As pointed out in Part I of this series on the 2011 collection of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), many dioceses are gearing up for the annual November appeal. At the same time, CCHD critics are reiterating that, for its entire 40–plus years of existence, the collection has been disbursing money to organizations that advance blatantly immoral and politically partisan positions.
Part I examined CCHD’s defensive cry that many of its funded organizations are meeting with disapproval because their critics are find them “guilty” by association. It looked at CCHD’s funding the Idaho Community Action Network as a good example of a group whose “guilt by association” was, indeed, pretty damn guilty by organizational choice.
In this article, let’s consider another guilty-by-organizational-choice CCHD fundee, the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP). SWOP’s guilt is not focus of today’s commentary but it’s important to bear in mind that we’re talking about a genuinely problematic group which has just been awarded $45,000 by a new and improved, more discerning CCHD vetting process.[i]
Here’s the rub: SWOP’s own webpage boasts that it is the lead “community partner” for one of the Elev8 projects in Chicago.[ii] These partnerships, it explains, are supported by Atlantic Philanthropies, an international foundation whose Elev8 programs around the country make “comprehensive sex education a requirement for receiving the four-year grant, which totaled $18 million in Chicago.”[iii]
In other words, SWOP is a critical component to assure that “comprehensive” – contraceptive – sex-ed programs in Chicago public schools are accepted by the “community.” This isn’t SWOP being found “guilty by association” with pro-contraceptive sex-education programs but a fundamental part of SWOP’s own organizational energies.
What an utterly inappropriate organization to receive $45,000 from the Catholic Church! Did CCHD personnel not realize what SWOP was doing? Did they not understand the nature of “comprehensive sex-ed?” Did they not care?
The questions aren’t answerable but whether incompetence or maliciousness is at the bottom of this particular CCHD grant, the fact remains: SWOP is an anti-Catholic CCHD-funded organization – the very type CCHD adamantly assured Catholics would not receive any more CCHD grants.
On those grounds alone, SWOP’s funding is scandalous and irresponsible.
There’s another point, however, to be made.
SWOP is also a member of Chicago Alinskyian community organizing network, the Industrial Areas Foundation, founded by Alinsky himself. The Chicago local affiliate is called United Power for Action and Justice (UPAJ) and is a mega-meld of institutions: religious congregations of every ilk, unions, schools, health care facilities, and all sorts of things.
The Industrial Areas Foundation, its companion networks, their locals such as UPAJ, and their member institutions like SWOP are all of them, together, pushing a broad progressive agenda.
To take one example from hundreds, on May 17, 2011, SWOP co-hosted an immigration rally to support of the Illinois DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), Smart Enforcement Act, and retention of the Immigrant Services Line.[iv]
· The DREAM Act creates scholarships for undocumented students;[v]
· The Smart Enforcement Act challenges existing federal immigration law that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens posing a threat to public safety and to repeat immigration violators;[vi] and
· The Immigrant Services Line Item is the part of the State of Illinois budget that specifically provides funding for immigrant needs such as emergency food, healthcare, domestic violence assistance, U.S. citizenship assistance, economic development programs, English classes, and so forth, without reference to immigration status.
Whether or not one agrees with any or all of the above provisions as they apply to illegal immigrants, each provision is a very specific political position...as opposed to a moral principle.
The moral principle here is that we – the United States as a nation and as individual citizens – must be law-abiding and generous toward those who cross our paths. Legal status doesn’t change that principle.
“Generosity,” however, isn’t a morally defined quantity. All sorts of factors measure it, which is why we have political “conversations” about public “generosity.” Can we afford the level of “generosity” being asked of us or are we failing to take care of those for whom we’re already responsible? Is this “generosity” inviting abuse? Are we sacrificing other moral principles, such as the duty to protect one’s country or one’s family, to fulfill this one? How do we satisfy the tension between these principles?
In such a case, there are different good answers – that is, people of good will, coming from varying perspectives may feel a DREAM Act is politically sound while the proposed Smart Enforcement Act is suicidal.
Church social teaching wisely makes the distinction between principles and the wide gamut of political positions that are crafted, in varying times and places, to address those principles. Moral principles are the dictates of God and rarely correlate neatly with political positions; political positions are the machinations of man – for better or worse.
When religious institutions get too politically embroiled, people often confuse principle with application. Knowing what good they intend, it’s difficult for them to comprehend that a program to support that good could be anything but good itself.
But it happens.
So, the Church places political action into the hands of citizens rather than churchmen. We read, for instance: “The lay faithful are called to identify steps that can be taken in concrete political situations in order to put into practice the principles and values proper to life in society. This calls for a method of discernment, at both the personal and community levels, structured around certain key elements: knowledge of the situations, analyzed with the help of the social sciences and other appropriate tools; systematic reflection on these realities in the light of the unchanging message of the Gospel and the Church’s social teaching; identification of choices aimed at assuring that the situation will evolve positively…. However, an absolute value must never be attributed to these choices because no problem can be solved once and for all.”[vii]
The problem with Alinskyian organizations is that they have seized the resource of the religious institution – the church or the mosque or the schul – and used its moral authority to press their own political applications. The DREAM Act becomes A Moral Mandate. Comprehensive sex-ed with its contraceptive-pushing elements becomes A Moral Mandate.
Meanwhile, the individual Catholic or Jew or Presbyterian who disagrees suddenly discovers that – without having voted for this representation – he is represented by SWOP or UPAJ or some other faith-based community organization as supporting both the DREAM Act and Comprehensive sex-ed, whether or not it offends his own political sensibilities and, most egregiously, whether or not it vitiates genuine moral principles.
Or, let’s put it more bluntly: until we get Alinskyian community organizing out of the Catholic Church – until these groups are forbidden to organize parishes and are denied “generous” Catholic grants – their agendas become the agenda of the Catholic Church in the US, too. On some level, every US Catholic - bishop, priest, and lay person – is supporting the DREAM Act. On some level, every US Catholic is supporting comprehensive sex-ed with its contraceptive-pushing elements.
Without a vote.
Without a choice.
Often, without knowing.
Spero columnist Stephanie Block is an investigative journalist who also edits the New Mexico-based Los Pequenos newspaper and is a member of the Catholic Media Coalition.
[i] 2010-2011 CCHD Grantee List: www.usccb.org/cchd/grants/index.shtml
[ii] Southwest Organizing Project website: www.swopchicago.org/display.aspx?pointer=6002
[iii] LISC/Chicago: www.lisc-chicago.org/display.aspx?pointer=7425. LISC/Chicago (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) is an intermediate organization “for channeling corporate and philanthropic resources into local initiatives.” Around 2008, “Atlantic Philanthropies provided LISC/Chicago with a grant to create a program that would partner NCP lead agencies with schools and community-based health centers in CPS middle schools ...” “Renewed Funding--and New Achievements--for Elev8,” 9-1-11, www.lisc-chicago.org/news/1430.
[iv] SWOP news article, “The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) hosts a powerful immigration rally at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church,” 5-17-11: www.swopchicago.org/display.aspx?pointer=10495
[v] The Illinois DREAM Act was signed into law in August 2011.
[vi] U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) information about “Secure Communities,” the specific initiative targeted by the proposed “Smart Enforcement Act:”www.ice.gov/secure_communities
[vii] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, §568