Thursday, October 13, 2011

The ABC Factor at HHS - Anybody But Catholics

There seems to be a new unwritten reg at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It’s the ABC Rule, Anybody But Catholics.

It showed up in a letter from HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to advise the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Office of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) that it would not receive a grant to continue its services for victims of human trafficking.

The USCCB program excelled because of its anytime-anywhere approach. It had extraordinary reach, something valued by people who work to free men, women and children from slavery. Because of USCCB’s organizational capacity, MRS could respond immediately. Should an Immigration Enforcement official find a vulnerable child, for example, a call to the MRS program got safe housing immediately. There was not the delay of weeks that one associates with programs that lack such a network.

The program worked well on the ground. but not so well for distant administrators promoting the abortion and contraceptive agenda, who bristle at the fact that in accord with church teaching, USCCB won’t facilitate taking innocent life, sterilization and artificial contraception. MRS anti-trafficking programs ran successfully for six years in harmony with these moral convictions until the American Civil Liberties Union brought suit against the government for not forcing the USCCB program to provide these services as a part of the program. The suit’s outcome is pending, but ORR apparently has made its own decision apart from any judgment of the court. So much for the Administration’s guarantee of conscience protection.

That’s the climate which allowed ORR to dismiss the USCCB proposal and instead award grant money to the United States Committee on Refugees and Immigrants, (USCRI), Heartland and Tapestri. ORR even awarded more money than it said it would in the original proposal.

ORR earmarked most of the money for USCRI. Eskinder Negash, current director of the ORR, had been vice-president and chief operating officer at USCRI before joining ORR in 2009.

The ORR’s request for proposals had stated that agencies receiving the money were to be fully operational ten days after being awarded the grant. That would have been October 10. One wonders how that could have happened since USCRI and Heartland reportedly were posting ads seeking to hire staff just a few days before that date. None of the three organizations has much depth of experience in monitoring and providing services. USCCB staff were given a number to call for a smooth transition for the people served by the anti-trafficking program. Those who called it found no one could answer their questions.

Trafficking of human beings is one of the great modern-day scandals, but at least until now, the U.S. government sought to sincerely address the issue. It asked USCCB for help when regional programs weren’t reaching victims outside the usual hotspots for trafficking. USCCB created an extraordinary program in conjunction with several partners, Christian and secular, including Lutheran Family Services, Jewish Family Services, Salvation Army, YMCA affiliates, domestic violence shelters, World Relief and others. Only one-third of its subcontractors were Catholic-affiliated, but with the USCCB infrastructure they reached virtually everywhere in the USA.

Now ORR seems to have yielded to abortion politics. It has undercut a worthy program, limiting the numbers served, while increasing the time and money it will take to serve them.

Apparently HHS rules about the benefits of experience and cost effectiveness can be waived. So can rules about being fully operational by a certain date. What can’t be waived is the new, albeit unwritten rule of HHS, the ABC rule – Anybody But Catholics.


Anonymous said...

I'll paraphrase something I wrote on the Anchoress blog regarding a similar issue:

I would be more sympathetic to the USCCB's pleas on this issue, if the USCCB hadn’t spent the last 40 years telling us at every possible opportunity, on every possible issue, that it was a moral imperative for us to hand ever more power to the state. We repeatedly told them this would be the eventual result, and they repeatedly called us indifferent and uncaring.

Theresa A. Henderson said...

My Mom predicted all this 45 years ago when our local Catholic school began getting government aid for books and supplies.

Glenna said...

My grandma used to tell me "If you lie down with dogs, you're going to get fleas."
In centuries past, Church leaders didn't depend on gov't $$ to extend the mandate of Christ to the whole world, they exhorted the faithful to live out that mandate with their lives. This resulted in new religious foundations, universities & true evangelization.
I am in total agreement that the new ABC Rule is unfair but really, WHAT did the USCCB expect from Sebelius & her boss?? This IS the Dictatorship of Relativism after all. If you don't toe the line on abortion/contraception & all pelvic issues, their rhetoric on 'dialogue' evaporates.

Michael said...

The divide between Church and State is growing enormous. The tragedy, or cause, is similar to our concerns or complaints.

For example, I favor Government Healthcare, until they add Abortion to the issue (Clearly as a Catholic). Paying taxes to a system that not only encourages Abortion, it funds Abortion is beyond frustrating.

Those on the other side of the spectrum would feel indifferent about their taxes going towards our organizations, as we don't share their beliefs and values.

We need to continue supporting our internal efforts and not become discourage. Jesus calls us to be good stewards, and that we are, even if difficult times!

Byeway said...

The present administration has shed all evidence of morality and seeks only re-election by catering to - what it calculates is - it's support base in the voting and donating public.
nothing else matters; do whatever it takes to convince democratic voters that the Obama administration will give them anything they want to assure their voting and funding support for the next election cycle.

Expect nothing more and you will not be disappointed.

Deaconbutch said...

It appears that HHS, ORR and Craig have completely forgotton the victims who we are trying to serve.

Unknown said...

In agreement, HDS in Oklahoma has the same attitude towards Christians in general. Off-handed, I was told I had much to much interest in Christianity and that time had move the feelings more towards secularism with Islam in the front of the line to serve. Knowing what scripture says about cohesion, we have but to wait. - kla

Dr. Edward Peters said...

The historian in me might take an interest in who should have done what 40, or even 20, years ago, granted, but the rest of me knows that we have serious situations to face and pressing actions to take today. Sr. MAW's post is exactly the right thing to say here and now, and I'm glad she said it as she did.

SDB - Western Africa said...

IRSS (It's Really Simple Stupid)!
The powers-that-be will cut you off as long as...
you hold on to the Bible and its values
you stand for the truth and the whole truth
you call things, facts and perversions by their name, instead of trying to be politically correct
you show the link between power, authority, corruption, abuse and exploitation

It's time the Church began to feel proud of being independent from the State. It's time to let go of any privileged status, grants and subsidies accorded by the government. It's time to be a prophetic voice in the global wilderness.

Anonymous said...

Deaconbutch said...

"It appears that HHS, ORR and Craig have completely forgotton the victims who we are trying to serve."

Thanks for demonstrating my earlier point: too many in the Church are eager to call you indifferent and uncaring for thinking it a bad idea to route all your charitable works through Caesar.

Anonymous said...

Congress questioned them but so what? Congress changed nothing they had done. Congress is sitting back while unelected bureaucrats make laws for us.