After more than 40 years of the (Catholic) Campaign for Human Development’s preaching about the need for systemic change, we get it.
If we want a world in which the dignity of every human person is respected, from the moment of conception until natural death, the “system” under which we live has to be reordered. Pope John Paul II called this present system a “culture of death” and that’s a good name for an entire fabric of institutions and programs that take it for granted that certain humans are invisible and dispensable. The most dispensable among us are the children in utero, the ones yet to be born. They are cavalierly aborted, most often by “contraceptives,” or discarded in laboratories in staggering numbers.
To change a “culture of death” into a “culture of life” requires systemic change, the change of a bad “system.”
One needs to understand how systems operate. The abortionist who sucks a child from its mother’s womb is supported by laws, by pro-abortion religious communities, by self-serving boyfriends, by sexual education programs, by a pornography industry, by salacious Madison Avenue sales pitches, and a hundred other entities that are comfortable with babies dying. To shut down the system, therefore, requires repairing laws, evangelizing, educating, and offering unadulterated alternatives, such as health care that doesn’t come, hand in glove, with a corrupt system.
Is this the systemic change CCHD is seeking?
The pro-life United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) collection has had a slogan, “break the vicious cycle of poverty.” The idea behind it is that giving money to the CCHD is a way to “help the poor.”
In a culture-of-life system, “helping the poor” would mean “helping the poor.” It would provide an immediate benefit to them, such as food or medicine, or it would provide a long-term benefit, such as job training or financial management…or it might address elements in society that treat poor people unjustly, engaging in legislative advocacy or educational programs.
In a culture-of-death system, however, benefits are “contaminated.” One poor person is fed by starving another. Every acquired good is purchased by an exchange of flesh.
How does this work? In one of its 2011 newsletters, CCHD proudly describes the work of grantee AMOS, an acronym for A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy. AMOS is a local affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation, an Alinskyian organizing network that rallies congregations and other institutions for political advocacy.
AMOS was given a CCHD grant to help it advocate for a mobile obstetric clinic. “The mobile clinic is the happy result of a five-year effort by AMOS’s 29 member organizations, including Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Dubuque and the Diocese of Des Moines.”[i]
AMOS was one of four organizations involved in creating the Ames clinic. ‘The clinic was created from a partnership of AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy), MICA (Mid-Iowa Community Action), Broadlawn Hospital in Des Moines, and Des Moines University.”[ii] It’s insightful to look at these other partners.
MICA (Mid-Iowa Community Action) is one of a number of associated organizations were established in the 1960s as “delivery systems that maximize the federal, state and local resources in providing services to citizens.”[iii] That is, they connect poorer citizens into government-funded programs such as Head Start, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and others.[iv]
Among the key programs MICA uses is PROMISE JOBS, described as a “supportive, informational, and a true collaborative effort [that] gives each family an opportunity to access not only positive programs but an increased network of support.” [v] Available to all PROMISE JOBS participants – and therefore to all MICA clients - are “Family Planning Services – An option for everyone referred to PROMISE JOBS. Participants can find out how additional children can affect a family’s finances.”[vi]
Then, there’s Broadlawns Medical Center – a hospital – in Des Moines, another one of the partners that, along with the CCHD-funded AMOS, was responsible for establishing the Ames Mobile Clinic. Broadlawns’ Variety Club Women’s Health Center Family Planning Clinic provides a broad range of “specialized services and care for women” that include birth control counseling, emergency contraception, and something ominously called “pregnancy options,”[vii] a term used by Planned Parenthood to include abortion.
The last partner creating the Ames Mobile Clinic is Des Moines University, an institution offering graduate studies in the health sciences.[viii] Students seeking an “elective experience” in international medicine, that is, wanting some hands-on, primary care experience in a country outside of the United States, must demonstrate an understanding of “local Family Planning and population programs.”[ix]
In the partnership of AMOS, MICA, Broadlawns Hospital, and Des Moines University, the latter three entities provide the actual program of the Ames clinic.[x] The function of AMOS, however, is to build community support within its member institutions – all of them religious congregations; six of them Catholic.[xi]
AMOS is the propaganda machine, the vehicle by which culture-of-life watch-dogs are kept too busy gnawing biscuits to see what they are supporting.
See, the Ames Mobile Medical Clinic (elsewhere called the Ames Area Free Obstetrical Clinic[xii]) is one of about 30 Free Clinics of Iowa. [xiii]
Free Clinics of Iowa is a contraceptive system, providing its member clinics with all “essential resources.”[xiv] At least one clinic makes it clear that its scope of care includes family planning[xv] suggesting that it is probably not the only clinic providing such “services.”
So what has CCHD actually funded? It has funded the creation of a clinic that may or may not be distributing contraceptives. Let’s say it isn’t, for the sake of discussion. However, the clinic is part of a complex system that promotes contraception (“family planning”) as an important tool in “helping the poor.” Organizers from the Industrial Areas Foundation have been permitted to enter six Catholic parishes and rally people within them to support a clinic that is part of a culture-of-death system.
Could CCHD have supported a culture-of-life system, instead? Could the United States Catholic Conference not have put Catholic money into shoring up Catholic medical facilities? Couldn’t it have funded any of the innovative health care practices around the country that don’t include “family planning” options, or worse? Sure…it could have.
But it didn’t. Rather than bringing the leaven of Catholics values into a broken world, the “systemic change” sought by CCHD appears to be just the opposite – to force the leaven of the world’s value into Catholic institutions.
Over the next few weeks, this series will examine a number of other recent CCHD grantees, many of whom are far more personally and directly culpable than AMOS. However, it’s important to appreciate that the cry for “systemic change” means different things to different people – and not all change is for the good.
Stephanie Block is the editor of the New Mexico-based Los Pequenos newspaper and frequent contributor to Spero. She is a member of the Catholic Media Coalition.
[i] Beth Griffin, “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, Better Communities,” Helping People Help Themselves, issue 2, 2011. AMOS was awarded $40,000 in the 2010 CCHD grant period, $40,000 in 2009, $40,000 in 2008, and $40,000 in 2007 - $160,000 to organize its member institutions to lobby for a mobile obstetric clinic into the area.
[ii] Laura Millsaps, “Free Mobile Obstetric Clinic Opens in Ames,” The Ames Tribune, 1-20-11.
[iii] Iowa Community Action Association: www.iowacommunityaction.org/about/index.cfm
[iv] MICA webpage: www.micaonline.org
[v] Family Development and Self Sufficiency Program 2004 Annual Report, “Mid-Iowa Community Action,” p. 15.
[vi] Iowa Workforce Development, Region 1 Gateway, Promise Jobs: www.iowaworkforce.org/region1/promisejobs.htm
[vii] Broadlawns Medical Center, Des Moines, Iowa, Variety Club Women’s Health Center Family Planning Clinic: www.broadlawns.org/womens-health.cfm
[viii] Des Moines University: www.dmu.edu
[ix] Des Moines University, International Medicine: http://www.dmu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Global-Health-International-Medicine-Learning-Objectives-DO-13.pdf
[x] The clinic is staffed with medical personnel from Broadlawns Hospital in Des Moines. The mobile medical clinic is provided by Des Moines University and operated under the auspices of Free Clinics of Iowa: The Westgater, Collegiate Presbyterian Church, Ames Iowa, 2-11, p 3.
[xi] AMOS website, List of Members: amosiowa.org/node/9
[xii] Free Clinics of Iowa, “Current member clinics:” www.freeclinicsofiowa.org/member.shtml (accessed 6-23-11)
[xiii] Laura Millsaps, “Free Mobile Obstetric Clinic Opens in Ames,” The Ames Tribune, 1-21-11.
[xiv] Free Clinics of Iowa, “Becoming a clinic member:” www.freeclinicsofiowa.org/criteria.shtml
[xv] Boone Free Clinic: “Free Clinic Opens in Boone County,” Boone New Republican, 12-17-10; Free Clinics of Iowa, “Current member clinics…”