A member of the advisory board for the group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) confirmed to CNA on Friday that the organization had closed its offices, ceased the majority of its activities and that staff members had moved on to other jobs.
Catholics in Alliance was accused by bishops and laity of identifying Catholic social teaching with the concerns and agenda of a single political party, and criticized for neglecting the importance of issues such as abortion.
Dr. Liza Cahill of Boston University, a member of CACG's advisory board, explained to CNA in a e-mail that the group "did not cease to exist but did close its offices and most operations. It is in a holding pattern and staff have gone into positions at similar organizations."
CNA confirmed that the group's phone number has been disconnected, with “no further information” provided by the phone company. CACG's former executive director, Alexia Kelley, was named to a position at the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2009. The group's spokesman John Gehring also recently left CACG, according to his current employer Faith in Public Life.
Attempts by CNA to contact CACG's interim executive director, Vicky Kovari, did not result in any response. Although Catholics in Alliance's website remains online, it lists no current staff, and its last blog entry is from June.
CACG became embroiled in a number of controversies that surrounded the 2008 election of Barack Obama and his subsequent presidency. The group strongly supported the passage of national health care legislation that was criticized by the nation's Catholic bishops for lacking conscience provisions and possibly opening the door to federal funding of abortion.
Archbishop Charles Chaput criticized CACG and similar groups in a 2008 speech, saying that in spite of their concerns for social justice, these groups had ultimately harmed both society and the Church.
Such groups, the archbishop explained, typically “seek to 'get beyond' abortion” as a politically divisive issue, “or economically reduce the number of abortions, or create a better society where abortion won’t be necessary.” But these strategies, the archbishop charged, “involve a misuse of the seamless garment imagery in Catholic social teaching,” demoting the issue of an individual's right to life in favor of “other important but less foundational social issues.”
CNA encountered some difficulties in attempting to ascertain the present status of CACG, particularly in seeking clarification from Chris Korzen, Executive Director of Catholics United.
CNA approached Korzen because he not only co-authored a book with the founder of Catholics in Alliance, but was on the group's payroll as a full-time employee in 2007.
Korzen, however, would not answer questions about the status of Catholics in Alliance, and instead chose to respond to inquiries by asking CNA a series of unrelated questions.
“Can you tell me what the relationship is between CNA and EWTN?” he asked, ignoring a direct question as to whether Catholics in Alliance was now defunct. “What is the relationship between CNA and the Archdiocese of Denver?”
Eventually, Korzen explained his refusal to answer questions about Catholics in Alliance by saying: "It occurs to me that we've never exactly been clear on who you guys are and what your real motivations are. So we're not going to be able to answer any questions until we get some more clarity.”
The director of Catholics United also insisted he was “separate from Catholics in Alliance, so I really can't speak for them anyway.” Korzen received $84,821 in compensation for full-time work for CACG in 2007. In 2008, he explained to Anne Hendershott in a piece for the Catholic Advocate that Catholics United does the “edgier” work.
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good's current president, Morna Murray, will make an appearance this Sunday on "This Is America With Dennis Wholey." The program runs on WHUT, a Washington D.C. public television station, and will air at 6 p.m. Eastern. Murray will be accompanied by the National Education Association's Dennis Van Roekel and American Federation of Teachers' Randi Weingarten.