Priests of God: Pastors or Community Organizers?
by Mary Ann Kreitzer
The constant challenge of fallen human nature is deciding over and over again whom we will follow: God or the world. Once the wife of a couple engaged in a marriage ministry shared with me a conversation she had with the priest who recruited them. “You have more to offer your Church,” he said, “than a baby every year,” Planned Parenthood’s mentality in a nutshell. A few years later another young woman in a couple’s ministry to the engaged criticized the decision of friends to accept all the children God would send them. She thought they should use NFP (natural family planning) to space their children. Although I was teaching NFP at the time, I disagreed saying I admired their faith. “It takes three to be married,” I said. “What’s wrong with letting the smartest of the three do some of the planning?”
The third conversation was most troubling. On the way to a day of reflection for the parish council, I travelled with my pastor. He commented that priests need a day off now and then from saying Mass. Stunned, I replied, “I love daily Mass; I can’t imagine a priest not wanting to say Mass every day.” He responded sardonically, “Well, I can.” Later he left the priesthood to “marry” a woman with whom I carpooled to the local parochial school.
Which brings me to the central question for the Christian: “Whom will I serve: God or the World?” When laity serve the world the results are bad, but when priests, chosen and anointed by God, serve the world, the results are disastrous. This article will examine the approach of the saintly Curé of Ars outlined in Pope Benedict’s letter to clergy for the year for priests which began on June 19, Feast of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, a day traditionally devoted to praying for the sanctification of priests. In contrast I will present several pastors in the Arlington Diocese following the example of Saul Alinsky, the world’s “patron saint” of community organizers.
The pope wrote that the year of prayer should “deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world.” The “pastoral plan” of St. Jean was “the complete identification of the man with his ministry….he regularly visited the sick and families, organized popular missions and patronal feasts, collected and managed funds for his charitable and missionary works, embellished and furnished his parish church, cared for the orphans and teachers of the “Providence” (an institute he founded; provided for the education of children; founded confraternities and enlisted lay persons to work at his side.” The saint lived the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. His “tools” were prayer, fasting, and complete submission to the will of God.
Compare this to the work of two local pastors, among others, who have adopted the approach of Saul Alinsky, Fr. Gerry Creedon, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington and Fr. Tuck Grinnell, pastor of St. Anthony’s in Falls Church. Both are community organizers for the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) local affiliate, VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement). VOICE claims to be non-partisan but if one examines their agenda it involves lobbying for liberalism, i.e., increasing government’s role in education, housing, health care, etc. and threatening politicians who fail to support their agenda. Like ACORN, Gamaliel, PICO, and other radical community organizing entities, IAF’s goals favor liberal politics and politicians. They also siphon off parish collection money to fund IAF’s national office and salaries. Tens of thousands of dollars collected from Arlington parishioners filled IAF’s coffers last year (See http://www.lesfemmes-thetruth.org/v14_1twilight.htm.) and will continue to do so every year these parishes belong to the network. IAF asks for 1% of the yearly collection as “dues.” Most parishioners don’t have a clue.
Let’s look for a minute at national IAF. The group’s website is totally up-front about its goal - POWER. “The leaders and organizers of [IAF] build organizations whose primary purpose is power - the ability to act - and whose chief product is social change.” What kind of social change, the wise Catholic asks? We have a living example in IAF’s most famous organizer, Barack Obama. His goal is to expand the tentacles of government into every facet of American life. IAF claims to be “non-ideological” and “strictly non-partisan,” but liberal politics is what the group is all about. IAF uses tactics of intimidation and bullying to accomplish its goals. Meetings are pre-planned and manipulated down to telling people when to cheer for a politician and when to be silent. A flyer for VOICE’s July 20th meeting with Governor Kaine announced an earlier date for the “Final Run-Through for the Action.”
To understand how IAF works visit SperoForum.com and google Stephanie Block. She has written numerous articles exposing IAF. Not only is their agenda in conflict with Catholic teaching, but their methods as well. Their primary goal is to radicalize as many people as possible and use them to move the country toward socialism. Block’s insightful articles at SperoForum and elsewhere on the web document IAF’s links to the Catholic dissent group, Call to Action, as well as the RENEW program, and to principles of liberation theology. IAF works in parallel with other community organizing groups to change the religious paradigm from advancing the kingdom of God to advancing the kingdom of this world. All the groups are wedded to Alinsky’s doctrine that the end justifies the means and any tactic is good if it achieves the goal. Calumny, slander, bullying, lying, are all justified by victory.
Recent town hall meetings where violence erupted witness to the morally bankrupt activities of community organizers. Six union thugs from SEIU (Service Employees International Union) led by long-time community organizer, Elston McCowan, were arrested outside Democratic Congressman Russ Carnahan’s town hall meeting in St. Louis for allegedly beating up black conservative Kenneth Gladney. At that same meeting, union members were ushered through a side door ahead of regular citizens to fill up the front seats. This is the ugly reality of morally bankrupt Alinsky organizing.
IAF claims over 50 groups around the country actively lobbying for a diverse agenda that, in many cases, opposes Catholic doctrine. For example, GIBO (Greater Boston Interfaith Organization) in Massachusetts demands, among other things, universal family planning services in health care throughout the state. These programs would, at the very least, fund chemical birth control and the morning after pill both of which are abortifacients. Other agenda items include outcome based education and affirmative action loans. Assisting the poor may be the goal of the useful dupes working with IAF; the national goal is power to the organizer.
In 2008 the late Fr. John Neuhaus wrote in a First Things blog post, that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which grew out of a partnership between Alinsky and the late Msgr. Jack Egan of Chicago, was “using the Catholic Church as a milk cow to fund organizations that frequently were actively working against the Church’s mission, especially in their support of pro-abortion activities and politicians.” One of the most insidious groups milking the Catholic Church is IAF which Block says receives about 16% of the national campaign’s grants every year racking up millions since CCHD began. Informed Catholics boycott the national collection taken up in most dioceses in November.
As for VOICE, they are indeed political. Fr. Grinnell, speaking to the Washington Post last October, said, “From the elected officials' side, they're going to see the birth of an interfaith organization as a huge ally for them if they do the right thing or a huge obstacle if they do the wrong thing." Translate “right” and “wrong” as liberal vs. conservative and you’ll immediately recognize the political threat. VOICE is simply ACORN by another name working to elect big government democrats despite their non-profit status. Does anyone think that the Obama IRS will question or investigate their activities?
Both Fr. Creedon and Fr.Grinnell are well-known for liberal politics and coddling of dissent. Fr. Creedon’s liberalism was front and center during the Kennedy funeral. He gave the invocation at the Memorial Service, concelebrated at the disgraceful funeral Mass, and participated in the private graveside service. A CNN video on the St. Charles Borromeo website says Fr. Creedon “counseled Kennedy for more than thirty years.” Interesting – exactly what was he counseling him on – his golf swing?
Should the Church, and particularly priests, engage in political activity and what does it do to the priest’s understanding of himself as another Christ? St. Jean Vianney, the pope tells us, was “consumed…by apostolic zeal for the salvation of souls.” Does the priest-community organizer share that holy vision? No. A case in point is illustrative. Fr. Grinnell held a “Day of Hope” in June to offer members of the community an opportunity to meet with representatives from service organizations, a laudable goal. However, parishioners tell us that parents and godparents arriving for the baptism class that day were handed their certificate of completion and sent home because there was no room available for sacramental preparation. When you consider that the breakdown of the family is a principal cause of poverty, the pastor’s apparent indifference to this important teaching moment in the life of the family speaks volumes.
St. Anthony’s also has a parish nurse who works with the local Bailey’s Crossroads Health Clinic which refers for abortion. The nurse distributes a state flyer on sex abuse (in Spanish since the parish has a large Hispanic population) that translates: “If you needimmediate medical attention, the doctor can prescribe a medication to prevent you from becoming pregnant.” This can only refer to the morning after pill, which prevents implantation, not conception. Promoting abortion and birth control is common in Alinskyite groups, and many, even when they don’t directly work for abortion, network and promote the efforts of those who do.
Judging from videos and photos on the VOICE website, Fr. Creedon and Fr. Grinnell are important members. They attend and address the mass meetings, talk to the press, and are very much front men for the group. They obviously have committed long hours to their community organizing efforts. It is hard to see St. Jean Vianney’s “deep personal identification with the Sacrifice of the Cross [which] led him – by a sole inward movement – from the altar to the confessional” in these priests’ actions. There is another pernicious aspect of IAF activities. They teach that man is the creator of a worldly utopia and can save himself if he can just snatch power from the haves and transfer it to the have nots. Is that what Jesus taught? Was he recruiting zealots to challenge Rome? No! He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” and “The poor you will always have with you.”
That doesn’t mean Christians shouldn’t care about the poor. It means no matter how much people do, we will still live in a fallen world with problems. The solution is individual sanctification. When Dives recognizes his Christian responsibility, he will serve Lazarus at the gate. It is the priest’s duty to help him develop a Christian conscience through prayer, the sacraments, and seeking God’s will in all things.
Sadly, the poor are not ultimately helped by the socialistic approaches of Alinsky-style organizing. Like Communist groups, IAF and other community organizers are undergirded by an attitude of class envy and class warfare that works toward revolution and greater accrual of power to the organizers. Priests involved become a contradiction, ultimately serving the world, not God.
In contrast, St. Jean Vianney lived a lifestyle poorer than his poorest parishioner. He ate simple food, had few belongings, and spent the bulk of his day in the church. He became poor to serve the poor. He converted thousands of souls during his lifetime and attributed it to fasting from food and sleep and spending long hours in prayer before the tabernacle and in the confessional. Imagine what might have been if Fr. Creedon had imitated St. Jean Vianney more than Saul Alinsky. Imagine the blessing for Ted Kennedy, his entire family, and the Church.
It is a constant temptation for man to believe that he can overcome the world through his own plans and programs. But those who seek the world’s answers often create, not a utopian paradise, but a dystopia where “solutions” are dehumanizing and serve the culture of death. Such is the normal outcome for the community organizer’s grand ideas. Only those with eyes focused on the Lord can, like St. Jean Vianney, transform the world around them and lead souls to salvation. I echo the final words of Pope Benedict in his letter to clergy, “Dear priests, Christ is counting on you. In the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace.” Saints, not community organizers, transform societies.