Father Snyder Defends Collaboration To Help Poor
Published: April 23, 2009
ATLANTA—Father Larry Snyder was running errands when he got the call. It was the White House.
Father Snyder, the 58-year-old president of Catholic Charities USA, accepted the offer extended to him to sit on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Since doing so earlier this year, the priest from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and four-year leader of Catholic Charities has received what he has termed “hate mail.”
Father Snyder defended his service on the White House panel for President Barack Obama during his keynote speech at the second annual Catholic Charities Atlanta Gala April 16.
The 25-member panel is a resource for nonprofits and community organizations, secular and faith-based, to contribute to communities by tapping the resources of the federal government. The term on the council is one year.
Father Snyder said there is a “very clear disagreement” on abortion-related issues between the Obama administration and Catholic Charities.
“We need to be clear and upfront about this. And never compromise our values in dealings with the administration,” he said, which drew applause from the 550 people attending the fundraiser.
But where views of President Obama and his administration merge with Catholic teaching, church leaders should pursue the mutual goals, Father Snyder said.
“God will not forgive us for not speaking about the rights of the unborn. But I believe God will not forgive us for missing any opportunity to promote the care of the poor and the vulnerable in this country,” he said.
Catholic Charities is a pro-life organization, he said.
“In a very real way, we give the church credibility on this issue by providing options and support and not just wishing those in the situation well,” he said.
The president and his staff are well aware of where the church and Catholic Charities stand on the abortion issue, he said.
“Know I will use my position there to represent the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless members of our country. It is important they have a place at the table,” he said.
In areas of shared concern, the church should work together with the government. For instance, Father Snyder noted how the bishops had advocated for reauthorizing and expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Former President George W. Bush had twice vetoed the expansion in 2007. President Obama signed it into law in February.
An estimated 4 million young people will gain access to health care through this new law.
“I believe we must take every opportunity to improve the lot of the poor in this country whenever we can,” he said. “Our voice needs to be at that table. Our values need to be championed in those discussions.”
He said, as disciples of Jesus Christ, Catholics are not given an option, but are specifically called to work for and embrace the poor.
“If we take seriously the mandates of the Gospels in Matthew 25, Luke 10 and John 13, we cannot do anything less,” Father Snyder said.