National Catholic Register


Bishop Asks Senator Santorum to Rescind Critique of Charities

BY Jim Cosgrove

March 23-29, 1997 Issue | Posted 3/23/97 at 1:00 PM


BROOKLYN, N.Y.- Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sullivan of Brooklyn, episcopal liaison to Catholic Charities USA, has asked a U.S. senator to rescind harsh comments of the agency he made in a New York speech.

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), said Feb. 20 that Catholic Charities “shouldn't be called Catholic” because its agencies give their clients only food and material assistance but not the teachings and support of Catholic faith.”

Bishop Sullivan, in a March 4 letter to the senator, said, “It came as a shock to many of us to have seen in diocesan papers your ‘blistering attack on Catholic Charities.’”

He was quoting from a Catholic News Service story on the senator's speech, given at a fund-raising dinner sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for America.

Santorum, a Catholic who led the Senate floor battle to pass the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act last year, received the Catholic American of the Year Award from the campaign during the dinner.

In his letter, Bishop Sullivan told Santorum, he does not believe there is any U.S. organization like Catholic Charities “that provides more services and care for poor and troubled people.”

”It has been possible only because we work in partnership with government,” Bishop Sullivan continued.

One of the senator's major criticisms of Catholic Charities was that it receives 65 percent of its money from the federal government. Because use of government funds makes it impossible to speak directly about the Christian faith, he suggested, the agencies of Catholic Charities “do nothing Catholic.”

But Bishop Sullivan wrote that if “these monies to nonprofit agencies such as Catholic Charities were unavailable, many poor people would suffer from a lack of proper services.”

”Without government assistance,” he added, “the Church would be able to help only a few relative to need. We believe government assistance to nonprofit agencies to meet the needs of the poor is an effective implementation of the principle of subsidiarity.”

Bishop Sullivan recommended the senator re-read Matthew 25 to “discover what Jesus said about feeding people.”

In his Feb. 20 speech, Santorum also complained that Catholic Charities was “the most effective opponent” of the welfare bill he sought to get enacted.

In response, Bishop Sullivan called the welfare measure “morally flawed public policy” that would have “negative consequences for poor children in the near future.”

He said that the reform package was “divisive in structure, if not in its intention,” and that Catholic Charities USA and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops were united