Your Money, Their Values
By: Anne Hendershott
Now that they have completed their work in helping to pass President Obama’s health care reform legislation—replete with public funding for abortion—the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations (PICO), a progressive national network of faith-based organizations, is once again taking money from the Bishops’ CCHD fund to support the President’s financial reforms. With an initiative called “Our Money Our Values,” PICO teams with Faithful America to pressure banks to “serve the needs of the people…We’re organizing personal bank accounts, congregational investments, and even public dollars as leverage in negotiating with top bank executives to win the reforms our communities need.”
Like health care reform, this newest PICO initiative aims to redistribute wealth by demanding that “faith leaders step into the big banks’ boardrooms.” Claiming on the website (www.ourmoneyourvalues.org) that “we’ve got real money on the table, but it’s still a big fight,” they complain that the banks “continue to use our money to generate obscene profits for those at the top.”
Like recalcitrant teenagers who are more than happy to take an allowance from their parents, yet unwilling to take their advice, PICO continues to take money from the Bishops’ CCHD collections, but as with health care reform, they remain unwilling to accept their authority.
Founded in 1972 under the leadership of Father John Baumann, a Jesuit who learned community organizing in Chicago, PICO has a history of using CCHD money to promote pro-choice candidates for office. During the campaign for health care reform, PICO organized “Faith and Health Care Sundays” throughout the country. Teaming with Jim Wallis’ Sojourners and the George Soros funded Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, PICO provided congregations with a Health Care Tool Kit to help sell the legislation.
On many of these Sunday sessions, PICO brought pro-choice politicians to the churches to promote health care reform. In fact, the main speaker at the PICO “prayer vigil” for health care in Orange County, California in September, 2009, was Representative Loretta Sanchez, a pro-choice Democrat. She was joined at the head table by Auxiliary Bishop Dominic Luong. A decade before, CCHD-supported community agencies like PICO and the Orange County Organizing Project helped Ms. Sanchez defeat Catholic pro-life Representative Bob Dornan.
Now their attention has turned to financial reform. On April 29th, PICO and Faithful America joined with allies, including the National People’s Action, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and MoveOn.org at a 4,000 person rally and march in New York City to confront banks with their demands. Carrying placards saying “No Bonuses for Big Banks” and “Wall Street: Never Again,” demonstrators took over the lobbies of Chase Bank and Wells Fargo/Wachovia “in order to get our message of reform to the leadership and CEOs of those institutions. We chanted, sang and refused to be moved until a letter with our demands was delivered to the offices of the CEOs.”
As the organizers of the April 29th rally state: “Our goal is to force a which-side- are-you-on-movement for U. S. senators on the issue of Wall Street reform: Are they with the American people or are they with the Wall Street Banks?”
Most Catholics who have generously supported the CCHD with their parishioner donations would agree that they wish to help the poor. Most would also agree that financial reform is needed. But, few would agree with the redistribution of income that this President’s financial reform legislation promises. But, the Bishops continue to collect money from parishioners and give it to organizations that continue to lobby against them.