WaPo on The Obama Administration and Catholics


Health, abortion issues split Obama administration and Catholic groups

A contentious battle between Catholic groups and the Obama administration has flared in recent days, fueled by the new health-care law and ongoing divisions over access to abortion and birth control.

The latest dispute centers on a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services in late September to end funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help victims of human trafficking, or modern-day slavery. The church group had overseen nationwide services to victims since 2006 but was denied a new grant in favor of three other groups.
The bishops organization, in line with the church’s teachings, had refused to refer trafficking victims for contraceptives or abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, and HHS officials said they made a policy decision to award the grants to agencies that would refer women for those services.

The bishops conference is threatening legal action and accusing the administration of anti-Catholic bias, which HHS officials deny.

The fight further sours an already difficult relationship between the government and some Catholics over several issues. The bishops fiercely oppose the administration’s decision in February to no longer defend the federal law barring the recognition of same-sex marriage. Dozens of Catholic groups also have objected in recent weeks to a proposed HHS mandate — issued under the health-care law — that would require private insurers to provide women with contraceptives without charge.

On the trafficking contract, senior political appointees at HHS awarded the new grants to the bishops’ competitors despite a recommendation from career staffers that the bishops be funded based on scores by an independent review board, according to federal officials and internal HHS documents.

That prompted a protest from some HHS staffers, who said the process was unfair and politicized, individuals familiar with the matter said. Their concerns have been reported to the HHS inspector general’s office.

Under HHS policies, career officials usually oversee grant competitions, and priority consideration is given to the review board’s judgment. The policies do not prohibit political appointees from getting involved. “I think it’s a sad ma nipu la tion of a process to promote a pro-abortion agenda,” said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the conference. She has written on the organization’s blog that the decision reflects an HHS philosophy of “ABC (Anybody But Catholics)’’.

HHS denies bias

HHS officials denied any bias and pointed out that Catholic groups have received at least $800 million in HHS funding to provide social services since the mid-1990s, including $348 million to the bishops conference. One of those grants, $19 million to aid foreign refugees in America, was awarded to the bishops three days after the anti-trafficking contract expired Oct. 10.

“There wasn’t an intention to go out and target anybody,’’ said George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for HHS’s Administration for Children and Families. “Nobody has ownership of a contract.’’ He added that the agency “followed standard procedure.”


Read the rest there.

I may comment later, but today I am out and around!

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  1. Legisperitus says:

    This is an all-out war by this administration. Evil is their good and defenders of the good are their mortal enemies. They pull no punches and take no prisoners. Never have the battle lines been more starkly drawn.

  2. JohnE says:

    “HHS officials denied any bias…”
    Yeah, yeah. Where’s the objective criteria for awarding the contracts that includes ignoring the scores of an independent review board? If they can spin it to make it look legit, they will.

  3. JP Borberg says:

    Isn’t this just a necessary consequence of having a secular government? If those in power and most of the population think contraceptives and abortions will help the victims of human trafficking (and they sincerely do), and there are providers out there that will supply those ‘services’, why get upset when the government sticks to its principles and ensures these victims get what they need.

    This is not an argument in favour of contraception and abortion, btw, rather an indication of one of the flaws of trying to have a secular government.

  4. Papabile says:

    Dealing with both career and political HHS officials on a near weekly basis, I am sure Sister Walsh is right about an ABC policy among the politicals and Schedule C’s.

    With that said, why is the USCCB relying on government grants anyway?

    I would be much happier if the Church received NO federal money. Receiving it just creates a dependency. It corrupts over time.

  5. amylpav22 says:

    I would be much happier if the Church received NO federal money. Receiving it just creates a dependency. It corrupts over time.

    Except that it shouldn’t corrupt and the Church can provide services far more economically and appropriately than the government can.

    We shouldn’t have to choose. What ever happened to the First Amendment?

  6. Bryan Boyle says:

    You suck up to the government…you better toe their line.

    The bishops (and they had better wake up…but, considering their tilt…that’s not going to happen en masse), as a corporate body, sold their souls to the party currently in power. They should NOT be surprised, nor should they be complaining. They sold their souls, the party in power considered them the ‘useful idiots’ in ensuring their particular groups marched down to the polls on election day (Faithful Citizenship, anyone?), and, like so many others that have been thrown under the bus…when their usefulness was over and they’re seen to be obstructionist to the ‘fundamental remaking of society’…

    Why is anyone surprised. They were enticed in over the past 40 years…wined and dined…seen to be in the pocket of the party of Death…not that the other party would have done any differently, mind you…and, when their usefulness was over…well…you lie with dogs…you shouldn’t complain that you’re infested.

  7. LisaP. says:

    Here’s what I don’t understand — could the Catholic adoption agencies and service agencies not continue operating (in reduced capacity, if necessary) without federal funding? Couldn’t private collections keep one office open? Or do all children in need of adoption or women in need of services go through the federal and state governments first? Is it just about the money, or does the Church not have access to the people who need help unless it goes through social services?

  8. Peggy R says:

    This contract and for example the IL contracts for foster care in particular (not sure about adoption), are cases in which the state/govt had a function it needs/wants to provide to the public. The Catholic social service agencies that are competent to provide such services compete with other private agencies to provide the government service. So, the Catholic social services are not approaching the govt to say, we want to help with foster care or human trafficking victims, give us money to do it. In the IL case, there is explicit history that the State was having problems meeting the needs of foster kids. Catholic Charities offered itself up for those services many years ago. (Adoption doesn’t always involve wards of the state and can be done privately, even w/o an agency. But agencies need to be licensed by the state. Here, the State is saying that CC can’t provide adoption services if they don’t do it on the State’s terms. Still discriminatory, but not necessarily a contract to provide State services.)

    I don’t know if Catholic social services can do these things independent of government, ie, not sure if it involves licensing or there just wouldn’t be enough funding, or both.

  9. DisturbedMary says:

    Uh,oh. Catholics might connect the dots. Quick, time to hand out the “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” guide to ensure the Catholic vote goes to the Democrats in 2012.

  10. pjthom81 says:

    I have a slightly different take.

    I disagree a bit with some of the comments since I think that the government is attempting to create a secular standard of morality (a positive law) that holds in the public square that diminishes the religious or natural law system of morality to mere theory. If a Catholic organization wishes to aid the poor, and the interests of the government are aligned then a contract should be made. If that same government later establishes criteria that requires funding abortion and contraception makes that governmental organization explicitly immoral. The question is then, mostly, what is happening to our government? If our government is democratic in nature, what is then happening to our people?

    My issue with the people who say “well this is what happens when you rely on the government” is that it allows us an excuse to abdicate our responsibilities to ensure good government. I happen to believe that pro-life policies are not only the right thing to do but also good policy that is in our nations’ long term interests….that the gulf between positive and natural law should shrink over time. Anything else is artificial and hypocritical from a society’s perspective and leads to every other ill I can think of. Every form of tyranny that has arisen over the past 2 millennia…from Nero, to the Jacobins, to Henry VIII, to Hitler and Stalin…has come about because the state has found an excuse to impose its morality over that of the dissentors who favor natural law. The Church has consistently stood for independent natural law from the time of the Investiture Crisis at least. In hands of men like those in the current administration, liberalism takes on its French sense, and becomes merely another totalitarian regime.

    I believe in a seperation of Church and State. I think the Church invented it by establishing the principle that the secular and religious authorities must always be different people, and in that way, the Church can be a check on the overreaches and abuses of the State. The reverse is also true, as we have learned with the recent abuse scandal. This is healthy. However, denial of the basic rights to freedom of speech and association is not seperation of Church and State but rather suppression of the Church by the State. I see no alternative but to fight this in the Court of public opinion.

  11. Supertradmum says:

    Pope St. Leo XIII:

    Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engraven upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide-as they should do-with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community.

    But this teaching is understood in two ways. Many wish the State to be separated from the Church wholly and entirely, so that with regard to every right of human society, in institutions, customs, and laws, the offices of State, and the education of youth, they would pay no more regard to the Church than if she did not exist; and, at most, would allow the citizens individually to attend to their religion in private if so minded. Against such as these, all the arguments by which We disprove the principle of separation of Church and State are conclusive; with this super-added, that it is absurd the citizen should respect the Church, while the State may hold her in contempt

    And from Pope St. Pius X:

    That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. . . . Hence the Roman Pontiffs have never ceased, as circumstances required, to refute and condemn the doctrine of the separation of Church and State

  12. LisaP. says:

    Thank you, Peggy R, that’s very helpful.

Comments are closed.