To read previous posts about Saul Alinsky, the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CHD), click here.

In 1970, the Revd P David Finks, personally trained by Saul Alinsky, and now effectively controlling the CHD, went with the other members of the Catholic Committee on Urban Ministry to an Industrial Urban Institute that Alinsky was running.  Its purpose was to:

bring together a dozen or so priests to examine in some detail the practical process of group organisation to effect social change based on the goal of a free and open society. It seemed clear after several years of investigation that Mr. Alinsky and his staff had developed the best process and rationale for organising people.

It didn’t take a political strategist to figure out that CHD funds would be earmarked for Alinsky’s projects.  Chicago’s Cardinal Cody had already picked up on the notion and wrote Bishop Bernardin warning him about it.  It seems, however, that Bernardin knew and empathised with Alinsky’s work.  Cardinal Cody was the only prelate in Chicago over the past 30+ years to object to Alinsky.  Therefore, Bernardin could safely ignore Cody on the matter.

Finks, meanwhile, wrote an article entitled ‘Poverty Crusade: Getting It off the Ground’.  In it, he suggested that those involved with the bishops’ task forces read Alinsky’s 1947 book, Reveille for Radicals, and The Professional Radical: Conversations with Saul Alinsky by Marion Sanders.  In another article, he described a link-up between Alinsky’s Rochester, NY FIGHT Organisation and the Xerox Corporation.  Finks said:

the organisation and selling to the bishops of the Campaign for Human Development–all were an attempt to make available and find support for Alinsky’s approach to community organisation.

Wow.  Imagine being so enthralled by Marxist theory and practice that you completely disregard the words of Our Lord and the teachings of His Church!

In November 1970, Egan wrote to Bernardin explaining that local clergy would need to be involved in achieving the objectives of the CHD, including the $50 million fundraising mandate.  As the General Secretary for the National Catholic Conference of Bishops, Bernardin realised that he would have to lend his name and his time to further the programme.  This he gladly did.  The first CHD parish collection a few weeks later raised $8.4 million nationwide, an astronomical sum in those days and the largest single collection in the history of the US Catholic Church at that time.    

Since then, the numbers increased five-fold to a total of $225 million in donations by 1998.  It is unclear how well the funds have been used.  Yes, we read where the money has gone but see little evidence that the blight in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other urban centres has disappeared.  In fact, it appears that little has changed over the past 40 years, despite astronomical sums being thrown at these very real problems

Yet, many American Catholics have swallowed the CHD line completely.  In an article dated September 4, 2008, Catholic Democrats criticised a remark from Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin in which she derided candidate Barack Obama’s community organiser history.  The article says in part:

Community organising is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching to end poverty and promote social justice … The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has operated the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, its domestic anti-poverty and social justice program, since 1969. In 1986, the Bishops issued Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy, which said, ‘Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community’. Senator Obama worked in several Catholic parishes, supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, helping to address severe joblessness and housing needs in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of Chicago.

See? Even the laity are bamboozled, to borrow an Obama word. That explains all the Obama bumperstickers seen in the car parks of Catholic parishes, which infuriates conservative pro-life Protestants no end. Gee, and all along I thought that obeying the Word and spreading the Gospel were at the heart of the Catholic Church’s teachings.  Like other Christians, Catholics are commanded to look after the less fortunate, but do they need sacerdotal community organisers to do that?

But even the Catholic Democrats can’t come up with any evidence of material improvements from all the cash poured into disadvantaged neighbourhoods.  Community organising isn’t something you do for a while and then move on once you’ve improved things.  You never really want to improve things because then you’d have to look for another job.  And that might imply looking for real work.

Nope, community organising funded by the CHD cash cow — and other religious institutions — is here to stay.  It’s an industry now, don’t you know.

Please think twice before you feed the CHD any more money.  Unless you love your community organiser in the dog collar, that is.

You can read more here: ‘The Influence of Saul Alinsky on the Campaign for Human Development’, Lawrence J Engel, December 1998

Tomorrow: Conclusion – the CHD, ACORN and Obama

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