President Obama revised 2001 faith based initiatives established by President George W. Bush with “Fundamental Principles and Policymaking Criteria for Partnerships with Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Organizations” on November 17, 2010.
Catholic organizations like Catholic Charities, hospitals, clinics, assisted living organizations, adoption agencies would do well to review their policies and practices to see if the present policies cohere with what the President has set down in the executive order since there are some serious potential conflicts. Serious points of contention will likely be around the providing of religious services, counseling rooted in faith and to what degree you can apply pastoral practice to the workings of the agency. The secularists are already jumping for joy with the new amendments because they want more restrictive policies and stringent policies of accountability for the use of monies and practices by faith-based organizations. Having said all this, though, clarity of what can and cannot be done are helpful since they establish rules of engagement. Clear to all reasonable minded people, religious freedom needs to be respected. And we Catholics will hear more about religious freedom in 2011 with Pope Benedict addressing the issue of religious freedom at significant events like world youth day. The Pope is very clear that we propose and not impose our faith in Christ, even with those who claim to be Christians.
Obama’s “Fundamental Principals” for neighborhood organizations and agencies administering programs funded with federal monies envisions:
The White House’s publication of the executive order can be read here.
Though seen as minor improvements to the original set of initiatives, they are seen as overbearing if not outright burdensome by others. Time will tell. But one has to ask whether it is necessary to receive federal money for Catholic social service agencies, e.g., Catholic Charities, and whether the identity and mission of agencies like Catholic Charities will be compromised with these new regulations. On one hand, some of these principles seem like no-brainers, while others seem to make life slightly more complicated to fulfill a faith-based mission if a particular is particularly observant in matters of belief and pastoral practice.
Some problems that may happen are such conflicts with Catholic hospitals and clinics being forced to administer contraception, provide IVF, abortion, euthanasia practices, and the like. Or Catholic organizations may be forced to provide adoption services to people understood to be not capable of being good parents based on sexual orientation or living out of wedlock. I can foresee people attempting to force Catholic social agencies to administer services that are against Catholic teaching and pastoral practice in attempt to embarrass the Church and/or to force Catholic agencies to forego federal monies based on heavy burdens in the reporting of referrals.
Catholic News Agency is running an evaluation of the new regulations.