How to Shoot Yourself
One of the Most Potent Weapons Serving the Culture of Death
By Stephanie Block
The Catholic Church is one institution in contemporary society, perhaps the only one, that has consistently decried the evil of abortion at all stages and by all methods. Yet in the United States, it promotes a charity that puts large sums of money into the hands of those who serve the culture of death.
It takes a certain degree of sophistication to follow this donated money along its various circuitous routes, but failure to do so is deadly.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development ((C)CHD)1 – aided and abetted by glitzy ad campaigns and appealing slogans – spends million of dollars annually on organizations that have death at the end of the trail.
Biting the Hand that Feeds: The Industrial Areas Foundation in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas
In 2002, about 30 employees from four Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Brownsville signed union contracts with their pastors. The union is the (C)CHD-supported United Farm Workers.2
The situation is intriguing from a number of viewpoints.
First is the consideration of the paid church employee. Hasn’t he the same needs as any other worker? Is it just that he may find himself terminated without unemployment compensation?
The bishop has another perspective. Lay personnel in chancery and parish offices are a fairly new phenomena in the history of the Church. The religious who formerly held such positions worked for the love of God and had the safety network of their communities. While the lay employee may be every bit as idealistic and committed as the religious of the past, the social structures that protected religious employee from personality conflicts and economic vicissitudes simply don’t exist for the laity. From where should the safety net come?
Unionization, the solution under consideration, puts parish employees, their pastors, and bishops, into complex relationships. Priests coming into a new parish are bound by the negotiations of the predecessors, for example. Personnel changes become increasingly cumbersome, bureaucratic and external to parish life. These are not attractive developments.
Just how unattractive was seen one year after the ink on the union contracts had dried. Rev. Jerry Frank was moved from the unionized Holy Spirit in McAllen, June 2003 and the newly appointed Rev. Ruben Delgado promptly dismissed four of his parish workers. Parishioners from the four unionized parishes protested.
The fur flew. According to Fr. Frank, the firings were arranged by the bishop to break the union. According to the bishop, the protests were orchestrated events, not spontaneous expressions of public displeasure. 3
The bishop ought to know. The four unionized churches have more in common than the United Farm Workers union. For one thing, they are all members of the (C)CHD-supported Valley Interfaith.4 Fr. Frank and Rev. Bart Flaat, then pastor of St. Joseph the Worker of McAllen, have both been particularly active as Valley Interfaith leaders.5
In addition, although not too surprising if one knows the longstanding connections, Fr. Frank’s parish is the seat of dissident Call to Action activity in the diocese.6 Immediately after the firings, the local Call to Action chapter had 300 people meeting at a local community center, and calling for the bishop’s resignation.7
The situation has compelled national Call to Action attention. A national spokesman for Call to Action was interviewed in the McAllen paper.8 Over a dozen articles about the four firings are carried on the Call to Action website.
The bishop, sounding defensive, is quoted as saying: “I have always been an advocate for social justice in Texas. I have supported labor’s right to collective bargaining, and I support it now. Cesar Chavez [founder of the UFW] was my friend, and as a young priest I supported his organizing efforts.”9
He’s speaking the truth. Bishop Raymundo Peña has been a strong supporter of Alinskyan organizing as far back as 1982, when he was bishop of El Paso.10 In addition to his friendship with the United Farm Workers, Bishop Peña helped found the El Paso Interfaith Sponsoring Committee (known as EPISO), a local affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). The IAF is a network of organizations which includes Valley Interfaith and which receives, through its affiliates, between 15% -16% of (C)CHD funding annually.
But Alinskyan organizations teach that there are no permanent enemies or allies. Bishop Peña enjoyed Valley Interfaith, and its attendant Call to Action, support only so long as he followed their agenda. Once he crossed them, they bit back hard.
There’s another issue in this (C)CHD story in all this, buried beneath the layers of betrayal, honest struggle, and raw manipulation. A press release celebrating the 5th anniversary “miracle” of El Milagro Clinic is on the St. Joseph the Worker parish of McAllen website. It says that El Milagro was opened thanks to “three years of hard work by leaders of Valley Interfaith,”11 which has received well over half a million dollars of (C)CHD grants in the past ten years.
What doesn’t appear on the St. Joseph the Worker press release is that El Milagro clinic is one facet of the Integrated Health Outreach System Project (IHOS). IHOS is a “community health development approach” that partners various health care workers, educators, and human services. It sounds innocuous until one examines the project’s partners, including Planned Parenthood, which is working weekly in the colonias, doing patient screenings.12
The betrayal is complete. Buried behind layers of rebellion against Church teaching and hidden within the secular and highly politicized organizing of the “Interfaith,” the culture of death comes disguised as the Church to vulnerable immigrant women – your (C)CHD dollars at work.
ICO: Healthcare in California
Another network of affiliated Alinskyan organizations is the Pacific Institute for Community Organizing – PICO. PICO receives about 6% of the annual (C)CHD budget.
The California Right to Life was particularly disturbed by mobile health vans that travel around to different area dispensing health care services. As these vans are under the supervision of the County Public Health Department, they refer their clientele, including school children, to county agencies and non-profits such as Planned Parenthood that dispense birth control and abortion. Families without medical insurance are encouraged to sign up for Healthy Families, a California medical care program with options to cover such referrals.
The Contra Costa PICO affiliate was the primary promoter of the mobile medical van. In addition, PICO affiliates are the major source for lobbying in Sacramento for more school-based health clinics and government health care programs.
Even more insidious, individuals have become “application assistants” within their church communities, trained and authorized to sign up fellow congregants with Healthy Families.13
How is a simple person expected to sort through this? The gift of medical care is a life and death issue. Here is the church community, offering to help sort through the bureaucratic maze of applications. A list of benefits arrives in the mail – including the ability to obtain contraceptive drugs and a quick fix for unplanned pregnancies. It sure looks as though it’s Church approved.
Weaving Abortion into the Package: The Chicago IAF’s “Metropolitan Mega-Creature”
Chicago’s Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) affiliation received organizational assistance of amazing magnitude on March 16, 1995. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of the Archdiocese of Chicago and other sponsoring churches from the city’s main-stream denominations held a news conference at which they announced that they would be paying $2.6 million over the following six years to organize Chicago churches. 14
What was being organized? The US Catholic provides a pretty good description of the Chicago IAF: 15
A large percentage of the “seed money” to build the Chicago IAF, $1 million, came from the Archdiocese of Chicago.17 (C)CHD money came into play later, to support the expansion of this mega-creature. It also funds some of the subsidiary organizations within the larger IAF coalition.18 These (C)CHD-funded organizations then pay dues to the Chicago IAF affiliate. It’s quite an arrangement.
What are they building?
As described by the US Catholic article, one of the Chicago IAF’s first areas of concern is healthcare. To that end, it initiated the Gilead Campaign for the Uninsured, which seeks to expand health coverage in a number of ways, using already existing network of private providers to complement public health efforts.19 It also created the Gilead Outreach and Referral center to connect uninsured people with health benefit programs.
Health organizations participating in the design of the Gilead Center include Advocate Health Care Network. Advocate Health Care maintains a number of hospitals and community health care centers as well as a parish-nursing program (that has operated in several Roman Catholic churches).20 It is also an abortion provider. Advocate’s abortion policy states that abortions may be done “prior to fetal viability when identifiable factors that significantly threaten the life or health of the mother or of the prospective newborn are adjudged to be present, or in the event of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.”21
Another organization participating in the design of the Gilead Center is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union (AFSCME). AFSCME is one of the organizers of a march on Washington being planned for spring 2004 in defense of abortion “rights.” Other organizers are NARAL, NOW, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.22
AFSCME is a member of the Chicago IAF.23
Most of what this IAF Gilead Project will do is helpful to poor people. But the help comes at an unspeakable cost. Government and foundation money raised to support the project – and at least $2 million is committed so far24 – goes not only to support vaccinations and well baby checkups but contraceptives and abortions. Advocate Health Care swells its clientele with the ranks of the uninsured…with the blessing and assistance of the neighborhood pro-life Catholic church. There’s a diabolical irony in that.
FLOC: Unity above Morality
The case of Baldemar Velasquez, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), is a particularly sad one. Velasquez is a Catholic who has never feared to speak openly about his Faith. In fact, the Faith is an important part of FLOC organizing, because so many of its members are Mexican migrant workers who take their Catholicism seriously.
In return, Velasquez’ work has been highly honored in Catholic circles. He was given the Campaign for Human Development’s Development of People Award in 1992 and various FLOC locals are annual recipients of Campaign grants.25
In 1999, The Labor Party held its First Constitutional Convention in Pittsburgh, attempting to hammer out party policies. The issue of a universal health-care campaign, dear to many Catholic social activists, was hotly debated, focusing on the language around “a woman’s right to choose” and linking a universal health care system to a “full range of family planning and reproductive services.” Some groups wanted abortion to be specifically rejected by the party; others wanted abortion to be specifically guaranteed.
At last, Baldemar Velasquez addressed the convention. With an air of moral authority, “He argued that he and his members believed that life began at conception, but eloquently argued that building unity in the class struggle was more important.” 26
So, there you are. Unity in the class struggle is more important to the Catholic organizer Baldemar Velasquez than the deaths of 40 million human beings who have no (C)CHD-funded union to fight for them. Something in Velasquez’ sense of justice rings false.
FLOC, despite the oftentimes righteous words of Velasquez, was one of the supportive participants in the UN’s 1995 Beijing Platform for Action for Equality, Development and Peace, designed among other things to assure “reproductive rights” to women all over the world – whether they want them or not. In fact, Chile’s pro-life government is concerned that ratifying the UN Protocol may overthrow Chile’s constitutional law protecting the lives of children yet to be born, branding it a “rights abuse.” 27
The Deadly Dozen: Politics Above All
Another (C)CHD funded network is ACORN, which generally takes 5-6% of the national (C)CHD annual budget. It’s one of the most flagrantly political among (C)CHD’s grantees, having formed a political party, the New Party, in a political alliance with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), among others.
There’s no secret about ACORN’s political activism. In 1999, Illinois ACORN president and Chicago New Party chair, Ted Thomas, became a Chicago alderman from the 15th ward.28 ACORN state chair in Arkansas, Jonnie Pugh, was recruited by the New Party in 1998 to run for city council in Little Rock. 29 And in New York, the Working Families Party, which is affiliated with the New Party, was co-chaired by NY ACORN president Bertha Lewis.30
The New Party is pro-abortion. It’s website links to such “friends” as the Abortion Rights Activist Home Page, NARAL (National Abortion and Reproduction Rights Action League), and NOW (National Organization for Women).31
ACORN is also pro-abortion. Maud Hurd, ACORN’s national president, was a speaker at Expo ‘96 for Woman’s Empowerment.32 The purpose of the exposition was to develop a response to “the conservative use of ballot initiatives to attack women’s rights and to galvanize a right-wing vote…”33 The Expo promotional material stated that: “The attack on women’s rights and sex discrimination law has galvanized our coming together….Never before has the woman’s movement been under so much attack…”34 This network of feminists seeks to “…ignite the women’s movement on the fight to saveaffirmative action and sex discrimination law; will develop a feminist national budget for the United States; and will envision a feminist future.”35
Since politics, to the Alinskyan trained mind, is about building power, ACORN allies itself to progressive politicians – many of them Catholic. For example, ACORN was the originator of the Living Wage movement, which is also supported by the IAF. They have waged dozens of living wage campaigns across the country.36
The Harvard Living Wage Campaign, run by the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) is one such localized effort. It staged a student “sit-in” that demanded raises for Harvard employees who were paid less than a “living wage.” AFL-CIO president John Sweeney (who not only leads the country’s largest union organization but also serves as an advisor to the United States Conferenceof Catholic Bishops)and Sen. Ted Kennedy gave speeches at the sit-in and the AFL-CIO sent 2 of its lawyers to negotiate with the Harvard administration. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry also endorsed the campaign. A local Catholic Church held Mass for the sit-in students. 37 The (C)CHD-funded Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (an IAF affiliate) and local ACORN are both supporters.38
Kennedy and Kerry are at home in the above scenario. They have progressive viewpoints that compliment the aims of the student protestors. They are also two of the “Deadly Dozen” identified by the American Life League as politicians who campaign as Catholics, make a point of receiving Communion, but who feel free to dissent from Church teaching in their public lives. 39
The Catholic members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, of which there are well over a hundred, cast more votes in favor of abortion than not. In fact, Catholic politicians – whose Church teaches the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception – have demonstrated a worse voting record on life issues than their Presbyterian and Methodist counterparts.40
Defenders of progressive politics argue that politicians like Kennedy and Kerry are important for their broad spectrum of positions and that no single issue – like abortion – ought to disqualify them from representing a constituency that, after all, voted them into office and is itself extremely diverse.
Catholics respond that once there is a failure to respect life at its beginning and at its end, a critical injustice has been perpetrated that has such magnitude, such darkness, that issues of well-being are dwarfed. After all, a dead man is beyond the reach of economics, health care, education and other worldly considerations.
The network of politics and power grabs and self-interest makes it painful to accept that we Catholics are as much – if not more – to blame for our aborting country than our pro-abortion neighbors. We know. We have Church teaching, with its constant reminder that human life is sacred.
This year, when the collection plate comes around, remember that you can sabotage Church teaching with a flick of your wrist. You can shoot it down by paying for organizations to fight for health clinics that dispense contraceptives and make abortion referrals. You can shoot it down by paying for organizing that supports pro-abortion politicians. You can shoot it down by paying for organizing that trains Catholics to dissent.
Just don’t be surprised by the blood on your hands.
1 We have written the acronym for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development with parentheses around the first “C” – (C)CHD – to indicate that we are referring to the organization both before and after the word “Catholic” was added to the name in 1998.
2 Margot Patterson, “Employees Unionize at Four Texas Parishes,” National Catholic Reporter, July 19, 2002.
CHD grants to the UFW in McAllen date back to 1970-1971 (CHD 1970-71 Annual Report).
Jeannine Zeleznik, “Employees of the Four Valley Catholic Parishes Unionize,” The Monitor, July 3, 2002.
3 Sarah Ovaska, “Bishop: Protests ‘Carefully Orchestrated,’” The Monitor, June 21, 2003.
4 “Member and Supporting Churches of Valley Interfaith,” May 1984; Valley Interfaith has received the following (C)CHD grants, according to (C)CHD annual reports: 1992 - $55,000; 1993 - $60,000; 1994- $58,000; 1995 - $50,000; 1996 - $65,000; 1997 - $50,000; 1998 - $50,000; 1999 - $90,000; 2000 – $80,000; 2001 - $90,000. Total (C)CHD grants to Valley Interfaith over the 10 years between 1992-2001: $ 640,000.
5 Nate Blakeslee, “A Victory in the Valley,” The Texas Observer, September 3, 1999: “…Father Jerry Frank, pastor of Holy Spirit parish and one of Valley Interfaith’s most outspoken leaders.”
National Pastoral Life Center, San Antonio, The 2000 Parish Ministry Awards Banquet program: It announces the Communion and Mission Award to The Parish of St. Joseph the Worker, McAllen, Texas, for the parish’s Valley Interfaith activism, accepted by its pastor Rev. Bart Flaat and Sr. Maria Sanchez.
David Saavedra is identified in several articles as a “member of Call to Action” and a parishioner at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in McAllen, TX, e.g. Sarah Ovaska, “Call to Action Moves to Pry Loose Church Documents,” The Monitor, July 1, 2003; Sarah Ovaska, “Holy Spirit Members Gather to Plan Protest,” The Monitor, June 23, 2003. Holy Spirit in McAllen was Fr. Jerry Frank’s parish until June 2003 -- “Bishop: Protests ‘Carefully Orchestrated…’”
Our Lady Queen of Angels Communities, a member of the Texas IAF Valley Interfaith, is listed as a Call to Action participating community. The listing includes a description of Our Lady Queen of Angels Communities:“We… are actively involved in working to change our social reality through Valley Interfaith of the Industrial Areas Foundation.” [Call to Action Renewal Directory, 1998 Internet Edition, Texas listings.]
7 “Bishop: Protests ‘Carefully Orchestrated…”
8 Sarah Ovaska, “Holy Spirit Members Gather to Plan Protest,” June 23, 2003.
9 Lee Hockstader, “In Texas, Parishioners Protest Church Firings,” Washington Post, July 5, 2003.
10 Stanley Interrante, “A Plan for Revolution through Church Structures and Finance,” The Wanderer Press, 1982.
11 “El Milagro 5th Anniversary,” December 12, 2001: www.sjwmallen.homestead.com/files/milagro/milagro.html
12 South Texas Academic and Outreach Program, School of Rural Public Health, “The Achievements of the Center Include,” undated.
Also, Texas A & M University System, Health Science Center, Press Release for the Integrated Health Outreach System Project, November 25, 2002.
13 California Right to Life, “Mobile SBCs/Parish Nurses,” November 9, 2000 & “Healthy Families Program, Cont’d.” November 22, 2000.
14. The Wanderer, March 16, 1995, citing an undated Chicago Sun-Times article by Andrew Herrmann.
15 The Chicago IAF affiliate is called United Power for Action and Justice (UPAJ).
16 Robert McClory, “Wherever Two or Three Thousand Are Gathered…,” US Catholic, March 2000.
17 . Crain’s Chicago Business, February 20-26, 1995.
18 In 2001, (C)CHD granted $40,000 to the Diocese of Joliet’s “DuPage Sponsors,” which became DuPage United and works with the Chicago United Power of Action and Justice (UPAJ) and Lake County United. A few examples of (C)CHD funded organizations that belong to UPAJ are the Southwest Organizing Project that received a $45,000 (C)CHD grants in 2001and 2000, Logan Square Neighborhood Association that received a $40,000 (C)CHD grant in 2000 and $30,000 in 1999, and the Resurrection Project that received $25,000 in 1999.
22 Jonathan D. Salant, “Abortion Rights Groups Call for March,” Associated Press, June 10, 2003.
23 United Power for Action and Justice, Inaugural Assembly agenda October 19, 1997.
25 The 2001 (C)CHD Annual Report showed $25,000 going to FLOC in the Diocese of Raleigh and $25,000 in the Diocese of Toledo; $30,000 was granted to FLOC in the Diocese of Raleigh in 2000; $25,000 was granted to FLOC in the Diocese of Toledo and $30,000 in the Diocese of Raleigh in 1999.
26 John Hinshaw, “The Labor Party’s First Constitutional Convention: Building a Working Class Party,” Against the Current, 1999.
27 Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, “Chilean Senate Fears for Sovereignty if UN Document Is Ratified,” Friday FAX, 1/25/02.
28 Wayne State University Labor Studies Center, Living Wage Campaigns: An Activists Guide to Organizing a Movement for Economic Justice www.laborstudies.wayne.edu/Resources/guide2002.pdf
29 Zach Polett, “Fair Housing Drives New Party Growth in Little Rock,” National Housing Institute Shelterforce Online, September/October 1998.
30 Sol Stern, “ACORN’s Nutty Regime for Cities,” City Journal, Spring 2003.
Also: “New Party Gains,” The Progressive Populist, May 1999
32 “Expo ’96 Speakers Include Over 160 Leaders, Thinkers, Activists,” Feminist Majority Foundation webpage: http://www.feminist.org/action/speakers.html. Held in Washington, DC, the 1996 National Feminist Exposition was a Who’s Who of radically pro-abortion groups: National Organization of Women (NOW), Planned Parenthood, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), Catholics for a Free Choice, and many others.
33 “First Ever National Feminist Exposition Draws Over 3200 Feminists from Across the Nation despite Winter Storm,” Feminist Majority Foundation/Expo ’96 Press Release, Washington DC, February 2-4, 1996. Feminist Majority Foundation webpage, http://www.feminist.org/action/expo.html.
34 “First Ever National Feminist Exposition to be Held in Washington, DC” Press Release put out by the Feminist Majority Foundation, January 17, 1996. Feminist Majority Foundation webpage, http://www.feminist.org/news/pr/pr011796.html. Quoting Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, the convening group of Expo ’96.
35 Ibid. The Feminist Majority Foundation, primary coordinator of the Feminist Expo, has been an advocate in the campaign to legalize the abortifacient RU 486 in the United States. [“Statement of Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation President, on FDA Hearings Concerning the Approval of Mifpristone (formerly known as RU 486].” Feminist Majority Foundation webpage, http://www.feminist.org/news/pr/pr071996.html.]
36 Employment Policy Foundation: “The Living Wage Movement: Gaining Momentum, Executive Summary,” undated.
37 Alexander Gourevitch, “Awakening the Giant: How Living Wage Movement can Revive Progressive Politics,” The American Prospect, May 30, 2001.
38 Harvard Living Wage Campaign endorsers: http://hcs.harvard.edu/~pslm/livingwage/originalpage/endorsements.html
39 American Life League ad, “The Deadly Dozen: Crusade for the defense of Our Catholic Church,” launched January 2003. Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry both voted in favor of the U.S. Senate / Harkin resolution (SA 260) which declared that the decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade was appropriate, secures an important constitutional right, and should not be overturned.
Kennedy sponsored a bill to lift the current moratorium on preborn tissue transplantation, opposed a bill to ban the cloning of human embryos, and opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion/infanticide. He supports federal funding of abortions and, in 1987, was instrumental in the defeat of pro-life Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.
John Kerry supports federal funding of abortions and abortion counseling. He has voted against requiring parental notification for minors’ abortions and voted three times against banning partial-birth abortion procedures.
40 Robert Kendra, Pro-life (Anti-Abortion) Legislators and the Catholic Population for 2000.