After three years of intense scrutiny into problematic Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) grants, the American Life League and other concerned groups gave the beleaguered “charity” some space to reorganize. CCHD’s 2013 collection came and went with hardly a peep from its critics and the next year of grants was announced unchallenged.
CCHD allies, however, have used the hiatus to argue against any reform or redirection.
One of those allies is Faith in Public Life. In anticipation of the 2008 elections, Faith in Public Life was created by Soros-connected individuals[i] to be a media machine that could give a religious voice to progressive political positions. To this end, progressive clergy from various “faith traditions” were brought together to deliver coordinated messages concerning the election – most critically, that voting for a president needed to be about more than his abortion record. They were so successful that the organization continued to coordinate other campaigns, such as a push for universal health care regardless of any moral failures built into the new system.[ii]
The secular media was encouraged to use Faith in Public Life sources for commentary about how “faith communities” saw particular policy proposals. Progressive clergy, rather than more conservatively-oriented religious spokespersons, would represent the “moral” perspective. And this “moral” perspective quite deliberatively laid the question of abortion and same-sex marriage to the side. There were, Faith in Public Life insisted, more relevant things to discuss.
Who came under the Faith in Public Life umbrella? Most of the individuals and groups who are part of this religious-progressive media machine were – and are – exactly what might be expected: people from denominations that officially support abortion and homosexual “rights” as well as activist groups founded to further these particular causes.[iii]
It is shocking, however, to realize the number of Catholic organizations that also appear as Faith in Public Life contacts. Catholics are staunchly opposed to abortion. Yet, because of nuanced positions on issues such as universal health care and immigration, official Catholic bodies are often positioned in active political fellowship with pro-aborts and homosexual activists. And because there are many genuinely progressive individuals at the helm of Catholic institutions – individuals who often have a compromised personal relationship to Church teaching – this political fellowship is extremely comfortable.
So, when CCHD came under increasing internal examination, Faith in Public Life sprang to its defense. One recent defense is in the form of a report titled “’Be Not Afraid?’ Guilt by Association, Catholic McCarthyism and Growing Threats to the U.S. Bishops’ Anti-Poverty Mission,” authored by John Gehring and released in the summer of 2013.[iv] Gehring, very wisely, got a number of progressive Catholics to “endorse” the report and a quick glance at the list reveals that most, if not all, of the report’s endorsing Catholic groups have been associated with Faith in Public Life since its inception. The report’s endorsing individuals – many directly working for the CCHD, either currently or in the past – show how closely Faith in Public Life’s progressive political ambitions and CCHD’s grant patterns are associated.
The report’s introductory comments set the stage. It begins by characterizing its critics: “Using guilt by association and other tactics from the McCarthy-era playbook, these activists are part of an increasingly aggressive movement of Catholic culture warriors who view themselves as fighting for a smaller, “purer” church.” (page 2) A few pages further, the report complains that “[t]hreats to anti-poverty work are part of a toxic climate of fear in which efforts to narrow Catholic identity to a few hot-button issues distort the debate over Catholic values in public life, and social justice advocates face character assassination.” (page 4)
In particular, the Faith in Public Life report makes a point of defending CCHD’s funding of community organizing – and not just any community organizing but Alinskyian community organizing. Alinskyian community organizing is the key to understanding CCHD’s response to poverty. “Not all of CCHD defunding involves guilt by association,” the report admits in a section called “A rejection of ‘Alinsky-Style’ Organizing.” “In some cases, there is also a deeper hostility toward the principles of community organizing despite the church’s long history of shaping and supporting this movement.” (page 17).
The report singles out bishops who have rejected Alinskyian-style organizing with snarky, comments such as: “In a nod to the 1950s McCarthy era when ‘blacklists’ were emblematic of a culture of fear, the protocol in the Cleveland diocese requires a list of all organizations ‘found to espouse, support, finance or otherwise promote in any way any position or program that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, whether in practice or in philosophy.’” (page 19)
How much it says about Faith in Public Life (and its Catholic endorsers) that a bishop who rejects funding anti-Catholic programs or positions because those programs or positions are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church is dubbed a “McCarthyite.” Isn’t that what a bishop is supposed to do – to lay down his life in defense Christ and his Church?
Faith in Public Life has argued that there are many Church teachings and that concern for the poor is among them. CCHD critics agree with this statement.
However, the report fails to explain why it insists that the novelty of Alinskyian community organizing is the only way to accomplish concern for the poor when, for two millennia, the Church was faithful to her teaching without Alinskyian community organizing. The report also fails to explain why, for the first time in her history, it is necessary for the Church to chose to obey one teaching – concern for the poor – at the expense of others, such as “thou shall not kill.”
The problem is that the CCHD – as represented by the Faith in Public Life and its Catholic endorsers – is part of a progressive political package that is essentially pro-abortion.
And, despite the defunding of a few token organizations, CCHD’s trajectory is exactly what it has been since the 1970s.[v] CCHD grants continue to be skewed toward progressive political organizations, most particularly Alinskyian community organizing.
Of the 193 grantees on the national[vi] 2012-2013 CCHD grant list, well over half can be positively identified as belonging to Alinskyian community organizations (the number may be higher given how frequently new affiliates form and old affiliates change their names). Among these, at least 30 went to affiliates of the organization founded by Saul Alinsky, the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF); over 45 went to IAF clone networks – 20 to PICO affiliates, 15 to Gamaliel affiliates, and about 10 to DART affiliates; and the rest went to affiliates of National People’s Action, Interfaith Worker Justice, USAction, and several of the smaller organizing networks.
These groups are well-represented among the Faith in Public Life media machine. This is not “guilt by association” – these people openly work together in support of a common vision that “serves the poor” without charity, via mandatory societal restructuring. They are part of a progressive fellowship that includes Planned Parenthood and chapters of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
There have been very real affronts to Church teaching about abortion and homosexual issues in past CCHD grant awards. But the problem is more systemic than a grant here or there.
As the Faith in Public Life report make plain, those affronts are so woven into the fabric of Alinskyian organizing that to address them is to threaten the very essence of not only CCHD but the entire United States progressive machine.
Spero columnist Stephanie Block is the author of the four volume study "Change Agents: Alinskian Organizing among Religious Bodies."
[i] See Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, “Memo to Journalists,” 6-27-12: www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-118.cfm
[ii] It was apparent, long before the Affordable Health Care Act became law, that this legislation would have ethical problems: Block, “Alinskyian organizing linked to abortion movement: The Catholic Church is a supporter of Alinskyian community organizing. Why?”
[iii] A more extensive discussion of the groups making up Faith in Public Life can be read: Block, “American Catholics and Faith in Public Life,” www.catholicmediacoalition.org/faith_public_life2.htm
[iv] John Gehring is Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life. Previously, he served as Director of Communications at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and was Assistant Director for Media Relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.
[v] A few dioceses have attempted to respond to CCHD scandals by including more “economic development” grants and/or awarding unobjectionable grants that are presented in CCHD terms. Thus, the perfectly laudable grant of $30,000 to the Washington DC Gabriel Network – which provides assistance to women in crisis pregnancies – is described as a “community development” grant.
[vi] CCHD gives back a percentage of the collection to each diocese who can distribute the money locally as it sees fit. This analysis doesn’t account for those local grants but only those disbursed at the national level.