Matt C. Abbott
Ex-priest Eugene Kennedy dead at 86; 'Charity as Industry'
By Matt C. Abbott
June 11, 2015

Erstwhile priest and prolific writer Eugene Cullen Kennedy, a darling of the Catholic left who, in a scathing commentary for Religion News Service in 2006, compared me in an unflattering way to comedian Lou Costello, died on June 3 at the age of 86.

From The New York Times:
    Mr. Kennedy, who wrote dozens of books and turned out an endless stream of newspaper and magazine articles on a wide variety of subjects, cut a big figure in Chicago, where he moved easily among the city's political, religious and cultural elite. His close friends included Mayor Richard J. Daley, the novelist Saul Bellow and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
Kennedy's religious and political liberalism rivaled that of the late Fathers Richard McBrien and Andrew Greeley; and, like McBrien and Greeley, he was given royal treatment by the mainstream media when it came to ridiculing Catholic orthodoxy. Bernardin was his saint.

At any rate, Kennedy did indeed have a knack for writing, even if I disagreed with a lot of what he wrote. We should pray for the repose of his soul.

Michael Hichborn of The Lepanto Institute has an interesting blog post titled "Charity as Industry":

He writes (excerpted; click here to read the post in its entirety):
    That the works of charity are now an industry is completely undeniable. Catholic charitable organizations compete with other organizations for large government grants, and in the name of helping the poor, executives in these organizations are raking in the cash.

    For instance, the tax form 990 for fiscal year 2014 for Catholic Charities USA shows the top eight paid employees all making over six figures each. In fact, for working a logged 35 hours per week, Father Larry Snyder made $381,080 and his chief operating officer raked in $412,439. That's two individuals working to help the poor, pulling in nearly half-a-million dollars each. All told, with benefits included, the top eight executives at Catholic Charities USA account for $2,027,680.

    It's no different at Catholic Relief Services. The latest tax form 990 shows that CRS's president, Dr. Carolyn Woo, is earning $445,426 in salary and benefits in order to do 'charitable' work. And the obscene salaries paid to the top eight of CRS's executive leadership comes to $2,180,935. In fact, 27.5 percent of the Rice Bowl collection for 2014 (see page 18 of CRS's 2014 Annual Report) paid the salaries and benefits of these eight individuals alone. That's one of every three dollars collected from pew-sitting Catholics across the country going to pay the salaries and benefits of eight people ... all in the name of helping the poor.

    Worse than executives at Catholic charitable organizations getting rich in the name of helping the poor, much of the actual work is being outsourced to organizations that have no interest in maintaining the integrity of Catholic moral teaching. For example, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development doesn't actually do any of its own work; all it does is dispense grants to community-organizing groups (many of whom are acting in direct opposition to Catholic moral teaching) who do the work CCHD claims it does.

    Catholic Relief Services applies for and obtains large government grants that require it to pass some of the money along to organizations that are attacking the Gospel of Life. In 2012, CRS provided $64.65 million to organizations that are themselves dispensing contraception, committing abortions and performing sterilizations....

    The meaning of the word 'charity' is love. There is no love in mere philanthropy, and certainly not in an industry masquerading as a charity. As the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen would say, 'If souls are not saved, nothing is saved.' CRS, CCHD, and Catholic Charities USA are Catholic in name, but do very little (if anything) to bring souls to Christ. If the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is truly interested in reducing poverty throughout the world, the poverty it must begin with is the poverty of the soul.
Wow. I guess I should have gotten into the charity business.

Look, I don't begrudge people making large salaries per se, but making six-figure incomes working for Catholic organizations that supposedly exist to help the poor and underprivileged? Yes, I do have a problem with that. Not to mention all the other "issues" with CRS and the CCHD.

I worked in nonprofit in years past, and I made nowhere near six figures. Even then, I felt guilty about making a very modest salary given that the organizations for which I worked relied entirely on donations (no government money) from people who, in many cases, were not at all wealthy.

And to reiterate what I've mentioned in past columns: I don't get paid for my Catholic journalism.

© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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