Komen, Catholic Groups Have Complicated Relationship

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March 16, 2012; Source: Washington Post

It should come as no surprise that the Catholic Church takes issue with Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s funding of Planned Parenthood. What is perhaps more surprising is the continuing symbiotic fiscal relationship between Komen and Catholic institutions, which has largely escaped the public view. In 2011, Komen granted $7.4 million to Catholic organizations such as universities, hospitals and charities.

Yet, since 2005, dioceses from several states have protested against Komen and/or have withdrawn funding due to Planned Parenthood grants, which totaled $684,000 in 2011—or less than ten percent of the generous allotment to Catholic institutions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is mute concerning the Komen kerfuffle; according to spokeswoman Sister Mary Ann Walsh, this is because funds to Komen come from local Catholic bodies. Another Conference source confirms that the national organization has no present intention of taking action.

Butting heads with Komen is partly a reflection of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s elevation to chairman of the Conference in 2010 and a Republican wave of anti-abortion legislation following the elections that year. In 2011, Cardinal Dolan instigated the formation of an ad hoc committee on religious liberty targeting public policies contrary to church views on abortion, contraception and gay marriage. Bishop Leonard Paul Blair of Toledo, Ohio expresses the values of Catholics who speak against Komen. “In today’s world,“ Blair states, “there are a lot of entanglements of many things and one has to exercise a certain prudence about standing firm on principle and church teaching and the moral conscience.”

The bond between Komen and Catholic organizations reflects the common purpose of fighting breast cancer. Yet some see ethical gymnastics at play. “It is morally inconsistent, and difficult to explain, why you would condemn donations [made by Komen] but continue to accept grants [from Komen],” said Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics. Some church officials retort that it is proper to accept funding that helps aid the poor within the strictures of Catholic moral principles while at the same time rallying against Komen’s support of family planning activities. Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center says, “The concern is at the front end, when you’re donating money to an entity that’s taking that money and using it in a contradictory way.” Will the public accept this logic as the facts of the Catholic leaders’ relationship with—and stance on—Komen comes to light? –Louis Altman