At a press conference today on the Pope’s Lenten Message, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes offered his support for Archbishop Charles Chaput’s recent stand against a potential Colorado law. The bill would eradicate Catholic Charities’ ability to ensure its employees follow Catholic beliefs when working on state funded projects.
Last week, Chaput objected to a proposed measure before the Colorado legislature which would bar charitable agencies that receive state funding from discrimination on the basis of religion in personnel policies. Chaput argued that such a measure would compromise the Catholic identity of church-run charities, and that he would rather see those charities stop delivering services rather than comply.
“This is not idle talk,” Chaput added. “I am very serious.”
According to the National Catholic Reporter, this morning in Rome, Cardinal Cordes expressed support for Chaput’s position. In response to a reporter’s question, Cordes stated: “This bishop is doing the right thing.”
The president of the papal charity Cor Unum continued, saying, “Theologically, charitable activity and the good deeds of the faithful are always connected to the proclamation of the Word. Jesus performed his works because he was moved by mercy, but also to proclaim the gospel. Service is always tied to testimony to the Word of God, and no one must break this connection.”
“This points to a great contemporary problem. Thanks to the generosity of many donors, the charitable agencies of the church are able to do their work. But this carries a risk that the spirit of a Catholic agency can become secularized, doing only what the donor has in view.”
The cardinal also brought Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” to Chaput’s defense. “The pope’s encyclical was not just put together out of thin air. It was a response to a development in society. Catholic agencies have to be very careful not to lose their liberty, taking money from donors who later try to introduce a mentality that does not correspond to ecclesiastical objectives,” Cordes told the National Catholic Reporter.
To put his point into a sound bite, Cordes said, he wants the world to understand “that there’s a difference between Caritas and the Red Cross.”
Back in Denver, Colorado, Christopher Rose, the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, published a letter to the editor in the January 30 issue of the Denver Catholic Register backing Chaput’s position.
“Helping the poor and suffering is not just the government’s business,” Rose stated. “In fact, government is the newcomer to this work. It’s been the business of religious communities for centuries.”
Hiring religious believers to operate charities with similar religious beliefs, Rose argued, is not discrimination, but rather “the legitimate practice of faith-based agencies seeking to hire people of like faith to ensure that their mission of serving the poor is faithfully undertaken.”