Archive of May 18, 2013

Donohue says IRS probe triggered by Catholics United

New York City, N.Y., May 18, 2013 (CNA) - Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said he was “stunned” that the IRS investigated his organization in 2008, charging that the Democrat-leaning group Catholics United filed the complaint and used it to argue that CNN should drop him as a commentator.

“This was a fishing expedition meant to intimidate me and create a chilling effect on my freedom of speech,” Donohue said.

“I still couldn’t believe that a couple of weeks after the election, I was being asked to spend my entire Thanksgiving trying to defend the Catholic League about something which we’re not guilty of,” Donohue told CNA May 17.

“We don’t give money. We don’t do endorsements. I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat,” he said. “Of course I address the issues. That’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s my freedom of speech.”

Donohue recounted the inquiry in a May 16 essay for Newsmax. He said that Catholics United’s lawyers sent a June 5, 2008 letter to Marsha Ramirez, the Internal Revenue Service’s Director of Exempt Organizations Examinations, and to Lois G. Lerner, director  of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Division. The letter asked the IRS to question the sources of the Catholic League’s new funding.

Donohue said the Catholics United complaint was leaked to him by a CNN employee in October 2008.  “It was miraculously almost the same document that I got a month later from the IRS,” Donohue told CNA.

On Nov. 24, 2008, the IRS sent the Catholic League a letter notifying the Catholic League that it was under investigation for possibly violating IRS rules on political activities for 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations. The letter included news releases and articles Donohue had written about the presidential campaign.

Donohue said that Catholics United used its own complaint as evidence in its push to remove him from television.

In October 2008, Donohue criticized Catholics United and its allied organizations, saying they are backed by organizations funded by the Democrat-leaning billionaire George Soros. CNN invited Donohue to go on air as a commentator, but Catholics United’s then-executive director Chris Korzen lobbied the news channel to rescind the invitation, Donohue said.

Catholics United asked CNN to drop the Donohue interview or put on Alexia Kelley, then-executive director of its allied group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Catholics United sent CNN its complaint to the IRS, arguing that the Catholic League was not a legitimate Catholic organization.

“It wasn’t good enough just to get the Catholic League involved with the IRS. They tried to deny me to get on television,” Donohue told CNA. “It shows you the kind of ruthlessness we have come to expect from the Catholic left.”

The IRS ruled that the Catholic League had “intervened in a political campaign” but in a way that did not threaten its tax exempt status because the violation was “unintentional, isolated, non-egregious and non-recurring.”

Donohue said he rejected the charge. The Catholic League is not the only critic of Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to have faced an IRS inquiry.

Anne Hendershott, a sociology professor and Catholic writer, has said IRS officials in a 2010 audit inquired about her writings for The Catholic Advocate, many of which were critical of President Obama’s health care legislation and groups like Catholics United which supported it.

IRS employees questioned her about who paid for her writings. She feared the audit was politically motivated and she became less likely to criticize the administration in writing.

Donohue said Catholics United and similar groups have their roots in the 2004 election when “values voters” helped President George W. Bush win the election. He charged that they are “faux organizations” set up to compete with the Catholic League and other groups by those on the political left.

He said he kept quiet about the IRS inquiry into the Catholic League to avoid “any extra grief from anybody.”

“I’ve been in the news all the time. You have to take your lumps like anybody else. I thought this was below the belt, and so I held on to everything.

“I have all the evidence. I’ve kept it all. This is not hearsay.”

The IRS faces accusations of excessively burdening tax exempt status applications from both Republican-leaning tea party groups and pro-life organizations. An IRS employee may have leaked to the press and to “gay marriage” advocates a confidential document from the National Organization for Marriage.

Some accusers charge that the agency’s actions are evidence of politically motivated corruption.

“Now I know why they went after me. I know about the politics of the whole game,” Donohue said. “When the issue became big over the past week, I thought the time had come to make a revelatory statement.”

Catholics United has backed the Obama administration in many areas where its policies diverge from Catholic teaching, including the religious freedom controversy over the HHS mandate. It has defended the appointment of pro-abortion rights Catholic HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and it is increasingly hostile to defenders of traditional marriage.

Ahead of the November 2012 elections, Catholics United wrote Florida Catholic priests saying it was monitoring illegal political activity in church.

In an Oct. 22, 2012 letter to Florida pastors, Catholics United executive director James Salt criticized “numerous IRS violations” in local Catholic parishes such as partisan references during homilies, political endorsements in church bulletins, and distribution of partisan literature in church parking lots.

“To help prevent the misuse of Catholic parishes for partisan activity, Catholics United has retained a law firm to help protect you and your parish community from losing your 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status,” Salt said. “We have also recruited a network of local volunteers to monitor parishes and document the nature of all partisan activity taking place there.”

Salt’s letter asked pastors to “protect your parish from losing its tax-exempt status” by taking a pledge. He said this would demonstrate pastors’ commitment to “keep partisan politics out of the pulpit” and help ensure their parish is free from “any illegal political activity.”

Catholics United has recently added its voice to the complaints against the IRS. On May 15 the group said that its affiliate the Catholics United Education Fund also suffered from long delays in IRS approval of its tax-exempt status application, which it initiated in 2010.

In 2011, the education fund received a $116,000 grant from the San Francisco-based The Energy Foundation to recruit Catholic clergy in Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania to support the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority. The grant made up all but $200 of the organization’s 2011 budget, tax forms and grant announcements indicate.

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Catholic Charities USA laments food assistance cuts

Washington D.C., May 18, 2013 (CNA) - Catholic Charities USA and other agencies across the country harshly criticized a $21 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program included in the Farm Bill introduced recently to Congress.

“SNAP meets critical needs for low-income working families, seniors, children, and individuals struggling to get by,” said Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA.

 “We as a society have a special obligation to consider first the needs of the poor, even as we act through government. The proposed cuts to this vital program put a disproportionate burden on the very people our Catholic tradition teaches us to elevate in our public consciousness.”

The May 15 statement, put out by Feeding America, national network of food banks and another critic of the food assistance budget cuts, also included statements by leaders of Bread for the World and United Way Worldwide.

The statement followed the introduction of the Farm Bill by the House Agriculture Committee to Congress earlier that day.

The Farm Bill is the primary guide for agricultural and food policy in the United States, and includes a variety of programs and regulations in the food and agriculture industries. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, currently regulates the agricultural industry until it expires on September 30, 2013.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program.  The statement noted that the cuts in funding “would restrict states’ flexibility” in administering food aid.

The statement warned that if the cuts take effect, “2 million individuals would lose their SNAP benefits entirely, 210,000 children would lose access to free school meals, and 850,000 households would see their SNAP benefits cut by an average $90 per month,” resulting in an estimated 8 billion lost meals.

These cuts would be in addition to existing reductions in benefits for families who use the program to feed their families. Effective Nov. 1, the average household will receive $20 to $25 less in benefits, “increasing hardship for participants and shifting even more need to charitable food providers that are facing high demand and few resources,” said the statement.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program beneficiaries currently receive, on average, $133.79 a month, or a little less than $1.50 a meal.

Feeding America president and CEO Bob Aiken said that there “is no way that charity would be able to make up the difference” for food assistance that would be lost through these cuts. The statement cited declining donations to churches and charities coupled with a rise in families seeking food assistance as contributing factor for the inability of charity to meet the demand for food.

The statement explained that food “from federal nutrition programs totaled $96.9 billion in 2011, compared to an estimated $4.1 billion worth of food distributed by private charity.”

“We are already stretched thin meeting sustained high need, and we simply do not have the resources to prevent hunger in all of the families who would be impacted by these cuts,” Aiken said.

The signers urged congress to restore the cuts to the program as the bill continues through the revision process.

“Strong communities require public-private partnership,” said Steve Taylor, Senior Vice President and Counsel for Policy at United Way Worldwide.

“Every day local charities see this partnership reflected in the generous support of volunteers and donors, and this value is reflected in Washington through important programs like SNAP. We’re all in this together. SNAP and the families it serves must be protected from cuts.”

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Study shows undocumented immigrants largely Christian

Washington D.C., May 18, 2013 (CNA) - A new study says that undocumented immigrants to the U.S. tend to be more Christian than the general population, while new legal permanent residents tend to be less Christian.

The Pew Research Center estimated that 83 percent of undocumented immigrants are Christian, with most coming primarily from Latin America and the Caribbean. As of 2011, there were about 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.

Christians make up just under 80 percent of the U.S. population.

The percentage of legal Christian immigrants has decreased from 68 percent in 1992 to 61 percent in 2012. There were an estimated 620,000 legal Christian immigrants in the U.S. in 2012.

As of 2012, about ten percent of legal immigrants are Muslim, an increase of five percentage points since 1992. Seven percent are Hindu, more than double their representation in 1992. About six percent are Buddhist, a one percent decrease since 1992. About 14 percent have no religious affiliation, a figure which has remained steady since 1992.

Pew attributes the changes since 1992 in part to a geographic shift in the sources of legal immigration.

The percentage of new legal immigrants from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean or North America has declined, while the percentage from the Asia/Pacific region, the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa has increased.

The Pew Research Center’s findings draw from several studies and U.S. government data. Some of the studies are based on estimates, in part because the U.S. government does not keep official data on religious affiliation of new permanent residents.

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American seminarians win Clericus Cup second time

Rome, Italy, May 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The North American Martyrs succeeded in clinching the Clericus Cup for the second year in a row, beating the seminarians from Mater Ecclesiae by a score of 1-0.

The game was closely fought, with the Martyrs scoring the game’s only goal about 25 minutes into the second half on a crossing pass to Andrew Mattingly who bested a two-on-one situation to put the ball into the net.

The match was primarily a showcase of defense, with the Martyrs appearing to have a slight edge over Mater Ecclesiae throughout the game.

In keeping with tradition, the boisterous American fans showed up dressed as super heroes, including Batman, Captain America and Uncle Sam. They sang patriotic songs, chanted as a drum thumped out the beat, and blew air horns.

The Mater Ecclesiae supporters also turned out for the game in strong numbers, filling the stands and backing their team with the occasional cheer and beating of a drum.

The match was held at the Knights of Columbus Fields, which meant the seminarians could see St. Peter’s Basilica in the background as they duked it out.

As the final whistle sounded, the North American Martyrs fans could be heard changing their chant from “We believe we will win,” to “We believe we have won!”

The Clericus Cup is organized by the Centro Sportivo Italiano, and this year it brought together 13 teams from local Roman seminaries to compete for the prize.

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Gossip is like slapping Jesus, Pope asserts

Vatican City, May 18, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis spoke today about how gossip by Christians is a “slap” to Jesus “in the person of his children.”

“All three - disinformation, defamation and slander - are sins! This is sin! It is to slap Jesus in the person of his children, his brothers,” the Pope said May 18 in the chapel of St. Martha’s House.

The topic came up in Pope Francis’ homily because of the day’s Gospel reading from John 21 in which Peter asks if John will be alive when Jesus returns to earth.

“What is it to you?” the pontiff began his homily, referring to Jesus’ response to Peter, who was being tempted “to interfere in the lives of others.”

Peter became “nosy,” Pope Francis remarked, noting that there are two ways people are tempted to get involved in others’ lives. The first is “to compare oneself with others” and the second is to gossip.

“It seems nice to chat,” he reflected, “I do not know why, but it looks nice. Like sweet of honey, right? You take one and then another, and another, and another, and in the end you have a stomach ache. And why? The chatter is like that eh? It is sweet at first and it ruins you, it ruins your soul!”

The Pope then referred back to Genesis, saying that gossip is “‘a little’ like the spirit of Cain who killed his brother, his tongue; it kills his brother!”? The consequence of gossiping is that “we become Christians of good manners and bad habits,” he warned, later repeating the description.

According to Pope Francis, people fail in this area in three ways: by giving “misinformation,” by making known the faults of others, and by telling lies about others.

“That is why Jesus does with us what he did with Peter when he says: ‘What is it to you? Follow me.’ The Lord in this instance points the way,” he said.

“This kind of talk will not do you any good,” the Pope stated, “because it will just bring to the Church a spirit of destruction. ‘Follow me!’ These are the beautiful words of Jesus, it is so clear, that he has so much love for us. As if to say: ‘Don’t have fantasies, believing that salvation is in the comparisons with others or in gossip. Salvation is to go behind me.’”

Pope Francis finished his homily by saying, “Today we ask the Lord Jesus to give us this grace not to ever get involved in the lives of others, not to become Christians of good manners and bad habits, it is to follow Jesus, to walk behind Jesus on his way. And this is enough.”

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