months after Obama was sworn in, the agency responded by hiring Washington’s leading homosexual PR firm to lobby for increased federal funding from the new pro-LGBT administration and Congress. Catholic Charities paid the Sheridan Group $476,750 for its services — and here we must make clear an important point:
Federal Law prohibits the use of federal funding for lobbying, even by nonprofits. Lobbying funds must be raised from the private sector.
Consider: Most of CCUSA’s budget — about two-thirds — comes from the federal government. But all funds for the homosexual Sheridan Group must come from private donations — including the annual Catholic Charities “national collection” taken up in every parish in the country, sponsored by the USCCB.
Voluntary donations from the people in the pews paid the premier homosexual PR firm in Washington almost half a million dollars. The federal government did not.
Did Catholic Charities, or the bishops on its board, tell the faithful about the Sheridan Group contract?
No. In fact, it was secret until the “Washington [Gay] Blade” newspaper boasted about it two years later.
According to the Blade’s report, “Sister Jeannine Gramick, a Catholic nun and one of the founders of New Ways Ministry, which provides support for LGBT Catholics, said Catholic Charities USA and some local Catholic Charities agencies have provided behind-the-scenes support for the LGBT Catholic community.
“ ‘Catholic Charities in general have been the most progressive wing of the church other than the nuns,’ she said. ‘In some cases, Catholic Charities USA has supported our events. I feel they personally are pro-gay but they can’t do this publicly’.”
According to its 2016 IRS Form 990, CCUSA’s “contributions and grants” dropped 40 percent from their 2015 total. Since Trump’s election, the agency’s senior staff has aggressively sought new nongovernmental sources of revenue, interviewing major fundraising firms around Washington and seeking to “completely revamp” its outreach to private donors, according to one executive they approached.
The effort faces a stiff headwind. The bishops find Trump’s budget “profoundly troubling,” but many of the faithful are troubled as well, by the bishops’ overt left-wing advocacy, embellished by Pope Francis’ constant scolding of America for its capitalist “greed.”
This tension highlights a profoundly troubling contradiction at the heart of the bishops’ political agenda. On the one hand, their letter expresses concern for “poor and vulnerable people”; on the other, when it comes to amnesty for illegal aliens, the bishops turn on those same poor and vulnerable people — Hillary’s “deplorables” — branding them as “racists,” “xenophobes,” “nativists,” and “bigots” for supporting Trump.
The bishops champion the poor but have no trouble joining hands with those “greedy capitalists” who advocate the open borders and cheap foreign labor that have impoverished millions of Americans in the heartland for years.
Here too, federal funding plays a central role. How much do the bishops receive from the federal government to care for immigrants, legal and illegal, as well as refugees? The USCCB has not responded to repeated inquiries, although independent — and only partial — studies indicate that the figure amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Undoubtedly, all Catholics of goodwill share our shepherds’ concern for the poor and the vulnerable. But groups competing for federal funding are routinely forced to design their programs to conform not to their own goals, but to those of the secular grant-making agencies. And the bishops are no exception.
Does Congress generously fund the bishops because they are such good guys? If so, they are the only grant recipient so honored. With everyone else, it’s “tit for tat” — “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”
Consider: If the bishops simply followed canon law and publicly barred from reception of the Eucharist pro-abortion Catholic politicians on Capitol Hill, would the Congress respond gratefully with another billion dollars a year?
The faithful should keep in mind the admonition of the “longshoreman philosopher,” Eric Hoffer: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”
In attacking Donald Trump, his budget, and his supporters, just what is it that our beloved bishops are trying to preserve — Catholic charity? A business? Or a racket?

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