Catholic Charities Caves In

Well, the news is in, and unfortunately, it’s not good. Catholic Charities of Boston has decided to take Voice of the Faithful’s (VOTF) money after all. Bishop Lennon didn’t have much to say about the decision, releasing a short statement that said only that he was “disappointed” but, for the sake of unity, wouldn’t pursue the matter further at this time.

I can’t say I’m too surprised. Catholic Charities took VOTF funds last year after Cardinal Law turned them down, so they don’t have much of a problem with VOTF itself. I don’t know what Bishop Lennon really could have done to stop them, especially being in the sticky situation of trying to restore unity to a diocese that has been so badly torn apart.

I understand with all that’s on his plate that Bishop Lennon wants to keep some semblance of peace after making his position clear—all of us have to choose when and where to take on a fight. I just hope that the decision won’t cause him bigger problems down the road. What really concerns me is the message this sends: Catholic Charities completely ignored the bishop’s wishes—his direct request that they refuse the money.

Some people have been asking me, “What’s the big deal? Money is money, after all, and it’s going to a good cause.” On the surface, it does sort of look like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

But the problem runs deeper than that.

The plain fact of it is that Catholic Charities has helped to legitimize VOTF at the expense of the bishop and his authority. Catholic Charities has pulled the rug out from under Lennon by disobeying his wishes, while at the same time giving credibility to an organization that has already positioned itself in opposition to the hierarchy of the diocese. One has to wonder who Catholic Charities will take its marching orders from in the future.

Yes, the money will be useful, but can Catholic Charities afford the price at which it comes? I personally know of donors who were expecting a different decision from the organization, and they might not be so willing to help Catholic Charities in the future if they continue to defy their bishop. They could very well lose money in the long-run for doing business with VOTF.

The irony is that by accepting VOTF money, Catholic Charities has alienated some important donors for years to come. Not a very wise long-term strategy.

I hope the national office of Catholic Charities will take this opportunity to encourage its regional branches to work in tandem with their bishop and diocese, rather than defying their authority as the Boston branch has done. Many people have had lingering suspicions that Catholic Charities is losing its Catholic identity, and this step by Boston might confirm their fears.

Let’s hope this isn’t the direction of Catholic Charities for the future.

Deal Hudson is editor and publisher of CRISIS Magazine. You can reach him via email at

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