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When asked to explain, in a nutshell, why a Catholic might continue to oppose the annual Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) collection, despite recent protestations that the CCHD has put its house in order, there are four solid responses:
Let’s examine each of these points.
The Lepanto Institute, under the direction Michael Hichborn, who was formerly director of the American Life League’s Defend the Faith Project, has prepared two detailed reports for recent CCHD funding periods – one of them being 2014-2015.(1)
As CCHD claims to have undergone “reform” recently, the Lepanto report for 2014-2015 is of immediate interest. Has CCHD changed its funding patterns in any significant way?
For purposes of comparison, reports for additional grant periods over the past decade can be examined at Reform CCHD Now.(2) Even further back, one can read a 1997 report prepared by the Wander Forum Foundation.(3) This latter report focuses particularly on ACORN which CCHD continued to fund for nearly ten more years, until allegations of ACORN’s embezzlement and voter fraud caused CCHD sufficient public embarrassment to withhold further support. Further analysis can be read at the Capitol Research Center website.(4) These three organizations have prepared their studies independently of one another.
To demonstrate that CCHD continues to fund organizations that directly support positions contrary to Catholic teaching, here are two examples from the Lepanto Institutes’ 2014-2015 report. There are others.
The Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCC) is an affiliate of the National People’s Action network. It received $35,000 from CCHD for the 2014-2015 grant period.
Complaints about this coalition are nothing new. In 2012, Reform CCHD NOW reported that NWBCC was running a youth program called Sistas and Brothas United that promoted a philosophy about homosexuality among young people that was in contradiction to Church teaching. The Church hierarchy acknowledged as much when Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, the executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York, responded to the report: “After the most recent review of their CCHD grant request, prior to your letter, the NWBCC was not recommended for funding, and will not be receiving money from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.”
However, this past year, it received another CCHD grant.
No. The Lepanto report states that Sistas and Brothas United continues to engage in homosexuality activism, citing a March 2014 article by the Cardinal Newman Society titled, “Fordham Univ. to Host ‘IgnatianQ: Finding God in the LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer] & Ally Jesuit Student Community.’” In this article, one reads about a “seminar titled LGBTQ Activism 101 will be led by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. The website of the NBCCC links to an LGBT advocacy organization called FIERCE.”
Sistas and Brothas United’s Facebook page shows that Sistas and Brothas United have launched a Gay Straight Alliance that, among other things, is organizing in New York City’s high schools. Alliance initiatives include “Beyond the Binary,” to raise awareness in schools “about gender non-conformity and transgender issues”; implementation of LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum; and LGBTQ Visibility & Awareness, “so that LGBTQ youth, teachers, and staff will begin to feel safer to come out on campus.”(5)
Merced Organizing Project’s (MOP) lead organizer, acting as a representative of MOP, is part of California’s Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health (CaLAPH) Merced “team” – which also includes the Regional Program Manager of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.
CaLAPH is working “to address social determinants of health and to work towards health in all policies in their community.” According to a PowerPoint presentation created by its Merced team, the services being discussed include “preventative services for women, including pregnant women.” The address provided on the PowerPoint to access more information about these services takes the reader to a website(6) with information about where to obtain contraception and sterilization, as one might suspect, given Planned Parenthood’s involvement.
These are two examples of grants given by CCHD to organizations that are directly promoting abortion, sterilization, contraception, and/or homosexual “rights” activism. Neither of these groups is forthright about its intentions. The Merced Organizing Project is not stating that it is working to assure contraceptive availability to local woman. This can only be discovered by examining what it actually is doing.
Point #1 Summary: It is not being suggested that CCHD is deliberately funding organizations that directly promote positions contrary to Church teaching – CCHD has, in recent years, attempted to create more stringent funding guidelines to prevent exactly these sorts of grants.
The fact remains that too many grants are awarded to organizations that have not been adequately scrutinized. Considering the number of years that critics of CCHD have been pointing out these misappropriations, one would think CCHD would have figured out a way to avoid such embarrassments.
CCHD’s funding of inadequately scrutinized organizations is not the primary problem with CCHD grants. It is of far greater consequence that most CCHD grants go to organizations advocating for progressive systemic changes that contain within them the above-mentioned de-humanizing components.
In the 2014-2015 CCHD grant period, over half its grants went to organizations within the various Alinskyian networks. These, as well as many of the other grantees, do not provide many direct services nor do they often support for economic development programs. Their effort, as expressed by the PICO Merced Organizing Project, is “to develop, equip, and transform community and congregations to actively engage in the public arena to improve their community. Through the collective voice of our leadership, we help set up policy priorities and protect the things that are important to us…. to be a catalyst for change and be the voice of the people by building a strong organization that helps provide solutions to pressing community issues and needs.”(7)
Because these are secular organizations, whose member congregations represent diverse moral understandings, the solutions, policy priorities, and public engagement initiatives they sponsor are generally focused on involving the government in increasingly invasive – and morally corrupt – programs. Here are several examples of a CCHD-funded organization serving a larger, progressive purpose. There are countless others.
Greater Boston Interfaith Organization
Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) is an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation network. It has been receiving CCHD grants since 1997, including $35,000 in 2014-2015.
GBIO was a member of the ACT!! Coalition (Affordable Care Today!! Coalition) that included NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts(10) and fought for passage of Commonwealth Care, a state-run precursor to the nation’s Affordable Care Act, which includes coverage of abortion services.(11) It also assures that low-income people can obtain low or no-cost contraceptives and birth control counseling.(12)
Rev. Rosemary Lloyd, a GBIO “leader,” is also the adviser for the faith-initiative of The Conversation Project, an effort to get end-of-life discussions into religious institutions. While The Conversation Project doesn’t push assisted-suicide, it doesn’t rule out the possibility as an option. Its Starter Kit treats “ordinary care” as if it were “extraordinary,” including the question: “Are there kinds of treatment you would want (or not want)?” In case one might not understand what has been asked, the questionnaire gives examples: “Resuscitation if your heart stops, breathing machine, feeding tube.”(13) Here, “passive” euthanasia has been suggested as a reasonable – and in the context of a religious institution, as a presumably “moral” – end-of-life “option.”
GBIO – and the legislation, policies, and programs it supports – gives progressives a foot in the door of its member congregations. It has already acculturated abortion and contraceptives. Now, it is midwifing acceptance of euthanasia.
Cleghorn Neighborhood Center is another organization that Reform CCHD NOW exposed in 2012 as being a seriously problematic grantee for CCHD money. Among other things, the Center is listed as a “community partner” with the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, providing referrals and broadened outreach efforts, according to Planned Parenthood’s 2011 application for Title X money. Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts’ health center services include abortion and birth control provision.(14)
Despite this information, CCHD re-funded this organization with another $35,000 for the 2014-2015 grant period.
Has the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center changed direction? Not at all.
Joana Dos Santos, who is the executive chair of United Neighbors of Fitchburg (Cleghorn Neighborhood Center and and the Cleghorn Youth Center are two the programs of United Neighbors of Fitchburg), also serves as chair of Community Health Network of North Central Massachusetts.(15)
The network is a creation of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and is plugged into its Sexual and Reproductive Health Program, which is designed “to reduce unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates by continually improving access to high quality education, outreach and clinical services through a statewide provider network and related special projects. Post-health care reform, family planning remains an integral component of MDPH’s efforts to provide information and resources that improve individual and community health …”(16) Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts is one of the “family planning sites” that are part of Massachusetts’ Statewide Family Planning Program Provider Network.(17)
Without looking at more recent Title X applications, it’s apparent that the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center remains in “partnership” with this abortion and contraceptive provider.
Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center and Gould Organizing Project
The Gould Organizing Project, operating within the Diocese of Little Rock, was awarded a $35,000 CCHD grant for its 2014-2015 funding year. It doesn’t appear to be associated with any of the Alinskyian networks but is, rather, a member of the Arkansas Citizens First Congress coalition, working “for progressive changes in state policy,” according to the Congress website. The coalition also includes another current CCHD grantee, Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center (as well as Planned Parenthood of Arkansas). Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center is an affiliate of the Alinskyian Interfaith Worker Justice and received a $50,000 grant.
So, what are these groups, bolstered by Catholic money, doing with the Arkansas Citizens First Congress coalition? For one thing, in the spring of 2015, they pressured Arkansas governor to veto the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act – supportedby the Bishop of the Little Rock Diocese – legislation that would have increases “judicial scrutiny” in cases involving religious beliefs.
Point #2 Summary: It is important to emphasize that the above-mentioned organizations are only a few examples of CCHD grantees working directly for systemic, progressive changes that contain within them elements that are objectionable to the moral truth. The majority of CCHD grantees fit this description.
The explanation for supporting these progressive packages is that they serve a “greater good,” despite their immoral elements. Thus, the “greater good” of a (progressive) universal health care system apparently excused the moral evils it contained. A just political compromise, however, would have been a universal health care system without those elements. People of good will, more concerned about health care provision than about challenging the moral truth, should have accepted such a compromise.
Because the progressive political package IS engaged with challenging the moral truth and changing public consensus from generally accepted positions to novel ones, there is tremendous pressure on Catholics to reject Church teaching – or, preferably, to believe Church teaching is something other than it is. Many CCHD-funded Alinskyian organizations have launched reeducation efforts to disseminate their philosophies, presenting them as Catholic/Christian/Judeo-Christian teaching when they are not. Here are some recent examples:
Together Baton Rouge
Together Baton Rouge is an affiliate of the IAF. It received a $75,000 CCHD grant during the 2012-2013 funding period. Pentecost 2014, Together Baton Rouge brought together people from their various member denominations, including Catholics, “to study the Bible” together.
Together Baton Rouge is a secular, political organization. So this isn’t Scripture as the Church teaches it but it’s scripture that has been reinterpreted “contextually” by the Alinskyian organizers to train Christians to “act on their concerns about the community” in the way that the organizers understand what those acts ought to be.(18)
The Catholic Commentator (newspaper for the Diocese of Baton Rouge) wrote about this new community Bible study, quoting one religious sister as saying, “I feel the spirit of Pentecost is in this room.” Further on, Together Baton Rouge is compared to Peter getting out of the boat and walking in faith to Jesus in the storm.
Gamaliel is one of several Alinskyian networks of “people’s organizations” – many receiving CCHD grants. In the 2014-2015 grant period, at least 16 affiliates of Gamaliel were given grants that totaled well over half a million dollars. This funding, therefore, assists about a third of Gamaliel’s 44 affiliate organizations.
The Gamaliel website (www.gamaliel.org) has consistently, over many years, provided its member clergy with theological materials that are liberationist. That is, these materials approach theology with an eye to politicizing theological points in order to support Gamaliel’s progressive political activism.
Gamaliel’s “Reading List for First-Year Organizers” (accessed at the Gamaliel website on 9-8-15) includes not only Saul Alinsky’s two highly unethical books but the work of several liberationists, including Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination, Cornell West’s Race Matters, and Dennis Jacobsen’s Doing Justice.
Doing Justice is based on presentations that Jacobsen, as Director of Gamaliel’s National Clergy Caucus, made at Gamaliel’s clergy-training center. Because its ideas are such an influential component in training Gamaliel participants and because it is described as “an introductory theology of congregation-based community organizing,” Doing Justice is worth examining in some detail.
For one thing, its political perspective views the United States as a dark force in the world: “Those Christians who feel at home in the United States can do so only because they have buffered themselves from the brutal conditions of poverty, blinded themselves to the realities of racism, and deluded themselves into imagining that the vast military force of this country is the agent of justice. Many such Christians worship the idol of prosperity and have quieted their conscience in return for lives of relative ease and material comfort.” (p. 2)
Therefore, Jacobsen’s solutions to poverty will not be found in entrepreneurship or job creation but in organizing for activism: “One way to grasp the significance of congregation-based community organizing is to encounter its achievements. Jesus curses the fig tree that bears no fruit. Given that churches are notoriously fruitless when it comes to producing social justice, organizers must be blessed indeed with a charisma that flows directly from the Holy Spirit. For those within the church who long for the church ‘to set at liberty those who are oppressed,’ it is inspiring and encouraging to see the just fruits of congregation-based community organizing.” (p 28)
The way Jacobsen has framed his argument for congregation-based community organizing is typical of liberationism. “Church”, evangelization, the work of the Holy Spirit – and a host of other religious elements that have traditional meanings – are politicized. The spiritual fruits Jesus demanded of his followers are replaced with the fruits of community organizing; the graces of the Holy Spirit are reduced to an organizers charisma.
Most significantly, the Christian understanding of “liberating the oppressed” from sin – the premier work of Christ which all His followers are instructed to emulate – is reduced the political activism.
The liberationist is entirely comfortable changing these traditional understandings and replacing them with his own politicized “truth.” For example, Jacobsen agrees that “the Christian community is called to be apostolic.” He knows perfectly well what “apostolic” means: “Historically, this call has been linked to the claim of spiritual authority based on apostolic succession, to an unbroken continuum of ordinations traced to the apostles, to faithful conformity to the teachings of the early apostles.” (p. 92)
But “apostolic” defined this way isn’t of much use to a liberationist: “Given this understanding of what it means to be apostolic, congregation-based community organizing has little contribution to make.” (p. 92)
He needs to change the concept: “[W]hat if we were to understand apostolic on a different level?” (p. 92) Congregation-based community organizing, Jacobsen says, can offer “an apostolic proclamation” when they resist the “death of decaying neighborhoods. The death of decimated families. The death of joblessness. The death of dreams. Into the courtyard of such death, congregation-based community organizing proclaims the resurrection of Christ, the unbending hope in the power of life, the unyielding belief that God, not death, has the last word.” (p. 93)
If one needs evidence that this glorification of community organizing is not in God’s service, it is provided by Jacobsen’s justification of Alinskyian anti-ethics: “[G]iven the systemic violence that daily demeans the lives of the poor, social justice must be pursued passionately and vigorously. Actions forcing politicians, bankers, or systems to act justly are often coercive.” (pp, 40-41) And that’s good?
Because organizing supports the progressive “cause,” Gamaliel claims that it is “holy:” “[Community organizing] draws congregations together and into public stands over against prevailing powers and oppressive systems. It is controversial. It challenges the church to take risks and to act with courage. Congregations engaged in this kind of organizing are indeed set apart for God’s purposes. They are instruments of justice and agents of deliverance. They are bearers of the Word of God into the world. In this regard, they are holy.” (p. 90)
PICO National Network
PICO is another Alinskyian network of “people’s organizations” – many of which receive CCHD grants. In the 2014-2015 grant period, at least 28 affiliates of PICO were given grants that totaled (at least) $1,412,500. In a network of over 45 affiliates and growing, this funding assisted more than half of the PICO network.
What did Catholics buy for their money? They bought a “Sermon Series and Group Curriculum” prepared by organizers and others to accompany a viewing of “3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets,” a film confronting “racial bias and violence.”
The topic is critical and there are valid ways a Catholic pastor can (and should) address it. The question here is whether the PICO materials reflect that or are using an emotionally charged social problem to achieve another end.
In truth, these “sermon” recommendations start out well. The first “sermon” exhorts us to see every person “in the image of God.” The next two look at the hidden biases we tend to hold about other groups of people and suggest strategies for recognizing and overcoming them. These two may not be one’s standard sermon topic but they are presented well.
The fourth “sermon” is on “Justice and the Kingdom.” The reader is told that followers of Christ must be “working towards justice” by “seeing and acknowledging the image of God in every human…actively engaging in relationships … actively engaging in local and national politics…[and] actively engaging with the marginalized.” [emphasis added]
Now, while three of those activities certainly are critical for an active, capable Christian – presuming that the manner in which he engages with others, marginalized or not, reflects his Christian values – engaging in politics isn’t Christian, per se. It’s a relatively recent phenomenon that Christians, except for a few in authority, have had any ability, let alone responsibility, for political activism.
But PICO and its allies are driving at something. They are preaching the “social gospel” – that human effort must rid society of social evils. The fourth “sermon” explains: “When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray: ‘Thy kingdom come/ Thy will be done on EARTH as it is in Heaven.’ What does this kingdom look like? We do not have to guess; we are told in Isaiah 65 what it is: Pay close attention now: ‘I’m creating new heavens and a new earth. All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain are things of the past, to be forgotten. Look ahead with joy. Anticipate what I’m creating: I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy, create my people as pure delight. I’ll take joy in Jerusalem, take delight in my people: No more sounds of weeping in the city, no cries of anguish; No more babies dying in the cradle, or old people who don’t enjoy a full lifetime; One-hundredth birthdays will be considered normal— anything less will seem like a cheat. They’ll build houses and move in. They’ll plant fields and eat what they grow. No more building a house that some outsider takes over. No more planting fields that some enemy confiscates. For my people will be as long-lived as trees.’”
In the light of this misleading scripture translation, the “sermon” immediately interprets it: “What is present in His kingdom? Joy/ Healthcare––babies not dying, the elderly living long lives/ Housing for all/ Food for all/ Satisfaction in our work/ No gouging or stealing of other’s work (rich getting richer off the backs of the poor)….Ask yourself what you are actively involved in that is working towards justice?” (p. 19)
This “social gospel” theology is at odds with Catholic teaching about social justice. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1984 “Instruction on Certain Aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation,” makes this clear: “One needs to be on guard against the politicization of existence which, misunderstanding the entire meaning of the Kingdom of God and the transcendence of the person, begins to sacralize politics and betray the religion of the people in favor of the projects of the revolution.” (§17)
Where is all this going? Given that PICO is one of the resources recommended at the beginning of the “sermon series,” one answer that can be expected from such preaching is likely to be “faith-based community organizing.”
Point #3 summary: Without belaboring the point, the fact is that many of the CCHD-funded Alinskyian community organizations are using their faith-based positions to not only engage member congregations in progressive political activism but also to inculcate theological ideas that contradict Catholic teaching.
The history of the CCHD has been dogged by persistent criticism that a) it makes grants to organizations that directly work for the culture of death and, perhaps even more troubling because it is more subtle, b) it makes grants to organizations that advocate for progressive political politics which is highly partisan, promotes an extremely hurtful social construct, and is intrinsically collaborative with all the programs, policies, and legislation that serve the culture of death.
Several times, during its 45 year tenure, scandal has rocked the CCHD and forced “reform.” However, these “reform” efforts have amounted to little more than defunding a few particularly “hot” grantees, such as ACORN which, after the 2008 presidential election, made headlines for embezzlement and voter fraud.
On the contrary, CCHD continues to fund organizations whose mission is to advocate for progressive purposes – social and political. A sizeable percentage (over half, in the 2014-2015 grant period)(19) of its grants go to affiliates of Alinskyian organizing networks such as Gamaliel, the Industrial Areas Foundations, National People’s Action, PICO, and DART.
Point #4 summary: Given that CCHD has demonstrated no substantive change in its funding, despite decades of criticism, the philanthropic Catholic can only conclude that CCHD has no intention of changing its fundamental commitment to progressive politics, programs, and policies.
As these progressive politics, programs, and policies are linked to intrinsic evils such as abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception, sterilization, and acceptance for euthanasia – and as many of CCHD’s funded organizations promote – among their member congregations, including Catholic congregations – theological positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching, there is more than adequate reason to withhold contributing to this fund.
This article, Why Not Give to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development? is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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