by Jan Lewis
At a recent event for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, I was approached by a gentleman who wanted to share his thoughts on how the organization could be better managed.
He started by informing me that I “wasn’t going to like what he had to say.” Having thus prepared me, he simply stated that Catholic Charities should stop accepting government funding.
I asked if that meant that we should not accept Medicare reimbursement for the dying patients that we serve in our hospice program . . . he didn’t have an opinion about that. Then we have the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds that we sometimes manage during times of disaster response and recovery. There is the small grant that we receive from the Shawnee County government that helps to support our Friendly Visitor program in Topeka, linking volunteers with our elderly neighbors to provide a daily phone call and periodic visits.
Or maybe we should just walk away from the state of Kansas, which provides reimbursement to families who open their homes to children who have been abused and neglected by their family of origin. I could go on, but I hope you get the point.
In the highly charged political times in which we live, it is easy to make blanket statements. It is easy to run to the polar position because that is what we see modeled by our elected officials and the mainstream media. But, as the leader of an organization charged with making Christ’s love present in the world, I can’t hold extreme positions because real lives hang in the balance. I prefer to follow the words of a leader who understands that good can come from collaboration, even if that means collaborating with people we don’t always agree with.
“The Second Vatican Council rightly observed that ‘among the signs of our times, one particularly worthy of note is a growing, inescapable sense of solidarity between all peoples,’” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in his 2005 encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”). “State agencies and humanitarian associations work to promote this, the former mainly through subsidies or tax relief, the latter by making available considerable resources. The solidarity shown by civil society thus significantly surpasses that shown by individuals. This situation has led to the birth and the growth of many forms of cooperation between state and church agencies, which have borne fruit. Church agencies, with their transparent operation and their faithfulness to the duty of witnessing to love, are able to give a Christian quality to the civil agencies too, favoring a mutual coordination that can only redound to the effectiveness of charitable service.”
The day may come when we will have to walk away. But what a tragedy that will be for all of us.