The Catholic University of America

Dec. 16, 2013 


The letter spearheaded by the organization Faith in Public Life is an unfortunate effort to manufacture controversy and score political points at the expense of The Catholic University of America.

The Catholic University of America has received a commitment of $1 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and $500,000 from the Busch Family Foundation to support research into the role principled entrepreneurship should play in improving society’s well-being. The grant will enable the University’s School of Business and Economics to recruit and hire three visiting scholars from academia and one visiting scholar-practitioner from the business world.

The University controls the search, recruitment, and selection process for all positions funded in the agreement. The University will independently select all faculty and staff related to this grant in accordance with existing University hiring policies. All the activities funded in the grant are related to the core mission of the University to teach and conduct research in service to the Church and the nation.

The Faith in Public Life letter suggests that the University has not been transparent in disclosing details about the Charles Koch Foundation grant. This is puzzling. The University was happy to receive the grant and publicized notice of it in a Nov. 12 press release. It was posted on our website that day and has remained there since then.

The letter is presumptuous on two counts. First, its authors cast themselves as arbiters of political correctness regarding Charles Koch Foundation grants. They judge the Foundation’s support of the arts and culture to be “noble philanthropic work;” its underwriting of grants to universities elicits their “serious concerns.” Second they seek to instruct The 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. We are confident that our faculty and academic leadership are well versed in Catholic social teaching and well equipped to apply it. We created a school of business and economics for the express purpose of promoting respect for the human person in economic life, based on the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, human dignity, and the common good. The aim of the Charles Koch Foundation grant — to support research into principled entrepreneurship — is fully consonant with Catholic social teaching. On that point the letter’s authors are strangely silent.

The facts bear out a long record of involvement in higher education by the Charles Koch Foundation, without any serious claim of interference with recipients of their funds. For more than three decades the Charles Koch Foundation has been a 501(c) (3) charitable organization (prohibited by law from directly or indirectly participating in political activities). According to its website it currently provides support to more than 270 universities nationwide, including Brown, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Northwestern. Twenty-five Catholic colleges and universities, in addition to The Catholic University of America, are on that list. Among the 50 signatories to the Faith in Public Life letter are 15 individuals who list affiliations with colleges and universities that receive Charles Koch Foundation support (San Francisco, Loyola/New Orleans, Notre Dame, Dayton, Duquesne, Villanova, Holy Cross). So widespread and, on balance, non-controversial has been the Foundation’s support for higher education that we wonder whether the 15 signatories realized, before they endorsed the letter, that their institutions are “guilty” of the same association they chastise The Catholic University of America for. And if they were aware of this, we wonder why they apply a different standard to The Catholic University of America than they do to their own institutions.

The grant has not engendered any controversy on our campus. No students, faculty, or staff members have contacted either President John Garvey or Dean Andrew Abela to express concern. Nor has the University’s Board of Trustees voiced any reservations; in fact one of them is working closely with Dean Abela on the grant. The negative attention to the grant has all been externally driven by organizations with a political agenda. Nearly two weeks after the University publicly announced the grant, an organization called Faithful America launched a petition drive in opposition. Faithful America appears to be an affiliate of Faith in Public Life, the organizer of the letter. In recent weeks Faithful America has also launched three separate petition drives against one Catholic bishop and two Catholic cardinals. All have been characterized by harsh, simplistic, and one-sided rhetoric. As for Faith in Public Life, it is telling that after a two-week-long effort to recruit faculty support at Catholic University, it was able to muster the signatures of only three professors, less than one half of one percent of the University’s faculty.

The Catholic University of America welcomes constructive input from all who share an interest in advancing and supporting its mission. It has no intention of revisiting its decision to accept the grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.



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