A February 2012 email exchange involving Podesta concerned the religious freedom controversy over a new federal rule that required employers to cover sterilizations and contraceptives, including abortifacient drugs, even if doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
Podesta's interlocutor, progressive leader Sandy Newman, noted Catholic bishops' outspokenness and discussed the possibilities of a "Catholic Spring," similar to Arab protests, to lead Catholics to demand "the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church." Newman wondered how one would plant "the seeds of revolution."
Podesta responded that he and his allies had created Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good for a moment like the one Newman saw. At the same time, Podesta suggested the groups lacked the leadership to do so. He suggested consulting with former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
The Center for American Progress and the Catholics United Education Fund are among the many partners the Arcus Foundation lists on its website. Among its other grantees are Catholics for Choice and Dignity USA, a group that rejects Catholic teaching on homosexuality.
The Arcus Foundation helped fund Dignity USA and its aligned Equally Blessed Coalition "to influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church and its ultra-conservative affiliates" ahead of the Synod on the Family.
The foundation also funded a project through the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups to counter the influence of African bishops at the synod by documenting and circulating the stories of people from their countries who identify as LGBT. That project was funded in collaboration with the Swiss bishops' development charity Fastenopfer, known as the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund.
The Arcus Foundation was founded by billionaire heir Jon Stryker, a major Clinton donor. Its executive director is Kevin Jennings, a former Obama administration Department of Education official. The foundation is a prominent partner of the U.S. State Department's Global Equality Fund, which promotes LGBT advocacy worldwide.
CNA contacted the Arcus Foundation and the Center for American Progress for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
This article was originally published on CNA Oct. 27, 2016.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.