U.S. Bishops Denied Federal Grant to Help Trafficking Victims

From Carol Zimmermann at Catholic News Service:

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Since 2006, the U.S. Catholic bishops' Migration and Refugee Services has helped more than 2,700 victims of human trafficking obtain food, clothing and access to medical care.


That service has come to a halt because the agency recently learned it did not receive a new grant award for this work from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement. MRS' prior contract for the trafficking program ended Oct. 10.

Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service Oct. 11 that she hoped the Catholic Church's "position against abortion, sterilization and artificial contraception has not entered into this decision" by the HHS refugee office to reject MRS' application for a new grant, "especially since this administration has said it stands fully behind freedom of conscience."

She noted that the MRS's anti-trafficking program "ran quite well without these services" and said it would be "tragic if abortion politics harmed the men, women and children already at risk because of the crime and scandal of human trafficking."

MRS officials had no immediate comment, and HHS officials contacted by Catholic News Service did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for not making the U.S. Catholic bishops' agency include referrals for abortion, sterilization and artificial contraception in its anti-trafficking program. That case is still pending.

Sister Mary Ann said in an email to CNS that MRS officials are concerned about their clients and hope they will "not suffer from a clumsy transition to new agencies or from limited or lack of services."

Read the rest here.

At the Washington Examiner, Charlie Spiering also wonders whether "payback" is involved.

The article states that MRS also worked with subcontractors, about one-third of which are Catholic. Others included Lutheran Family Services, Jewish Family Services and anti-domestic violence groups, so it not just the Catholic groups that will suffer from this loss. But without comment from HHS confirming a reason, it's impossible to know exactly why MRS didn't receive funds. Let's hope this isn't a matter of spite, because such actions do nothing to further discussion about religious liberty or freedom of conscience. And the inevitable delays that will accompany the transition of MRS's caseload, will only hurt those people who are most in need.

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Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Mary Kennedy (#21)

For the first and second time in AMerican history, Congress did not pass a budget for fiscal year 2011 and 2012.  FY 2010 was the last fiscal year a federal budget was voted on by Congress and signed into law by the President.  The country has been running on "continuing resolutions" since the end of  fiscal year 2010 meaning whatever was approved of in 2010 continued forward in fiscal year 2011 and 2012.

 No budget exist for 2011 and 2012 because while discussed the details of a budget were not agreed to in Congress.  Earlier this year a budget passed the House for 2012 but the Senate rejected both the President budget and the budget the House passed. 

In the beginning of August 2011 as part of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling a super committee was formed of six Democrats in the House and Senate and six Republican from the House and Senate tasked with finding tillion dollar cuts in the budget from from 2010.   But the agreement fromthe committee on what to cut if anything is due in mid  November.  If no agreement cn be reach automatic budget cuts will be made on defense and social programs. But no cuts have been approved of yet. 

So if funding was available in 2010 for MRS which it was MRS would have the same funding now.  So the fact that the Catholic Bishops did not get a grant from MRS as in previous years needs to be explained by MRS which they have not done.  

The Washington Examiner referenced article reference in the article above implies that MRS objects to not having "comprehesive services" by which they may mean abortions provided by agencies they give grants to.  But MRS has not given any statement explaining why the grant to the Catholic Bishops program was not renewed.  

7 years 3 months ago
David Smith, Most voting Catholics do care about those issues. But not enough to remember the ins and outs of this bad deal until Friday, much less until a year from next month.

As for "snubbing" the bishops, I thought they were all Republicans anyway. Did I miss something?
7 years 3 months ago
I am glad we have a highly intelligent, highly principled, post-partisan and post-racial president who cares about the plight of the vulnerable.
Crystal Watson
7 years 3 months ago
Isn't the whole point of these services to help victims of human trafficking?  It's not about the hurt feelings of the Bishops, it's about offering the victims all the services they might possibly need without some services being restricted or going unmentioned because the church has certain religious beliefs.  The church can still help victims of human trafficking, they just may not get taxpayer $ to do so.
7 years 3 months ago
"25% of the taxes paid to the US government are from Catholic citizens; should we pay taxes and then accept ideologically-driven exclusion from grants back to our communities?"

Citizens don't get to earmark their taxes. If they did, there would be a heck of a lot less traffic enforcement. Taxes are collected and revenues are allocated governments; taxpayers are not consumers with a choice of services. That's a price we pay for civilization.

Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Brett Joyce (#8)

You have the right approach.  If Catholics have to ask is this payback or is the Obama administration antagonistic then Catholics have a big political problem that Catholics need to solve at election time.   Why play peek-a-boo with the Obama administation?  Catholics should know were they stand with the Obama adminisrtation and the Democratic party.  But many Catholics do not, mostly becasue they do not want to recognize how profoundly the Democratic party has changed in the last forty years.

Unfortunately the Obama admistration and the Democratic party get very significant political support from pro-abortion forces, whom they are very obligated to.    The Democratic party platform stated goal for at least the last twenty years  is abortion on demand -  free abortions nationwide at  government expense.   Only the political fact that about three-forths of all taxpayers do not want the government to pay for abortions prevents this from becoming federal law.  Administratively however Democrats in office are very hostile and intolerant to Catholic moral beliefs on abortion and pro-life policies of Catholic institutions.   Yet most Catholics have still not caught on that the Democrat party has profoundly changed from what it was in their grandparents experience over forty years ago before the Roe v Wade Suprem Court decision became the law.  
But Catholics should not support for office politicians that do not support Catholics in significant ways such as support for pro-life stand of Catholics. 
ed gleason
7 years 3 months ago
To talk as though a 17 million dollar grant is in  the middle of Obama's desk and the subject of Oval Office meetings is delusional.  Why not wait for HHS response before mounting a charge of the lite brigade.. and I mean LITE
Mary Kennedy
7 years 3 months ago
befor getting exorcised, has anyone checked to see if HHS still has funding for this or if some of that funding is what has been cut?  I don't know the answer, but it would be an important thing to know before assuming ill will.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 3 months ago
Of c ourse this event in isolation is no big deal, but when seen in the larger context of President Obama and the liberal democratic agenda, it's pretty clear that the Obama administration is opposed to Catholic morality and moral influence on several fronts and is fighting a rear-guard action to undermine the Church's ability to support Catholic prolife and other issues with remarkable consistency.
Expanding and facilitating elective abortion with such means as public funding is of course one of the major issues the president, and I suspect you and your friends (Ed, if I accuse you unjustly, I would like nothing better than for you to correct me), are fighting for that the Church opposes. Another in the case of the president is Catholic opposition to capital punishment which the president favors, although on this issue I suspect President Obama moral conviction would flip as soon as he saw it would gain rather than cost him votes. Another is the protection of the union-governmnent juggernaut that has provided us with such an expensive and disastrous public education system controlled by the same union-government collusion. So far they have managed to hold back the forces of democrats such as Michelle Rhee and the inner city parents who desire access to the vouchers that will offer their children a chance at the American Dream their existing union-dominated public schools have successfully denied them for decades. And this agenda may have had an impact even on our editors here. In 2008 B.O. (Before Obama, that is), America had this to say about the denial of vouchers to inner city children and their parents: "America has long been in favor of vouchers, yet the possibility of a nationwide program...seems remote. The influence of the teachers' unions make this a formidable challenge....It is very difficult to ask families to remain committed to public education in light of such underperformance...legislative leaders are quick to dismiss the Pell Grant for Kids proposals, and with it the hopes of many struggling families." (America, Aid for Kids, 2/18/08.) Who could have said it better? But can you imagine that appearing in America since Obama was elected? Even the recent study done in Los Angeles by Jesuit's own Loyola Marymount that concluded over 98% of Los Angeles' parochial school students go on to graduate from high school as opposed to under 70% in the public school system has somehow not been noted here, to the best of my knowledge.
And since Catholic influence is dependent upon contributions to thrive, the Obama administration, wishing to limit the influence of the Church (and perhaps any organization outside the control of the government), is attacking that source of funding by attempting to limit the deductability of charitable donations. 
I got a good chuckle out of your reference to the "Lite Brigade" and wish to reconfirm it with but the addition of the single word you missed: the Catholic brigade supporting President Obama's liberal front is leading the Charge of the Catholic Lite Brigade. And as 2012 rolls around, that group may turn around to find, metaphorically at least, similar support backing them up and facing a similar result.
7 years 3 months ago
Of all sites, this is one where I expected discussion. But once again I am seeing familiar talking points.
 "The Catholic brigade supporting President Obama's liberal front is leading the Charge of the Catholic Lite Brigade." Who are the officers and men of this brigade? I know there are some Catholics who were Democrats and would be former Democrats if there were a party to go to. I am one of them. I am more inclined to follow the bishops' last resort: vote for neither. I can't identify a Catholic-Democratic bloc as of yore, except in the fevered minds of some people who believe in it. As for Mr. Obama's "liberal front," gimme a break. Until you see "single payor" on a live bill and no more Gitmo, all you have from Mr. Obama is Republicanism with a human face.
ed gleason
7 years 3 months ago
Why are trying to morph a refugee issue into an abortion issue for those who want Obama out?. Do you all wait in anticipation for the Tea Party/GOP  victory and the restoring 17 million  of immigration/refugee funds? That's even more delusional than what I posted before. The TP will vote for another billion for ICE to round up those refugees and deport them all. 
Walter you say I'm not pro-life because I don't buy into your agenda of tying every political issue  to anti-abortion and school vouchers. I feel no need to defend my pro-life position to transparent right wing ideologues but.. My wife and I have encouraged women to give birth by kindness, care and encouragement. Waving law and pictures is not only counter- productive, it has hardwired the pro-abortion stance into the  minds of the populous. Where have you people been for 40 years? The vast majority of Americans and even a majority of Catholics are so suspicious of your kind of agenda they would never vote for giving vouchers to religious schools or criminalizing abortion.
Consider for a minute that if the leaders of the Church bought into your stance we would have abortion pictures instead of stations of the cross in all our churches and homilies about criminalizing abortion. This has not happened has it???;if you have eyes to see and  ears to hear, revise your stance please, it has no chance of success and is so counter productive it gives comfort to the enemy of pro-life. We live in a political compromise society so join in the kindness and love approach .. show the flag of the Gospel to women with a difficult pregnancy and this will attract women to go to term just as Jobs birth mother did. P.S  A good friend of ours headed up MRS and we donated at the time.  

Michael Kelly
7 years 3 months ago
Mr. Mattingly:
             I hope you don’t take offense at this, but your occasional comments are difficult to read – so much so that I am inclined not to try.   Please take the time to format your comments with frequent paragraph breaks, preferably with a line space separating the paragraphs.  (If I may suggest, the easiest way to format properly for the benefit of readers is to write your comment in Word or some other program and them copy and paste it into the comment box.  Then use the preview comment feature to be sure your comment is presentable.) 
             Also, in regard to Kerry Weber’s post on the Obama administration and Catholics, see Colleen Carroll Campbell’s excellent article “Obama is alienating Catholic voters” at
Mary Kennedy
7 years 3 months ago
Nobody responded to my query this morning, so I went looking and found this which lays out the HHS appropriation for this program for last year. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/olab/budget/2011/ORR.pdf I couldn't find anything for FY 2012.  Has anyone else found a 2012 appropriation?  Or  is it possible that this was/is on the chopping block with all the budget cuts in the ''austerity'' program being pushed in Congress? 
Mary Kennedy
7 years 3 months ago
Mr. Maher
You are exactly correct that instead of a budget the dysfunction in Congress has matters of public funding held hostage to continuing resolutions.  Does the current resolution, which is for a short period, fund this activity. No agency providing these services appears to have funding at present.  Is it just slightly possible that HHS is in a "wait and see" mode  here?

How is this money let to the agencies? RFP? RFGP? Multi-year agreements?  There are far, far too many unknown facts for any casual observer to conclude punitive intent on the part of HHS. 

"Sister wouldn't be concerned if this wasn't sinister" is not up to snuff as a logical analysis.
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Mary Kennedy (#23)

The Uited States government and its worldwide operations are running inclubing new initiatives like Libya military campaign.  But the United States has not had a budget for two consecutive fiscal years and has been running on a continuing resolution for over a year - effectively continuing the budget allocations of fiscal year 2010. 

Dysfuntion Mary is when the President's own party which controls the Seante votes down this spring the President's budget with its astounding 1.4 trillion in new indebtedness.  The Preseident never followed up with a new budget acceptable to his own party.deinvolved himself further in the bubget process.  The result is the U.S. government a 3.5 trillion dollar operation is operating without a current budget, the main finacial contol mechanism for any enterprise.

But the government is operating.  MRS is operating and making grant funding decisions decisions one of which was made to not fund the Catholic Bishops MRS services.  

As  Ed Gleason noted this decison in question was not made by President Obama or the White House staff.   This decison was made by the federal MRS agency without explaination or reply to inquiries.

Your explaination of cuts might have been made are not supported by facts.  The media director however on the ground would able to see and comment on  unusual outcomes.  The Obama administration HHS has begun in September a process of redefining health care to include and require contraceptivies sevvices without regard to Catholic intitutions objection,  When MRS agency states new requirements of grantees providing "comprehesive health services"  there is a known problem decaues "health services"  has been redefined to include many new services that are objectionable to the church.  The nation is experiencing a very rough implementation of the new open-ended health care law of 2010, Why make excuses for the administartion's known disregard and unreliability in protecting the church's religious interests?  

The real question is: just how diysfunctional is the Obama administration?    The federal MRS agency for reasons of openness and transparency alone should reply to inquiries on its decisions to not fund the Catholic Bishop's MRS.  
Tom Maher
7 years 3 months ago
Crystal Watson (#5)
Ed Gleason (#10) 

The Catholic Bishops media relations director is obviously signaling that there is an obvious poitical problem with MRS. Not funding a program without notice or expalination obviously causes disruption to the people the program is serving.  Let's not kid ourselves this disruption of service is knowingly harmful and is raw and destructive hard-ball abortion poliitcs the kind that goes on all the time and everyone recogniozes, as even suggested by Sister Mary Ann Walsh in her hope that abortion politics is not at play here. 

If you have been paying attention at all it is no surprise that abortion politics is red hot contentious, partisan and continuous.  The Obama administration has knowingly made a point of requiring  "full services health care " incuding abortion and contraceptive by Catholic institutions fot them to continue recieving federal program funding.  This MRS decision without expalination follows the same pattern of religious  intolerance and disruption of the service being adminstarted by the church.  This loss of funding is significant and can not be trivialized as being easy to replace with private funding.  It is not the Bishops job to conform to the wishes of abortion activist in the Obama administration.


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