Federal program denies grant to Catholic group to help sex trafficking victims
The Dept. of Health and Human Services denied a grant to request to a Catholic group.
December 6th, 2011
11:28 AM ET

Federal program denies grant to Catholic group to help sex trafficking victims

By Chris Boyette, CNN

(CNN) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has denied a grant request from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help victims of sex trafficking over concerns they will not get access to information on contraceptive services, family planning and abortion.

Critics of the Obama administration were quick to scrutinize the move.

"Victims of trafficking have significant health care needs. Based on these needs, our Office of Refugee Resettlement included an explicit preference for organizations that would ensure that victims had access to information and referrals for the full range of health care services in the funding announcement for these grants." the Health and Human Services said in a statement.

"The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops indicated it could not meet that standard."

The Catholic bishops believe the Health and Human Services denied the grant in an act of anti-Catholic bias.

The Roman Catholic Church believes abortion is immoral.

"This has never been a problem before," said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the Catholic bishops.

The Bush administration granted a $19 million, five-year contract to the Catholic bishops in 2006 to manage programs for victims of human trafficking.

As part of that contract, the Catholic bishops subcontracted with other organizations to provide various victims' services.

When the contract ended, the HHS, now under the Obama administration, changed its funding methods from a contract to a competitive grant, and reached out to organizations that then applied for the grants. An independent review board judged the merits of each application, and assigned a score to each organization.

"It was supposed to be a fair and competitive process," Walsh said. "In the competitive process, evaluated by an independent body, we came out second place," she added, "HHS has politicized the grant process, that's the problem."

The one organization that scored higher than the Catholic bishops and two that scored significantly lower, were awarded grants, according to Walsh.

But the Health and Human Services said the process was fair.

"The independent review board is part of an advisory process. It is just a guide, or a tool used to make final decisions (about grant recipients), said Marrianne McMullen, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services.

In response, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing Thursday to evaluate the Health and Human Services' practices in awarding grants.

The hearing was called because the actions of the HHS "appear to constitute an abuse of discretion and undermine the integrity of the process, while potentially violating the spirit, if not the letter, of federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination based on religious beliefs," said Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican.

Issa, who is the chairman of of the committee, said the federal agency should have been more clear.

"If we were to have a litmus test that Catholics need not apply ... we need to say so and we need to quantify it in the law and stand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court."

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), who authored the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act, echoed Issa's sentiments. His bill paved the way for the trafficking grants in question.

"If you are a Catholic, or other faith-based NGO, or a secular organization of conscience, there is now clear proof that your grant application will not be considered under a fair, impartial and totally transparent process by the Obama administration," the New Jersey Republican said.

"Let's not forget, the independent HHS reviewers found the USCCB one of the most experienced experts in human trafficking ... that has assisted thousands of victims," he continued. "The bottom line is this: Pro-abortion favoritism, embedded in this egregiously flawed process, does a grave disservice to the victims of trafficking. Victims deserve better."

Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), who is a Catholic, took issue with the accusations.

"Earlier this year, press accounts reported that Health and Human Services awarded the bishops a $19 million grant to help foreign refugees in America.

Now I think that roughly would be seven times the amount that they requested in the grant we talked about today," he said. "So a lot of people would probably like to be discriminated against like that."

McMullen said the HHS has given more than that.

"More than $650 million has gone from HHS to Catholic groups in the last three years. This is more than went to them in the last three years of the Bush Administration," she said.

Rep. Eleanor Norton attempted to refocus the debate.

"Public money in our country comes from people with many different backgrounds and many different views," the Democrat said. "Whoever is the organization, I don't see how congress can be concerned with any but two issues: were the procedures followed, and are we paying attention first and foremost to the victims...?"

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Church and state

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Jimtanker

    Why the F does the Catholic church need a grant? They need to open up their coffers at the Vatican if they need some money.

    Seperation of church and state!

    December 7, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Which is interpreted that the Government can not say starting 2012 we are all Catholic.

      If the church is helping to to stop se'x trafficking along with other groups why not give them funding along with the secular groups?

      December 7, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Ironicus

      I guess Mark just doesn't understand the law. Probably writes from federal prison, too.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Something tells me that you do not know the law. When it says that the government shall not establish a state religion then that is what I said.

      Don't you remember ...Church of England .... The King or Queen is the head of church...

      December 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  2. dan

    this is a disgrace we need to work in any and all ways to fight human trafficking and that includes working to help the victims. this is the dumbest reason to reject funding to an organization trying to right the wrongs this country has never opposed.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  3. George

    Once again, government is acting against Christians. Christians pay taxes too. What if we want our tax money to go towards helping people, but we want absolutely none to go to abortion or abortion counseling? Who represents us?

    December 6, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • David Blake

      The church doesn't pay taxes, whiz kid, so it doesn't get a vote. Have we simplified it enough for you?

      December 6, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • George

      No. But I'm talking about myself and other Christians who do pay taxes. I ask it again, who is representing us?

      December 7, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Cor

      Nobody is representing you, George, unless you are a corporation. What part of the OWS do you not get?
      And if there was no corruption in Congress, you would be represented by your representatives and senators the way they are supposed to represent the people. You are an American, you are supposed to be already represented but you aren't because you're just another poor schmuck like the rest of us. You think money will help you in this but it won't because other people who don't represent you or even care about you and who have more money will push laws and regulations that violate your rights.
      That is why there is a protest movement. You echo the sentiments of the OWS but you don't appear to have thought about your position very much.

      December 7, 2011 at 7:13 am |
    • carrie

      that's what you get when you have a non-American citizen, Muslim running the country. They're trying to "kill" the Christians/Catholic religion. People blame the child molester priests, but it's not God's fault, it's human perversion and human choice, not our religion.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  4. Faith and Peace

    They didn't meet the standards. Case closed. They should apply to a grant that they can meet the standards of.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  5. Aethrys

    The state shouldn't even consider giving money to religious organizations in the first place.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Even if they are helping with outreach in society. Such as soup kitchens and daycare for parents that can not afford it so they can get jobs and off of welfare? During Katrina there were churches on the scene helping in the community while the Feds and Local governments were all playing a game of "not it".

      Not saying fund their entire budget but could you find it in your heart to possibly pay for maybe a stack or two of paper cups or something for the church down the street that is helping in the community?

      Is your hatred that high Aethrys?

      December 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • GodPot

      "Even if they are helping with outreach in society. Such as soup kitchens and daycare for parents that can not afford it so they can get jobs and off of welfare?"

      Yes, even then we should not hand out money directly to any religion. However, if they apply for funds, just like any other charity, that directly goes to a specific program like a soup kitchen grant or a homeless shelter program then I'm all for it, but the money should not go into a Church fund/coffer that also pays for the Church building, the priest or pastor salary, or the t i t h e s that get sent to the main Church or any other specificly religious related activity.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"However, if they apply for funds, just like any other charity, that directly goes to a specific program like a soup kitchen grant or a homeless shelter program then I'm all for it, but the money should not go into a Church fund/coffer that also pays for the Church building, the priest or pastor salary"

      That I would agree with. As much transparency if not more for the churches, temples, mosques and others in the church books so that money from such government grants not be applied to anything except for helping in the community. The question I would have though is about structures. Our church the , church school, day care and after school programs are run out of a separate building. If they needed a new roof or A/C would you be against such?

      December 6, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Reality

      Reproductive health issues in the 21st century:

      "Facts on Co-ntraceptive Use


      January 2008


      • 62 million U.S. women (and men?) are in their childbearing years (15–44).[1]
      • 43 million women (and men) of reproductive age, or 7 in 10, are se-xually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they or their partners fail to use a contraceptive method.[2]
      • The typical U.S. woman (man?) wants only 2 children. To achieve this goal, she (he?) must use contraceptives for roughly 3 decades.[3]

      • Virtually all women (98%) aged 15–44 who have ever had inte-rcourse have used at least one contraceptive method.[2](and men?)
      • Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using one.[2] (and men)
      • 31% of the 62 million women (and men?) do not need a method because they are infertile; are pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant; have never had inter-course; or are not s-exually active.[2]
      • Thus, only 7% of women aged 15–44 are at risk of unwanted pregnancy but are not using contraceptives.[2] (and men?)
      • Among the 42 million fertile, s-exually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing contraception.[2] (and men?)

      • 64% of reproductive-age women who practice contraception use reversible methods, such as oral contraceptives or condoms. The remaining women rely on female or male sterilization.[2]


      Percentage of women (men?) experiencing an unplanned pregnancy (a few examples)

      Method Typical

      Pill (combined) 8.7
      Tubal sterilization 0.7
      Male condom 17.4
      Vas-ectomy 0.2
      Periodic abstinence 25.3
      Calendar 9.0
      Ovulation Method 3.0
      Sympto-thermal 2.0
      Post-ovulation 1.0
      No method 85.0"
      (Abstinence) 0
      (Mas-turbation) 0

      More facts about co-ntraceptives from

      Con-traceptive method use among U.S. women who practice con-traception, 2002
      Method No. of users (in 000s) % of users

      Pill 11,661 30.6
      Male condom 6,841 18.0 "

      The pill fails to protect women 8.7% during the first year of use (from the same reference previously shown).
      0.087 (failure rate)
      x 62 million (# child bearing women)
      x 0.62 ( % of these women using contraception )
      x 0.306 ( % of these using the pill) =
      1,020,000 unplanned pregnancies during the first year of pill use.

      For male condoms (failure rate of 17.4 and 18% use level):

      1,200,000 unplanned pregnancies during the first year of male condom use.

      The Guttmacher Insti-tute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate
      (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male condom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

      o Bottom Line #1: The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the pill or condoms properly and/or use other methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

      Bottom line #2-
      Currently, a perfect barrier system does not exist. Time to develop one! In the meantime, mono-ma-sturbation or mutual ma-sturbation are highly recommended for hete-rose-xuals who need a contraceptive. Abstinence is another best-solution but obviously the se-x drive typically vitiates this option although being biological would it not be able to develop a drug to temporarily eliminate said drive?

      December 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • .........

      the reality reply has nothing to do with the topic hit report abuse on it.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  6. Snow

    Great plan from the Catholics.. creating both the demand and supply of victims..

    December 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  7. ben

    they had to meet certain standard the church said on moral grounds that not all of them could be met therefore they could not get a grant since they couldnt meet the qualifications to get said grant pretty open and shut case to me

    December 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  8. catholic engineer

    "The Bush administration granted a $19 million, five-year contract to the Catholic bishops in 2006 to manage programs for victims of human trafficking. As part of that contract, the Catholic bishops subcontracted with other organizations to provide various victims' services. "

    The article did not expound on how successful the church was using Bush's grant. I doubt the ACLU was interested after it heard the word "Catholic".

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  9. Robert J Medina

    The Catolic Church is a subversive organization trying to undermine our Democracy and as such they should be invited to return to their soverion state, the Vatacan.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  10. Tr1Xen

    Catholic bishops trying to offer help to victims of ѕех crimes? What's next? Is the Barefoot Bandit going to console victims of home burglaries?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  11. George

    This is what happens when you have liberals running the government.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Bob

      Your bias has blinded you. I'm a fiscal conservative, and yet I would have banned this too. It's a good judgement.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  12. Mike from CT

    In 2009, ACLU took the agency and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to federal court to ensure that it doesn’t grant money to organizations like USCCB that “impose religiously based restrictions on reproductive health services.”
    “After being physically and emotionally brutalized by traffickers, they [victims] deserve not to have other people’s religious values imposed on them, and to be able to determine what is in their best interest when it comes to their own health care needs,” Sarah Lipton-Lubet, policy counsel for ACLU, said in a statement. “Today’s hearing was a political show-trial bought and paid for by the powerful lobbyists at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops exerting their influence over certain members of Congress.”

    from the abc article below.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  13. Mike from CT

    Did I miss it, who did the grant go to?

    Also is anyone else concerned with the statement
    ""If we were to have a litmus test that Catholics need not apply ... we need to say so "
    comes close to the law of " prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

    December 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  14. Paul Park


    December 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  15. Nonimus

    More detailed article: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/12/abortion-issue-in-catholic-bishops-seREMOVEx-trafficking-victim-funding/

    "Statement by
    George H. Sheldon JD
    Acting Assistant Secretary For Children and Families
    Administration for Children and Families "

    Grant info: http://www.grants.gov/search/search.do?mode=VIEW&oppId=96974

    December 6, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Dun

      Thank you for the links. Sometimes I think CNN loses sight of too many details.

      December 6, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  16. Colin

    This brings niecely into focus all that is good and bad about the Catholic Church. Its desire to help these people is genuine and admirable. Its refusal to provide basic health care advice, based on the perceived wishes of the Bronze Age sky-god they still believe in is asinine and harmful.

    I wish there was some way we could maintain the charity of the Church, but walk away from its supernatural beliefs. Think how effective it could be in helping people then! Alas, it seems that, for the foreseeable future, poor exploited children have a choice – comply with Catholic doctrine or continue to suffer.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"I wish there was some way we could maintain the charity of the Church,"

      Well Colin, at the same time I wish there was a way to put Faith into aspects of Charity :).

      But, here is a link for you.


      December 6, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Colin

      Mark, what does "put faith into charity" mean? I don't follow.

      December 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Lupe

      Mark's posts have seriously deteriorated lately. Sometimes I think he is losing his brains slowly but surely and other times I think he is just overworked and loopy. It's very strange.

      December 6, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Hi Colin. Just trying to mirror your statement of :

      “I wish there was some way we could maintain the charity of the Church, but walk away from its supernatural beliefs. “

      It is like many in history that enjoy the organization of a group but one aspect of the group, if could be changed or removed...then the group would ideal. I have heard a few Muslims comment on the large churches in our community and society, they see the huge structures and the church members entering to worship. They say that “If they would only accent Mohammad and the tenets of Islam...if they would only make that small change then they would be better”

      I read your statement and it just reminded me of their comments. You notice the charity of those of Faith in the Catholic church …. but if they would just not be persons of Faith you would see them as being ideal. It is through their sense of Faith and duty that they are doing such and since they have done more outreach than most organizations around the planet for the betterment it perplexing why you would want them to change. Especially when there are more secular groups such as UNICEF that does the same outreach. This is why I offered the link, to show you that good in society can be done without requiring some groups from changing their core beliefs or tenets.

      In reading the article one of the congressmen commented that his issue is that if the abortion issue is the litmus test on funding then they should say that clearly.

      >>>”Mark's posts have seriously deteriorated lately. “

      Notice that with some of these threads going into the 1000 and now 4000 comment range, you can not post the way we used too. I used to be able to invest 20 or so minutes in writing and spellchecking a post and have meaningful dialogue. Now days some of the threads are folks just posting to excite anger in the other side. By the time 20 minutes have past, the articles comments have progressed one or two pages. So you try to have a dialogue and discussion with one person and it is almost impossible. I remember reading articles from HotAirAce, David Johnson, and even the likes of Tallulah and Colin. Goodness, even Muneef and Reality's dreadnought posts have been blown into the wind by folks that just want to post one sentence flame comments. Now if it can't type it out in 5 to 10 minutes then it is pointless to say.

      December 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Dr.Lupe

      That's more like it. The myopic Mark post. Where would we be without it?
      It's just that some of your other posts looked like you had suffered some sort of major brain trauma.
      Not that your brain isn't clearly damaged anyway, but I thought you were getting worse.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Lupe, its just the timing. Often I am at work, typing post on my PDA during a break or a transfer and it is difficult to type all of a post out on a notes app, cut and paste it into the mobile version of the Belief Blog... pray that you have been able to dodge all of the baned words or not used with with the baned words in them. Consti'tution often kills me. 😦

      Also, the mobile version of the Belief Blog, if your post is blocked, unless you have saved it to the PDAs clipboard... its gone forever. When you are sitting at a proper computer, if it is blocked you can hit the back button and re-examine what you wrote and make corrections. So lately with these large comment count threads I just type, post, go because I often wish to engage the person's original post before the next page cycles. Another issue with the mobile version is that it only allows you to view the latest page posted on the blog. I have typed responses out, gone to post and all of the previous post are gone as a new page has started. If I drop back to the full Belief Blog my iTouch has a heart attack and begins the task of displaying all the ads and other items that appear on the full blog. Which means, more time goes past to post on a page that is already one page down.

      Often times lately, I have re-read some of my post when I came home and thought the same thing you did but, by then ten to twenty pages of comments have past. Its just not worth the effort now days to craft concise post on certain threads.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Ed

      "I wish there was some way we could maintain the charity of the Church, but walk away from its supernatural beliefs. Think how effective it could be in helping people then"

      So they should only be allowed to help if they will do it on your terms? Doctors only help becasue they get paid, yet we are ok with that. Most charitable groups try to get people to agree with them to help. The Catholic church is beeter than some. Since they believe they are trying to save a soul as well as help with the current world is it really so awful for them to try. They are very efficinet at helping large numbers of people whether or not the people are or become Catholic. Why complain about their belief just because you disagree?

      December 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  17. PeteDO

    Ain't I the squeaky wheel of cheese!
    Okay, if there was any legislative fixes to be done to make this a more ethical and intelligent grant-approval process, I would most certainly include provisions that bar any organization that has a clear history of child abuse from receiving grants of any sort.
    That would not be "political" nor would it violate the 1st Amendment. Simple.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Ironicus

      Definitely the best solution posted here so far!

      December 7, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  18. I'm The Best!

    They didn't meet all the qualifications for this grant. There was no discrimination, just people making a fuss because they didn't get their way

    December 6, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Mike from CT

      I think the issue was the qualifications where not clear until after the rejection, the "fuss" prompted this response

      Issa, who is the chairman of of the committee, said the federal agency should have been more clear.

      "If we were to have a litmus test that Catholics need not apply ... we need to say so

      December 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  19. Nonimus

    I'm not sure how Catholic's were discriminated against, they don't meet the requirements of providing information about all available options. Unless the winners didn't provide all available information either, then it would be discrimination.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  20. hippypoet

    hell yeah deny them a grant to "help" the victims.. its just a way for the perverts to find there prey without having to go looking! And they would have gotten money to do it too!

    December 6, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • TCS

      trolololololo much?

      December 6, 2011 at 11:49 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.