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CRS Case, Caused By “Mistakes”. . . Poses Threat To Religious Liberty

August 13, 2022 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

Last week, a Federal District Court Judge in Maryland ruled that a case brought by an employee of a USCCB subsidiary in Baltimore could move forward.
The male plaintiff in Doe v. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) had claimed that, when CRS denied spousal health insurance coverage for Doe’s “husband,” the denial was based on discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation (Doe and his sodomite partner had obtained a “marriage” license issued by the state of Maryland).
The judges’ opinion and supporting documents confirm these facts:
“In his conversation with the recruiter, Doe asked whether CRS would provide health benefits for his husband, and the CRS recruiter replied — mistakenly, according to CRS — that all dependents were covered.”
“During the plaintiff’s onboarding process [in June 2016], CRS staff reiterated to the plaintiff that ‘all dependents would be covered’ under the Plan; no staff member informed the plaintiff that a dependent ‘spouse’ could not include a same-sex spouse.”
“In November 2016, CRS informed the plaintiff that it had mistakenly provided insurance coverage to his husband, because CRS does not cover same-sex spouses under the Plan, contrary to its assertions prior to the plaintiff’s application for coverage.”
The key passage in the opinion of District Judge Catherine C. Blake in the case reads as follows:
“CRS insists that any judicial inquiry into this case inevitably requires an inquiry into matters of Catholic faith and doctrine. This is not so; this case concerns a social service organization’s employment benefit decisions regarding a data analyst and does not involve CRS’s spiritual or ministerial functions.”
On every level, this opinion is simply a disaster. A federal judge presumes to decide what is “spiritual or ministerial,” and what isn’t, in a Catholic organization.
Seasoned attorneys with long experience we have consulted calmly suggest that, while the ruling is troublesome, we should wait for the case to work its way to the Federal Court of Appeals.
And it’s true that similar cases will continue to be brought in a secular society that finds the Catholic Church under siege, both within and without.
But there are lessons to be learned from Doe v. CRS, because the case was a disaster waiting to happen.

Why Do Federal Grantees
Never Thank The Taxpayer?

CRS management has received serious criticism over the years.
They earned it.
Like its sister USCCB agency, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), CRS receives the vast majority of its funding not from voluntary donations, but from the funds involuntarily taken by threat of force from the taxpayer.
Officially, both CRS and CCUSA are subsidiaries of the USCCB, but they are in essence just a couple more secular welfare agencies that are subsidiaries of the federal government.
It’s important to note that their “Catholic” label does not reflect any evangelical role. CRS receives its funding from the Agency for International Development (AID). While federal law permits foreign aid funds to be used for contraception and, under Democrat administrations, providing abortions, the law prohibits using taxpayer funds for religious purposes. So CRS doesn’t evangelize (they call that “proselytizing”), they merely provide social services like other secular agencies.
However, the Catholic label does serve to invite goodwill, evoking fond nostalgia for the distant past, when Catholic charities were funded by voluntary donations freely offered by generations of the faithful who were motivated by the greatest of the theological virtues.
But those days are over. Now both agencies rely on Democrats on Capitol Hill for their finding at the federal trough every year. They must act — and hire — accordingly.
After all, they have to please their federal paymasters.
So these days, like countless other taxpayer-funded “Non-Governmental Organizations” (NGOs) operating in foreign countries, CRS has manifested an ever-increasing focus on its biggest donor — the U.S. federal government. And as a leader in the NGO community, CRS routinely joins together with similar groups — many of them ardent supporters of abortion — to gather at the government trough and snag a share of taxpayer loot.
To maximize their take, CRS and its trough-dwelling competitors have made a tacit agreement: “We’ll all plead for ‘full funding for the poor’ when we lobby Congress (including personal appearances by a bishop or two), and then fight over who gets what when the cash comes in.”
And when they get their share, does CRS ever thank the taxpayer?
You know, “gratitude” and all that?

What’s More Important?
Money? Or Life?

The record in Doe is replete with blunders on the part of CRS, but they are merely the latest in a long line of outright malfeasance.
Kenneth Hackett had been CEO of CRS for twenty years when he left the agency to become Obama’s ambassador to the Holy See in 2013.
Hackett once bragged that in all those twenty years, he had never hired a Republican.
It shows.
CRS has constantly allied with Democrats, pro-abortion groups, and individuals, both in the United States and abroad, to maximize both its federal funding and its international impact.
In recent years, the bishops have relied increasingly on federal dollars to fund their various welfare agencies. Why?
For starters, some fifty million Catholics have left the pews since Vatican II. Moreover, voluntary donations from those faithful who remain have plummeted since the abuse-and-coverup scandals, when a majority of America’s Catholic bishops insisted on staying in office even after it was revealed that they had protected homosexual child abusers for years.
Like me, most bishops of this generation grew up in Democrat families. They naturally gravitated toward the Democrat Party, and that affinity had its advantages: Their secular agencies benefited greatly from the financial point of view.
So it was no surprise that, soon after Donald Trump became president, the USCCB senior leadership scathingly criticized his agenda in a May 19, 2017 letter to Congress.
That’s right. They attacked the most pro-life president in history because they were afraid he’d cut the federal funding of their secular operations.
The term “existential tension” has gained popularity in recent years, and it certainly applies to the quandary that the bishops have created for themselves.
Washington boasts one of the highest concentrations of sodomites in the world. 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?
They’re having a hard time, that’s for sure.
And CRS has seen this movie before.
CRS vice-president for overseas finance Rick Estridge 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 an in-house crisis. Management dithered for weeks before Estridge finally “stepped down,” and one CRS source plaintively blamed the fiasco on the hiring policy of the bishops — the same bishops who supposedly govern the agency.
Existential tension indeed.
And now the shoddy secularism of the “Catholic” agency has struck again with the Doe v. CRS case. The longtime lapdogs of the Democrats are now repaid by Judge Catherine Blake, a Bill Clinton appointee, and she’s using Doe v. CRS as a weapon to strike at the heart of our religious liberty.
When he was still prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Robert Cardinal Sarah 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.”
And, since secular agencies don’t operate on a spiritual plane, the faithful should advise them to keep in mind the practical admonition of the “longshoreman philosopher” Eric Hoffer:
“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”
[Note: The Wanderer requested comment from CRS Communications, Bishop Frank Caggiano (CRS board chairman), and Archbishop William Lori, in whose archdiocese CRS is located. As of press time we have received no reply.]

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