Tell Pharaoh to Keep His Money

“We need …to speak frankly with each other when our freedoms are threatened. Now is such a time. As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.”[1]

One is compelled to agree with the bishops’ earnest conclusions. The protective environment of the American landscape, where faith was held as a social good and religious freedom was nurtured, is fading under the grinding assaults of a fraying culture and a political class invested in a revisionist understanding of religious liberty. The frankness of the bishops at this juncture is refreshing and their writ compels us to action.

With candor and humble submission, I suggest that it is also time for the Church to stop accepting Federal funds to sustain its charitable activities. If it is true that we are in the midst of a momentous historical crossroads for the fate of religious freedom, it is as well the case that for too long the Church in America not only ignored government intrusion but cooperated with it by allowing the role of the state to expand without protest. The assumption seemed to have been that Catholic social teaching places a great burden of responsibility for the common good on government, which justifies an abundance of Federal programs to attend social needs.  But was it not obvious that governmental meddling would also be accompanied by the imposition of moral injunctions contrary to faith at some point?

As we reflect on the present political situation, we ought to take some time for soul searching and focus on what the core mission of Catholics is in this country.

The unfortunate reality is that much of what has come from the American bishops in the area of social policy has been lacking in any serious challenge to modern statist social policy that has now come to haunt us. For a long time, a lay bureaucracy supportive of big government policies has been at the source of multiple biased statements from the Conference of Catholic Bishops. There probably has not been a more trusted friend of government intrusion than Catholic social service organizations, no doubt in part because they benefit greatly from government grants.

Moreover, time tested Catholic principles have gone to the wayside as the government/Catholic social services partnership grew. As commentators have pointed out, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops does not list subsidiarity as one of its social justice principles. [2]  The Catholic Charities USA webpage lists “the seven principles of Catholic social teaching” without ever mentioning subsidiarity.[3] What principle then, guides the decision making with regard to the relative relationship between government and other basic communities? As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, subsidiarity “sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies.”[4]

Addressing legitimate social justice causes should no longer constitute a trump card for other considerations. We ought to treat the care of the poor the way we treat religious freedom: as an area with immunity from politics and power. The flourishing of a civil society that defends freedom and loves the poor demands now that we embrace the commitment of defending the poor exclusively with voluntary gifts.

The common good, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily.” [5] It encompasses the work of a number of communities, the Church being but one and the state another. The Federal government contributes to the common good when it fulfils its duties within the constitutionally-specified boundaries of its authority and the Church does it’s spiritually-motivated work within its boundaries. The Catechism of the Catholic Church supports the idea that both individuals and communities should rely on their own resources and trust in God to do their work without government interference, even if such interference is predicated on account of offering help. [6]

God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

A healthy relationship between basic and higher communities respects right order and challenges the state and the Church to be creative and focused. Cognizant of the need for a boundary, we can find ways of cooperation without the transfer of money. These transfers are seldom reciprocal as they are attached to a hierarchy of power that tips the scale heavily in the direction of government priority.

However, instead of a reassessment of our present relationship with government, the bishops lament that religious institutions are being disqualified from government contracts. There is much truth about the obvious exclusion but that misses the important point of whether or not we should care to even apply for such funds. The implied assumption of the present social ethos is that what the bishops rightly refer to as “a free, creative, and robust civil society” can survive with monarchial Federal power; we must challenge that assumption.  I humbly submit that there is a greater question we must ask than whether or not the government has the power to decide “who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it.” [7]  The better question is how we decide to contribute regardless of Federal excesses?

This instance of intrusion is only the latest and closest in a corrupt series of interventions. We have participated in shrinking the space of freedom in areas of economic and social life and now the chickens might be coming home to roost.  Scholar Doug Bandow is correct in stating that a society where religious freedom is not respected is a society that unlikely respects other freedoms. [8] Likewise, a state that intervenes in every social and political area of life very unlikely will stop at the gates of a church. For decades, the bishops have called for the nationalization of solutions in multiple economic and social areas and the expansion of Federal intervention has been enthusiastically supported in their declarations. [9]  A determined decision to reject government funds would be a powerful corrective act in the right direction, that of localization and subsidiarity.

Documents such as Economic Justice for All, have prescribed such an expansive role for government and it should not be a surprise that government now moves a little further. One is hard pressed to find even a hint of hesitation to embrace a top-down approach on the bishop’s part. A model based on such expansive expectations for the state can only end in disaster. Inherently, macro-systems with a commanding position and powers of confiscation and policing have an inclination to suffuse the whole of the body politic with their vision of the good, what Michael Novak calls a totalistic inclination. [10] Why offer a social teaching with a narrative that buoys these tempting expectations?

When the aforementioned document tells Catholics that we must “move beyond abstract disputes about more or less government intervention, to consideration of creative ways of enabling government and private groups to work together effectively” [11] why are we surprised if the government wants now to move beyond ‘abstract disputes about the First Amendment’ to impose their unitary vision of the good?

John Paul II’s warning to the welfare state applies as well to religious social service systems when they become quasi-governmental institutions: bureaucratic ways of thinking and living come with the territory.[12] When a number of your employees depend on government funds for their employment they might support more intervention by the hand that rocks the cradle (By 2009 government provided 67% of Catholic Charities’ budget). [13] We must stop acting as government-paid social workers if we are going to tell the state that we are religious ministers.

Our goal should not be a utopian one of dreaming about ending poverty (with its emphasis on programs, budgets, and politics). Instead, it ought to be having an incarnated presence among the poor. The rejection of government funds can incentivize the generosity of our Catholic people and encourage the development of creative ways of helping others. If the soul of Catholic services is the values we communicate, offering fewer services does not necessarily alter the core of our mission.

As City Journal’s commentator Brian C. Anderson has explained, sometime ago Catholic Charities abandoned its core values and entered the political and ideological fray on the side of radicalism:

Catholic Charities first announced its politicization in a wild-eyed manifesto that invokes such radical sixties icons as Malcolm X, Gloria Steinem, Herbert Marcuse, and—above all—the Marxist-inspired Liberation Theology movement that (to put it crudely) equates Jesus with Che Guevara. Ratified at Catholic Charities’ annual meeting in 1972, the so-called Cadre Study totally abandoned any stress on personal responsibility in relation to poverty and other social ills. Instead, it painted America as an unjust, “numb” country, whose oppressive society and closed economy cause people to turn to crime or drugs or prostitution. [14]

If Catholic Charities have such a view of America, why are we surprised that those now in power have a similar view of the Church as oppressive? But it is not only our alignment with government that is troublesome. Through the years we have seen how the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has become a trusted source of funding for radical organizations aligned with the statist tsunami we now fret over. [15]

James Madison, known as the father of our Constitution, supported religious liberty.[16] He is most surely quoted because he inspired much of what is authentic liberty in our Founding. Heeding his words is a great idea. When in 1794 Congress used Federal funds for relief of French refugees escaping from war in Santo Domingo, Madison opposed the appropriation stating, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents” (James Madison, 4 Annals of Congress 179 [1794]).

Madison understood that right order precedes right doing and that, in the American experiment of freedom, the Constitution offers the Federal government no space for relief interventions or nationalized solutions to social problems. Unfortunately, and contrary to both Madison and subsidiarity, religious and political leaders apparently assume that if one says the Federal government should not do X, then X should not, or cannot, be done. A renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2) is needed to dispel these pernicious assumptions. As the Federal government emboldens and grows, all under the cover of helping the needy, our memory has forgotten the need for an order that facilitates right doing.

In the process, we have seen the transformation of poor communities into communities in perpetual crisis, requiring continuous Federal intervention. As subsidiarity allows for certain interventions in a time of crisis—and these communities stew in crisis—the government has no boundaries to respect.  Need has become an excuse for continuous intervention directly connecting the individual to the Federal government, with the aid and support of the Church in doing just that.

If we are going to decry exclusion from applying for Federal grants and the exclusion ceases, let us briefly celebrate. Then, let us tell Pharaoh to keep his money. As we rightfully denounce the stealing of space from civil society, we also take a stand on our identity. The Bishops are correct that religious liberty is under attack and we must support their courageous stance. They have been bold recently in preferring to end programs before compromising moral teaching. It is time to use the momentum to oppose Federal intervention when it comes to social and economic issues.

Finally, let us listen again to our good bishops:

“Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith?”

Yes!  When we entertain ideas about the Kingdom of God here on earth, we understand the limitations of temporality and the transcendent nature of our work. Our view of the Kingdom remains a vision to be fulfilled only when things are recapitulated at the end of history. We ought to see ourselves as transcendent realists who accept the limitations of our materiality and the impossibility of an earthly fulfillment of what must remain as joyful expectation. With that conviction, we must understand that our work, in the end, is not to be measured empirically by a record of services provided. It is the profound moral worth of our ideas and the humbling closeness of our presence that counts the most in our work. A bold decision to affirm these, even by rejecting some funding, will generate a renewed enthusiasm about being Catholics and at the service of the poor.

[1] Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, USCCB, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty; A statement on Religious Liberty. In
[2] See “Themes of Catholic Social Teaching” (Washington, D.C.: USCCB Publishing) Publication No. 5-315 and
[3] See Emphasis mine.
[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1885.
[5] Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), 26.
[6] Catechism, 1884
[7] Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, pp.5-6.
[8] Doug Bandow, “A Global Assault on Religious Liberty” in Forbes (April 12, 2012).
[9] For a good summary of the bishop’s alignment with Progressive solutions see J. Brian Benestad & Francis J. Butler, Eds, Quest for Justice: A Compendium of Statements of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the Political and Social Order 1966-1980 (Washington, D.C.: USCC, 1981); NCCB, Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy (Washington, D.C.: USCC, 1986).
[10] Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (New York: Touchtone, 1982) p. 69.
[11] National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy (Washington, D.C.: 1986) #314.
[12] See John Paul II, Centesimus Annus (1991) 48.
[13] See
[14] See Brian C. Anderson, How Catholic Charities Lost Its Soul (City Journal: Winter 2000). See it here:
[15] CCHD’s funding of ACORN: over $7,000,000 in a few years. Other organizations that received funding in the last few years are F.U.R.E.E., the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, Vermont Workers’ Center, Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, Power U Center for Social Change, Miami Workers’ Center, the Chinese Progressive Association, the Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN), People United for Economic Justice Building Leadership through Organizing (PUEBLO), and Just Cause Oakland, to name only a few.
[16] Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, p. 6.

Ismael Hernandez


Ismael Hernandez is an ex-Marxist Leninist from Puerto Rico. He joined the Jesuit seminary there and later came to America where he eventually renounced Marxism. He worked for a time as executive director of a Catholic ministry in the inner city for the Diocese of Venice. Most recently, he founded the Freedom & Virtue Institute in 2008 to bring the ideas of individual liberty, limited government, self-reliance and love for the poor to communities of color. Mr. Hernandez lectures regularly for the Acton Institute and lives in Fort Myers with his wife and three children. He holds a Master's degree in political science from the University of Southern Mississippi.

  • Tisantir

    ” in the American experiment of freedom, the Constitution offers
    the Federal government no space for relief interventions or
    nationalized solutions to social problems”

    But Prof Hadley Arkes notes (“The Mirage of Enumerated Powers”, The Claremont Review of Books)

    “there is no  formula, no principle, nothing arising even out of the logic of the
    Constitution or the American regime that can furnish any hard limits
    that confine the federal government’s reach or divide the local from the
    national jurisdiction.

  • El Lector

    Nice argument — I am very sympathetic —  but author overlooks the federal government’s obvious responsibility for the management of the national economy; would author also abolish the Federal Reserve system?  How would the monetary system be controlled?   What about trade policy?  If there is a legitimate role for these activities, why not poverty alleviation at the local level?  Perhaps modernity — which we can in no way repeal — simply requires a more statist kind of society.

    • Alecto

       The federal government is not empowered with any responsibility for the economy in the Constitution, and especially not under Article I, Section VIII.  The United States amended the Constitution to create the nefarious central bank which is responsible for the total destruction of our currency, our economic stability and has resulted in a series of boom-bust cycles which did not exist previously. 

      Can I suggest you read Lewis Lehrman’s “The True Gold Standard”, Ludwig von Mises “The Theory of Money and Credit”, Hayek’s “A Free-Market Monetary System and The Pretense of Knowledge”, and Henry Hazlitt’s famous “Economics in One Lesson”.  There are too many volumes to name, and sadly most Americans understand not one fact about our economy or our monetary system.  I guess ignorance along with an iPOD is bliss!

      • McCurious

        The Fed would never have been created if it had required a constitutional amendment. The incorporation of the First Bank of the United States was passed by a Congress made up of people intimately involved in the founding of this country.  The bill was drawn up by founder and first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and was signed into law by President George Washington. notwithstanding his own reservations about its constitutionality.  Fortunately the Fed, created by statute, can be abolished by the same.  Please accept this correction of your facts by someone who supports your principle.

        • Alecto

           Without the Federal Reserve Act, there was no need to create an income tax, i.e., Amendment XVI to the U.S. Constitution.  I should have made that clear.  Both the Federal Reserve Act and Amendment XVI need to be repealed, but not replaced. 

          • McCurious

            Historically the income tax has been held constitutional many times. Congress, during the first 100 years of the republic, has often passed taxes upon incomes.  These various income tax statutes were always legally tested at the Supreme Court, albeit usually unsuccessfully.  In fact prior to 1894 the income tax was held unconstitutional in only limited areas, such as with respect to incomes which were earned by State employees which were deemed unconstitutional taxes upon the States.  In 1894 taxes upon income which was received as a result of property rental, corporate dividends and capital gains etc. were held to be taxes upon real and personal property itself, a tax which was denied to the federal government as  a direct unapportioned tax prohibited under Art. I Sections 2 and 9.  The reason that the Sixteenth Amendment was enacted was that it was politically impossible to pass an income tax which included taxes upon income received as salaries and earnings but not upon income derived from profits and rents.  Contrary to the implications of your argument, the income tax was not new in 1913.  The income tax amendment was proposed by President Taft and passed by Congress in 1909 (and then sent to the states) but the infamous Jekyll Island meeting from which emerged the Fed didn’t occur until late 1910 hence making your argument about the chicken (Fed) and the egg (income tax amendment) a bit unlikely.  
            This is not, like the Chief Justice said last week, to say that the income tax or the Fed are good things.  I do think, however, that it is important to get the history right.

  • Brian English

    I hate when Catholics make this argument.  If a Church-affiliated entity is providing a public service, it has every right to be compensated with public funds, and those funds should come with no strings attached.  Why should the Church-related entities reduce their ability to help the less fortunate while at the same time surrendering ground to the government? 

    And do you really believe that the government will leave these entities alone if they reject government funds?  The HHS mandate has nothing to do with receipt of federal funds, yet the government believes it has the right to dictate the actions of Church-affiliated entities.  The answer is to put the government in its place, not impoverish charitable organizations.

    • TraderVic

      Because religious superstition and mythology is not medicine.  Doctors and patients need to make plans for Health Care.

      The ‘freedom’ you wish to allow, would have 7th Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses running ‘Health Care’ institutions, that bill Medicare for laying of hands, witchcraft and voodoo to treat dying children, rather than letting a doctor operate on their compound fracture from a car accident.

      The Catholic Church has Catholic Psychiatrists that is uses to justify doing Exorcisms to pull the devil out of mentally ill people.  And, they call this a ‘healing’ practice.

      If you want that type of hospital, fund it with donations.  97% of income to Catholic Hospitals comes from Medicade/Medicare, Private Insurance, Co-pays, and Private Payments. 

      If Catholics can’t provide the services their customers desire, that are approved by the FDA, they should give up ownership control, and volunteer at private hospitals, using conscience rights to avoid assisting in things they disagree with as individuals.

      Corporations are not people.  Hospitals are not-for-profit corporations.  They are not Charities, and thus have no protections afforded Charities that use 100% donor money, and do not charge for services.  If you want to do Charity, it has to be at your own expense.  If you want to run a not-for-profit business, then you are regulated like any other.

      • Practicing Catholic


        You speak as though what Catholics believe is superstition and mythology.   I can assure you there is a place for exorcisms and deliverance ministries.  There are not a few in our government who would probably benefit from them.  If you are an atheist, that is your choice but your opinion as a non-believer will carry more weight with those in denial of reality. 

      • Kris

        The funny thing is , there would be no hospitals, or schools as we know them today if it had not been for that same Catholic Church that you now label, not-for-profit business.  Look into the fall of Rome and the Benedictine order that founded the beginnings of all this charity ‘business’.  The big difference is, now the catholic church has lost its moorings to this history, that provided acts of charity through individual acting in self sacrafice out of love for their master and for their fellow human beings.  Charity came from the heart not through an organization.  This does not mean that the charity grew into an organized way of being charitable.  Yet, when the organization has forgotten this humble beginning and the subsidiarity that is the guiding principle of that charity, we get what is happening today.  You have some justification for calling the catholic charities, a not-for-profit business.  Unfortunately, that is what many have become. 

      • Brian English

        What an ignorant bigot.  For centuries the Church has been providing medical care, in  many cases for poor people who would not be treated anywhere else, and you want to end all that because Church-related entities refuses to participate in two elective procedures–the murder of unborn children and the mutiliation of reproductive systems.  Tell me again which of us is irrational?

      • John Key

        You are very much part of the problem TraderVic. Your attacks are childish and you characterization of the Church and faith in general betray your small angry and immature mind.

    • Kris

      The only problem is that the ones with the money to spread around are making demands on the Church in how it will now function.  And the Church needs to depend on its head, Christ, not on the government to fulfill its mission.  We have been blinded by all the money.  And is it really money that will address the real issues of what the ‘poor’ need? 

      • Brian English

        But my point is, as long as the Church is providing a public service there should no strings attached.  Especially when the conditions have nothing to do with the Church-affiliated entities mission. 

        I agree that providing for material needs should not be the only goal of Church-affiliated entities.  As indicated in the article, some of those entities have lost sight of that.

        • John Key


          Yes, the Church is one of the top two or three service providers in the country and it is silly to have strings attached. However, the system is broken and the American Experience has largely failed with regard to fairness, equity, common sense. Just as we accept the failings of men in the Church as part of the tragic consequences of the Fall and we trust in the Holy Spirit to keep the wreck on the rails, expecting a secular government to behave nicely is dangerous and naive. The State is not, has not, and will not be the Catholic Church’s friend. Any example in the past that can can point to disproving this has merely been one of convience on the State’s part. The American Church has willingly been duped believing that it would somehow be a good influence on government. Like one person believeing that somehow once married they’ll “fix” those annoying habits of the other person.

          Look, there are real things worth fighting for in America, but the efforts of all people of good will MUST be the radical shrinking of Federal power and influence. This is not a Ron Paul endorsement, but the libertarian platform is the only acceptable position to take in the final throes of the Republic. Being merely a conservative at this point makes no sense. The ballot box is a joke. Again, it requires a radicalism, at least on par with the enemies. The Church is capable of this.

        • Alecto

           Why, then, did the Church agree to strings in the first place such as vowing not to prosthelytize or even mention Jesus in exchange for public funds?  No one held a gun to their heads to apply for these grants? 

    • poetcomic1

       In the mid-South where Catholic Charities has used the taxpayer’s own money to bring in a swarm of barbaric and violent Somali Muslims or when bishops everywhere enthusiastically tout illegal immigration when millions of Americans are out of work (in order to fill the pews emptied by the ‘springtime of Vatican II’), I predict a revival of the Know Nothing Party – and even though I’m a Catholic, I might join.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    As Populorum Progressio reminds us

    “33. Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development.  We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add to the woes of the oppressed. Organized programs are necessary for “directing, stimulating, coordinating, supplying and integrating” (Mater et Magistra 53) the work of individuals and intermediary organizations.

    It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity.  But they must also see to it that private initiative and intermediary organizations are involved in this work.”

    • Tisantir

      True but it does not entitle Church to public money on the pretext of providing public services.

      And the State has right, in fact duty, to impose conditions on the receivers of public money.

  • Alecto

    I didn’t expect this, but was glad to read it.   The fiscal, monetary and economic reality is that there are no funds for any social welfare.  Either the federal government will engage in wholesale theft of private property (which the USCCB is only too happy to encourage) or Americans will revolt. 

    It is a bitter pill that being a free person is so at odds with the Catholic faith.  Whatever persecution this Church suffers is its own doing for ignoring and reviling the principles of liberty upon which this country was founded.  Principles which resulted in the most prosperous and charitable nation in the history of the world.   

    • Tisantir

      Are you sure that the principles of 1776 are being correctly interpreted by Miseans and libertarians?
      The American Declaration of Independence does not support a
      libertarian reading. A good argument is provided by James R Rogers at
      First Things website
      “Collective Action and the Declaration”

      “Consider the very first indictment against the King in the
      Declaration, that “He has refused his assent to laws, the most
      wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

      This was not a complaint about the King’s violating individual
      rights as modern Americans think of them. Rather, the leading
      indictment against the King is that he did not allow the colonists to
      be regulated by all of the laws they thought necessary for their own

      Or consider the next indictment listed by the Declaration against
      the King, that “He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of
      immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation
      till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has
      utterly neglected to attend to them.” Again, a complaint that the King
      delayed the passing of needed laws in the colonies.

      The third indictment gives us a more complete hint of the specific
      right contested for in the Declaration: “He has refused to pass other
      Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those
      people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature,
      a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.”

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  • Mary_grabar

    What needed to be said for a long time.

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  • Jackie Durkee

    It is interesting that Humanae Vitae was written in 1968, just three years after the SCOTUS strikes down state laws prohibiting contraception for married couples in Griswold v Connecticut (1965). 

    And Pope Paul VI writes:

    Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

  • Jacklap

    A most excellant and enlighening article.  Thank you.  For some odd reason, I am reminded of the Golden Rule.  How did “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” become twisted into “he who has the gold makes the rule”?  Our bishops need our prayers perhaps more than at any time in recent history.

    • Tout

      As a Catholic, I too wonder whether our present bishops need more of our prayers. I have my hope on    &    Why don’t our bishops strongly encourage a return of the communion-rail ? Our church put up 2 buildings in the past 17 years, but no altar-rail. So I give only 25 cents every week till we get an altar-rail. Please, receive H.Communion on tongue, not in hand, as started in 1963 without permission of the Pope. Jesus wants to come in us, not in our hand. I knelt on the floor as long as I could. Am too old now. I never received in hand.

  • JohnE

    It seems like a good idea for Church institutions to stop accepting Federal funds for its ministries, and rely solely on donations.  However, would the government quit collecting the taxes that are currently used to fund them?  Somehow I doubt it.  They will just find something else to spend it on.  As long as the government continues to tax for these programs it seems that those who contributed these taxes, which includes the members of the Church, should be able to participate in running the programs they’re paying for provided they can be run in a way that is in line with Church teaching.

    It would seem similar to those who pay to send their kids to parochial school, but must also fund public schools through their taxes.  If they’re paying taxes for education, why shouldn’t parochial schools participate in that funding through some sort of voucher?

    • Brian English

      ” If they’re paying taxes for education, why shouldn’t parochial schools participate in that funding through some sort of voucher?”

      Agreed.  But in most states the teachers’ unions go crazy when this is proposed, so it doesn’t happen.

  • TraderVic

    “Freedom is not only for Americans, but we think of it as something of our special inheritance, fought for at a great price ..”

    In 1776, less than 1% of Americans were Catholic.  So, it is espsecially important to recognize these are indeed ‘inherited’ rights from men who thought unlike the Catholic Church.  The idea of casting off religious control, helped lead to the French Revolution.  In France, the largest property owner was the Catholic Church.  And, they taxed the peasents to death.

    The Catholic Church has derived more benefit from Americanism, than from any other culteral impact in it’s history. 

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    When I was my diocese”s (Charleston SC) director of Catholic Charities, we had no contracts with the federal government unlike so many other CC agencies.  I was never envious of those who did and believed that they wielded so much power controlling inordinate amounts of taxpayer money. I predicted at the time that there would come a day when Catholic agencies could no longer take government money because they would have to compromise Church teachings and God’s law to do so. That day has now arrived.  It is time that the bishops sever all contracts with the government.

  • The hour is late now.  The time to stand firm may have passed. Weakness and compromise have been the name of the game by the ones in authority and we are going to reap  and rue the consequences.

  • givelifeachance2

    Expresses my thoughts exactly.  We laymen should let our pastors know that we are willing to support this declaration of independence of the church from the government by offering our own time, talent, and treasure to the needy through the church, and also by sacrificing the comforts of a capacious church building and campus if need be to protect our independence.  If tax-protected status is lifted, our model should be the brave underground worshippers in China who have no roof over their head for services.
    I have recently thought that maybe the reason so many bishops have wanted the government takeover of medicine has been sheer exhaustion at running our own Catholic hospital systems, coupled with the decimation of diocesan cash flow due to sex-abuse payouts.  If this is the case, we can strategically ratchet down where necessary without giving up our signature charitable efforts (one of which should certainly be maternity and adoption services, addressing both prolife and artificial reproduction tenets of Church teaching).   But let’s be honest about it and not pretend that government is the better vector for charity.

    If we can’t be involved as much in actual health care delivery, we can certainly be involved in coordinating sustainable, subsidiary solutions for health care for Catholics, which I would think would look more like the Amish family-centered care than the sterile, high-tech, crony-infested  Brave New World.

    Remember that our witness as Catholics was never so effective in America as when it was the simple, voluntary, unsubsidized care like the Civil War nuns gave the soldiers.   Though those nuns are frequently bragged about by the current crop of LCWR nuns,  they fail to recognize the key characteristic of these 19th century role models was their refusal to take more than expense money from government, let alone the near million dollar salaries that some current Catholic hospital execs get (eg, Sister Carol (Give back that pen!) Keehan).

  • James Stagg

    Thank you, Mr. Hernandez for a well-researched and overdue statement of principle for the Catholic Church in America.  Your conclusions are correct; your premise is admirable.  If such a principled stand were taken by the American Bishops (I will not hold my breath), the federal as well as state governments would have to return to an “arm’s length” relationship with the American Church that would strengthen religious liberty greatly.  At present, there is no such respect on either side…..I see an slave-owner’s tone to bureaucratic government mandates, while I see a slave’s pleading for so-called “needed” funds by these agencies:  “Please, Massa, jus’ one more sip of (government) water.”, to put it in vulgar terms.

    Catholic hospitals, as noted elsewhere, provide a large amount of critical emergency care, most times with no income.  That will not change if they refuse to accept Medicaid or Medicare payments, but rely on insurance and private payments, as well as charitable donations from individuals, companies and foundations.  One year of this experience would overwhelm government alternatives, and perhaps even result in federal and state insurance reform which would allow personal medical accounts, rather than government-sponsored tyranny.

    Catholic charitable organizations, minus government “help” could more effectively relate to local charitable needs, rather than diocesan or national campaigns.  If foreign aid (Haiti) for example is needed, parish to parish, or diocesan to diocesan help would be much more effective (better aim, less waste) than sending thousands of trucks, for example, which have no roads on which to be driven, and few drivers, and no fuel.  Anyone with St. Vincent dePaul Society experience or close observation immediately sees the value of personal charity, either person-to-person, or personally funded for that purpose, as opposed to  shotgun-scattered, government-delivered absurdity.

    Right on, Mr. Hernandez.  Your words, your ideas, will be dismissed by fools, but they will not be superseded by serious alternatives.         

  • Joanne Meyers

    Hasn’t the Church learned its lesson?  Obviously not!  Once you accept funds from the Government, you make them your lord! Mother Teresa and saints in the past begged in the streets for the poor and became one with the poor. They didn’t look for a government program to minister to the poor. They were the program.  Excellent article.

  • Carl

    Wow, my sentiments exactly, and I liked the Pharaoh analogy at first, but after much thought later I find it depressing, as I find the analogy too close to the truth.

    It just seems to be a mountain too tall to climb, a river too wide to cross, and to overcome such an entrenched socialistic ideology that permeates our society today.  Much like the Israelites then our founding fathers escaped an overbearing King in order to create our wonderful nation.  History shows that only when starting fresh does mankind get it right before he fails again.

    And history has also shown that the palaces of Pharaohs, Kings, Tyrants, Dictators, and Imperialist were built upon the bowers of paradise.  Our culture appears too enthusiastic to end the American dream.

    And then where will go?

    • Carl

      And then where will we go?

  • J. Charles

    A most thoughtful article that gets to the heart of the issue, that being accepting Caesar’s money allows Caesar to impose conditions. Btw, professor Hernandez also has history on his side, our poor immigrant parents and grandparents built hospitals and schools without a penny from government Faith of or Fathers. Mr English might do well to learn this before challenging our author, and he should abandon his idea that we somehow need to make the government Republican and then make the church its ally and partner as a better so,union to the situation facing catholic institutions. Professor Hernandez has not only the better argument but heroic era of American catholic history on his side.

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