Catholic Charities of Chicago has joined the massive lawsuit against the Obama administration over the HHS mandate. William McGurn’s column in the Wall Street Journal analyzes this startling news.
As McGurn points out, Obama got his start as a community organizer working with Catholics at Holy Rosary Church on the south side of Chicago. Now, the organization that gave him his start is suing his administration. McGurn writes,
On Monday, Catholic Charities of Chicago—the social-welfare arm of the archdiocese—joined other Illinois Catholic organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s mandate that would force these Catholic groups to offer free contraceptives through their insurance, in violation of church teaching. The suit’s message is direct: Mr. President, your mandate will make it impossible for us to do our jobs.
What is the impact in Chicago of the work of Catholic Charities?
Chicago’s Catholic Charities employs 2,700 full- and part-time staffers delivering relief aimed at helping people achieve self-sufficiency. They do everything from stocking food pantries to helping people with HIV/AIDS, resettling refugees, housing seniors, and training people for jobs.
Last year alone, that translated into 19 million meals in the form of groceries for single moms, another 2.5 million meals served to the hungry or homeless, 458,000 nights of shelter for families and children, and 897,481 hours of homemaker services for seniors. And these numbers don’t include the thousands of inner-city children served by the archdiocese’s Catholic schools but not on the Catholic Charities budget.
Catholic Charities of Chicago serves all in need, not only Catholics. They also employ non-Catholics. Because of this, they do not qualify as a religious organization under the HHS mandate, and will be required to provide, free of copay, abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization to all employees. Their other choices are bleak: they could fire all non-Catholic employees and serve only Catholics, or close.
Some have criticized the federal and state monies that Catholic Charities of Chicago receives and administers by contract. As McGurn points out,
It’s not, however, the only public question. Another important one is this: Will our society rely on civic institutions or the government to deliver these services? Does anyone really believe we would be better off turning over the work of Catholic Charities to states or the feds—with their higher costs, greater bureaucracy, and loss in efficiency?
We must also understand that though government money comes with strings attached, we don’t lose our religious liberties because we accept government money.
Overall, 92 cents of every Catholic Charities dollar goes to recipients, which is one reason Catholic Charities is so often chosen for contracts. The church can provide such value because for every staffer, it has nearly seven volunteers. That works out to a volunteer army of 17,000 people, larger than Chicago’s police force.
It’s worth asking what Chicago might look like if these religious volunteers were limited to employing and serving only those who share their faith. And not just Chicago. Across America, volunteers with other faith groups are also reclaiming lives and neighborhoods in a way that even Mr. Obama says is far superior to any government program.
Do we really want to replace faith-based community organizations with government-run programs?