During the last presidential election season, one party created a number of “fake Catholic” groups to support the talking points of their candidate. The purpose was to sow confusion among those not adequately catechatized to know better and to give cover to those who did. The specific goal was to pervert authentic Catholic Social Teaching to their own ends. Immediately after the election, these groups disappeared (or at least went into deep hibernation).
As we are warming up for the next round, expect to see more of the same. Frankly, it worked well last time so why would they abandon this successful (if immoral) tactic?
I have not seen any new fake Catholic groups yet, but there is an even more grandiose umbrella plan apparently unfolding. It is called the Circle of Protection, a group who promotes themselves as the Christian leaders from a wide spectrum of communities. The plan is to use the plight of the poor as justification for a broad socialist agenda. Socialism has been condemed by the Church for very good reason. It is most certainly not the solution to the suffering of the poor (nor does it fulfill our personal obligation to them) and ultimately could only make their struggle much more difficult.
Father Robert Sirico wrote a very insightful and well researchecd piece for the National Review Online:
It is telling that the Washington Post report on the religious Left’s Circle of Protection campaign for big government describes the effort as one that would “send chills through any politician who looks to churches and religious groups as a source of large voting blocs,” because, in fact, this is not an honest faith-inspired campaign to protect the “least of these” from Draconian government cuts, as claimed. It is a hyper-political movement that offers up the moral authority of churches and aid organizations to advance the ends of the Obama administration and its allies in Congress.
The Circle of Protection, led by Jim Wallis and his George Soros-funded Sojourners group, is advancing a false narrative based on vague threats to the “most vulnerable” if we finally take the first tentative steps to fix our grave budget and debt problems. For example, Wallis frequently cites cuts to federal food programs as portending dire consequences to “hungry and poor people.”
Which programs? He must have missed the General Accountability Office study on government waste released this spring, which looked at, among others, 18 federal food programs. These programs accounted for $62.5 billion in spending in 2008 for food and nutrition assistance. But only seven of the programs have actually been evaluated for effectiveness. Apparently it is enough to simply launch a government program, and the bureaucracy to sustain it, to get the Circle of Protection activists to sanctify it without end. Never mind that it might not be a good use of taxpayer dollars.
It is also telling that the group’s advertised “Evangelical, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, African-American, and Latino Christian leaders” who are so concerned about the poor and vulnerable in the current budget negotiations have so little to say about private charity, which approached $300 billion last year. To listen to them talk, it is as if a prudent interest in reining in deficits and limiting government waste, fraud, and bloat would leave America’s poor on the brink of starvation. It is as if bureaucratic solutions, despite the overwhelming evidence of the welfare state’s pernicious effects on the family, are the only ones available to faith communities. This is even stranger for a group of people who are called to “love the neighbor” first and last with a personal commitment.
Although the Circle of Protection has been endorsed by a few Catholic bishops, the predictably left-leaning social justice groups, and Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Church in America has long moved beyond the heady (and increasingly-distant) days of the 1980s when knee-jerk opposition to any reduction in government spending was the norm. That still holds, even if some of the staff and a few of the bishops at the Bishops’ Conference still imbibe such nostalgia.