The Catholic Bishops and ACORN

This is a good news/bad news story. First the good news: The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) cut off all funding to ACORN at some point in 2008, after revelations of the embezzlement of nearly $1 million dollars by the brother of Wade Rathke, the founder of ACORN. Rathke, who is also a powerful figure in the SEIU, is a veteran of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) who went on to bigger and better things--from a leftist standpoint--in union and community organizing. You can read about his background here, as well as this summary of his outrageous and certainly criminal decisions regarding his brother's embezzlement of ACORN funds (his brother also held financial positions for unions):

The New York Times reported on July 9, 2008, that Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN's founder Wade Rathke, was found to have embezzled $948,607.50 from the group and affiliated charitable organizations back in 1999 and 2000. ACORN executives decided to handle it as an internal matter, and did not inform most of the board members or law enforcement, and instead signed an enforceable restitution agreement with the Rathke family to repay the amount of the embezzlement. Wade Rathke told the Times, "the decision to keep the matter secret was not made to protect his brother but because word of the embezzlement would have put a 'weapon' into the hands of enemies of Acorn, a liberal group that is a frequent target of conservatives who object to ACORN's often strident advocacy on behalf of low- and moderate-income families and workers." A whistleblower revealed the embezzlement in 2008. On June 2, 2008, Dale Rathke was dismissed, and Wade stepped down as ACORN's chief organizer, but he remains chief organizer for Acorn International L.L.C.

A particularly mind-blowing detail is that Dale Rathke was only forced to resign from ACORN eight years after his egregious embezzlement was discovered! So that's really good news, right? The Catholic Church was out front in cutting off funding from ACORN, a year before the current scandals broke. What's not such great news is that the Catholic Church, through the CCHD, was funding ACORN in the first place.

Apparently the need to justify that aspect of the affair occurred to the Catholic Bishops, because in November, 2008, they issued a
FAQ that explained such interesting topics as:

What is the Catholic Campaign for Human Development? What is community organizing?

Why is the Catholic Church supportive of community organizing efforts?

Who approves funding for these projects?

Does CCHD fund partisan efforts?

What is the current status of ACORN’s CCHD funding?

All interesting topics, I think you'll agree, and you can read the explanations in the FAQ and take them for what they're worth. But there is one glaring omission from the FAQ. Inquiring minds might be curious to know not merely what the current status of ACORN’s CCHD funding was as of November, 2008, but also what the history was of ACORN’s CCHD funding.

And that's where the not really very good news gets downright depressing. Perhaps the good bishops never heard of Google, or perhaps they think the faithful haven't. Oh, but the faithful have, and answers are available. Catholic News Service (CNS) carried an article on October 16, 2008:
CCHD ends funding to ACORN over financial irregularities. According to the article:

...CCHD funded more than 320 ACORN projects with grants totaling more than $7.3 million during the last 10 years. He said the community organization also had received funds since early in CCHD's history. CCHD's Web site reveals the campaign gave about $1.11 million to 40 ACORN affiliates in 2007 and $1.17 million to 45 affiliates in 2006. Over the years, some of the funds undoubtedly were used for voter registration drives...

The article goes on to relate a CCHD spokesman's claims that CCHD subjects its grantees to a great deal of scrutiny, and that they had no suspicion of irregularities in voter registration drives. You can take those claims for what they're worth, but the fact remains that CCHD -- which is to say, the Catholic Church in America -- has for decades been funneling millions of dollars into an organization founded by radical leftists.

That's bad news. Bad for the bishops, bad for the Church, bad for America. I can imagine Jon Stewart yelling at the good bishops: "WTF were you thinking?" For an article that poses that Jon Stewart type of question, but with more detail and less vulgarity, there is a nice summary at Inside Catholic:
How Catholic Money Funded Obama's Community Organizing, by Deal W. Hudson.

Yes, the Catholic bishops are currently very unhappy with our Chief Community Organizer's stands on abortion, and they -- or at least some of them -- have been fairly outspoken on that subject. What a shame, then, that Catholic dollars helped fund Obama's rise. It's a well written article that came out during the presidential campaign, and all Catholics should read it if, like me, they missed it at the time.

Come to think of it, since this aspect of Catholic activity has ramifications for all Americans, non-Catholics should probably read it, too. Hudson draws heavily on Stephanie Block's fine article
The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost: Obama, ACORN, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The following should give a flavor for Block's critique:

After Obama went to Harvard Law School, he returned to Chicago and taught Alinskyian organizing to ACORN staff. Although ACORN has a different structure than other Alinskyian networks, its tactical philosophy and world view are formed by men who were trained by Alinsky, in a sort of diabolical apostolic succession. Obama ran ACORN's 1992 voter-registration drive, Project Vote, and in return received ACORN's endorsement for Illinois senator. ACORN annually receives about 5% of Catholic Campaign for Human Development grants. This translates into millions of dollars of Catholic money over the last four decades going into Alinskyian community organizing. Catholics generously gave their money to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection because they were told it would "help the poor." Relatively little from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection goes to "help the poor." Alinskyian networks are political. They 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. This has serious ramifications for Catholics. The Alinskyian networks operate ecumenically 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." .

Obama's Catholic connections, as not coincidentally his Alinskyite connections, run deep, in fact. CCHD itself was founded by a Chicago priest, Jack Egan, who was a disciple of Saul Alinsky. CCHD in turn has for many years been a major funder of the Gamaliel Foundation in Chicago, which trains in Alinskyite tactics, and the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). Obama was recruited by and received his Alinskyite training through persons associated with these CCHD funded foundations (cf.
Obama's Third Way).

From 1985 to 1988 Obama ran the CCHD- funded Developing Communities Project. (DCP) from an office located in Chicago's. Holy Rosary Church, as he has recalled. Let's hope there's a good news ending to this sorry episode, that for the bishops this will have been one of those wonderful "learning experiences" we hear about. If they plan on taking a serious look at where their money has been going, they could do worse than to start with an article that appeared yesterday:
The Bigger Scandal: Catholic Church Funding of ACORN.

Interestingly, there was a happy ending for the Rathke family, which had agreed to repay ACORN for Dale Rathke's embezzlement at the bargain rate of $30,000 per year (Interest? Hey, go ask ACORN.). A kind donor, who wished to remain anonymous, paid it off for the Rathkes. Turns out that that donor was Drummond Pike, whom you can read about
here. The connection of Pike's Tides Foundation to ACORN isn't entirely coincidental: Rathke, whose ACORN the CCHD has been funding for decades, sits on the board of both the Tides Center and the Tides Foundation.

Strange bedfellows the CCHD has had over the years and decades.


ADDENDUM: After this article was finished, a new item at came to my attention: USCCB's Social Justice Arm Caught Funding Pro-Abortion/Prostitution Groups: Takes "Decisive" Action in Response.

Obviously, since last year, CCHD has done little to clean up its act, as the report of a newly formed watchdog group, Bellarmine Veritas Ministry (BVM) makes clear.  A quick scan of the BVM report (linked in the article) shows that CCHD continues to fund overtly political and leftist organizations, basically using money taken from Sunday collections.  In that regard, the LifeSite News article offers a telling quote from the late Richard John Neuhaus, formerly editor of First Things:

The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus claimed last year, in the wake of the ACORN scandal, that the CCHD "has nothing to do with Catholicism, except that Catholics are asked to pay for it."

He called the organization "misbegotten in concept and corrupt in practice," and went so far as to urge that it be terminated.  "What most Catholics don't know, and what would likely astonish them," wrote Fr. Neuhaus, "is that CHD very explicitly does not fund Catholic institutions and apostolates that work with the poor." Neuhaus suggested that the bishops would do better to spend their money on more Catholic-related projects, such as "Catholic inner-city schools."

Isn't it time that the bishops put an end to this charade and simply pulled the plug on the CCHD?