Benedict’s Coming Revolution Over State-Funded Catholic Charity

Pope Gregory XIV once said that “a lifetime is not enough” to see all of Rome. Similarly, the contributions of Pope Benedict XVI will last far beyond our lifetimes—yet their most lasting impact might be barely visible today. Take his “Regensburg Lecture,” delivered in 2006. The media huffed that the address offended Muslims, and wrote off the rest. It should not be surprising that their postmodern mentality chose to ignore the lecture’s fundamental theme: that rationality is required of all men—not just of Muslims but also of those who are deconstructing the dessicated remains of Western Civilization from within. In Benedict’s long view, whatever becomes of the West, Islam and Christianity are going to be around for a long time, and the only possible conversation between them will have to be a rational one. When that time comes—perhaps in the far future—both Islam and what Pope Benedict has called the Dictatorship of Relativism that dominates the West will have to confront that challenge with equal intellectual vigor—and honesty.

Solzhenitsyn once observed that “falsehood always brings violence in its wake.” Catholics recognize the pope as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, and Christ as the Prince of Peace, as well as “the way, the truth, and the life.” For Catholics, truth and peace are intimately connected; hence, in a world where falsehood thrives, so too does violence. And it’s not just Marxists who believe in endless war as the engine of progress: Benedict recognized that advocates of violence come in all colors and time zones, and he never bought into the slogans of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth—especially “War is Peace.” He knew the difference.

We Catholics also owe Pope Benedict a debt of gratitude for rescuing the Sacred Liturgy, and restoring the Latin Mass that prevailed throughout the Roman Rite for hundreds of years before the Second Vatican Council. In fact, Benedict rescued the genuine Council from the hands of those who had emptied it of its content and used it as a symbol (and often a bludgeon) to advance their pet plans for “reform.” He has patiently insisted on the teaching of all Catholic doctrine, even the unpopular parts—and he recognizes that young people long for the moral truths of the faith, and need them desperately.

Those truths are just as true today as they were fifty years ago. And just as essential.

Fortunately, the bogus “Spirit of Vatican II” and its dwindling gaggle of dissident left-wing cheerleaders is giving way to a generation of younger priests and laity who have chosen to confront the perilous times with fortitude, rather than selling out to the pop culture for a few flattering mentions in the New York Times. The results of Benedict’s “Liturgy Rescue Mission” will be ever more visible in decades to come, and they will be profound.

The Restoration of Voluntary Christian Charity
Many leftists cheered when Benedict issued his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est in 2005. They ignored most of the document, naturally, which insists that true charity is inseparable from Christ and His Church. They focused instead on his condemnation of “unbridled capitalism with its cult of profit.” The leftist progeny of earlier Liberation Theologians deny what Benedict affirms: that his critique is inseparable from what he calls a “Christian anthropology,” a view which is threatened by the modern resuscitation of an “ancient material hedonism” that flows from “a purely horizontal and materialistic view of life.”

Was Benedict overstating the issue? Hardly. That ancient and noxious aroma is everywhere. Witness the recent remarks of Mr. Taro Aso, Japan’s finance minister, who said last month that old people on government-funded medical care should “hurry up and die.”

Of course, any finance minister should worry about money. But Benedict has noticed that many Catholic “charities” might be preoccupied with money too—even permitting financial need to give a back seat to what true Christian “Caritas” is all about. Hence, in 2012 he promulgated Intima Ecclesiae Natura, a law whose consequences will have a serious and lasting impact, especially in the United States.

In the next twenty years, we will witness one of the biggest shifts in Church’s educational and charitable activities. When Intima Ecclesiae Natura, is fully implemented, the Church will have to sever its ties with an increasingly hostile, even hedonistic, secular government, and cease accepting government funding for its charities, its educational institutions, and its hospitals. The results will be revolutionary—and liberating.

No “Catholic” charitable activity is to be conducted outside the authority of the bishop, the document states. “In particular, he is to take care that their activities keep alive the spirit of the Gospel.” (Article 6).

And how should the bishop exercise that authority?

“In particular, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that charitable agencies dependent upon him do not receive financial support from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to Church’s teaching. Similarly, lest scandal be given to the faithful, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that these charitable agencies do not accept contributions for initiatives whose ends, or the means used to pursue them, are not in conformity with the Church’s teaching.” (Article 10, § 3)

In Charity and in Truth
It is no accident that, in the past fifty years, countless Catholic institutions have diluted, ignored, or even defied Catholic teaching, as the amount of government funding they receive has steadily increased. Catholic universities made their move rather dramatically, renouncing the authority of the Church in the famous “Land O’Lakes” statement of July 1967. This “declaration of independence” from Rome made it possible for them to receive federal funding made available in Lyndon’ Johnson’s Higher Education Act of 1965. Since then, they have received billions in taxpayer dollars.

The same conundrum faces Catholic Charities, USA, and Catholic Relief Services, both of which receive a majority of their funding—billions of dollars a year—as federal contractors, often operating alongside, or even cooperating intimately with, organizations whose principles “are not in conformity with the Church’s teaching.”

The implementation of Benedict’s new law will resuscitate true voluntary charity after a century-long Church alliance with a government that has now turned against it in fury. But do not expect it to be welcomed. Leaders of these Church bureaucracies (including the colleges and universities) will undoubtedly insist that Intima Ecclesiae Natura changes nothing, that they need the money, and that they are already obeying it anyway.

Unfortunately, they aren’t. But it will be a brave bishop who will hold their feet to the fire; and it will take a brave pope who will guide, support, and instruct those bishops with love, fortitude, and perseverance. After all, billions and billions of dollars are at stake—a drop in the bucket to the feds, but critical to funding Church institutions as they are run today.

And that is why those institutions will change dramatically as Intima Ecclesiae Natura is implemented in coming years, and the Church renounces government funding (as bishops in Illinois and Oklahoma already have). Once those “golden handcuffs” are removed, liberated Catholic bishops will also be able to implement existing Canon Law regarding public scandal. Raymond Cardinal Burke, who heads the Vatican’s highest court, insisted earlier this month that, if a Catholic politician “support[s] legislation which fosters abortion or other intrinsic evils, then he should be refused Holy Communion.”

Such steps are taken not only to bring the supporter of “grave moral evil” back to the Church, but also to avoid “the grave sin of sacrilege,” as well as to prevent public scandal, since failure to act “gives the impression that the Church’s teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is not firm.”

The contributions to the Church of Pope Benedict XVI are immeasurable indeed. As the years go by, he will be fondly remembered, and increasingly appreciated. Let us pray for him, for his successor, and the Holy Mother Church.

Editor’s note: This recent column by Dr. Manion is reprinted courtesy of the Bellarmine Forum. The image above is a detail from the “Parable of the Good Samaritian” by Domenico Fetti painted in 1623.

Christopher Manion


Christopher Manion served as a staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He has taught in the departments of politics, religion, and international relations at Boston University, the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College, and is the director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae™, a project of the Bellarmine Forum Foundation. He is a Knight of Malta.

  • The Land o’ Lakes accord was the biggest disaster in the history of Catholic education in the United States. What part of ‘You cannot serve both God and mammon’ do people not understand?

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    When orthodox, practicing Catholic faithful tell their bishops that they will no longer contribute to parish and diocesan funding until they sever all ties with the Federal and State government, then the bishops will take the matter seriously. You cannot maintain an active affiliation with Satan and think you will not run the grave risk of losing your soul. Bishops: you are accountable. The Church and the State are not synonymous.

    • hombre111

      If the amount of money given to the Church by the government disappears, we will have a much smaller Catholic Charities, because all those good orthodox, practicing Catholic faithful will not step up to the plate.

      • Stephen_Phelan

        This is true. Faster, please.

        A faithful and vibrant Catholic Charity can do much more good than a compromised, secularized version with a much bigger budget.

        • hombre111

          Considering the legendary generosity of Catholics (1.6% of income given to Church, parish supported by around 20% of its people) Catholic Charities would be in big, big trouble. Have you already risen to the level of your rhetoric and given 10% of your income to your parish and to charity, as the Bible prescribes?”

          • and why do you think that is? Why do you think people have left the Church for Protestant Mega Churches? Our Parishes and our Catholic Charities have become corrupt. You call a Parish for a Birth Certificate and they work like it is the DMV. I tried to volunteer at the homeless shelter and they said I had to attend a special training. The training was only offered at 5pm to 9pm on a single weeknight night every month in the very worst neighborhood. You try to donate food and they refuse it because it was not prepared by a chef. We have become hypocrites! Stop chasing after money… God always provides. So say your Psalms, put on your armor and remember that if God see’s you to it… he will see you through it!

            • hombre111

              You don’t get birth certificates at parishes. But they do give out baptismal certificates. Homeless shelters and donated foods? The food bit is the law. People got sick, so a regulation was passed. The homeless shelter? I requires more than good intentions. They want to size you up and see if you will help more than hurt.

          • Stephen_Phelan

            You probably know why I can’t answer the last, cheap, question, but you’re still missing the point. If taking money from a government or other entity comes with the requirement, spoken or unspoken, that you go against your principles or even keep quiet about injustices, then the money should not be taken. The church has always done more good with less than governments, within its areas of competency, and when it is true to its identity.

            As you surely know, religious conservatives on average give much more of their income to charity (even non-church charities) than secular liberals, religious liberals or secular conservatives. ( and I would not be surprised to find that the generations of poorly catechized Catholics who don’t know why the Church teaches what she does about contraception also don’t give much to charity. I believe the current vice president gave only a tiny portion of his income to charity.

            • hombre111

              Religious conservatives on the average give much more. Do you?

          • FRLBJ

            The Bible does not prescribe that amount for Christians. The Jews, yes. I am reluctant to give when the money goes for schools I can’t afford to send my children and where immorality is taught in religion class. Also the liturgy and music is so abysmal, disrespect for Our Lord’s Real Presence… How is the typical parish and diocese being a good steward of the monies they have? I will give it to those who are being good stewards and gladly, from the heart as the Bible does say.

            • hombre111

              Every cheap skate has his esxcuse.

              • FRLBJ

                There are other ways to support the Church outside of the local parish or diocese. The money that the US Bishops have given to Obama’s community organizers is a scandal. Yes, the USCCB has and continues to be bad stewards of the monies. Why is it Christian to pay someone else who is not even Catholic to do good deeds (in the best case scenario)? It is totally anathema to pay a non-Catholic to build a culture of Death from the collection basket!!!

                I cannot give money to pastors who support secular sex education children in ‘Catholic’ schools. We will give to those who live out the Catholic faith in their words and deeds.
                Also the abysmal liturgy and disrespect to our Lord in most Catholic parishes is unsupportable.

                Also, why the terribly banal translation of the readings and Gospels? I cringe when I hear it. I am grateful that the rest of the ordinary Mass is better, but the vernacular has an inherent problem with its temporary nature. It is much more difficult to preserve the truth and great vigilance must be exercised on the part of those in charge of overseeing language updates. If they aren’t motivated by a true love of God, it can be a great disaster.

                If the local Church and dioceses had projects (run by practicing, Catholics), orthodox seminary and diaconate education, truly Catholic schools for the poor and not for the rich, then it would be worthy of support.

                • hombre111

                  As I was saying, there is always an excuse. How much of your income did you give last year? I was a cheapskate and admit it, but I was not looking for excuses.

                  • FRLBJ

                    The Church does not require a certain percentage or amount! Look it up! Protestants do, but we aren’t Protestants, are we? We give to support the Church, but not much to the diocese or local parish. And it is not any of your business how much I give! Did you know you can give directly to the Holy Father, for example?

          • FRLBJ

            The Old Testament prescribed it for the Jews, not Christians. You are misreading the Bible. We are to give much more than mere income. We are to give ourselves!

      • WageSlave

        You can say that again. If Intima Ecclesiae Natura is implemented in the States:

        1. It will be over the dead bodies of 98% of the American bishops.

        2. Look for 99.999% of all Catholic parochial elementary and high schools to close.

        3. There won’t be a single “Catholic” hospital, clinic, or medical office (though that will likely be forced anyway by the PPACA).

        4. Since most “Catholic” universities/colleges are CinOs, no change there. The ones that try to stay faithful will close due to collapsing student enrollment. No federal student aid means only 1 in a thousand potential students could afford it.

        5. What little charity there is will have to be restricted to registered parishioners.

        There will be some rule or regulation that will put the church in peril if money is given to a “non-participant”.

        Good thing I’m old. I don’t want to be around to see how this plays out.

        • There are hardly any meaningfully Catholic schools left anyway. When our first turned five, we decided to homeschool because the ex-nun running the local parochial school had successfully eliminated most distinctly Catholic aspects of the education offered there. The local Catholic high school is even worse.

  • rtjl

    “It is no accident that, in the past fifty years, countless Catholic institutions have diluted, ignored, or even defied Catholic teaching, as the amount of government funding they receive has steadily increased.”

    I work along with a local evangelical drug rehab group that adamantly refuses government funding. One of their slogans is “Once the shekels come in, the shackles go on.”

    They know that in order to keep faith as a tool in their rehab program, they cannot accept government funding.

  • I am grateful to Mr. Manion for the insights re Intima Ecclesia Natura, and I am also heartened to see that Canon 915 is being spoken of as well. It seems to me that the discussion must also include a lengthy treatment of the “shackles” of the IRS 501c3 status of the church, which effectively silences most American bishops.

  • Lt. William J. Lawler II, M.Ed

    In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, when an individual seeking assistance contacts a parish or the Archdiocese directly, they are referred to government agencies. When asked what services the church offers with the money donated specifically for local charitable use, an obfuscated non-answer is provided. It seems that the Church, in Philadelphia at least, has become nothing more than a referrer for the state. And what of those who do not wish to receive government welfare which is funded with money stolen from others with the use of force and the threat of violence? But instead wish to receive charity from those who donated voluntarily and as such turn o the Church? Well it seems that those who administer “charitable aid” in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia don’t seem to understand that concept. Another problem is that if an individual seeking aid does not qualify for government assistance then the Church assumes that person really does’nt need the assistance. You can figure out the problems with that logic for yourself. I would imagine that this is the case throughout the Church in the United States.

    • crakpot

      I hope that the Church will return to deciding for itself how to “triage” the needy, once it is dispensing only money given voluntarily. Another tie I expect to see severed is in marriages. Currently, the Church requires you to get a marriage license from the State in order to marry in the Church. If the Supreme Court forces us to recognize homosexual unions as equal to heterosexual marriages, the Church could not require obedience.

  • browniexyz

    So….now do others see the irony and hypocrisy of Catholic schools sporting the announcement, “This is a United States Department of Education Blue Ribbon School!”????

  • ALELUYA, Christ is Lord!

  • djpala

    Why must we wait ‘decades’ for this to happen ? N.D’s holier than thou, St. Hesburg, was the mover & shaker behind the ‘land-o-lakes’ fiasco. He in effect sold the Universities soul for millions of atheist dollars from the likes of the ‘rockefeller & ford foundations’ ! The corruption fermented there still smells today. What of the USCCB annual fraud called the CCHD collection. The ‘seamless-garment’ Bishops tell the faithful it is for the “POOR” when in fact they grant these millions, collected in every parish, to anti-Catholic, left-wing communist & Pro-Abortion groups. The CCHD must be permanently abolished !

  • hombre111

    Benedict may have his impact, but he will be remembered for only one thing: he had the good sense to quit and avoid the harm Pope John Paul caused as he oozed away, drop by drop.

    • musicacre

      You’re not worthy to lick his boot! much less insinuate you are abetter person because you have the freedom to pontificate on this site and embarrass yourself. Let’s hope when you are old and infirm no one is as vicious towards you as you are towards someone you couldn’t hope to do as much much good is you live 5oo lives!

      • hombre111

        I am very old. Pope Benedict is my sixth pope. I have seen the damage done as popes hit their decline, because the Church is put on hold or passes into the hands of people who claim to act in the pope’s name. As for John Paul? He was a great pope who challenged the world. But his death was a long, long decline that left a stagnant church. Electing a 78 year-old was a guarantee that some crucial issues would never be faced. At least Pope Benedict had the guts and the dignity to go away before he was drooling like his pedecessor.

        • I cannot even remotely agree that John Paul II left a stagnant Church. Anything BUT! I’m also not aware of any issue that the Church failed to face before JP II died and/or during Benedict’s reign.
          If anything, many issues have not been addressed because either bishops or laity did not wish for them to be addressed.

          John Paul II felt he needed to show the world how to suffer. He did so in as holy and virtuous a manner as he could. That Benedict has chosen a different route merely reflects to me a difference in the approaches these two men each took to leadership. Neither is inherently wrong or right, but emphasizing different things.

          I don’t know what you think we’ve seen seeing in the past 30 years, but I, for one, will remember John Paul II for his Theology of the Body. I’m saddened–and angered–by the fact that our late Pope offered this during the early 80’s, but nobody presented this even in high school theology class in the late 80’s. For some reason, they didn’t deem it important or something we could understand.

          I will also remember John Paul II for the fact that he dared to provoke the Church to venture into the outdoors in faith.
          I could wish I had been with him on his trips in Poland. It’d be nice to see such efforts by our priests today in the US.

          If we think the Church moves too slowly, perhaps we ought to place more of our own effort into making things happen. Bishops and priests can’t do everything, you know.

          • Kim58

            Yes, the laity stepping up is critical…but it can also be discouraging to those who do step up. My husband and I are currently leading a 12 week DVD series based on JPII’s Theology of the Body for teens…from our parish of 2,500 families, guess how many signed up to take our class? Just 2. Oh well.

            • djpala

              We attempted to read ‘Theology of the Body’ in our Parish adult group of 30 to 40 College Grads. It is beyond comprehension & we abandoned it after 7 weeks of futility. Someone should put it into plain English instead of the ‘Theological Terminology’ ! Try G.K. Chesterton, pertinent & entertaining !

  • Louise

    There are many ways to “come up to the plate” and give to worthy charities, even Catholic ones, without having to give to charities which are tax supported.

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  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The Church has been relying on state funding for a very long time.

    In an assembly of the Estates in 778-779, Charlemagne, as King of the Franks, issued an ordinance, “Concerning tithes, it is ordained that every man give his tithe, and that they be dispensed according to the bishop’s commandment.” A Capitular of 800 made the payment of tithes universal within the fiscal domain of the whole Frankish kingdom.

    From this time onwards, therefore, we may say the civil law superseded any merely spiritual admonitions as to the payment of tithes. Their payment was no longer a religious duty alone; it was a legal obligation, enforceable by the laws of the civil head of Christendom.

    In France, the dime was abolished in 1789, 1,010 years after Charlemagne’s ordinance.

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  • midwestcatholic

    Let’s not be naive. The bishops like the arrangement the way it is now, or rather, the way it was before they had to deal with the HHS mandate. It’s easier than actually running the Church as a Church.

  • midwestcatholic

    PS. It seems to be nearly forgotten that we don’t do charity in order to eradicate poverty and redistribute income. We’re not a government organization with that kind of goal. We do charity for spiritual reasons. The point of religion is to get to heaven. Hello.

  • I’ve also been saying this for years: But I had no idea how far the corruption truly went.

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