Funding for Faith-Based Initiatives Seen as First Hurdle
The first real test of whether President Bush’s proposed faith-based initiatives will succeed in changing the way the nation’s social services are provided will come in his budget proposal, said an official with Catholic Charities USA. Sharon Daly, vice president for social policy at Catholic Charities, said she sees some very good ideas in the proposal for encouraging community and faith-based groups to have an expanded role in social services. She thinks the president’s description of what he considers the “right role” for faith-based groups in the government is appropriately balanced.
“The real test will be the president’s budget, though,” she said. If plans to have more nongovernmental groups handling social services do not include expanded funding for those services, “somebody is going to be left out.” “The bottom line is if there’s not additional money, it’s going to be hurting care,” Daly said. For instance, there is already a nationwide shortage of affordable housing, Daly explained. If the faith-based initiative only pulls more organizations into the pool of those trying to provide low-cost housing with too little money, fewer, not more, poor families will end up being accommodated.
Bush’s budget, expected in early February, also needs to cover a more realistic reimbursement rate for social services that already are handled by organizations like those affiliated with Catholic Charities, Daly said. The rate at which contract agencies are reimbursed for services provided on the government’s behalf is far too low, she said. That means the sponsoring agencies have to subsidize the actual costs of counseling or day care that the government does not directly offer. “Our agencies hardly ever get reimbursed more than two-thirds or three-quarters of the costs,” Daly said. If the reimbursement formula does not change, the need to subsidize government-funded programs by itself will be a hurdle that keeps some faith-based and community organizations from participating, she believes.
Daly said she looks forward to any efforts to “remove some of the mindless rules” that affect participation in government-funded programs—such as a prohibition on having crosses on the walls of church-based day care programs that are subsidized in part by the government. The 1,400 local agencies affiliated with Catholic Charities USA serve about 10 million people a year in a combination of government-funded and privately funded programs.
Tom Chabolla, director of the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s Office of Justice and Peace, said that while the initiative recognizes the work faith-based organizations do, he is apprehensive that it will be used as a way to “lessen the commitment the federal government has to providing basic safety nets,” he told The Tidings, the newspaper of the archdiocese. “None of this can be a substitute for the direct things that government can do, like raise the minimum wage, protect workers in the workplace and help people at the neighborhood level to organize and take control of neighborhoods and communities,” Chabolla said.
The Rev. Jim Wallis, a founder of Call to Renewal, an interfaith coalition that fights poverty, said there is a danger that faith-based organizations will become “the cleanup crew for bad social policy” if the government does not continue to hold up its responsibilities. “There are certain things the government has to do,” he said. “We [faith-based groups] can’t do health care and housing for 40 million families.”
N.Y. Bishops Urge Religious Exemption in Contraceptives Bill
New York’s Catholic bishops have called for a religious-conscience exemption to a bill passed by the New York Assembly on Jan. 29 that would require employers who provide prescription coverage to cover contraceptive costs. The requirement for contraceptive coverage is contained in a bill on women’s health that also mandates coverage for such procedures as mammograms, bone-density screenings and cervical screenings. “There are a lot of good things in it,” said Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference. Yet, “We consider this thing pretty serious in terms of our basic religious freedom,” he added.
Theology Professor Removed After Episcopal Ordination
The president of Duquesne University, John Murray, relieved Moni McIntyre, a theology professor, of her teaching duties in the Catholic university’s theology department in the wake of her ordination as an Episcopal priest. “She is now a publicly proclaimed, official teacher of Anglican doctrine, which differs from Roman Catholic doctrine in very important areas,” Murray told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “To present her as a teacher of Roman Catholic theology under these circumstances is a contradiction which is not in keeping with the mission of the department of theology, the university or the Roman Catholic Church.”
“We do not just advertise for theologians. The universe of people from whom we select theologians is based on Catholic theology,” Murray said. “The fact of the matter is everybody knew that Dr. McIntyre was a nun and certainly was a Catholic. Now she’s standing up and teaching Catholic theology and she is saying by her very public status that she doesn’t agree with it. We would not hire someone who is publicly protesting doctrines of the church. Because of her status, she is necessarily doing that.” In his letter to McIntyre, Murray made reference to Ex Corde Ecclesiae.
It is possible for McIntyre, a former nun, to teach elsewhere in the university, Murray told CNS. She has continued to be paid her salary since she was relieved of her teaching duties on Jan. 8.
Seminarians, Teachers Expelled for Boycotting Ordinations
Some 70 seminarians and teachers were expelled from China’s national seminary for not attending bishops’ ordinations last year that lacked papal approval, Catholic sources told UCA News. One source said the exact number expelled could not be confirmed because vacancies were soon filled by new enrollees at the Chinese Catholic Theological and Philosophical Seminary in Beijing. More than 100 priest-teachers and seminarians refused to attend the controversial ordination on Jan. 6 of five bishops without a papal mandate, the church sources noted.
Population Growth Spurs Jesuits to Reassess Hispanic Ministry
Jesuits involved in Hispanic ministry are reassessing programs to reflect the growing Hispanic population in the U.S. church. They said trends include more community organizing which stresses empowering people to solve problems and improving ways of bringing Hispanics into the Jesuit education system. It also involves developing a variety of programs to respond to the diversity within the Hispanic population, they said. “We have to do more than give moral support. We have to reach out,” said Tacho Rivera, S.J., president of the Jesuit Hispanic Ministry Conference.
Pope: ‘Incapacity for Consent’ to Marriage Must Be Understood
Pope John Paul II warned church marriage tribunals to avoid an overly loose interpretation of a provision allowing annulments because of either spouse’s “incapacity for consent” to a marriage. Speaking on Feb. 1 to members of the Roman Rota, a Vatican tribunal that handles appeals of marriage annulment cases, the pope said, “No interpretation of the norms regarding the incapacity for consent can be correct if it in practice renders this principle useless.”
Canon law allows a finding of incapacity for consent to enter into a marriage when a person is lacking in the use of reason, suffers grave lack of discretion of judgment or is unable to assume marital obligations because of a debilitating psychological condition. What the provision requires, the pope said, is to ascertain whether the spouses “truly grasped the essential natural dimension of their conjugality, which implies the intrinsic requirements of faithfulness, indissolubility and potential fatherhood/motherhood.”
Abortion Dialogue in Massachusetts
Activists on both sides of the abortion issue held a press conference on Jan. 29 to describe their involvement in a six-year-long dialogue. They began the discussions after the murders in December 1994 of two abortion clinic staff workers in Brookline, Mass., near Boston, by John Salvi. In the aftermath of the shootings, Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts at the time, William Weld, had called for talks between leaders on both sides of the issue.
Six individuals, three leaders from each side, participated in more than 150 hours of often-difficult conversations. They spent much of the past year co-writing a 3,100-word joint statement available online at www.publicconversations.org . “We have glimpsed a new possibility: a way in which people can disagree frankly and passionately, become clearer in mind and heart about their activism, and, at the same time, contribute to a more civil and compassionate society,” said a portion of the joint statement.
Dramatic Shift Found in Americans’ Views on Foreign Aid
A new poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes shows that Americans are far more supportive of U.S. foreign aid than they were five years ago and would strongly back U.S. participation in a global campaign to cut world hunger in half by 2015. The poll found that substantial majorities of Americans support emphasizing humanitarian aid in U.S. foreign aid, focusing such aid programs on the poor and channeling aid through religiously run and private charitable organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, Church World Service and CARE. Only about one-fourth, however, supported military and economic aid to Egypt and Israel, or military aid to friendly countries in general.