Who Are These Fake Catholic Groups?
By Anne Hendershott
Some of the biggest supporters of the current health reform bill—replete with public funding for abortion—are self-described “progressive” Catholic organizations, such as Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Catholics United, and Catholic Democrats. These Catholic organizations, along with the Catholic Health Association have created confusion for Catholics because at the same time the USCCB has strongly opposed the current health care reform bill because of its inclusion of public funding for abortion, these Catholic organizations are providing “official” Catholic support for the bill.
This duplicity should surprise no one. In 2008, these so-called Catholic organizations encouraged Catholics to elect Obama because he would reduce the rate of abortion by addressing poverty as the “root cause.” Supporting and publishing a study by a Notre Dame professor which erroneously claimed that the data demonstrate that reducing poverty reduces abortion, they convinced many Catholics to support Obama’s strategy. Unfortunately, the study was quietly removed from the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good website after the election when its faulty methodology and erroneous conclusions were pointed out by several social scientists. Professor Bailey, the first author of the initial study, removed his name from the revised report. Joseph Wright remains as the sole author—and is listed as Chairman of the Board of Catholics United on the Form 990 EZ submitted by the organization in 2007.
Now these organizations are providing the same propaganda on funding for abortion in the health care reform bill. But, this time they have placed their people inside the Obama administration. Witness the appointment of Alexia Kelley, the co-founder and director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Last year, Obama tapped Kelley to direct the federal Health and Human Services Department’s Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. For the progressives, she is a perfect choice because for almost a decade, Kelley worked for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Campaign for Human Development. During the years that Kelley worked for the Campaign for Human Development, more than seven million dollars of parishioners’ donations were awarded to the notorious ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).
While at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Kelley teamed with Catholics United leaders, James Salt and Chris Korzen, in the 2008 campaign to neutralize the abortion issue by casting it in pro-Democratic Party terms. Salt and Korzen have plenty of political experience, as well. Salt’s political work has involved overseeing the Kansas Democratic Party’s dubious “faith outreach” efforts, including what he calls “messaging work” for the pro-abortion Kathleen Sebelius and the development of “faith-based messaging resources.”
On its website Catholics United describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting the message of justice and the common good found at the heart of the Catholic Social Tradition.” But prior to helping to found Catholics United, Korzen worked for several years as a union organizer for SEIU. Like Salt, Korzen has been a strong supporter of Kathleen Sebelius and organized support for her nomination as secretary of Health and Human Services by garnering signatures in an online petition entitled “Catholics for Sebelius.”
On its website, Catholics United describes itself as a 501(c) (4) non-profit organization—eligible to accept donations. But, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good emerged in 2005 as a kind of sister organization to Catholics United. A 501(c) (3) organization, donors can claim a deduction against personal income tax when they donate money to Catholics in Alliance. Reviewing the 2007 IRS 990 forms for both Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United raises some questions, because Chris Korzen is listed as having received $84,821 in compensation for 40 hours per week from Catholics in Alliance on the group’s 990 Form—even though the Catholics United website claimed he was the director there during the same time period.
Soros, An Early Donor to Catholics in Alliance
Despite their inability to engage in extensive lobbying, Catholics in Alliance has been extremely successful in attracting large donors. Never a friend to the Catholic Church, George Soros, one of the earliest donors, contributed $50,000 to Catholics in Alliance in 2005 and another $100,000 in 2006 through his Open Society Institute. Likewise, Smith Bagley, a major Democratic donor and fundraiser, whose wife, Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, is Chairman of the Board of Catholics in Alliance, came close to matching Soros with grants from his family’s Arca Foundation. With a long history of supporting progressive organizations like ACORN, the Gamaliel Foundation, People for the American Way, and Planned Parenthood, Arca contributed $50,000 to Catholics in Alliance in 2007 and another $75,000 in 2008.
The new US ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, is another example of the Obama administration’s alliance with liberal Catholics. A member of the Catholics in Alliance Speakers Bureau, Diaz functions as a “theological consultant” for the organization. While Diaz has no published statements on abortion or embryonic stem-cell research, his affiliations, board memberships, and willingness publicly to endorse pro-abortion Democrats like Kathleen Sebelius suggest that he is part of the Church’s contingent that wishes to “move beyond” the “divisive” abortion issue and elect pro-abortion Democrats.
After the controversy emerged within the Catholic community over Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama to give last year’s commencement address and receive an honorary degree, Catholics in Alliance published a full-page ad in the South Bend Tribune entitled “Catholic Leaders and Theologians Welcome President Obama to Notre Dame.”
It is likely that this strategy will continue, as former Gamaliel Foundation community organizer Victoria Kovara was tapped to replace Alexia Kelley as executive director at Catholics in Alliance. Obama got his start in community organizing at Gamaliel. It is another Soros-funded organization that has been successful in creating local community organizations willing to use confrontational tactics to gain power in progressive causes. Currently Gamaliel has enlisted religious leaders to lobby for health care reform as “a theological imperative.” It might be time for the Bishops to begin to distance themselves from some of these so-called “Catholic” organizations. At this point, there is little Catholic about them—except their names.
Anne Hendershott is chair of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program at The King’s College in New York City, and the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education (Transaction).