New Orleans I got a call late Mardi Gras afternoon on my cell from James Salt, the organizing director for something called Catholics United. He got right to the point. The rightwing within the Catholic Church (yes, I know some of you are chuckling that you thought that was the only wing, but keep it to yourself, ok?) is mounting a vicious, smear campaign against the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). The attacks are in the neo-McCarthyite tradition that seems the fad right now. There is a “reform CCHD” website (though no names are identified with it, which makes me suspicious) that accuses CCHD of supporting pro-life outfits, groups that oppose “Catholic” teachings, groups that are pro-immigrant, and of course ACORN, the Center for Community Change, and the like.
The easy ask from Catholics United, and it seems so lame, I hate to put it out there, is that you sign a petition in support of CCHD by hitting this link. Do it now and I’ll explain more in a minute:
I’ve known Bishop Roger Morin for more than 30 years from his time as diocesan director for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Sometimes I raised some money from him, and sometimes I did not. He was a smooth operator in southern Louisiana where being Catholic still means something as if we were a Latin American country. It’s why we have a Mardi Gras, remember? Morin has been promoted several times in the last couple of years and now has his own operation in Mobile, Alabama and because of his record in New Orleans quickly became the point man for the rest of the bishops’ conference at CCHD. I am not a fan of how Roger has handled the ACORN funding controversy, because I think he should have stood taller and that might have stopped some of the conservative rearguard attacks they are taking now, but, hey, he did what he thought he needed to do to “protect the Church,” and that is hardwired into their training and DNA, so what can I say.
Bottom line: the enemy of our enemies is our friend, and CCHD invested millions in my 38 years there in helping support ACORN and its operations in communities all over the country, so I have no trouble standing with them and asking others to do the same.
The best “inside” view of the war within the church I picked up from the “On Faith” blog in the Washington Post written by Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, which makes the case in beautiful fashion. I pasted some of his points below, and I think you’ll agree:
Some bishops have broken troth with their brother bishops by refusing to take up the annual collection. The bishops are Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pennsylvania; Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska; Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin; and Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, Alabama. According to the USCCB’s John Carr, who is specifically accused of wrong-doing, the accusations and cut-off in funding came without the decency of a direct communication with him. “Neither the American Life League nor the Bellarmine Institute contacted me, CCHD or the bishops’ conference before making these accusations.”
At the bottom of all this, I fear, is a form of McCarthyism — “guilt by association.” Bishop Morlino specifically mentioned links between CCHD and ACORN, giving echo to the meandering complaints of Fox News talking head Glenn Beck. Mr. Beck, it will be remembered, gave great importance to “gotcha’ video” of some ACORN employees taken by Republican-trained operatives. However, once the smoke cleared, the operatives — not part of ACORN — now face jail-time if found guilty in court for their illegal shenanigans.
In my experience, Catholic America uses common sense when confronted by competing sets of facts. Judging the source of the statements is a good place to start. On the one hand, we have the USCCB itself. On the other are the members of a newly formed coalition of critics. One, the American Life League, is reported to support the extremism of Operation Rescue and the violence espoused by its director, Randall Terry. The ALF Web site sells a prayer card for the conversion of Barack Obama (for only $7). Father Euteneuer, head of the Human Life International, is on YouTube saying he would deny communion to Sean Hannity for not being a conservative enough Catholic. The Catholic Advocate is headed by Dr. Deal W. Hudson, a former Karl Rove operative who has had his own problems.. The Bellarmine Institute does not permit Catholic cooperation based on shared interests, and demands a conscience check on non-Catholics to “make sure that those we cooperate with do not have an all-together different set of values.” But don’t the bishops determine those values, rather than the Bellarminites?
I have no doubt that the American bishops should be criticized at times: this is not one of them.