(RNS) Dozens of Catholic leaders are protesting the decision by the Catholic University of America to accept a large donation from the foundation of Charles Koch, a billionaire industrialist who is an influential supporter of libertarian-style policies that critics say run counter to church teaching.

Charles Koch and his brother, David, “fund organizations that advance public policies that directly contradict Catholic teaching on a range of moral issues from economic justice to environmental stewardship,” says a four-page letter to CUA President John Garvey, released Monday (Dec. 16).

Andrew Abela, dean of the

Andrew Abela, dean of the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America, has been criticized for accepting a $1 million gift from the Charles Koch foundation. Photo courtesy Ed Pfueller/CUA.

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The letter was signed by 50 priests, social justice advocates, theologians and other academics, including several faculty at CUA in Washington.

The $1 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation was announced last month. Along with $500,000 from the Busch Family Foundation, the Koch gift will underwrite the hiring of three visiting scholars and a “visiting scholar-practitioner from the business world.”

“As you well know, Catholic social teaching articulates a positive role for government, an indispensable role for unions, just tax policies, and the need for prudent regulation of financial markets in service of the common good,” said the letter, also directed to Andrew Abela, dean of CUA’s new School of Business and Economics.

“We are concerned that by accepting such a donation you send a confusing message to Catholic students and other faithful Catholics that the Koch brothers’ anti-government, Tea Party ideology has the blessing of a university sanctioned by Catholic bishops,” it continues.

CUA is the only Catholic university in the U.S. that is sponsored and partially funded directly by the American hierarchy; most other Catholic schools are operated by religious orders. It is also a pontifical university, meaning it is certified by the Vatican.

Critics say that makes the donation, which CUA faculty said is one of the largest single gifts in the school’s history, especially troubling.

In an unusually sharp response issued later Monday, the university said the protest letter was “an unfortunate effort to manufacture controversy and score political points at the expense” of CUA and it said CUA would not reconsider the Koch donation. It called the signers “presumptuous” and “arbiters of political correctness.”

This is not the first time CUA’s decisions have prompted protests. More than 80 Catholic academics and other leaders objected to the university’s decision to invite House Speaker John Boehner to give the school’s 2011 commencement address, saying House GOP economic policies violate U.S. bishops’ statements opposing federal budget cuts for the needy, especially without asking sacrifices of the wealthy.

In many ways, the new letter is a proxy in a larger turf battle within the U.S. church between its social justice-oriented left wing and its more conservative right wing that says Catholics can disagree on the application of church teaching to the economy.

As the letter notes, Pope Francis has been a persistent and sharp critic of many free market economic policies that he says hurt the poor and worsen income inequality. The pope, for example, has blasted “the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation” and ripped “trickle-down” economics that reflect the kind of laissez-faire theories that the Koch brothers support.

The Koch brothers, who are not Catholic, have actively thrown their wealth behind conservative and libertarian political causes and candidates that reflect their desire for smaller government, lower taxes, fewer regulations on business and less oversight of the financial markets. They have backed Tea Party organizations, anti-union initiatives, and opposed environmental regulations. Koch Industries was founded as an oil company, and energy remains its core business.

The Kochs have also donated to universities to establish programs in business and related endeavors, and the CUA letter cites reports of “unacceptable meddling in academic content and the hiring process of faculty” by the Koch foundation.

Abela, the business school head, said those concerns are unfounded. In an interview before receiving the letter, Abela said that the Koch foundation had contacted CUA because it felt the new business school’s mission to promote a “person-centered economy” dovetailed with its own goals of fostering “principle entrepreneurship.”

Abela said foundation officials in fact “spent a whole day reading the social encyclicals” of various popes, and after that still wanted to provide funds for CUA to hire three visiting scholars from academia and one “visiting scholar-practitioner” from the business world — no strings attached.

The scholar-practitioner, who Abela would not identify, will start in January and is a venture capitalist who Abela said “takes his Catholic faith very seriously.”

Abela added that there is “a fairly wide range of what people consider to be consistent with Catholic social teaching” and he said the business school and the Koch foundation’s mission fit within those parameters.

“I’m just delighted to draw anybody into that conversation,” he said. “And if they want to bring money, double bonus.”

The Koch grant was announced last month with little fanfare but sparked an online petition from the liberal religious advocacy group Faithful America. The petition says that Catholic University “needs to put Pope Francis’ vision of a church for the poor ahead of the Koch brothers’ radical agenda.”

Several CUA faculty had also privately expressed alarm over the Koch donation and the growing influence at CUA of advocates of conservative economic views that go against positions backed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as the popes and long-standing church teaching. Several of them are now speaking out publicly.

Among the signatories of the letter are CUA theologian William A. Barbieri Jr.; Ken Pennington of the CUA law school; Frederick L. Ahearn Jr. of CUA’s National Catholic School of Social Service; and William V. D’Antonio, a senior fellow at CUA’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.

Others signing the letter include several former officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Miguel Diaz, a theologian at the University of Dayton and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.



    • It is a stretch to consider Catholic universities these days as “bible thumpers.” Far from it. A school that is Catholic in more than name does not invite the likes of Obama and Sebelius to give commencement addresses.

      Big money going to universities claiming to be Catholic, though, is not good, eh? Soros sending millions anywhere, though, has the divine blessings of the god of the leftists.

      • Its cute how you use “Catholic universities”, in the plural as opposed to the specific one in the article, Catholic University. Catholic University, is by all accounts plays its “religious school” credentials to the hilt unlike many colleges which are simply “Catholic universities”. They used alleged religious freedom to ban unions, co-ed dorms and enforce a code of conduct based on Catholic dogma. Its not Notre Dame or St. Johns. Schools typically associated with Catholic universities. Ones which have no conceivable adherence to Catholic doctrine as a condition to student life or coursework.

        Not very honest on your part, but expected.

        • Nor was your response particularly honest in addressing the main point of the article nor the second point I made about Soros money, points you skipped over because, most likely, you have no reply.

          “Its (sic) not Notre Dame or St. Johns. Schools typically associated with Catholic universities.” That is my point exactly.

          Not very sharp on your part, but expected.

          • You were shifting goalposts and trying to reframe the arguments in a dishonest direction. Your point was a rhetorical fallacy you use constantly. “Tu Quoque”. Avoid addressing the issue by pointing out alleged faults of the other side.

            Anyone doing just a bit of research on Catholic University will find it is a school which takes doctrinaire issues more seriously than the overwhelming majority of catholic universities. Your attempt to steer the argument towards talk of catholic universities in general was just evidence of your inability to address the topic in a straightforward manner. Typical.

            Its not ad hominem if I am addressing the argument’s merits or just insulting you. Of course its ironic that you decry ad hominem while engaging in one at the same time. I am a “leftist” therefore some kind of liar in your eyes. I will make this clear. You are not being dishonest because you are a conservative. You are being dishonest because you are deliberately trying to re-frame argument on a ridiculous tangent. No ad hominem on my part. .

          • No reply button available at the end of Larry’s reply to me in the afternoon of 19 December, so I post it here.

            Yes, I have shifted arguments. I’ll try to avoid that in the future.

            Meanwhile, I’ll continue to remind you of your use of weasel words to hide what appears to me to be a refusal to accept the words of the Constitution for what they say, as I’ve done most recently in this forum.

            On the other hand, you simply “move on” at times, especially when you’ve been presented an argument by me that you likely cannot address or are unwilling to do so. You have stated you move on; I’m imputing the reasons. The best way to dispel such conclusions, of course, is to address the issue in the first place.

    • Are you saying that CUA “bible thumps”? Yes, you are. Do you complain about Soros and his support of liberal institutions? No, you don’t.

      Now that I have focussed only on the article itself and your response and don’t give you the opportunity to kick about my expansion of the argument to include other Catholic universities, do you have any reply? Perhaps you’ve “moved on” again.

      Your criticism was valid. I amended my ways. Reply?

    • Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment
  1. The slandering of .the Koch brothers and Tea Party members by left leaning Catholic Priests and marxist academics is distressing to use a kind word. Bearing false witness is sinful.

    • These same leftist priests likely have no complaint about Obama’s attempt to force religious institutions to abandon their Constitutional rights. In fact, I doubt they even know he’s doing so, being good consumers of mainstream media bias that they are.

      Liberals are liberals before they’re anything else: Teddy K, Pelosi, Kerry, Leahy, Biden . . . .

  2. “As you well know, Catholic social teaching articulates a positive role for government, an indispensable role for unions, just tax policies, and the need for prudent regulation of financial markets in service of the common good,” said the letter, also directed to Andrew Abela, dean of CUA’s new School of Business and Economics.

    What in the h3ll is this? When did Jesus think Government should do his job? After the government killed him, or when they we’re ripping his skin off with a clave?

    These Soros Socialists better GTFO of my Church.

  3. This doesn’t sound like the Catholic Church I grew up in….If you pardon my language….But, what the hell?……Limitied government….means government would stay out of any Church…especially the Catholic Church….Unless these folks like what the Obama administration is doing…,,What are they going to say next, abortions are okay? What a load of B.S.

    • Dionesia, just keep in mind that many posters here are people who have an “expanded” view of the meaning of words in the Constitution. Their principle spolkesman in this regard is Algore.

      Note, too, when confronted with observations about the current role of government vs the Constitution’s limits on it, these same posters never respond. The last thing assorted leftists are willing to admit is their own political philosophy. Instead, they “move on to other topics,” to paraphrase one of the posters whom I recently challenged on this very point.

      But I am hateful and hypocritical because I don’t toe the leftist line. And they don’t even use these pejoratives in anything that represents dictionary definitions of the terms.

  4. These Koch’s are so explicitly looking like the anti-Christ. Sneeky rich money god takes the people by money storm. Every man has his price. Including CUA? ? ? I’m asamed for u who is not ashamed before God.And CUA knows what they’re doing getting involved with these Koch’s.It’s greed and power.

  5. “The Koch brothers are not Christian”, but Jewish, according to jspace.com, a famous Jewish online publication. I am surprised that any Jewish organization would take credit for the Koch brothers(not William though, he is the good one). Old George Soros is also of Jewish background, but many say that he was a Nazi collaborator with his father in Hungary.

  6. No it’s got naught to do with PC…its got to do with tbe very obvious Jewish (Talmudic-Satanic) machinations that go towards the ongoing infiltration of Christian institutions by Anti-Christian liars and Zealots. Like Antipope Francis who offered Sainthood to fake, Jewish “Pope”, J.P II…!! THE Vatican no longer runs the Church..and it’s proclamations have no authority as per our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…..I hope some of these heretics and heathens are reading this. .

  7. We may have a irresponsible goverment here but one thing we don’t have is an irresponsible God who is still in control. No reason to sell out to the Koch’s. Where’s ur faith. In man I suppose.

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