The Church Needs To Stop Taking Government Money
Religion & Liberty Online

The Church Needs To Stop Taking Government Money

Voices what should be obvious: that by taking federal money and grants, the Catholic Church has put herself in a very awkward place. Money from the government always comes with strings attached, and those strings have tied the hands of too many  Catholics.

Earlier this week, President Obama handed down an executive order that requires the cutting off of government funds from “any organizations that discriminate against homosexual or ‘transgendered’ persons. This executive order is not aimed solely at the Catholic Church; many others will lose federal contracts.” The U.S. Catholic bishops have opposed this move, but since Obama did this as executive “fiat” it is hardly something one can legally oppose. That’s okay, says Lawler.

So how can the Church respond? That’s easy. Stop taking federal contracts. President Obama doesn’t want help from the Catholic Church. Say it’s a deal; don’t give him any.

What would that mean, practically speaking? It would mean things would get really messy, especially in terms of health care, human services, and services to the poor.

Let’s just take one major issue: those children flooding over the southern border. The US bishops’ office of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) estimates that about 90,000 unaccompanied minors will arrive in the US this year—up from an average of under 7,000 in previous years. The federal government is already straining to provide shelter for these children while their cases are processed. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if “the largest resettlement agency in the United States”—the bishops’ MRS office—withdrew from that effort.

But you might ask: What would happen to all those vulnerable children, if the US bishops didn’t help? It’s a good question. Whatever one might think about how and why the young migrants are pouring across the border, the fact remains that something must be done with them. Could the Church help to give them temporary shelter and support, while we wait for their cases to percolate through the immigration machinery?

And when we ask that question, we bump into an inconvenient truth about the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services. The last latest annual report from the MRS shows a total budget of just under $71 million, of which nearly $66 million—or nearly 93%—came from federal grants and contracts. For every dollar MRS raised in private donations, more than $1,000 came directly from Uncle Sam.

The budgets for these programs provided by the Church would indeed shrink, but if that’s what Obama wants, maybe that’s exactly what he should get. As the Rev. Robert Sirico has pointed out, “There’s the threat that he who drinks the king’s wine sings the king’s song.” The Church needs to step away from the federal wine casks; it’s clearly soured.

Read “Obama’s executive order and the danger of reliance on federal contracts” at

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.