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United We Fall

The Unholy Alliance Between Catholic Charities and United Way

By: Louie Verrecchio, MI

If we understand the human person as the "temple of the Holy Spirit" -- the living house of God -- then these latter issues [racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care] fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house.  All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house's foundation.  These directly and immediately violate the human person's most fundamental right -- the right to life.  Neglect of these issues is the equivalent of building our house on sand.  (Evangelium Vitae, 75).

From: Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics - A Statement by the Catholic Bishops of the United States 1998

A Foundation Built on Sand

A concern for social justice is necessarily woven throughout the fabric of a fully formed Catholic conscience.  It is the "crossbeams and walls of the living house of God," as our Bishops have so eloquently stated.  Yet right at the very foundation of our house, an insidious evil lurks which threatens to undermine our efforts to construct a solid and Godly structure.

Month in and month out, good-hearted, well-intentioned Catholics unwittingly direct their almsgiving efforts towards organizations that are committed to funding so-called "abortion rights" activities.  Whatís worse, is that this situation has existed for many years right under our very noses, masked as it were, in our trust for an organization which operates under the auspices of the Holy Catholic Church.  At a time when the Holy Father is calling for us to build a "Culture of Life," how can such a grave situation possibly be allowed to exist?  It exists in the unseemly details of the affiliation between Catholic Charities and The United Way.

The Unseemly Details

The United Way of America is made up of numerous local chapters that enjoy a certain degree of autonomy.  Take for example my local chapter, United Way of Central Maryland (UWCM).
According to Linda Wurm in the campaign accounting office of UWCM, a 17.5% administrative fee is retained by UWCM on all charitable contributions.  This means that when a committed pro-life Catholic makes a designated donation to Catholic Charities through UWCM in the amount of $100 per month, Catholic Charities receives $82.50 per month, and UWCM receives over $200 per year to help cover itís expenses, meet itís commitments, and remain in business.  The problem?  Part of UWCMís business is a long-standing commitment to abortion.

Since 1974, the year the alliance between UWCM and Catholic Charities was formed, UWCM has maintained a financial commitment to Planned Parenthood.  Affiliations of this sort are such that when undesignated donations are given to UWCM, these monies are dispersed in a disproportionate way that allows them to meet their predetermined commitments to affiliated organizations such as Planned Parenthood.  So even if the vast majority of UWCM donors were to designate their money to identifiably pro-life organizations, Planned Parenthood would still get itís "piece of the pie."

Recognizing the gravity of this situation, I contacted Mr.  Harold Smith, director of Associated Catholic Charities in Baltimore, Maryland.  He responded in part by pointing out that UWCM gives donors the right to exercise a "negative designation" option, which allows the donor to exclude certain affiliate organizations, like Planned Parenthood, from receiving any of the donorís money.  Though some may be tempted to take comfort in this negative designation option, one must realize that administrative fees are the "life-blood" of any charitable organizations.  It is this money that allows organizations like United Way to keep their doors open, and to continue serving the needs of the community.  Make no mistake about it: Part of the community served by United Way is the abortion rights and services community.  The simple fact that we need to carefully distinguish between Catholic dollars and the "dirty money" in United Way coffers is a strong indication that Catholic Charities is on the wrong track in this affiliation.  Abortion is a black and white issue for Catholics - there is no gray.

Where Stands the Church?

I contacted the office of William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, to inquire as to whether the Cardinal had issued any statements on this issue.  I learned that he had not issued such a statement, and that many of his staffers donate to Catholic Charities through the United Way.  The receptionist with whom I spoke had no idea that her money was supporting abortion activities in this way.

I next contacted the office of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.  The overall administrative fees there amount to 14%, and United Way of Lincoln has a commitment to provide financial support for Lincoln Medical Education Foundation; another "pro-choice"
organization.  I should also point out that even though Planned Parenthood is not an affiliated organization of United Way of Lincoln, individuals can and do make targeted donations to them through their United Way of Lincoln contributions - a process similarly made possible, in part, by administrative fees earned through Catholic almsgiving efforts.  I am awaiting a substantive response from the Bishopís office.

I should point out that not all United Way chapters support abortion.  United Way of Texas Gulf Coast, for example, does not affiliate with any abortion related organizations, nor do they allow contributors to designate their donations to support abortion facilities such as Planned Parenthood.  As I acknowledged in my correspondence with Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, the fact that certain local chapters do share our respect for life would appear to complicate the situation somewhat.  But be that as it may, local chapters of United Way, though autonomous, do fall under the umbrella of United Way of America, and must be treated as such when discussing the life issue.  A failure to do so, as the Bishopís have said, is tantamount to building our house on sand.

I do not wish to suggest that our Shepherds, the American Bishops, have failed us or the Catholic Church in this regard.  Through my contact with them, I have received their encouragement and their blessings.  Our challenge as faithful Catholics is to actively evangelize those around us, to bring Christ into our world, and to lift up His Church - a challenge that will never be met through criticism and "arm chair clericalism." We are, however, called to action for the good of the Church.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "In accord with the knowledge, competence, and preeminence which they possess, [lay people] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." CCC907

Indeed, this is one such occasion for action.

To Restore the Foundation

So how can we, the lay faithful, actively promote the changes necessary to restore the foundation of Godís house, while maintaining proper reverence towards our pastors?  The first order of business, let us not despair.  Jesus promised, "I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18 (RSV) Yet as well, let us not become complacent, for we are the Body of Christ (CCC 777), and we are called to build His house.

If you give to a designated charity through United Way, stop immediately.  In order to maintain the integrity of our Church and the pro-life cause, not only must we discourage Catholic Charities from associating with United Way, we must also offer our direct support.  Call them and arrange a convenient method of direct giving.  Catholic Charities USA can be reached at (800) 919-9338.

Print this article and share the information herein with every faithful pro-life individual that you know, especially those who unwittingly funnel money to abortion providers through United Way.
The vast majority of those who do this have no idea what is happening.

Engage your Pastor, your Bishop, and anyone else in a position of leadership in the Church to whom you have access.  The ultimate goal of our effort is to have this alliance between the Catholic Church and United Way terminated.  Some useful information to share with our leaders:

Mother of the Living

Perhaps the most important action that we can take is to entrust ourselves and this cause to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Beg her intercession in leading us to her Son, that we may act in this and in all things, only in a way which is pleasing to Him.  Following is the "Prayer for Life" of Pope John Paul II:

O Mary, bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life: Look down, O Mother, upon the vast numbers of babies to be born, of the poor whose lives are made difficult, of men and women who are victims of brutal violence, of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.  Grant that all who believe in your Son may proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time.  Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new, the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will, the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.