The American Life League gets eternal kudos for its exposé of the connections between the “Catholic” Campaign for Human Development’s (CCHD) annual funding program and abortion.[i] That alone should be enough to inspire profound, systemic reform of collection.
However, there’s another element in this that’s also disturbing and ultimately leads to the same end of unchecked abortion rights.
Consider this bulletin insert from last Sunday, which appeared in a parish of the Davenport, Iowa Diocese. It includes the short story of a CCHD intern who describes her “opportunity to work with Quad Cities Interfaith, a CCHD-funded group. Among other duties, I have mentored a group of central city youth who fight many obstacles, including poverty. The group has titled themselves Hear Us Now and seeks to create a voice for themselves in the hopes of bringing about positive change in their schools, their community, and their lives. I have seen them grow tremendously under the care and leadership training Quad Cities Interfaith offers. This past year, they formed relationships with the police, the mayor, and school board members and have even spoken publicly at a fundraising event about the positive influence of Hear Us Now in their lives.”
Coupled with accompanying boxes of poverty statistics and the bishop’s column, “Working to Break the Cycle of Poverty,” in the November 3, 2011 diocesan paper, the impression – the promise – is that CCHD is a poverty-fighting collection. “The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) carries out Jesus’ mission ‘to bring good news to the poor…release to captives…sight to the blind and let the oppressed go free,’” the bulletin insert proclaims.
What is this “positive change” we Catholics are funding?
What ideas are being given voice through the youth trained by Quad Cities Interfaith?
To what end are the political relationships with police and public officials formed?
The bulletin insert doesn’t say.
It doesn’t have to. Sound-bytes and slogans do the job.
If, however, one were to peek behind the veil, there are curious things to find.
In the Beginning
One would discover extraordinary grants awarded during CCHD’s first years. Here are three from the 1970-1971 inaugural grant period:
· $50,000 to the Universidad de Aztlan, an alternative educational initiative spawned from Plan Espiritual de Aztlán (Spiritual Plan of Aztlan),[ii] a “manifesto” that insisted “economic control of our lives and our communities can only come about by driving the exploiter out of our communities, our pueblos, and our lands …. Lands rightfully ours will be fought for and defended.” The exploiter is identified earlier in the document as the brutal “gringo.”[iii]
· $25,000 to Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizations for Alinskyian organizing. The Foundation was a deliberate attempt to circumvent “internal debates over Alinsky’s intentions and methods and over the role the churches should be playing in political affairs.”[iv] In other words, to filter money less visibly, and therefore less controversially, into Alinsky’s work, supporters created an “ecumenical front” to “shield the churches supporting community organizations from the growing anti-Alinsky” sentiments of their congregations.[v]
· $100,000 to Los PADRES an association of priests who, among other things, established the Mexican American Cultural Center, a hub of liberation theology.[vi]
The question isn’t whether these organizations should be free to express their own, peculiar perspectives but is why the Catholic Church, whose perspective is so different, was funding them? And, lest one dismiss these examples as aberrations, there are numerous others, equally anti-Catholic, funded by CHD in 1970-1971.
Or consider CHD’s[vii] early educational materials, which promoted liberationism. The CHD “Sourcebook on Poverty, Development and Justice,”[viii] published during those first years of the Campaign, argues that “the ‘religious’ person in our society is often equated with the ‘morally upright’ person” but it is, rather, the socially conscious person who is “morally upright.” The author concludes: “In biblical language, liberation is primarily liberation from sin...to speak of liberation in a social sense, then, is to speak of social sin – and to emphasize the social struggle against sin.” [ix]
Another of the Sourcebook’s authors retells the parable of the Last Judgment (Matt. 25:32-46) and puts into Jesus’ mouth the words: “When you changed those structures that generate hunger, thirst, nakedness, and loneliness, when you created or operated structures through which men could finally feed themselves, satisfy their thirst and clothe themselves in a community of justice and love, it was to me that you did it. And when you abstained, it was to me that you did not do it.”[x]
Still another author touts “liberating education” – a process quite distinct from traditional western education, which is “institutional, self-serving and divorced from developmental needs, forcing the learned to look elsewhere for meaning and causing institutional education to be in many cases the experience of irrelevance. Catholic education in the U.S. seems to have shared in this deficiency.” The “new theory of catechesis,” which includes values clarification and a threefold pedagogy of transference, reflection, and action-living, is lived out by the learner in a “continual dialectical interrelationship.”[xi]
This is not Catholic thought. This is not service to the poor.
It is a political worldview that wants the “infrastructures” of religious institutions – their moral credibility, their interpersonal connections, their resources, and such – for its own uses.
Twenty-five Years Later
“OH!” someone protests. “That was long ago. CHD was young; mistakes were made. It changed!”
Did it really?
Twenty-five years after CHD’s founding, at its anniversary celebration in Chicago, keynote speakers were prominent members of the Democratic Socialists of America?[xii] AFL-CIO president at the time, John Sweeney, served as an advisor to the United States Catholic Conference was another influential Democratic Socialist of America. Yet another USCCB advisor was Ernesto Cortes, southwest regional director of the Alinskyian organizing network, the Industrial Areas Foundation. CHD grants in 1995 went dozens of Alinskyian community organizations, pushing liberationism in Catholic parishes. CHD educational materials from the time, such as “Poverty and Faithjustice” guided participants to the conclusion that poverty in the United States requires fundamental changes in its social and economic structures. [xiii]
So many disturbing facts; so many unanswered questions. What exactly are these fundamental social and economic changes being funded? Are they the same as those recommended by the Democratic Socialists of America? How are these changes to be brought about?
Entering a New Millennium
In 1998, CHD “reformed.” Under pressure from critics, the Campaign added the word “Catholic” to its name and produced a new set of guidelines emphasizing the sanctity of life and disqualifying organizations from CCHD-funding whose primary or substantial thrust was, ostensibly, contrary to Catholic teaching.
It continued to fund the same organizations, however.
One of these was ACORN. In 1997, the Wanderer Forum Foundation mailed a copy of ACORN’s socialist People’s Platform to every bishop in the country, and gave them documentation about the political party, called the New Party, which the CHD-funded ACORN, the CHD-funded Industrial Areas Foundation network, and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) were building during the 90s.
The C/CHD continued funding ACORN for another decade, however, until public outcry became too broad to ignore. ACORN’s illegal activity was something CCHD couldn’t support; its openly socialist policies and connections – its plans for “positive change” were something it did support.
And CCHD continues to support organizations with similar objectives to ACORN. In particular, it is funding many of the organizations behind the current “movement” of civic unrest. In other words, the mass protests of the last several years are organized, in part, by CCHD-funded groups.
Immigration: Consider the wave of marches and rallies demanding increased rights for undocumented workers. Before sweeping the country in 2006,[xiv] they were preceded by scores of CCHD awards – such as the more than half million dollars for a Nationwide Immigrant Empowerment Project, announced in 2000, to help “immigrants identify and overcome barriers to full participation in their adopted country.”
Many additional grants were distributed. In the 2001-2002 grant period, $30,000 was awarded the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights in California and $30,000 to the National People’s Action[xv] affiliate Organization of the Northeast for its Work, Welfare, and Immigration Strategy Team in Illinois …just to name two.
· The California-based Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights was one of 30 community organizations and local coalitions involved in launching the “Week of Action Against ICE Raids and for Immigrant Rights” in 2007.[xvi]
· The Illinois-based Organization of the Northeast “helped organize a massive immigrant rights march in Washington, D.C.”[xvii] in 2010.
There were dozens of other CCHD-funded groups in 2001-2002 that later helped organize immigration protests and rallies. And there were dozens more funded in subsequent years.
Universal Healthcare: Wait, we’re just getting warmed up! What about the massive drive to pass a universal healthcare package, irrespective of abortion components? In 2009, PICO and Gamaliel – two of the larger Alinskyian networks whose local affiliates receives millions of CCHD-dollars – worked with Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (progressive organizations targeting religious institutions) to run ads on Christian radio in conservative states for “health care reform.” They coordinated “health care” Sundays during the summer to support the legislation.
Occupy Wall Street and Anti-Banking: Or, what of the Occupy Wall Street protests? In the last decade, CCHD has given substantial money to the Interfaith Worker Justice network, which was created “to facilitate relationships between local religious leaders and labor unions throughout the United State”[xviii] and has been working with its union allies to support the Occupy Wall Street protests.[xix]
CCHD has also given substantial grants to National People’s Action (NPA) affiliates, which are intensely committed to increased banking regulation. A member of Americans for Financial Reform, NPA joined the AFSCME union, CCHD-funded affiliates of USAction, and the CCHD-funded, Alinskyian organizing PICO network[xx] in “fighting to regulate the financial industry.”[xxi]
Under the banner of “Showdown on Wall Street,” NPA – again working in coalition with the AFL-CIO – orchestrated protests in New York City.[xxii] A year later, NPA’s “Make Wall Street Pay” campaign included the takeover of a DC branch of Bank of America – and involved PICO and the Alliance for a Just Society.[xxiii] Around the same time, ACORN’s founder Wade Rathke announced there would be “days of rage in ten cities around JP Morgan Chase” that would be “the beginning of the anti-banking jihad,” organized by the SEIU union, which urged participants at the 2011 Left Forum “to do everything in their power to make the nation’s financial problems far, far worse,” including staying in their homes as long as possible without paying delinquent mortgages.[xxiv]
Another effort to disrupt the economy, called “New Bottom Line,” which called for participants to move as much money as possible out of major banks on November 5, 2011, was led by the same group, specifically NPA, PICO, the Industrial Areas Foundation of the Southeast (IAF-SE), and others related to the former ACORN network.[xxv]
This is the “change” Catholics are funding through their CCHD dollars.
These are the ideas are being given voice by the CCHD-funded, Gamaliel affiliate, Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI), using these strategies. In 2005, QCI was a sponsoring organization for an immigration rally outside the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Annual meeting.[xxvi] In 2009, QCI joined other protesters at the National Mall to “Rally for Health care Justice in Washing DC.”[xxvii] In October 2011, it rallied at the state capitol for job creation in Illinois.[xxviii]
You want a revolution? Why didn’t the bureaucrats at CCHD explain beforehand – in the 70s and 80s – that this is “systemic change” they’re after? Or…did they and no one listened?
Stephanie Block is a Spero columnist. She also edits Los Pequenos.org - a publication based in New Mexico.
[i] To read the 2011-12 report, visit www.reformcchdnow.com
[ii] Lee Stacy, Mexico and the United States, (Marshall Cavendish, 2002 ) p.70.
[iii] Full text of Plan Espiritual de Aztlán (Spiritual Plan of Aztlan): www.utpa.edu/orgs/mecha/aztlan.html
[iv] P. David Finks, The Radical Vision of Saul Alinsky, (New York: Paulist Press, 1984), p 167.
[v] The Radical Vision of Saul Alinsky…p 234.
[vi] Texas State Historical Association, “PADRES,” from The Handbook of Texas Online: www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ixp02 (accessed 11-3-11)
[vii] The word “Catholic” wasn’t added the Campaign for Human Development’s name until 1998. Therefore the acronym for the Campaign’s early years is CHD.
[viii] “Sourcebook on Poverty, Development and Justice,” edited by the Education Staff of the Campaign for Human Development, published by the United States Catholic Conference, undated (around 1973-4).
[ix] Sourcebook…(emphasis in the original), pp. 67, 73; written by Peter J. Henriot, S.J., Staff Associate of the Center of Concern.
[x] Sourcebook…. “The Social Mission of the Church in the United States,” by Sr. Elinor Shea, OSU and Frederick J. Perella, JR., Assistant Educational Coordinator of the CHD, p. 45 (quoting Rene Laurentin, Liberation, Development, and Salvation, p. 123).
[xi] Sourcebook…. “Education to Justice” by Sr. Josephine Dunne, SHCJ, the Education Coordinator of CHD, pp. 117, 119-120, 124-125.
[xii] Namely, Dr. Cornel West and Dolores Huerta, honorary chairs of the Democratic Socialists of America.
[xiii] “Poverty and Faithjustice: An Adult Education Program on Christian Discipleship in the United States,” prepared by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Service, published by the United States Catholic Conference, 1998, p.2. According to the declaration of Msgr. Dennis M. Schnurr, General Secretary NCCB/USCC, at the beginning of “Poverty and Faithjustice,” the material is a 1997 CCHD planning document, approved by general membership of the NCCB, which authorized the CCHD “to develop relevant materials on social justice issues in order to raise the consciousness of parishioners.”
[xiv] See, for example, “Rallies across U.S. call for illegal immigrant rights,” CNN Politics, 4-10-06: articles.cnn.com/2006-04-10/politics/immigration_1_jaime-contreras-national-capital-immigration-coalition-illegal-immigrant-rights?_s=PM:POLITICS
[xv] As a dues-paying member of United Power for Action and Justice, ONE is also affiliated with the IAF.
[xvi] “Immigrant Communities Demand An End to Immigration Raids,” 2-26-07
[xvii] Adam Doster, “Chicago Group Wants Intransigent Lawmakers To Pay ‘Political Price,’” Progress Illinois, 6-8-10.
[xviii] George E. Schultze, SJ, “Work, Worship, and Laborem Exercens in the United States Today,” working draft paper, University of San Francisco, undated.
[xix] Among other things, the IWJ website carries “We are the 99 Percent: Occupy Wall Street,” Congregation Discussion Guides and “Prayer Service for Supporting Occupy Together,” (accessed 5-4-11).
[xx] Americans for Financial Security, coalition members: ourfinancialsecurity.org
[xxi] Heather Booth bio, New Organizing Institute Staff: www.neworganizing.com/profile/Heather-Booth
[xxii] Showdown on Wall Street, 4-29-10: showdowninamerica.org/showdown-wall-street
[xxiii] Make Wall Street Pay Press Release, “Homeowners Tell Attorneys General: ‘Not Enough;’ Hundreds Go to National Association of Attorneys General’s Convention,” 3-7-11: makewallstreetpay.org/news/2011_0307c.html; David Dayen, “National People’s Action Takes over BofA Branch in DC: Updates, 3-7-11: news.firedoglake.com/2011/03/07/national-peoples-action-takes-over-bofa-branch-in-dc
[xxiv] F. Vincent Vernuccio and Matthew Vadum, “SEIU plans days of rage against Wall Street: Boycotts, Marches, and Protests…How to Put Banks on the Edge of Insolvency,” Canada Free Press, 7-18-11.
[xxv] “Hundreds Protest Wells Fargo Shareholder Meeting in SF,” San Francisco Bay Guardian (online), 5-4-11; Joel B. Pollak, “Email from Lisa Fithian to Occupy Wall Street Confirms ACORN Role in Occupy’s Next Assault on Banks,” [undated but around 10-21-11].
[xxvi] Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, informational flier: “Hundreds of Iowans rally for Immigration Reform; Announce plan to engage governors, Iowa’s political leaders in reform efforts: Call on Governors Vilsack, Huckabee and Iowa Political Leaders to Fight to Restore Integrity, Humanity to Nation’s Broken Immigration System,” 7-16-05: www.iowacci.org/news/pressreleases/latino/latinopress_3.htm
[xxvii] Quad Citites Interfaith: www.qcinterfaith.org/modules/piCal/index.php?com_mode=flat&com_order=1&event_id=742
[xxviii] “Gamaliel of Illinois Action for Jobs at State Capitol - Part 1:” www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4aZyAkHkxI