WASHINGTON, D.C., April 11, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Is a conflict of interest behind some of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ strong criticisms of President Trump’s immigration policy, in particular his two temporary travel bans? That’s the question being raised by a number of experts in foreign policy and Catholic charitable work, including a former adviser to President Bush and a leading figure in conservative Catholic media.
These critics are pointing out that in Fiscal Year 2016, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) received more than $91 million in government funding for refugee resettlement. Over the past nine years, the USCCB has received a total of $534,788,660 in taxpayer dollars for refugee resettlement programs, reported Ann Corcoran, editor of Refugee Resettlement Watch.
In an appearance on Fox News earlier this month, Catholic personality Raymond Arroyo, managing editor of EWTN News, cautiously suggested that some of the USCCB’s response to Trump’s immigration policy may be related to a fear of losing these government contracts.
“They have a heart for people who are suffering. There are a lot of people who are looking for a homeland,” Arroyo said in response to a question about the Catholic and Lutheran Church’s statements condemning Trump’s travel bans.
“However,” he added, “ … if the country decides, and the president decides that it’s time to take a pause, everybody has to step back and let that happen. President Obama did it, President Bush did it after 9/11. It’s not forever, it’s just for a time.”
“But these groups I think, sometimes their heart, and perhaps the financial motive gets in the way.”
Deal Hudson, editor of The Christian Review and a former adviser to President Bush, takes a dimmer view, saying the magnitude of government funding, to both the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), severely muddies the waters.
“Just how dependent have both agencies become on taxpayer money to cover their annual overhead, apart from special programs and services?” Hudson asks. “What percentage of annual receipts does this federal money represent?”
Hudson says he is concerned that an over-dependence on government funding could threaten the Catholic identity of both the USCCB and CRS, and their social justice work.
“How can either institution call itself ‘Catholic’ when they have created financial dependency of the federal government?” he said. “Doesn't this level of funding make the USCCB hesitant to publicly criticize the Congress and the administration on abortion, same-sex marriage, fetal stem cell research, and euthanasia?”
Extensive criticism from bishops of travel ban
Criticism from Catholic bishops, collectively and individually, has been extensive toward Trump’s two executive orders.
Bishop Joe Vasquez, acting as the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration chair, issued a formal statement after the release of the first executive order. “We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope,” he said.
In an even more dramatic case, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy told about 650 participants at the World Meeting of Popular Movements they they must “all become disruptors” in response to Trump’s policies. McElroy said immigration is the “key [issue] we have to face in our local church at this moment.”
Chicago Cardinal Blasé Cupich, a Pope Francis-appointee, referred to Trump’s travel ban as “a dark moment in U.S. history.”
“The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values,” he said.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez called the refugee orders “troubling.”
Dozens of other bishops have issued statements, written blogs or taken some other action against President Trump’s executive orders halting refugee flow for now. The harsh tone leads to questions that some bishops' concerns could be more driven by political and fiscal interests than by compassionate motives.
Government funding and Catholic identity don’t easily mix, say critics
Hudson and Arroyo are not the only ones concerned about how government contracts for refugee resettlement could be affecting Catholic policy on the thorny issue of immigration.
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, says he believes the Catholic Church’s refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. don’t live up to the guidelines contained in Pope Benedict’s motu proprio, “On the Service of Charity.”
The Population Research Institute (PRI) has researched and reported extensively on issues with Catholic identity and the U.S. Bishops’ Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and other programs.
“Pope Benedict, in his motu proprio, made it clear that Catholic charitable work should begin with the Mass and sacraments, work in conjunction with the local bishops and Church, and hire faithful Catholics to carry out the programs,” Mosher told LifeSiteNews. “It seems to me that these refugee resettlement programs fail on all counts.”
“Here again, the Church is behaving as just one more NGO,” Mosher continued, “which Pope Francis has emphatically declared it is not.”
Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn has also reported extensively on the matter of Catholic identity pertaining to USCCB initiatives such as CRS, CCHD and other aid programs.
He concurred with the implications from the USCCB’s overwhelming vocal concern over the specter of the travel ban interrupting the inward flow of refugees.
“We never hear the USCCB complain about much except for the decisions to cut funding from the troughs feeding its social programs,” Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “The USCCB cried the same sob-story over USAID and PEPFAR, despite the fact that they both work hand in glove for the spread of abortifacient contraception and condoms.”
“The fact that Catholic Relief Services receives nearly two-thirds of its annual revenue from those agencies is most definitely linked to the lobbying efforts,” he continued. “So its concern over refugee resettlement is really no different.”
Hudson summed up the concerns, concluding, “How can the Catholic Church be a free, prophetic voice when it has created a financial dependence on the federal government? Answer: It cannot!”