By DOROTHY GRILLO
Periodically, Catholic service organizations, including Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, come under attack by those who either don’t understand or oppose Catholic Social Teaching.
Recently Brian Anderson, senior editor of City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute (an ultraconservative, social policy think tank), wrote an inaccurate article entitled, “How Catholic Charities Lost Its Soul.” His misleading argument was repeated in, “A Wrong Turn for Catholic Charities,” published in the Opinion section of The Chronicle of Philanthropy. George Will, New York Post opinion columnist, used the appointment of John DiIulio, a Catholic, as head of the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to cite Anderson’s earlier article in his column, “A New Take on Keeping the Faith.” Will’s article was reprinted in South Carolina newspapers, and these publications have caused some of our neighbors, including parishioners, to question the funding and activities of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Charleston.
Anderson visited only two of more than 1,400 Catholic Charities sites to qualify himself as an expert on how Catholic Charities agencies conduct their work. The visits were conducted after he wrote “How Catholic Charities Lost Its Soul,” and he misrepresented facts. For example, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Hartford has never had a paid lobbyist and did not fight welfare reform. In fact, the U.S. Catholic bishops, characterized by Anderson as, “with notable exceptions, a reflexively left-wing group,” unanimously praised the balanced work of Catholic Charities agencies.
In the Diocese of Charleston, Anderson’s arguments are moot. Catholic Charities has no government contracts. We receive two small FEMA grants to support food programs, and the only state assistance we receive is Medicaid reimbursement for five elderly residents of the Carter May Home in Charleston. Neither cover the actual cost of delivering services or impose restrictions in terms of religious activities or standard policies.
South Carolina Catholic Charities is dependent on volunteers, the generosity of those who support the Diocesan Development Fund (the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal) and the annual Catholic Charities Mother’s Day Appeal. We receive additional donations and bequests from individuals and organizations and grants for specific projects from Catholic foundations like the Sisters of Charity Foundation. Funds designated to be used for a specific purpose are restricted to that use and support a wide range of services, including Neighborhood House Soup Kitchen, clothing centers, food pantries, direct financial assistance to the elderly, disabled, pregnant women, families with young children, and the Poverella mentoring program to name a few. We support Respect Life activities, adoption services, prison ministry, migrant ministry, counseling services, the Carter May Home, and after school programs. When catastrophe strikes, we provide crisis counseling teams and disaster assistance. We advocate for the poor and most vulnerable, support education about social justice, and are a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves: the unborn, the migrant, the frightened and the hungry. We do this because the Gospel calls us, all of us, to do so. It is just not enough to feed hungry families. We also must raise the public question about why hunger persists. Catholic Charities would draw no criticism for simply running soup kitchens. It is challenging unjust social structures that draws fire from those who would like to pretend racism, hungry children and social injustice are merely figments of Catholic imagination.
Catholic Charities procedures are consistent with Catholic principles and Catholic social teaching. We are bound, as a member of Catholic Charities USA, to a strict Code of Ethics. We support the dignity of human life from conception until natural death, the value of the human person, and the sanctity of the union of man and woman in marriage; we serve the neediest and the most vulnerable members of the community; we are faithful to biblical values, the social teaching of the church, and relevant sections of Cannon Law; we subscribe to, and advocate for, the principles of subsidiarity; we support legitimate and necessary governmental responsibility for programs essential to the general welfare. Catholic Charities agencies support a balanced approach calling for both individual responsibility and social responsibility.
Our ministry has been an integral part of the Catholic Church for 2,000 years. Pope John Paul II told Catholic Charities members, “For your long and persevering service — creative and courageous, and blind to the distinctions of race or religion — you will hear Jesus’ words of gratitude, ‘You did it for me.'” In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that we will be judged by how we treat him, found among the hungry, homeless, sick, imprisoned and poor. So we do all this because we are Catholic Charities. You don’t have to believe the pope, the bishops, or me. Please come and see for yourself. Volunteer in a Catholic Charities program, meet Christ among the poor and then decide.
The soul of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston is sound, most assuredly Catholic, and not for sale.
For more information about Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston, visit our web site at www.catholic-doc.org/catholiccharities, call your local Catholic Charities Regional Office or contact the Office of Social Ministry at (843) 402-9115 Ext. 15.
Dorothy Grillo is the director of the Office of Social Ministry and Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Charleston.