However, what none of these statements disclose is this: The USASpending.gov website reveals that the USCCB received more than $91 million for resettlement programs for Syrian refugees. The average Catholic who reads about the bishops’ ardent opposition to President Trump on immigration issues is not aware of this startling conflict of interest. It’s fair to assume, also, that when the USCCB claims to help resettle “approximately 30 percent of all refugees entering the U.S. each year,” American Catholics assume their donations are funding this effort.
It might fairly be asked, does it matter whether or not the USCCB’s resettlement program is funded in part, or in full, by the federal government? Assuming the program is fully in line with the Church’s teaching on immigration, what does it matter where the money comes from as long as the job gets done? How else would over 100 Catholic dioceses in the U.S., Guam, and Puerto Rico have refugee resettlement offices?
Doesn’t the Church compromise its prophetic voice when she becomes dependent on the state for not only programs but also maintaining infrastructure? And what becomes of bold proclamations by the bishops for or against immigration and resettlement policy, when they have a vested interested in keeping those monies flowing. Finally, why aren’t Catholics made aware that when the plate is passed annually for donations to the USCCB, Catholic Charities, and CRS, they are being asked to pay a second time, assuming they are taxpayers?
Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services received $202,000,000 and $426,943,000 respectively in 2016. For CRS, federal monies accounted for 64.70 percent of its total annual budget, for Catholic Charities, 11 percent. In total, Catholic institutions in the United States received over $500,000,000 in federal funding in 2016. (It’s interesting to note that Planned Parenthood received nearly the same amount of government funding in 2016.)
With these amounts of money flowing through Church budgets, it’s hard to know where the Church ends and the State begins. The Obama years, by the way, added to the largess: there was a $120,000,000 increase in CRS funding during Obama’s first year in office, and the $91,000,000 paid directly to the USCCB was unprecedented.
The Catholic bishops’ latest release from March 22 is a “pastoral reflection” from the Administrative Committee of the USCCB calling upon Catholics to, “Call, write or visit your elected representative and ask them to fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”
But to tell the truth, the bishops have shown little or no concern for border security, which is one of the reasons Catholic voters supported Trump/Pence 52 percent to 45 percent. A common argument being used against border security is that the “first duty” of the government is not to protect its citizens but, “to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the human person. Persons have the right to immigrate and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, especially financially blessed nation.”
This explanation of immigration policy from the Office of Migration and Public Affairs of the USCCB, to my mind and many other Catholics, describes exactly how the United States has been trying to accommodate immigrants and refugees for many years. America has been generous with its bounty, not out of duty but out of its identity as a nation of immigrants.
What the bishops fail to realize is that what they call the “second duty is to secure one’s border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good” has been ignored for too long. That’s why there are both duties, to make sure that generosity does not become a danger, or that national security does not close our open arms. It was Donald Trump, not the bishops, who recognized this imbalance and is seeking to correct it. And it was voters, especially Catholic voters, gave President Trump the mandate to “enforce the law for the sake of the common good.”
After the election, instead of reaching out to the new administration, the bishops began their barrage of press releases, but even worse, this past February twenty-four bishops signed what was called the “Message from Modesto.” This statement was nothing less than a declaration of activist war on the Trump administration. It quotes Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego at length, calling for a grassroots strategy of “disruption” against those, “who would seek to send troops into our communities to deport the undocumented, to destroy our families.”
The Catholic Bishops should stop for a moment and reevaluate whether this is the posture they want to take against a president who doing precisely what they describe as the “second duty” of government. They also need to ask themselves whether after the $91,000,000 from the Obama administration in 2016 they retain the high moral ground to address the immigration issue.