Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s early work as a community organizer has brought to the fore the Catholic Campaign for Human Development’s (CCHD) longstanding support for political organizations accused of promoting radical left-wing politics and distorting Catholic teaching under the pretense of helping the poor.
Over the past several decades, the CCHD has annually directed tens of thousands of dollars to several community organizing groups, including one headed by Obama in the 1980s.
Obama was lead organizer of the Developing Communities Project in Chicago, Stephanie Block reports in a September 28 article in the Wanderer. During Obama’s leadership, the organization received from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development $40,000 in grant money in 1985 and a $33,000 grant in 1986.
Obama reportedly received training from organizations connected to Chicago-based community organizer Saul Alinsky. Obama was also mentored by an ex-Jesuit, Greg Galuzzo, who headed the Gamaliel Foundation under which the Developing Communities Project operated.
Another Obama mentor, Jerry Kellman, was himself trained by Alinsky.
Block, commenting to CNA in a Tuesday e-mail, explained Alinsky’s ideas are expounded in his two books Rules for Radicals and Reveille for Radicals.
“The primary motivation of Alinskyian organizing is to garner power,” she told CNA. “Since Alinsky believes power comes in two forms - money and people - and that the rich (the Haves) are the ones with the money, the objective of Alinskyian organizations is to get ‘people power,’ through exploiting the self-interest of the poor (the Have-Nots).”
The Gamaliel Foundation itself receives about four to five percent of all CCHD grants each year, Block’s Wanderer article says, while the Alinsky-founded Industrial Areas Foundation, a network of community organizations, itself receives about 16 percent of all annual CCHD grants.
After he attended Harvard law school, Obama returned to Chicago and taught Alinsky’s organizing methods to staff of the group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The future Democratic presidential nominee ran ACORN’s 1992 voter-registration drive and received its endorsement for his state senate run.
ACORN itself receives about five percent of CCHD grants.
Block, writing in the Wanderer, says millions of dollars have funded Alinksyite community organizing groups.
Though Catholics are told CCHD money goes to “help the poor,” Block charges that Alinskyian networks are political.
Block argues in her article that these networks “work closely with politicians - such as Obama - and other organizations that are fighting for abortion and homosexual ‘rights.’ ACORN's ‘People's Platform’ has nothing in common with Catholic social justice teaching and everything in common with socialism. Gamaliel and the Industrial Areas Foundation teach liberationism, a form of ‘Christianized’ socialism, among their members.”
She claims that Alinskyite organizations are ecumenical and include numerous Catholic parishes.
“The Catholics involved in the extensive trainings these networks offer are not catechized in Catholic principles of social activism or political analysis but in Marxist analysis and praxis. Their worldview is marred by visions of class struggle and perpetual revolution. They are systematically trained to renounce moral truth in favor of consensus-based ‘values’.”
Block believes that Catholics subject to such training “become confused about the comparative moral weight of the issues they encounter in the public arena” and also become confused about the authority of the Church, “imagining they can apply consensus-building strategies to doctrines and moral truth.”
“Ironically,” Block alleges, “they learned these confused ideas in their parishes, through Church-sponsored ‘educational’ programs such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development's liberationist ‘Poverty and Faithjustice.’ Because of this confusion, Catholics, who ought to be a powerful, consistent voice for moral values in society, are fragmented and ineffective. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development bears much of the responsibility.”
Asked by CNA why Catholics have maintained their cooperation with Alinskyite groups, Block replied:
“I think liberal Catholics, both those at the CCHD's inception and those who continue to support CCHD, understanding what it really funds, have accepted the Marxist analysis of class antagonism, rather than the Catholic principle of interdependency among the various members of a society.”