Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2013 / 03:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic University of America has defended a $1 million gift from the Koch brothers against “presumptuous” criticisms that accepting the grant would cause scandal and obscure Church insight on economics.
“The aim of the Charles Koch Foundation grant – to support research into principled entrepreneurship – is fully consonant with Catholic social teaching,” the university said in a Dec. 16 statement. “The negative attention to the grant has all been externally driven by organizations with a political agenda,” the university later continued. In Jan. 2013, the Catholic University of America created a separate business school, drawing business, finance, and economic-related courses of study from the School of Arts and Sciences. The school later received a $1 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to go towards supporting the new school. The gift was criticized in a letter organized by Faith in Public Life and in a petition drive sponsored by Faithful America receiving over 28,000 online signatures, claiming that CUA's acceptance of the gift sent “a confusing message to Catholic students and other faithful Catholics” on Church teachings of economics. The letter, addressed to President John Garvey and Dean Andrew Abela, alleged that the grant would give the faithful the impression that the university and the Catholic bishops have given “the blessing” to the “Koch brothers’ anti-government, Tea Party ideology.” The associated petition called the donations “incompatible with the educational mission of the Catholic University of America.” In its reasons for opposing the grant the letter criticized the brothers’ support of “sweeping deregulation of industries and markets,” and opposition to Medicaid expansion and sweeping deregulation of industries and markets, which the letter’s authors claim go against Church economic teachings. The letter continued, saying that Charles and David Koch are trying to attain an “absolute autonomy of the marketplace” which the “Catholic intellectual and social tradition” critiques. Catholic University called the claims “presumptuous” in its attempt to act as “arbiters of political correctness regarding Charles Koch Foundation grants” and the authors’ effort “to instruct Catholic University of America’s leaders about Catholic social teaching, and do so in a manner that redefines the Church’s teaching to suit their own political preferences.” The letter, the statement said overlooked the university’s strong background in Catholic social teaching and mission to promote “respect for the human person in economic life, based on the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, human dignity, and the common good” in the new business school. The Catholic University of America also noted that the “grant has not engendered any controversy on our campus,” with no students, faculty or staff contacting President Garvey or Dean Abela to voice their concerns. “The Catholic University of America welcomes constructive input from all who share an interest in advancing and supporting its mission,” the university said, affirming that it “has no intention of revisiting its decision to accept the grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.” In addition, the letter continued, receiving funding from the Charles Koch Foundation has not been linked with “ any serious claim of interference” from the organization into how universities use their funding. The organization frequently funds higher education, and their donations are “widespread and, on balance, non-controversial,” CUA said. The statement pointed out that 15 signers of the letter from universities across the country are employed at institutions “'guilty' of the same association they chastise The Catholic University of America for.” Furthermore, the statement added, the letter and petition drive seem “to be the latest campaign against the Catholic Church and related institutions sponsored by Faith in Public Life.” The Catholic University of America also provided a link to documentation alleging that Faithful America is an affiliate of Faith in Public Life. It noted that in “recent weeks Faithful America has also launched three separate petition drives against one Catholic bishop and two Catholic cardinals” for statements upholding the Church’s position on abortion and same-sex marriage. CNA previously reported on Faith in Public Life, including on a leaked email in which the organization allegedly presented a “backgrounder” email containing talking points and examples of adversarial questions to ask Catholic bishops on its challenge to the HHS mandate. The leaked email claimed that the Church used “inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric” that conflates “working through complex policy issues with a fundamental attack on the Catholic Church” in its struggle to affirm conscience rights to decline coverage of contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs. The email also instructed members of the media to reject the Church’s claims that the mandate poses a serious threat to religious liberty or to the Church as “fiction.”