On June 11, the liberal organization Faith in Public Life (FIPL) published a report attacking the investigative work of the Reform CCHD Now coalition, which has worked for nearly three years to promote a thorough top-down reform of the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development after discovering that dozens of its grantees promote activities contrary to Catholic teaching.
Shortly after Faith in Public Life released its report, LifeSiteNews revealed that FIPL’s CEO was on a panel of “pro-choice clergy” at a Planned Parenthood event that focused on how “pro-choice” clergy could “make social change in support of reproductive justice in communities across the country.” LifeSiteNews also pointed out that FIPL published numerous blog entries defending Planned Parenthood, including this one where FIPL states that it “compiled quotes from faith leaders opposing government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding.” It’s a little more than ironic that a pro-abortion, Soros-funded organization is crying foul over our investigative reporting that profiles pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-birth control, and Marxist organizations receiving money from the Catholic Church.
Even beyond the irony, however, the FIPL report is full of glaring errors and omissions that must be addressed. But before publishing this response to FIPL’s report, I thought it would be important to contact John Gehring, the author of FIPL’s report, in order to give him a chance to address the errors I found in his document. So, I called Mr. Gehring and asked him if he would have time to answer some questions, and he asked me to submit them via e-mail. I did. In fact, I sent him all of the information I provide below and asked him if he was aware of these facts when he wrote the report. This is what he said in reply to my questions:
Thanks for your questions. Since the report speaks for itself, I prefer not getting into a back and forth on these detailed questions. Here is a statement that you can use:
The goal of this report is to protect and strengthen the vital work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Self-appointed watchdog groups like the American Life League have sought to destroy the reputation of Catholics who serve our Church, demonize social justice leaders and create a climate of fear that hurts effective efforts to empower low-income communities. It is essential to preserve the distinctive Catholic identity of CCHD while also recognizing that if the Church only associates with people who agree with Catholic teaching on every issue, our ability to serve the common good in a diverse society is severely limited. As Pope Francis said in a recent homily, Catholics should be building bridges, not walls. The prominent Catholic leaders who endorsed this report are determined to help strengthen CCHD’s mission at a time when Pope Francis challenges us to confront the moral scandal of poverty and growing inequality.
I wrote Mr. Gehring back immediately and said, “Just so I don’t misrepresent you, is it safe to say that in light of the facts I sent you, you still stand by your report as it is written?” Mr. Gehring did not respond.
What follows is a point-by-point correction of the errors in FIPL’s report, and in the spirit of intellectual honesty, we call upon FIPL to correct the record.
LAND STEWARDSHIP PROJECT
The report claims on page four that the Land Stewardship Project, a former CCHD grantee, lost its funding because of its membership in two coalitions: TakeAction Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits. FIPL contends that the CCHD denied funding to LSP because the two coalitions of which it is a member “did not endorse the Minnesota bishops’ efforts to fight same-sex marriage.”
Simply put, this is untrue. These two coalitions didn’t merely “not endorse” the bishops’ efforts to fight against same-sex “marriage,” but took positions in direct opposition to the Church. For instance, on March 30, 2006, the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits “announced opposition to” the Minnesota state legislature’s effort to ban same-sex “marriage.” Furthermore, TakeAction Minnesota actually hired field canvassers to drum up support for same-sex “marriage.”
The information regarding TakeAction Minnesota actually takes on a deeper meaning when page 13 of FIPL’s report attempts to build a story around the Land Stewardship Project’s “Associate Director/Director of Programs/Policy Program Director,” Mark Schultz. Specifically, the report says:
Mark Schultz grew up a proud Catholic boy on the South Side of Chicago. His faith and family taught him lessons about justice and solidarity with the marginalized that he still carries today as the policy and organizing director of the Land Stewardship Project. The Minneapolis-based organization, founded in 1982, trains new farmers, challenges large-scale factory farms that have poor records on labor rights, and advocates for more sustainable local agriculture. “My faith is the reason I’m an organizer,” Shultz said.
What the report leaves out is that Mark Schultz is not only a director of LSP, he is also the chairman of the board of TakeAction Minnesota, and has been chairman of the board at least since April of 2011—a full month before TakeAction Minnesota officially endorsed same-sex “marriage.” Furthermore, in February of 2011, Mark Schultz himself announced that TakeAction Minnesota is, among other things, “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and straight.”
In short, FIPL’s report misrepresented the true nature of the problems with the two coalitions that the Land Stewardship Project was told to leave if it wished to continue receiving Catholic funds. But more to the point, FIPL completely failed in its attempt to paint a picture that Reform CCHD Now’s investigative report accused LSP of guilt by association by deliberately omitting the fact that Land Stewardship Project’s second in command is also the top dog at TakeAction Minnesota. When all the facts are present, it is clear that the Land Stewardship Project is guilty by participation, not association.
The report falsely claims on page four that Companeros lost its CCHD funding “because of its association with a statewide immigrant rights coalition that included a single gay and lesbian advocacy group.” If this were the case, then FIPL’s claims of guilt by association would be correct, but this is not the case.
Here are the facts. Companeros is a member of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC). In fact, one of its founding members, and Companeros’ program director, Nicole Mosher, is on CIRC’s board of directors. This means that the actions taken by CIRC directly represent Companeros. The problem is that CIRC has worked in direct opposition to Catholic moral teaching, which places Companeros in violation of CCHD guidelines. For instance, CIRC “was proud to actively support the 2011 civil unions bill” for homosexual couples, directly opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, participated in a “gay pride” parade, specifically stated an organizational goal to “build non-traditional alliances with focus on LGBT, non-Latino immigrant/refugees and Welcoming Colorado supporters,” voiced support for transgenderism, and applauded the recognition of same-sex couples on customs forms. Incidentally, Companeros itself participated in a CIRC event that had a whole section on the cross-promotion of homosexuality and immigrant issues.
FIPL’s claim that Companeros lost funding due to membership in a coalition that also has a homosexual advocacy group as a member is completely unfounded. The simple fact is that Companeros is a member of and on the board of an organization that took positions and actions that are in direct opposition to Catholic moral teaching. This is why Companeros lost its funding.
THE GAMALIEL FOUNDATION
The FIPL report discusses the Reform CCHD Now coalition’s charge that the Gamaliel Foundation directly lied to the CCHD about its relationship with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement. In its assessment, FIPL accurately illustrates the fact that Gamaliel was a member of FIRM and that FIRM took an official position in support of homosexuality. FIPL then presents Gamaliel’s claim that Gamaliel left FIRM in 2010 because of this official position and ends with the statement that American Life League alleges that Gamaliel lied about this. What the report fails to mention, however, is why ALL and the Reform CCHD Now coalition charged Gamaliel with lying when it claimed to have left FIRM in 2010.
As is evidenced in the report published by the Reform CCHD Now coalition, Gamaliel housed several documents on its own website, identifying it as a member of FIRM and as being on FIRM’s executive committee for the year 2011, a full year after it allegedly “severed all ties with FIRM.” Furthermore, a set of FIRM’s own meeting minutes from a monthly conference call identifies Ana Garcia Ashley, Gamaliel’s executive director, as a participant on the call and lists Gamaliel as a nominee for FIRM’s executive committee for the year 2012. Gamaliel has never denied this evidence but attempted to hide it all, and refuses to discuss the discrepancy between its claims and the evidence we noted.
Since John Gehring actually cited Reform CCHD Now’s report on Gamaliel in his own report, I asked him specifically why he left out the rest of the information. As shown above, he declined to comment on the omission.
On page 18 of FIPL’s report, they attempt to make the case that the Reform CCHD Now coalition “branded WISDOM as an anti-Catholic organization” simply because it is a member of a coalition that happened to show up at a rally “along with some pro-choice groups.”
Not only is this not what the Reform CCHD Now report says, but the entire scenario described in FIPL’s report is patently false.
Here are the facts. As you can read in our report here, the problem starts with the fact that the Gamaliel affiliate group called WISDOM is a member of and on the board of directors of an organization called Citizen Action of Wisconsin. Our report, on page eight, clearly identifies Citizen Action of Wisconsin as a participant in a rally that was “mad as hell” because the state legislature had just voted on a bill that “curbed abortion rights and ended comprehensive sex education in schools.” The point of that citation was to illustrate that Citizen Action of Wisconsin was itself participating in pro-abortion and pro-birth control activities and, according to CCHD guidelines, this would mean that WISDOM cannot be a member if it wishes to receive CCHD funding. However, it is interesting that FIPL failed to mention the more direct bit, where on page nine of our report we provided a link from Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s own podcast from July 7, 2011, featuring a representative from Planned Parenthood and statements from Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s own executive director championing same-sex marriage.
FIPL claims it was honestly attempting to defend an injustice done through a false accusation. If this was true, it wouldn’t need to seriously contort the claims made in our CCHD grantee reports, nor would it need to leave out the strongest pieces of evidence. FIPL should be happy to know, however, that honesty is not among the things we are accusing it of.
The distortions and untruths in Faith in Public Life’s “report” make it clear that they are not interested in justice, the poor, or honesty in reporting. The mere fact that the report’s author refuses to address the glaring inaccuracies shows that he is more interested in furthering an agenda than the truth. But in addition to the irony that an organization so friendly with Planned Parenthood is rushing to the defense of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the homosexuality lobby group Human Rights Campaign endorsed FIPL’s report just a few days after it was published. HRC emphatically claimed that it is unjust “that a network of conservative Catholic organizations would choose to withhold funds from local groups working with the poor because they support marriage equality and the LGBT community.”
All of this leads to two conclusions:
1. The Reform CCHD Now campaign is having a definitive impact on the lobbying efforts of pro-abortion and pro-homosexual organizations. There would be no reason for the obvious effort of writing this slick 28-page report and obtaining its long list of endorsers, otherwise.
2. FIPL and HRC both make the arguments that in order to help the poor, it is essential for CCHD grantees to join coalitions that support abortion and homosexuality, proving what the Reform CCHD Now coalition has been saying all along: CCHD grantees are indeed members of pro-abortion and pro-homosexual coalitions, and such membership is necessary to advance abortion and homosexuality in American society.
Michael Hichborn is director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith project.