US Catholic Faith in Real Life

No to HHS rule on birth control, but yes to public money for Catholic schools?

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

As the controversy over the HHS rule requiring church sponsored hospitals, universities, and social services agencies to provide birth control coverage to employees continues, with bishops denouncing it left and right and refusing to comply, the Diocese of Kansas City in Missouri is asking for public money to defray tuition costs and boost enrollment at area Catholic schools.

You know the saying about the one who pays the piper, right? Church institutions cannot on the one hand ask for public money and then cry "religious freedom" when the public money comes with strings attached--which I think is exactly why the administration is insisting that sectarian colleges, hospitals, social services agencies comply with the HHS rule. We're talking millions in state and federal funds--more like hundreds of millions. 

Which leaves these Catholic institutions in a tough position: Either abandon government sponsorship of their faith-based institutions--which in effect means Catholic Charities will close, since the bulk of its operating income comes from such contracts--or find a way to work with the strings that come attached with that public money. Local bishops have sacrificed such partnerships when it comes to placing children with same-sex couples. Will Catholic hospitals, universities, and other Catholic agencies follow suit?

There is a sure-fire way to maintain Catholic "religious freedom" as now understood by the bishops: forgo public money and pursue charitable, educational, and health care work with our own money. But I don't see how Catholic institutions can have it both ways.