If you’re really interested in tax reform, the USCCB and Catholic Charities USA may not be…


A Wall Street Journal op-ed calling into question whether tax “reform” should disallow the deduction for charitable donations offers a nugget of data that Catholics interested in tax reform should carefully consider.

The “nugget” is the total amount of money the federal government is pouring into charitable programs sponsored by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Charities USA (CC-USA).  The op-ed notes:

Religious organizations also receive large infusions of federal funds. Catholic Charities USA receives more than half of its funding each year ($554 million in 2010) from federal grants. In 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops received $63 million…in federal grants.

It’s difficult to unpack the exact numbers because the recipients oftentimes use multiple names.  That said, the USCCB directly received $34,767,249 in the form of three awards in 2012.  That’s 17.3% of its 2012 annual budget.  CC-USA directly received $5,546,607 in 2012 for 21 contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The President of the William Simon Foundation, James Piereson, who wrote the op-ed, stated:

These are reputable institutions, and many of the programs they sponsor are important. Nevertheless, in view of their dependence upon government funds, no one can seriously maintain that these groups are “independent.” Instead, they form one of the more powerful lobbying forces in Washington for increasing government spending, especially spending on tax-exempt groups.

Forget all of that “lobbying” to garner more federal largess which, in turn, only increases the federal tax burden on the less than 50% of U.S. citizens who pay income tax.

Bad as that is, all of that lobbying represents these organizations’ ever-increasing dependency upon the federal government to subsidize their “charitable” work.  And that’s the problem: The government knows just how to pull those strings when it’s to the government’s advantage to do so.

If the government threatens not to increase funding, leaders of charitable organizations cry “Wolf!”, insisting their organizations will no longer be able to provide the quality of goods and services all of those people who are dependent upon those organizations have come to expect. Why?  Those leaders define “no increase” in funding as a “cut” in funding.

Then, too, if the government was to cut funding to those organizations, those leaders will also cry “Wolf!”, insisting that the cuts will hurt those who are already dependent upon those organizations as well as all of those additional clients who also need the goods and services provided by those organizations.

In the end, the government uses the power of the purse to control those organizations, exerting appropriate pressure to get them to knuckle under to the government’s diktats. Never forget: The government wants those charitable organization to do its bidding and to promote its policies.  Look at what Obamacare has attempted to do to Catholic higher education and the nation’s Catholic hospitals.

So, where is the lion’s share of all that federal largess to the USCCB and Catholic Charities USA going?  “Immigration services.”  Hmm…why ever would the federal government so willingly fund Catholic organizations to provide those “services” and not “educational” services, like parochial schools?

Charity is an individual’s love of God and neighbor that is demonstrated in that individual’s freely-given acts of love. Churches—funded by their members—do that.  Government can never do that.

It might very well be time to eliminate the tax deduction for charitable donations as part of a much larger tax reform package.  This should include eliminating the IRS and introducing the flat tax (with appropriate thresholds for the poor, destitute, and those in need).  Then, let’s see if “charity” is really charity or if much of it is just a tax deduction.



To view the USCCB data, click on the following link:

To view the Catholic Charities USA data, click on the following:

To view the USCCB 2012 budget news, click on the following link:

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The Motley Monk

The Motley Monk is Fr. Richard Jacobs, O.S.A., a Professor of Public Administration at Villanova University. His academic specialities include: organizational theory; leadership ethics; Catholic educational leadership; and, U.S. Catholic educational history. Check out Fr. Jacobs' daily blog at http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html.


  1. Religious charities – especially Catholic ones – should never accept any funding from Government. Such funding by its very source contaminates and makes the receiver beholden to the policies, programs, objectives and aims of the provider. As long as charities run by or sponsored under Roman Catholic Church receive any such funding from the Government, that same secular Government will always act to coerce the receiver into accepting and implementing its secular policies, programs, objectives and aims, regardless of the religious or moral objections of the recipient against such, and regardless of the First Amendment. Religious charities have to always stand on their own two feet independent of Government so that when the time comes, they will have the moral fortitude to tell the Government to go pack sand when being forced to accept / promote abortifacients, contraceptives, homosexual marriage etc. Indeed, as long as religious charities accept Government funding, then by definition they accept Government’s secular policies, programs, objectives and aims. We must be pure and remain uncontaminated.

    “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

  2. Sarah recently pointed out something really apt here.


    Worse, they [the government] can make it so the only rational choice is for you to take “government services” which means most people will then fight to keep those services, because they can’t imagine surviving without them.

    [A]t the same time, by taking from you the means to provide for yourself – through taxes, social security excise, unemployment insurance, the myriad bites out of your paycheck – the government makes that choice inevitable.

    This is why I don’t judge conservatives who are on disability or unemployment or supplemental income. What their political choice means is that they see that government is buying their soul piecemeal and binding them up with velvet shackles, and they’re trying to change the system so that others (many of these people are now older or infirm and there’s no hope for them) won’t fall into that trap.

    Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying “They’ll turn us into beggars because beggars are easy to please.”

    (I recommend the whole thing.)
    Makes ya think, doesn’t it?

  3. I have a question as a relatively new Catholic (received in 2010):

    Why is it that the USCCB statements seem always to avoid pointing out the potential conflict between fulfilling our individual (i.e., personal) responsibility to the sick, the poor, the widows, orphans and those in prison and the impersonal delegation of those responsibilities to the state (i.e., government)?

    I know I have heard some (not necessarily fellow Catholics, or even non-Catholic brethren) assert that “the private sector” can not meet the need. However, that claim is ridiculous on its face. As any sentient person who thinks about it for a few minutes can easily realize, the government creates no (as in zero (0)) wealth. Every cent that the government has, it has acquired by taking from one or more citizens, through taxes, fees, impounds, fines, and penalties, or lacking that by continually “printing” money out of thin air by borrowing it from others (buyers of Treasury bonds, etc.).

    If the state must thus obtain all of its funds from the citizens (who are in fact the only creators of wealth, whether individually or in the employ of companies that provide goods and/or services), how is it that the citizens are incapable of doing what government cannot do without taking the required resources from the citizens? The premise is patent nonsense. Yet we are repeatedly told by the authors of the statements of the US Conference that we should be not simply willing participants, nay but by means of the ballot box the electoral enablers of a hierarchy of bureaucracies which repeatedly promise heaven on earth and deliver graft and corruption.

    I simply fail to understand how our shepherds can be so unaware of the effect of the words that are published under the name of their Conference.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  4. “Why is it that the USCCB statements seem always to avoid pointing out the potential conflict between fulfilling our individual (i.e., personal) responsibility to the sick, the poor, the widows, orphans and those in prison and the impersonal delegation of those responsibilities to the state (i.e., government)?”

    The Bishops in the USCCB (not all, but most) abdicate to Caesar the responsibility that Christ gave to us as citizens in the Kingdom of God. By having done that, they negate our citizenship in the heavenly Kingdom for a bowl of porridge for which Esau sold his birthright. They do not wish to understand the principle of subsidiarity. They live in a fantasy world where America is still a rich and basically Christian nation and they refuse to see how applicable Jesus’ words to the Church at Laodicea are to them (and us):

    “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.” Revelation 3:18-19.

    I am disgusted with the USCCB, CCHD and the whole lot.

  5. There are a few clarifications needed with this post:

    First, there is a simple typo: you say that Catholic Charities received $34M (repeating the amount found for the USCCB). But the link shows it is actually around $5M.

    Second, it is not clear that the funds given by the federal government are part of the budget shown on the USCCB site. If you notice, the government funds are for migrant services, and this might not be part of the overall budget (it might be a completely separate administration of funds). So you can’t say that the federal government supplies 17.3% of the USCCB budget. The same might be the case with Catholic Charities, but possibly not.

    Also you don’t note that Catholic Relief Services is actually the biggest Catholic recipient of federal government largesse.

    I agree that the Church should not receive any government funds (how is using tax dollars “charity”?), but we should be clear on the details.

  6. During the Bush years, there was so much focus on getting faith-based organizations to do the work of the social safety net because they could supposedly do a better job than the government. Now WSJ and the AEI thinks this costs too much money.

    It’s true that churches compromise their prophetic role by taking government money. But doubt seriously that the WSJ and AEI are concerned about that. Their interest is in ever-lower taxes, and so they want to further shred the social safety net.

  7. ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Mary Jo Copeland who founded “Sharing and Caring Hands” in Minneapolis refuses to take ANY government funding for these very reasons. They work very hard to keep funding this ministry which is ALL donated. They serve hundreds of people every day. In every capacity. It can be done. I personally have funded my own projects for many less fortunate, as well as unwed mother’s with a widow’s mite. I came from a very poor background. As a matter of fact I consider myself to be an original “street person” as my parents had me while looking for work back in the 40’s. They literally were living out of their car when they came to Wi. No welfare, no subsidies, nothing, and my poor dad had an 8th grade education. He died very young but he died an independently wealthy man due to his grit and the help of people who gave him a leg up. We never forgot those people and have paid it forward ever since. Doesn’t matter the race, the religion, or the circumstance. If you really want an independent life you will never get it from the federal government. One time I was working for Dorothy Day center and someone came in and asked to put some pro-life(god forbid) materials in the lobby. Couldn’t do it because they got government funding. Enough said,

  8. Paraphrasing Chesterton, “we don’t love humanity, we love (individual) people.” It seems to me that charities funded to “helping humanity” and their benefactors gradually lose sight of the individual and begin evaluating their programs on “how many served” – where inevitably the bigger the number the better. Much like the “mega churches” who measure their success on the number of people they fit into the auditorium church. It is a very mistaken approach, not because I say so, but because it has proven a giant failure from the “great society” of the 1960’s to the great money grabber called “cancer research.”

    The Kingdom of God cannot be achieved through governmental funding, only by the hearts of individual persons – something which the USCCB needs to be reminded of. (Remember subsidiarity?) They’ve certainly fallen into the “numbers served” trap and with the many reasons cited by others, just one more to get out of the government funding snare. Oh, and so much more they need to get their noses out of.

    Sure we must do our best to insure the fairest most just government, and best people to guide them, but governments are not charities but only a necessary framework or organization to work within. Perhaps there is room without compromise for individuals to claim charitable giving as not part of their taxable income, and the right for individuals to direct their tax dollars for the civic duty part of educating their children (no monies for religious ed) but in the latter, without preconditions other than responsible citizenship. Granted more easily said than achieved. (I would rather see all education privately provided and government out of the business – at least federal gov.)

  9. Great comments.
    Thank you. You have, in my opinion, realistically called it.
    Your scriptural quotes fit.
    Thanks for all of the input.

  10. To Kevin,
    It is true that all education COULD be privately funded. In point if fact, much of it is. However, there is a problem with that. Those who could not afford education, could not attain the skills needed to earn a living, and would become dependent on others.
    Also look at the benefits; Jonas Salk,(polio vaccine) if I remember correctly, went to City University of New York.

    School vouchers – as used in Europe – would be the best answer, in my opinion.

  11. Religious charities – especially Catholic ones – should never accept any funding from Government. Such funding by its very source contaminates…
    Paul W Primavera

    I agree. I can’t find anything in Scripture that reveals to us that the poor “are Caesar’s” and to be rendered unto Caesar.

    [Those whose] interest is in ever-lower taxes… want to further shred the social safety net.

    Looks more like a hammock – or even a sticky spider’s web – to me than any “safety net”. I’ve seen plenty of cases in which people in genuine need are denied government help and malingerers get benefits they don’t deserve. Worse, government programs are difficult to escape and to many they are disabling of the human will and spirit.

    The larger the government, the smaller the people. And the Church is made of people. Therefore, we should be suspicious of enlarging government’s scope and shadow over the people. Maybe one could even say let us shrink the State for the glory of Our Savior’s Body.

    It seems to me that charities funded to “helping humanity” and their benefactors gradually lose sight of the individual…

    …, for example, Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

    If our current pope’s warning about the Church devolving into just another NGO is to be heeded, a deep and critical examination of CCHD’s continued existence is in order. Seems to me that CCHD’s excuse for being around is based on the premises of a Liberation Theology-lite.

    The Bishops in the USCCB (not all, but most) abdicate to Caesar the responsibility that Christ gave to us as citizens in the Kingdom of God.
    Paul W Primavera

    Some people excuse such abdication through fear that calls for individual charity will never gain as much cooperation of the public as the State could coerce. They believe this justifies using a kind word and a gun rather than just a kind word alone. Alas, some (most?) of our bishops exhibit this fear.

    It is true that all education COULD be privately funded. In point if fact, much of it is. However, there is a problem with that. Those who could not afford education, could not attain the skills needed to earn a living, and would become dependent on others.

    Unless you’re expecting God to supply teachers as he once supplied His people with manna, you’ll never escape your “Those who could not afford… would become dependent on others” problem.

    You may wish to review the Martial Artist’s discussion of where the State’s money comes from. (Spoiler alert! It’s “others”.)

    Doesn’t seem practical to rely on the honest, free generosity of your own self and others you can persuade? Well, as Ayn Rand once wrote, “What is practical depends upon what you wish to practice.” We should not practice coveting our neighbor’s goods.

  12. “So, where is the lion’s share of all that federal largess to the USCCB and Catholic Charities USA going? ”Immigration services.” ”

    Perhaps this helps explain the slavish endorsement of pro-illegal immigration policies on the part of the bishops. You even have Cardinals Mahony and Dolan going to the extreme of hurling calumnious accusations at the state of Arizona for SB 1070, which in no way comes close to violating either Constitutional or Catholic moral principles. If you read the The USCCB’s Fortnight for Freedom statement:

    “The U.S. bishops have called for a Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period of prayer and action, to address many current challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate, Supreme Court rulings that could attempt to redefine marriage in June, and religious liberty concerns in areas such as immigration and humanitarian services.”

    By no stretch of the Catholic or Constitutional imagination do any of our immigration laws come anywhere close to violating religious liberty. But this is the lie the bishops continually try feeding us. If what this post says is true, the adage “Follow the money.” applies to our bishops on immigration as well as it does in other situations.

    I have said and will continue to say that I do not believe that the bishops are serious about fighting this HHS mandate. Nor are they serious about upholding the principle of subsidiarity when it comes to economics. If they were they would at least start out by weaning themselves off of these federal grants and exhorting us the faithful that we have the primary responsibility of providing succor to our neighbors in need, not the federal government.

  13. “Perhaps this helps explain the slavish endorsement of pro-illegal immigration policies on the part of the bishops.”

    No. This is an unhelpful suggestion.

    “I have said and will continue to say that I do not believe that the bishops are serious about fighting this HHS mandate.”

    The bishops support universal health care, or something like it. I have no doubt about their seriousness about fighting the HHS mandate.

  14. It is a very old story. An ordinance made by Charlemagne as King of the Franks, in a general assembly of his Estates, spiritual and temporal, in 778-779, “Concerning tithes, it is ordained that every man give his tithe, and that they be dispensed according to the bishop’s commandment.” The bishops cried, “May the king live forever!” A Capitular for Saxony in 789 appointed tithes to be paid out of all public property, and that all men, “whether noble, or gentle, or of lower degree, should give according to God’s commandment, to the churches and priests, of their substance and labour : as God has given to each Christian, so ought he to repay a part to God.” A Capitular of 800 made the payment of tithes universal within the fiscal domain of the whole Frankish kingdom. Pope Leo III placed a diadem on his head, with the words, “Life and victory to the august Charles, crowned by God, great and pacific emperor.”

    From this time onwards, therefore, we may say the civil law superseded any merely spiritual admonitions as to the payment of tithes. Their payment was no longer a religious duty alone it was a legal obligation, enforceable by the laws of the civil head of Christendom. “Caesar” was now “the Lord’s Anointed.”

  15. Art, you should be ashamed of yourself (as should Greg). This is smear that bishops in the U.S. and worldwide began their commitment to immigrants, wanderers, roma, etc. in response to US federal funding of some program. Here is the quote from Greg in case you missed it:

    “Perhaps this helps explain the slavish endorsement of pro-illegal immigration policies on the part of the bishops.”

    There you go.

    (MP-S, you were making a good point, on topic. Sorry to digress.)

  16. Not only are they aiding and abetting illegal invaders, they help (unintended consqequence) advance abortion, gay privileges, free love, etc.

    I guess I agree with Art and Greg.

    When US catholic Leftists joined in with the democrat-progressive socialist movement, they ceded the moral high ground to Caesar. Mainly, they’re social workers in religious costumes that get up early on Sundays to pass the word, as they see it.

    It’s now all about Other People’s Money (OPM), not your own, personal love (for God and for the other person), time and treasure.

    See Detroit, and scores of other social justice poster-children for moral misery: they’ve run out of OPM.

    An appropriate metaphor for this contemporary State/church condition would be Napoleon roughly grabbing the crown from the Pope’s hands at his sham “coronation.” Charlemagne was not Pope and, therefore, not infallible; and his act likely was a power grab from the Church.

    I know, “Three Paters; Three Aves; Three Glorias.”

  17. Art, you should be ashamed of yourself (as should Greg).

    No, I should not. (And effrontery is unattractive, buddy).

    Corporal works of mercy should be just that: aid to populations in problematic circumstances. They should not incorporate systematized disregard for law or disregard for the integrity and functionality of existing communities. Nor should they incorporate population replacement as a strategy of political mobilization and gamesmanship. Doing something for the world’s destitute should mean disaster relief, mission work, basic schooling, promotion of sanitary practices, and agricultural extension. It should not mean promoting Mexican settlement in the United States.

  18. T Shaw-
    ……and one Act of Contrition!

    Thank you for bringing up the consequences of unlawful entry.

  19. Greg, Art, philip, T Shaw — Is it true or is it not true that the basis for the bishops’ support for liberalized immigration policy is the desire for continued federal funding of their social programs? And if it is not true, do you agree it is a smear to claim (or to support the claim) that it is true?

  20. Spambot,

    How do I know? I only see what they do and the consequences.

    Go ask them.

    OTOH, are they at it because they just want to be invited to liberals’ cocktail parties???

    I expected outrage for, “social workers in religious costumes.”

  21. Cardinal Dolan, fresh from denouncing the HHS mandate, played to sweetly at the Dinner Party. All smiles with obummer and then it hit me….Politics.

    What a sad state of affairs.

    No call to witness in Public but we did. We few thousand stood in public witness during the Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies.
    Dolan. We did what you asked of us…what about You?

  22. Spambot, what gives you the idea that Cdl. Dolan sends me memoranda explaining himself? I have no clue why the bishops do what they do and fail to do what they fail to do. In my confusion, I am no different from 20,000,000 others you see at Mass on Sunday. My single best guess would be derived from Fr. Paul Mankowski’s article “Tames in Clerical Culture” or Msgr. George Kelly’s article in Catholic World Report a decade ago about the replacement of lions with foxes in the episcopacy. The brunt: the episcopacy in our decadent times is shot through with bureaucratic operators who are seldom very forthright with anyone and commonly captive of their staffs.

    The staffs are the same institutional flyspecks you see everywhere else in the non-profit sector. Ignatius Press used to have a very amusing blog called Off the Record whose main contributor was the pseudonymous “Diogenes”. One regular feature ca. 2004 was derived from trolling through Federal Election Commission online records. It would begin with a rhetorical question: say you are in charge of x office or x social work agency and you have a spare $500 of which to dispose; to whom do you give it? “Diogenes” would then list a number of options for conventional charitable giving. The punchline would be to state the name of a mid-level administrator in the diocese of x and tell the amount of disposable cash said administrator put in the John Kerry campaign treasury.

    I think zealous and serious bishops know their own mind, set their own priorities, and do not let social workers set their agenda (or let characters like Bp. McCormick set institutional policy on the discipline of priests). We do not have zealous bishops. We have adipose characters like Cdl. Law who cannot make a decision on their own account and let CCHD etc go on and on. They are easy meat for the zeitgeist fed by the au courant attitudes of our educated bourgeoisie. This sort of thing is infecting the evangelical congregations as well (“Jesus was an illegal immigrant” quoth one official of the Southern Baptist Convention). Edwin Faust wrote some years ago that traditionalists had to fend for themselves because the Church was like a mad mother who had abandoned her children. All too true.

  23. Well, Spambot I would say that the fact that the lion’s share of gov’t grants being for “immigration services” is part and parcel of the ideology runneth over my theology mindset of the overwhelming majority of the U.S. Bishops, even the so-called orthodox lions like Chaput, Dolan et al on issues of this nature. The federal money is at least an added incentive.

    As far as someone who ought to be ashamed of himself, I think Cdl. Dolan equating AZ SB 1070 with the KKK and the Know Nothing Party (http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=36322) qualifies. I would also say that the silence of the so-called orthodox Catholic Media Complex on this kind of stuff qualifies as well. You can read the AZ law here:


  24. Greg, Art, philip, T Shaw — Either you agree that “pro-illegal immigration policies on the part of the bishops” is due to “federal largess to the USCCB and Catholic Charities USA” or you don’t. Now which is it?

    You seemed pretty confident you knew the answer earlier! If you “don’t know” anymore, then retract your baseless claims/insinuations that you made about the bishops and we’ll move on.

  25. Any reform this government sets about doing will cut out the Catholics. Citizens who work at non-profit organizations have paid their taxes as private citizens. All taxes belong to the taxpayer even while the federal government chooses to whom it will be given. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are given to the poor as Justice. For the federal government to deny grants to Catholic Charities because it coerces Catholic Charities to perform virtues according to their dictates violates the principle of separation of church and state. Some of the tax money is Catholic tax money that may be used for Catholics, in school for education and other virtues.

  26. Mary de Voe touches on a very important point.

    Even in a country so committed to the principle of laïcité as France, the government, central and local maintains pre-1904 church buildings (to a remarkably high standard), for they are part of the patrimony of the nation. It pays the salaries of the teachers and librarians in private schools (most of which are Catholic), as part of its duty of providing public instruction [l’enseignement public]. It pays the salaries of Chaplains, not only in prisons and hospitals, but in public schools, for the Republic not only allows, but guarantees the free exercise of religions [Elle garantit le libre exercice des cultes]. That is why holidays of obligation are also public holidays and why public schools are closed one afternoon a week, to allow parents to give their children religious instruction, if they so wish (it used to be two half-days, when Saturday was a school day).

    Separation of Church and State should not mean hostility to religion. It should mean each is autonomous in its own sphere: a very different proposition

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