Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, the Director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has written an indictment of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its denial of continued funding to the Bishops’ Conference for its work on behalf of refugees.
In short: the Bishops clearly do the best work on behalf of refugees; HHS doesn’t like the bishops’ denial of abortion and contraceptive referrals; HHS denied the funding. Sr. Walsh sees ABC (anyone but Catholics) at work in this organization.
I wonder whether this obvious act of bias will, in the long run, be a good thing.
Let me be clear: I am deeply concerned that this kind of bigotry will ultimately hurt refugees the most. In the short term, they will not have the institutional support of the organization that is most able to reach out to serve them.
But in the long term, I hope that this move does several things:
1. It disabuses people of the notion that the Obama administration supports Catholic Social Teaching.2. It mobilizes Catholics to recognize and act on the link between their faith and the demand for justice.
3. It forces a conversation within the Church about why the Church’s positions on abortion and birth control are rooted in the same care and concern for the poorest of the poor.
4. It makes clear that Catholics cannot rely on government funding for the promotion of faith and the service of justice.
I remember reading about an African missionary priest in the US who prayed for persecution in the Church, so that Catholics would clearly understand the value of their faith in the face of the diminished visions of social good and salvation offered by contemporary US society. I wonder if a moment like the one that Sister Walsh is pointing to here, and others that cluster around the grave concern of religious freedom, are hatching such a situation.
Tim Muldoon is a Catholic theologian and author of several books, who teaches in the Honors Program at Boston College.