Earlier this week in a California Catholic Daily story, I described the Healthcare Toolkit produced by PICO (People Improving Communities Organization) and the Sojourners, with the assistance of Catholics in the Alliance for the Common Good.
How did pro-abortion Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez end up speaking in a Catholic Church? The “prayer vigil” for healthcare was sponsored by the Orange County Congregation Community Organization. This group is an affiliate of the PICO National Network. From the parent group’s website: “Today [we have] 53 affiliated federations working in 150 cities and towns and 17 states. More than one million families and one thousand congregations from 40 different denominations and faiths participate.” Ten of the Orange County group’s 22-member congregations are Catholic churches.
PICO was founded in Chicago in 1972 by a Jesuit priest, Father John Baumann. It continues to receive much support from the Jesuits. One of this year’s Jesuit Foundation grants at the University of San Francisco will go to “training 50-75 USF students, faculty, and staff in the best approaches to community organizing.” The Jesuit California province just released a promotional video, commemorating their 100th year in California: “Responding to the Call of Christ.” Interviewees included Steven Klink, from the PICO’s fundraising arm, and Amy Fitzgerald from their Oakland affiliate, Oakland Community Organizations. In the Jesuit video, the national network is mentioned as much as or more than Jesus Christ. How did Fr. Baumann come to start it? Answers.com says: “In the late 1960s Baumann had worked with community organizing projects in Chicago, where he became familiar with Saul Alinsky’s ideas.” [Say, who else learned to be a community organizer in Chicago????]
PICO’s website describes the Alinsky model: “Rather than bring people together simply based on common issues like housing or education, the faith-based or broad-based organizing model makes values and relationships the glue that holds organizations together.” In practice that means a power structure is developed with none of the participants knowing exactly what for.
I have experience with one such group. In 2000, my parish signed up with the Bay Area Organizing Committee. They are an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation, another Alinskyite umbrella organization. We held some meetings. Some other more active parishioners and I were invited. At the first meeting I asked the Bay Area Organizing Committee representative what we were going to try to accomplish. The answer was that we were going to join together for common action. But for what aim? I asked. He responded that we were going to try to build an organization that would work on issues affecting the community. The project never got anywhere, because it occurred only a few months before a change of pastors, and the incoming pastor did not believe any organizing committee beyond the Church was necessary. He also objected to the high dues required.
I received no answer to my question about the organization’s aims because the technique of Alinskyite organizations is to avoid concrete issues whenever possible. Issues such as abortion or same sex-marriage are to be avoided because they are “divisive,” and divisiveness would inhibit the growth of the organization. For the Alinskyite organizer, as for any political organizer, growth equals power. During the growth period, as far as they profess, your position on abortion is of no interest.
But there comes a point when these quasi-subversive methods no longer serve. Reaching that point is the aim of the subversive organization. Reaching that point is what justifies the subversion in the first place. That point is reached when the real goals the organization has been working for all along are within grasp. With the election of President Barack Obama, himself a Chicago community organizer like Fr. Baumann, PICO, (and ACORN and the IAF) think their time has come. The Orange County affiiate‘s 2009 Spring newsletter brags: “[Our group] is one degree away from the President of the United States…Yes, PICO National has arrived. And we have our leaders to thank.”
Right now PICO is running a national ad supporting “Health Insurance Reform”--the most divisive issue in recent memory. They are urging people to contact their representatives to express support. The front page of their national website features the ad and a story about the recent Faith Call between religious leaders and President Obama. In an apparent attempt to reassure the pro-life community, the network’s story chooses to quote Melody Barnes, Obama‘s Domestic Policy Council Director, who, PICO says “…reaffirmed the Administration's commitment to leave in place current rules that protect the conscience of religious hospitals and health care providers and prohibit federal funding for abortion.” That‘s hardly reassuring. Before Ms. Barnes went to work for the Obama administration, she was a board member of Emily’s List, the most effective pro-abortion lobby in the country. By allowing Barnes’ statement to go unchallenged, the network is repeating administration talking points. Since the healthcare bills in Congress do provide public funding for abortion, and the network is urging support, and Catholic parishes are dues-paying members of PICO affiliates, this means parishioners’ money is being used to lobby for the public funding of abortion.
Though ten of the Orange County affiliate’s 22-member churches are Catholic, in San Francisco, 22 Catholic churches are listed on the website of the San Francisco Organizing Project, and the archdiocese is listed as “a partner.” The San Francisco group is an affiliate. In San Diego 10 of the 27 churches on the San Diego Organizing Project membership page are Catholic. The San Diego Organizing Project is an affiliate of the national network. In Los Angeles it’s LA Voice - an affiliate of PICO. In San Jose, it’s PACT--eight of the 20 churches belonging are Catholic – another PICO affiliate. Go anywhere: in Denver, home of Archbishop Charles Chaput, it’s the Metro Organizations for People. Of the 17 churches belonging to the Denver group, nine are Catholic—Denver is an affiliate of PICO. Does this mean all those churches and bishops support the network’s lobbying for healthcare bills that include publicly funded abortion? Can anyone imagine Bishops Chaput or Cordileone or Niederauer supporting such a thing?
On February 10, 2009, I attended a Marin Organizing Committee meeting at St. Raphael Church in San Rafael. The Marin Organizing Committee is an IAF affiliate. His Excellency Archbishop George Niederauer had been invited to speak. His presentation showed that he was aware of the group. He emphasized that Catholics must remember that there is a hierarchy of goods, and that the issues of life and family must take precedence.
But because these prelates agreed with PICO on other issues, they tolerate it. [Coalition building is the primary strength, and an effective one it is, of Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, the DFL, that is the name that the national Democratic Party goes by in the state. If the farmers and the unions aren't particularly thrilled about the platform planks of the Feminist Caucus or the Sierra Club, they support them because they can command votes on Election Day.] And this policy has allowed the organizing committees to consolidate their power via Catholic parishes, using the parishioners’ own money. And now we can see the real face of PICO: publicly funded abortion is a price they are willing to pay for “healthcare reform.” Gibbons J. Cooney, California Catholic Daily