Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Have They No Sense of Decency?

Extremist forces pressure the Catholic Campaign
for Human Development to deny funding to the
Land Stewardship Project because of its connections
to two progressive coalitions. It's a sad story,

says Ed Flahavan, who likens it to the
'guilt by association'-days of McCarthyism.

By Ed Flahavan

Some of us remember that in the early 1950's U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy was riding high in the saddle raising havoc in the nation by making public accusations of widespread Communist infiltration into the administration of President Harry Truman, the U.S. State department, even in the U.S. Army.

Those were toxic, frightening times, fueled by the fear of atheistic Communism and the new media tool, television. He riveted the nation's attention for four long years, using innuendo and guilt by association tactics. Finally one day he was stopped by a simple question from a brave witness on the stand, “Have you no sense of decency, Sir?”

Senator McCarthy's balloon was burst that day. He was shortly thereafter censured by the full U.S. Senate and died a broken man at age 48, less than three years later.

Those “guilt by association” days are back, it seems. Just ask the folks at Land Stewardship Project (LSP), the MN nonprofit that “fosters an ethic of stewardship for farmland, promotes sustainable agriculture and sustainable communities.” All essential goals for a free society.

In July the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) announced a $48,000 grant for a LSP project in SE Minnesota, in the Winona diocese, to promote immigration worker rights, environmental stewardship and leader development. It represented LSP's largest ever grant from CCHD in a proud and amicable funding history that stretched back twenty five years.

The grant was never awarded however. Why? Because LSP declined to drop its membership in the Minnesota Council on Nonprofits and TakeAction Minnesota after being told to cut its ties with these two groups or forfeit the grant monies. Both progressive membership groups contribute immensely to the efficient operation and effectiveness of LSP. It was not an easy decision to make.

The bishop of Winona, John M. Quinn, was the enforcer of the condition. Why would he do such a thing? His predecessor, Bernard J. Harrington, never did. What is so wrong with these two membership organizations? What's the backstory here?

Enter the American Life League (ALL), a fiercely Catholic, national, self-appointed, anti-abortion watchdog group. Founded in 1979, ALL has expanded its focus and is now particularly proud of its investigations of CCHD grantee groups exposing “many pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-contraception, and Marxist organizations” receiving funding from CCHD. Wow!

LSP's crime? Membership in the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and TakeAction Minnesota! Why, you ask? Because both these well respected, progressive groups oppose the Marriage Amendment initiative on November's ballot.

There's the connection, the reason for the squeeze play! It's called guilt by association. Here's ALL's apparent reasoning: “These two groups [MNCNP and TA MN] promote gay marriage. You are fellow travelers. Play by our rules or you don't get your CCHD grant money.” The ALL folks play hard ball; all they need to succeed is a bishop who will fold to their crazy accusations and go along.

It's a very sad story. When CCHD was first created by the Catholic bishops, it earned immediate, enthusiastic support by Catholics in the nation's pews. It was the American Catholic Church's “boots on the ground” social change partnership with self-determination groups to end poverty by empowering its victims. The first national CCHD collection, in November 1969, was the largest in U.S. Catholic Church history.

For over forty years CCHD has funded groups that often challenged the status quo thereby “casting down the mighty from their thrones.” They “raised up the lowly,” empowered victims of poverty, racism and powerlessness. They made us proud to be Catholics promoting human development.

Of course, due diligence means ensuring that all grantee projects are authentic, trustworthy and not working at cross purposes with church teaching. The local bishop has always had the final say at the end of the funding process. In the early years of CCHD, a veto was almost unheard of. But as church leadership moves to the right and Gestapo-like groups grow and become more powerful, more irrational, I suppose we should not be surprised at anything. Saddened? Yes. Surprised? No.

Defeated? - also No. An anonymous donor has come forward with a $25,000 matching challenge grant to replace the denied $48,000. Dig deep if you can in the next six weeks, and mail your check to:

LSP Southeast MN Field Office
180 E. Main St./ Box 139
Lewiston, MN 55952

Your gift will be doubled.

And let us pray with the Psalmist, “How long, Oh Lord? How long?”

Ed Flahavan was St. Paul and Minneapolis Diocesan Director for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (1969-77) and a member of CCHD's National Committee (1973-75), serving as its chair in 1975.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Catholic Guilt by Association: How Minnesota Marriage Amendment Politics Hurt Land Stewardship Project - David Brauer (MinnPost, October 24, 2012).
Marriage Fight Costs Environmental Group Catholic Grant - Rose French (Star Tribune, October 27, 2012).
Resigned Priest Ed Flahavan: I Have Heard the Arguments for the Marriage Amendment and I Find Them Wanting, Prejudicial and Destructive - Sensus Fidelium (May 17, 2012).


  1. Does the Land Stewardship Project support the marriage ammendment or are they against it? It seems like they could have remained in the group if they made an unequivocal stance in favor of the marriage ammendment.

    Instead they posture about being guilty by association.

  2. Bruno, what is this "group" you're referring to? This article is about CCHD funds being denied the LSP because it is a member of two coalitions that oppose the amendment. As far as I know, LSP continues to be a member of both coalitions. That's why it was denied the CCHD funds. I can't imagine a group like LSP issuing a formal statement on an issue like the 'marriage amendment.' Why should it? It has nothing to do with its focus or work. That's where this 'guilt by association' comes in. And it's hardly 'posturing' on the part of LSP.

  3. Thanks, Ed, for the clear information about this issue. Did I see a post that Catholic Charities belongs to the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits? We live in strange times! The problem with insisting on uniformity in thinking is that when the engine goes off the track all the cars follow. I can't believe all U.S. bishops are in agreement on stuff like this.

  4. I wonder if ALL would publicly rebuke all the prelates, clergy and faithful in Europe who partake of their respective universal healthcare systems most of which surely mandate state funded reproductive health services. How far will they go with this? It seems that the more they see that they are loosing the argument by reasonable means, the more desperate and underhanded their tactics become. ALL will seriously undermine it's own credibility in the not so long run. We can only hope...

    1. Jamez I ask myself that same question. Why is there mostly dead silence in most of Europe from Roman Catholic bishops about these issues, and all clanging cymbals and fog horns from US Bishops. It's like the USCCB has decided to be more Papal than the last two popes.

      I can't help but believe it goes back to Ronald Reagan's presidency and the collaboration between our CIA and Solidarity in Poland through the auspices of JPII. Up until then the USCCB was consistent and thorough on their pronouncements. It was Cardinal Bernardin's idea of the seamless garment. After Archbishop Hunthausen was unceremoniously undercut by JPII at Reagan's request, instead of a seamless garment of womb through tomb, we've gotten only womb and tomb. Now everything else between womb and tomb falls into the category of 'prudential judgment'. Gay marriage being the exception, which I happen to believe has a ton to do with the fact it plays big time in biblicall literal Protestant Evangelical circles.

      Which leads me to the conclusion the Vatican has sold out to American Neocons in order to topple communism and now can't get out of this 'devil's bargain'.

  5. Michael J. Bayly,

    Of course it should issue a statement on it. Its catholicity has been questioned and so it should provide evidence that it is Catholic. Moreover, I was not aware that the Catholic faith was not part of its work. Could they then refuse to acknowledge the Trinity because it is not directly part of its work?


  6. Bruno,

    The Land Stewardship Project is not a Catholic organization (see here). Like many other justice and/or charitable organizations, however, it has received funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.