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A Case of Cafeteria Catholicism at the Bishops’ Conference

By Matt Smith

We often hear the name “Cafeteria Catholics” bantered around. Asking someone at church on Sunday if they consider themselves a “Cafeteria Catholic” would likely illicit a swift denial. However, we are all flawed, and the times when we have fallen are between us and our priest in the confines of the confessional. Even Catholic priests and bishops are fallible. As believers we are keenly aware they, too, have their strengths and weaknesses. However, the Church as an institution and the teachings of the Church are constant, and those that represent the Church must make every attempt to remain constant as well.

The Church is persistent in its teachings on the sanctity of life and marriage. Included in the “Top 5 Priorities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) through 2011” are two sections entitled “Strengthening Marriage” and “Life and dignity of the human person.” The consistency of the Canons of Catholicism makes the news uncovered by the American Life League (ALL) and Bellarmine Veritas Ministry in the fall of 2009, plus the additional information released February 1, 2010, that much more troubling. It is one thing to engage those who disagree with the teachings of the Church in lively debate in an effort to change hearts and minds. It is another to fund their activities to advance an agenda that runs contradictory to those same teachings and your own priorities as an organization of the Church.

The research done by ALL and Bellarmine reveals a long pattern of support for the Center for Community Change (CCC) that has a partner lobbying arm called the Campaign for Community Change. CCC is also part of the George Soros funded America Votes project, started in 2004, joining the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood in advancing a “progressive” America. CCC’s own slogan is “Building a better America from the grassroots”. Unfortunately, the better America for them includes abortion on demand and redefining marriage.

As proven by ALL and Bellarmine, this group has already worked in opposition to the Stupak-Pitts language in the health care reform legislation – an amendment supported by the USCCB  that has included multiple nationwide parish postcard campaigns to Congress. What is next on CCC’s agenda this year? Support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA)? Support for H.R.3567 “To repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure respect for State regulation of marriage”?

Just like the USCCB, “national collections” are not segregated, so too, is the high probability CCC does not segregate money for their activities. Therefore, it is hard to make that argument when, John Carr, a senior member of the USCCB responsible for overseeing the CCHD under the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, and followed by a subordinate, have collectively served on the board of the CCC for over ten years. The evidence demonstrates, at any given time, officials of the USCCB closely involved with both entities, have known of their activities. Money donated in the church pews on Sundays in November is being used to fund 31 organizations working to “out organize” any postcard campaign the faithful complete. Having an individual in leadership positions in both organizations takes “Cafeteria Catholicism” to new levels. It speaks to the core of the mission and effectiveness of the USCCB to represent the teachings of the Church to elected leaders.

John Carr responded to the criticism yesterday on Our Sunday Visitor’s blog by saying, “My experience with CCC was that it focused on poverty, housing, and immigration and had no involvement in issues involving abortion and homosexuality.” Carr served on the board of the organization through February 2005. It is hard to believe he was completely unaware of the CCC activities with America Votes and the funding of pro-abortion groups. We are assuming John Carr is a Catholic committed to the sanctity of life and marriage. However, being involved with an abortion supporting organization like CCC and creating partnerships while an official with the USCCB does raise questions of appropriateness and vetting before joining a group.

These revelations presented by ALL and Bellarmine are timely. Next week in Washington D.C., the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering will bring together “18 leading Catholic social ministry national organizations to explore common issues and concerns of global and domestic policies on life, justice, and peace that challenge our nation and world” including CCHD. John Carr is listed as one of the “outstanding presenters.” On Tuesday, February 9, participants will be encouraged to make an office visit to their “member of Congress” after being briefed by officials such as Carr. With all the challenges faced by working on policies of life, it must be extremely frustrating to learn that one of their own speakers at a conference, a leader at the USCCB, supports groups working against them. Let us hope and pray those attending the conference do a better job of exemplifying the teachings of the Church.

Matt Smith is Vice President of Catholic Advocate.

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One Response to A Case of Cafeteria Catholicism at the Bishops’ Conference

  1. BHG says:

    One of the attendees at the conference is the Catholic Health Association, http://www.chausa.org. In its January Newsletter, an article entitle Sexual Violence: A Medical Center Response, has a portion on “ethics” written by Ron Hamel, Ph.D. It’s available at http://www.belowthewaist.org/2010/thinking-ethically-about-emergency-contraception/#1more-236 Th correct “science” to explain why Levonogestrel (Plan B) is not an abortifacient was written by Dr. Lauren Streicher, made infamous in yesterday’s National Catholic Register by Danielle Bean.
    Sr. Carolyn Keehan is president but CHA’s CEO is Fr. Michael D. Place, STD, head of the Pontifical Council of Health Pastoral Care: mplace@chausa.org
    CHAUSA has an office in St. Louis, MO. If Archbishop Carlson delists them for the Directory they are no longer a tax exempt organization for the IRS. Readers can contact the arcdiocese of St. Louis via their Website. They have a handy little form – one of the few dioceses that make it so easy to contact them. If you prefer to send a letter, their address is: 20 Archbishop May Dr., St. Louis, MO 63119
    Bless you for your work.
    Msgr. Zygmunt Zimowski is head of the Pontifical Council in Rome: Via Conciliazione, 3-00120 Vatican City is Fr. Place’s boss

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