“[O]ne of the hard things we've always had to learn in the world as it is, is that there are no permanent enemies and no permanent allies.” – Ernesto Cortes, SW IAF Regional Director, “Organizing the Community”
When a charitable organization such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has given millions of dollars to help other organizations – such as the local affiliates of the various Alinskyian organizing networks – to become established and to expand their activities, one is shocked to see these networks turn against their benefactor in a manner designed to destroy it. Such an action betrays the truth that the Church is not only unnecessary to these groups, once they have become established, but stands as a counter-principle to their real work. It’s taken the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church in the United States a while to figure this out.
In fact, the CCHD still hasn’t “gotten” it. Its 2011-2012 grants have been awarded and about $7.6 million was distributed among 192 organizations. CCHD remains the organization it has always been: a vehicle for moving Catholic charity into left-wing, progressive political organizations.
Here is a little fiscal analysis to explain that statement: during the 1990s, the Catholic charity gave approximately 33% of its annual national grants to Alinskyian community organizing efforts. These Alinskyian community organizations fell into five main networks: the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), Gamaliel, Pacific Institute for Community Organizing (PICO), Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART), and the now-disgraced Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). There were additional grants to organizations from other Alinskyian networks but these were the major culprits.
The 2011-2012 grant list is even more pronounced in this emphasis. Of the 192 grantees, about 110 are unequivocally Alinskyian, raising the percentage of CCHD national grants to Alinskyian community organizing efforts to over half. This is no improvement.
Among the larger, faith-based networks – that is, among those that organize within religious congregations and thereby do double damage – 31 of the current crop of grantees belong to the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network, 22 grantees belong to the PICO network, and 24 belong to the Gamaliel network. (A few of these organizations have disassociated with their parent network but retain their essential ideological thrust so have been included, as well.)
Considered from a dollar perspective, that’s $1,225,000 to the IAF, $865,000 to PICO, and $999,500 to Gamaliel this year – which is $3,089,500 in total, for this year. That’s a lot of money to bring organizers into Catholic parishes, drumming up support for programs like, oh, say… Obamacare with its HHS mandate to force Catholics to either violate their consciences or get out of the healthcare field.
And drum up support for Obamacare they did. Without a shred of concern over its problematic abortion, contraception, and potential end of life components, the interfaith coalition We Believe Together – Health Care for All pushed Obama’s healthcare plan. The coalition included three CCHD-funded Alinskyian organizing networks – Gamaliel, Interfaith Worker Justice, and PICO – as well as a host of other progressive “Catholic” activist groups, all of who worked their religious constituency with a “unified moral voice,” claiming this legislation, as it stood, with death-dealing elements, was mandated by the various “faith traditions.”
Meanwhile, PICO and its affiliates, also heavily funded by the CCHD collection, worked directly with CCHD to arrange “Faith and Health Care Sundays” throughout June 2009 and with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) “to define a position that would address access for all…. The USCCB has invited PICO staff and clergy to brief Bishops on our health care efforts and has encouraged dioceses and parishes to work with PICO affiliates to hold educational sessions on health care.”[i] Further, PICO’s founder and executive director, Father John Baumann, SJ, received a CCHD award for PICO’s success at obtaining “regional, then state funding for health care for poor families” along with “raising awareness and leveraging federal funding for health care.”
So, now that the Catholic Church - which was undeniably an important, if not critical, ally in passing Obamacare – has been threatened to the very core of its being by related Obamacare mandates, where are the host of community organizations it has nurtured for decades? PICO, the IAF, IWJ, and Gamaliel are profoundly silent. No outraged press releases at the scurrilous way in which the Church is being attacked, no massive rallies in protest…just deafening, sickening silence.
Some folks at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
(USCCB) are beginning to “get” it: a June 27, 2012 “Advisory Memo to Journalists” put out by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh who is USCCB director of media relations, is really interesting.[ii] In response to Faith in Public Life’s public dismissal of the Church’s concerns about the HHS mandate, she points out Faith in Public Life’s intimate association with “a pro-abortion group long directed by John Podesta called the Center for American Progress”[iii] and provides a point-by-point refutation.
The memo explains that Faith in Public Life’s seven-member staff has a highly partisan, political makeup, including: “one person who came to the group directly from serving as communications director for a Democratic congressman and his election campaign; one who worked for various Democratic campaigns and for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; two…who worked for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a blatantly partisan…political initiative; and an executive director coming from the secular and partisan Center for American Progress.”
Faith in Public Life has also served as a sort of clearing house for the Alinskyian organizations. Its speakers have included Greg Galluzzo, national director of the Gamaliel Foundation; Kim Bobo, founder of Interfaith Worker Justice; Sister Simone Campbell, national coordinator of NETWORK; and Rabbi Jonah Presner of the Industrial Areas Foundation.[iv]
In fact, most recently, Faith in Public Life’s Casey Schoeneberger managed media relations for NETWORK’s bus tour, a public relations stunt designed to arouse sympathy for a given group of religious women who are under Vatican scrutiny for some very un-Catholic activities.[v] One blogger went to meet the bus as it passed through Madison and wrote under a photo that she took to prove her point: “Nuns on the Bus supporters hold up a peace flag behind Sr. Simone, to block the view of the ‘Stop Obama’s HHS Mandate’/’Stand Up For Religious Freedom’ signs, a message they seemed to regard as contradictory to their own. Here, the ‘stop sign’ peeks out from behind the flag.”[vi]
So one might reasonably conclude that the positions of Faith in Public Life of giving public support to the HHS mandate and denigrating the bishops’ attempts to preserve its freedom of conscience to act according to moral principles are also the positions of the CCHD-funded Alinskyian organizations. Despite their enormous debt, these networks are no friends of the Catholic Church.
And yet…CCHD continues to fund them.
Speroforum columnist Stephanie Block also edits the New Mexico-based Los Pequenos newspaper.
[i] Parish bulletin, Church of the Most Holy Trinity,” October 18, 2009; Church of the Most Holy Trinity RC is a member of PICO’s San Diego Organizing Project.
[ii] The entire – extremely well-considered - memo can be read at www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-118.cfm.
[iii] For support for Sister Walsh’s statement see: Stephanie Block, “Dissenting Catholics hookup with Obama team: Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have openly endorsed pro-abortion candidates.”
[iv] See Stephanie Block, “American Catholics and Faith in Public Life,” www.catholicmediacoalition.org/faith_public_life2.htm
[v] NETWORK is specifically identified by the Vatican “Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious” as in need of “review.” See: www.usccb.org/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=55544
[vi] “Soros-funded ‘Faith in Public Life’ handling PR for ‘Nuns on the Bus,’” Laetificat blog: