Thursday, November 19, 2009

Growing up, I always thought Jesus’ admonition in the Book of Matthew, “The poor you will always have with you,” wasn’t meant to be taken literally as a directive to ignore the poor, but that’s exactly what a prominent Roman Catholic charity believes.

As this Sunday’s “second collection” approaches, most Catholics planning to donate to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development probably think their money will be used to help the poor by funding soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Well, the joke’s on them. CCHD has never provided direct relief to the poor. That’s not its purpose.

It is an extreme left-wing political organization created to feed and foster radical groups like ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Most Catholics are blissfully unaware of its true mission, though it says right on its Web site that it aims to support “organized groups of white and minority poor to develop economic strength and political power.”

Long mocked as the “Catholic Campaign to Help Democrats,” CCHD is the charitable arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Since its creation in 1969 - the year before ACORN was founded - CCHD says it has given more than $290 million to fund what it calls more than 8,000 “low-income-led, community-based projects that strengthen families, create jobs, build affordable housing, fight crime, and improve schools and neighborhoods.” Some say the grand total is closer to $450 million.

Both ACORN and CCHD were inspired by radical agitator Saul Alinsky, the Marxist Machiavelli who dedicated his activism opus, “Rules for Radicals,” to Lucifer, whom he called “the first radical.” The late Mr. Alinsky developed the concept of “community organizing” in order to mobilize poor neighborhoods to make demands, long and loud, on public officials and the private sector.

CCHD gives generously to the Industrial Areas Foundation, which Mr. Alinsky himself founded, and to similar leftist groups including the Gamaliel Foundation, People Improving Communities Through Organizing (PICO), and Direct Action and Research Training Institute (DART).

Over the years, some Catholics have called out CCHD for its Marxist radicalism.

Former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, a Catholic layman, complained in the late 1980s that CCHD was a “funding mechanism for radical left-wing political activism in the United States, rather than for traditional types of charities.”

Catholic writer Paul Likoudis observed that CCHD could be considered “a political mechanism bonding the American Church to the welfare state.”

But President Obama is a big believer in CCHD. In 1985-88 he ran the Developing Communities Project from an office in Chicago’s Holy Rosary Church. The project was part of the Gamaliel network.

“I got my start as a community organizer working with mostly Catholic parishes on the South Side of Chicago that were struggling because the steel plants had closed,” Mr. Obama told Catholic Digest. CCHD “helped fund the project, and so very early on, my career was intertwined with the belief in social justice that is so strong in the church.”

Mr. Obama has said he “tried to apply the precepts of compassion and care for the vulnerable that are so central to Catholic teachings to my work [such as in] making health care a right for all Americans.”

CCHD only cut off ACORN, whose ties to Mr. Obama have been exhaustively documented, as a grant recipient a year ago under intense pressure.

It must have been excruciating for CCHD to disown ACORN, its own flesh and blood in the class struggle, in November 2008 after critics raised concerns that some of parishioners’ money might have been used for illegal partisan activities.

After years of complaints by conservative Catholics, CCHD finally gave ACORN the heave-ho after channeling $7.3 million in churchgoers’ money to the group over the last decade. The bishops acted only after Catholics outraged by reports of legal and ethical improprieties involving ACORN let their views be known.

Bishop Roger Morin announced at the time that ACORN would no longer receive grants “because of serious concerns about financial accountability, organizational performance and political partisanship.” A nearly $1 million embezzlement within ACORN, first revealed in the summer of 2008, and its subsequent cover-up by ACORN officials, had been the last straw.

At the time, Bishop Morin said CCHD and the Bishops Conference had hired forensic accountants “to help determine if any CCHD money was taken or misused.” A forensic audit has been completed, but its findings have not been disclosed.

CCHD director Ralph McCloud admitted some of the funds that CCHD “contributed to ACORN in the past undoubtedly were used for voter registration drives.”

Most, perhaps all, of the voter drives ACORN conducted were “in support of politicians who support abortion-on-demand and other policies that most Catholics oppose,” notes conservative Catholic activist Richard Viguerie.

Both CCHD and ACORN have yet to be held to account.

Matthew Vadum is a senior editor at Capital Research Center, a policy institute that studies the politics of philanthropy.

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