Charity Under Fire
Obama’s planned tax hikes that will target the “wealthy” (that is, the top 5% of wage-earners who already pay over 60% of federal income taxes) also pose a lethal threat to religious charities that depend on voluntary donations (and I am not aware of any that don’t). Obama intends not only to raise the to tax rate on those top-tier taxpayers, but also to limit the amount of charitable deductions that those taxpayers will be allowed to deduct on their income-tax returns. Well, as the old saying goes, “if you tax something, you get less of it,” so Obama should not be surprised if charities suffer even more lost donations than the dismal economy has already caused.
In fact, Obama not only anticipates just such a decline – he has apparently already planned for it. According to the American Spectator, “Obama is telling charities, ‘Don't worry about the tax increase on your donors, government will be here to make up the difference if you have a down year because of my policies.’” The Spectator cites Capitol Hill staffers who are actually writing the legislation, who warn that if a charity receives any compensation from the “federal fund to offset charitable losses,” the money will come with strings firmly attached. “If, say, a Catholic hospital sought and received those funds, it would be required to adhere to federal polices on issues like abortion. Or the hospital could simply not seek the funds to make up the difference,” the staffer tells the Spectator.
This attempt at intimidation puts the Catholic Church in a very tight spot. Our bishops already receive billions a year in government aid for Catholic Charities alone. Catholic hospitals and universities get billions more. In Washington, there is always a quid pro quo. If the Church takes the quid, what quo are we giving in return? Could it be the silence of countless bishops regarding pro-abortion Catholic politicians? Or the mush-laden “guidance” that gave 55% of Catholic voters the USCCB’s imprimatur to vote for Obama? Whatever we’ve paid so far, Obama wants more. He is targeting all voluntary charity, discouraging charitable contributions from Catholic donors, and putting a gun at the head of submissive charities, forcing them to buckle under to the onerous anti-life regulations that the Obama Administration announces daily. It constitutes a nationalization of charity, pure and simple.
For Pope Benedict, deus caritas est. For Obama, it’s Caesar caritas est.
The End of the Affair?
For many years our bishops have traditionally been Democrat-friendly, but many are finally waking up to the aggressive war on the Church that is being waged by the core constituencies that control the Obama-Clinton Democratic party – the feminists, the pro-abortionists, and the homosexual activists. In California, even liberal bishops were shocked at the vulgar hostility directed at the Church and other supporters of Proposition Eight, the successful constitutional amendment that confirmed the traditional legal principle that marriage is between a man and a woman. Now, in Connecticut, two rabidly pro-homosexual legislators, State Sen. Andrew McDonald and State Rep. Michael Lawlor, have directed a shot across the Church’s bow with legislation that essentially demands that the Church hands over its administrative functions to the state. Admittedly, this is just one more incidence of petulant outrage from vexed “gay rights” types, but as of this writing the state legislature has not censured these malefactors or expelled them for their blatant bigotry, even though the sole target of their legislation was Catholic parishes (as of this writing, the legislation has been withdrawn for review by the state attorney general).
Ironically, while the sponsors claim that the legislation aims to avoid mismanagement of funds, they are silent on the most egregious case of church management in the state, perpetrated by the gay pastor of the most wealthy parish in the Bridgeport Diocese. The priest, the affable (and now former) Father Michael Fay, flaunted his flaming homosexuality for years, parish regulars tell the Wanderer, and is now serving time in state prison for stealing and spending hundreds of thousands of church funds on his New York boyfriend. Another Bridgeport Diocese pastor, Father Michael Moynihan, has since been removed for stealing hundreds of thousands from his parish for his New York boyfriend in a case strikingly similar to that of Fay).
Bridgeport Bishop William Lori condemned the McDonald-Lawlor bill, which he called “a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.” His observation represents a great step forward – finally, an important Church leader has recognized that a rogue government will vindictively punish those who disagree with it. Now if only our bishops recognized that the billions they receive might be a reward from a rogue government for their silence -- a silence on which Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin, and countless other pro-abortion legislators depend every time they identify themselves as Catholics and present themselves to receive the Eucharist.
The late Avery Cardinal Dulles once observed that, in these troubled times, while the Church required “extraordinary” bishops, most of our bishops were “ordinary” men. In this age of the laity, one would expect that extraordinary laymen and laywomen would step forward to sustain our shepherds, and undoubtedly many have. However, if the bishops were to look for guidance from lay leaders, they might be distressed at how uncertain is the trumpet’s sound.
Consider the challenges confronting Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Since he arrived in the nation’s capital, he has been confronted with pro-abortion Nancy Pelosi’s “Inaugural Mass” at Trinity College, the host of pro-abortion legislators who regularly receive the Eucharist in his archdiocese, and, most recently, the nomination to Obama’s cabinet of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, whose archbishop has publicly barred her from receiving the Eucharist. Now comes news of the nomination of the former Mayor of Washington, abortion-rights supporter Anthony Williams, to be a Knight of Malta.
Founded in the eleventh century, the Order of Malta is older than most of the religious orders in the world. Its members are drawn from the ranks of the influential, the wealthy, and the accomplished. Its members perform remarkable corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Among them are many of Cardinal Dulles’s “extraordinary men” who also provide substantial financial support to the Church. But if Archbishop Wuerl looked to these leaders for a sententia laicorum communis to inform his priorities, we could not blame him if he concluded that the Culture of Life was not very high on their list – even though the Church expects the laity to take the lead in issues regarding secular government and legislation (Can. 212§3).
Most Reverend Thomas Welsh, R.I.P.
Bishop Thomas Welsh, the founding bishop of the Arlington Diocese, was buried last week. A modest, holy, and very effective man, he is the reason I first moved to Arlington almost thirty years ago. His new diocese was created both to reflect the growth of Virginia’s Washington suburbs (“We’re the bedroom of Washington,” he told me in 1977), and to separate out northern Virginia from the very liberal Diocese of Richmond, which until then had encompassed the entire Commonwealth (when Virginia’s population was four percent Catholic). Bishop Welsh attracted many wonderful priests and encouraged the founding of many vibrant apostolates in the diocese, and laid a solid foundation for an orthodoxy that has survived the vicissitudes of the passing years, by the grace of God. May he rest in peace.
Write Christopher Manion and discuss (or criticize) his Wanderer articles at the Catholic Guys Internet blog (http://thecatholicguys.blogspot.com).