Fake Catholic Groups Change Tactics

This year’s election season promises ever greater challenges to the fake Catholic political groups. Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good seem to be running out of ideas for how to convince Catholics to vote for the same Democratic candidates who had promised in 2008 to support Catholic teachings on life issues, but who have spent the last two years voting for legislation that will expand abortion.

They continue to remind us that there were many Democratic victories in 2008, including the election of the most pro-abortion president we have ever had. But most of those victories were due in part to the strategy of redefining the abortion issue. Claiming that we have already lost the battle over abortion, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United encouraged us to focus on abortion reduction rather than changing the law.

Tom Perriello (D-VA), one of the founders of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, narrowly won a congressional seat in Virginia in 2008 by convincing voters that the best way to reduce abortions was to address the poverty issue — and that he was the best candidate for the job. Enlisting an elaborate community organizing effort that invited religious voters to consider “a different kind of pro-life candidate,” Perriello eked out a slim victory over his pro-life Republican opponent by creating confusion over who was the “real” pro-life candidate in the race — speaking often of the need to reduce abortions, even though he favored abortion rights and continued to vote for legislation that will only expand abortion.

But by the summer of 2010, the façade began to crumble, as savvy Catholic voters realized that they had been conned into voting for the “abortion reduction” strategy promised by the politicians backed by Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Perriello faced dismal poll numbers in his solidly pro-life district (the traditionally Republican 5th District in Virginia), as did other progressive Democrats like him.

In July 2010, SurveyUSA conducted a poll of likely voters and found that Perriello’s Republican challenger, Robert Hurt, was ahead by double digits. Hurt had the support of 58 percent of likely voters, while Perriello had garnered support from less than 35 percent of likely voters. Things do not look good for Perriello leading up to the November election, and Catholics United has once again swung into action on his behalf — despite the fact that the Republican running against him is the real pro-life candidate.


Catholics United must know it has to change its strategy: from promoting politicians who pretended to advocate “abortion reduction strategies” to defending these politicians’ actual voting records, specifically on health-care reform. The poverty reduction strategy that Obama promised has already proven to be a failure: Projections now show that the poverty rate in this country is expected to make the highest single-year increase since 1959, when these statistics were first collected. In order to elect candidates like Perriello, who have already betrayed pro-life voters by voting for legislation that would increase abortion, Catholics United realized that they had to change their rhetoric.

In an attempt at damage control, Catholics United spent much of the late summer telling Catholic voters that they and their bishops had “misunderstood” the newly passed health-care reform legislation. Reassuring the public that they had been misinformed by craven Republicans about abortion funding in the health-care bill, Catholics United cited Sr. Carol Keehan’s Catholic Health Association support for the proposed legislation as “proof” that abortion funding is not a part of the reform.

Indeed, Sister Keehan continues to be the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats: She provides a strong Catholic reassurance that, despite the bishops’ insistence that the health-care reform bill will provide funding for abortion, there is no such funding. Sister Keehan is always portrayed as the Catholic expert on health-care reform, while the bishops are simply misinformed. Seeming to refer to the bishops, Chris Korzen, director of Catholics United, stated that “these anti-health care reform activists are either woefully ignorant of the legislation or willfully misleading the public.”

Seemingly flush with a new infusion of cash for the 2010 campaign season, Catholics United announced a “$500,000 Campaign to Defend Health Care Reform Supporters from Religious Right Attacks.” Pledging an “innovative, multifaceted campaign to defend the records of several members of Congress who voted for final passage of health care reform,” Catholics United promised to “educate constituents of John Boccieri (D-OH), Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), Steve Driehaus (D-OH), and Tom Perriello (D-VA) about health care reform.”

As part of this strategy, Catholics United held protests to debunk claims that the new health-care legislation included provisions for public funding of abortion. At an event for Dahlkemper, Catholics United criticized the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List for claiming that elective abortions were covered under the new legislation. Calling the Susan B. Anthony List a “partisan front group, which uses issues like abortion to confuse voters and to score cheap political points,” Catholics United brought protestors to counter anyone who criticized the Democratic-led health-care reform.


At the same time that Catholics United seems to be ramping up its election strategies for 2010 and beyond, its sister organization, the George Soros-supported Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, seems to be slowly disappearing. Jack Smith, who runs the official blog for the Diocese of Kansas City, Missouri, reported that Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good appears to be “going out of business.” Their phones have been disconnected, and the names of all of their staff members have disappeared from the Web site. While the Web site itself is still up, it has not been updated since June. They have played no visible role in the 2010 campaign cycle; even more interestingly, several of their staff members — including John Gehring — appear to have moved from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to yet another Soros-supported organization, Faith in Public Life — a creation of progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis.

If the fake Catholic group leaders think they can cover their tracks by simply removing their names from one Web site and moving them to another, they are wrong. As more and more people discover the true aim of these organizations, it will become that much harder for the con to continue.


Image: Jose Luis Magana/Reuters

Anne Hendershott


Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education; The Politics of Abortion; and The Politics of Deviance (Encounter Books). She is also the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Catholic Church (2013).

  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    The scandal here is how easily these groups were able to manipulate Catholic concepts to lend the odor of plausibility to what they were shoveling. First because of the cynicism and mendacity of the perpetrators, but even more so because of the generation of poor catechesis and weak episcopal leadership that made it possible for the manipulation to occur in the first place.

    I hope you’re right: that the moment of opportunity for these liars has passed and Catholic voters won’t get fooled again. But I’m not optimistic.

  • Marthe L

    So, Catholic groups that do not adhere to the Republican’s right wing ideology are “fake” Catholic groups, really? I am so glad I do not live in the US!

  • Deacon Ed

    ought to be exposed by all of us in any way we can. This is one group that needs to be ‘outed.’ Never again should Catholics be hoodwinked into voting for pro-abortion marxist Democrats as if they were candidates for canonization. Let’s remember the battle cry: “Marxism Masquerading as Social Justice”

  • Cord Hamrick


    So, Catholic groups that do not adhere to the Republican’s right wing ideology are “fake” Catholic groups, really?

    No, not “really,” because that is not an accurate representation of the point of the post. (In debate, be careful to accurately restate the other party’s point-of-view, rather than caricaturing it!)

    It would be more accurate to say that Catholic groups that do adhere to the Democrats’ left wing ideology are “fake” Catholic groups. Really.

    That is an easily-defended proposition, because every political party has certain ideology points which are fiercely defended by the majority of the members of that political party, and especially its elected representatives, and especially its leadership. These points constitute the core ideology of that party, and that core ideology may be in accord with, or antithetical to, Catholicism.

    The U.S. Democratic Party has many core ideology points which are antithetical to Catholicism. To the extent a purportedly “Catholic” group supports those points and thereby “mainstreams” itself within the umbrella of that party, its Catholicism is false.

    Applying this principle, it is easy and comfortable to state, without fear of rational contradiction, that Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good are “fake” Catholic groups.

    Now, Marthe, your objection seems to be that saying this constitutes some sort of wholehearted, indiscriminate endorsement of the U.S. Republican Party and its ideology points, whatever they may be.

    That is not the case. There is much to criticize about the Republicans.

    Indeed, the best you can say about Republicans is that the bits of Republican ideology which are antithetical to Catholic teaching are (a.) not so strongly emphasized as in the Democratic party; (b.) not so uniformly agreed-upon amongst Republican voters, Republican elected officials, and the Republican leadership as they are in the Democratic party; and (c.) thus, not easily identifiable as “core” ideology. Depending on which Republican you’re talking to, any contra-Catholic policy point is equally likely to be trumpeted, downplayed, criticized, frowned about, dismissed as the hobby-horse of a few fringe elements that “aren’t real Republicans,” or shrugged at.

    Which is far from ideal. But it’s also measurably better than the Democrats, who may justly and without rhetorical excess be termed the Party of Death.

    I am so glad I do not live in the US!

    Well, I myself don’t mind. But we all serve our Lord where we are called, whether it’s the U.S. or Uganda. But we’re just servants and soldiers, serving at our assigned posts. There are perhaps better places to serve than the U.S., certainly…but there are certainly worse places, too.

  • Amy

    they want us to make a pact with the Devil. As Christ said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

  • Bill Sr.

    Very good Amy

    The Anoited One (let us never forget) still believes that if the dedicated health care practitioner (abortionist) who attempts to kill the foreign tissue in the womb and it some how survives as a human being it can/should be denied medical attention and left to expire and thrown in the trash.
    He voted for this right to murder in the name of legal apportion (3) times.
    Don’t ever forget it!

  • cj

    Fake catholics? You mean like the “United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” who said recently;

  • Morning’s Minion

    How about George Weigel, who still defends the wicked war in Iraq, even after hundreds of thousands have been killed or displaced? How about Michael Novak who thinks Catholic social teaching embraces what Pope Pius XI called the “evil individualistic spirit”? How about Robbie George who thinks that the faith is underpinned by the principles of the liberal Enlightnment as interpreted by America’s founders, and who regularly pays court to Glenn Beck, a man who distorts traditional teaching on social justice and collective salvation? How about Raymond Arroyo on EWTN who invites and supports pro-torture guests, even when they distort just war teaching? How about Newt Gingrich, who not only drinks from the “poisoned spring” of individualism, but adopts an antagonistic approach to Islam (even comparing Muslims to Nazis), that is far from Church teaching? And how about all those “Catholic” groups who use the unborn to hide their real opposition to healthcare reform – a wicked individualist mentality that forsakes solidarity in favor of illusive “freedom”?

    And while we are at it, let’s single out all the Catholics who oppose Church teaching on the redistribution of wealth, on the role of strong unions, on the need for social safety nets and universal healthcare, on the need to dampen down the materialistic and consumerist mindset to save creation.

    I look foward to your attempts to expose these grave scandals.

  • Aaron B.

    It’s interesting how much more subtle and sneaky these groups have gotten. I just read Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism, by Donna Steichen, and it’s striking to read how back in the 70s and early 80s, the same liberal Catholic groups (though many of the names have changed) openly supported abortion as a necessary element of female empowerment and tearing down the patriarchy. They’ve gotten much smarter about hiding it in calls for universal health care and poverty reduction, but I’m just not buying that their real motives have changed.

  • JimNY

    Let us stop trying to divide and let us unite, even in our diversity of opinions. As a Catholic, I am scandalized that this country with all its wealth does not insure healthcare for all. We could pay for various levels, but all must be provided healthcare. The government has a right to follow its laws. Presently, abortion is legal in our land. Thus, the government should allow access to that procedure until it is illegal. The fact that the President was mindful of the seriousness of this issue and made sure no government money would go to that procedure was laudable. He should be praised, not harrassed. And let us be honest, Republicans can preach for votes that they are against abortion, but they will never change the status quo. If abortion is made illegal in the land, then we must once again increase the entitlement programs that will be needed. Does any one really believe that the Republicans want to expand entitlement programs that will be necessary if Roe v Wade is overturned? If you do, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

  • Tony Esolen

    1. I cannot vote for a candidate who believes that killing the unborn is all right. Period.

    2. I cannot overrule the principle above by appealing to prudential concerns about the common good. Hitler built the Autobahn. It doesn’t matter.

    3. It is tiresome to have to repeat that someone who supports abortion “rights” and who supports homosexual pseudogamy and other perversions is supporting something that is evil in itself, and not evil by circumstances. Someone who supports these things, I believe, has a deeply disordered moral sense — and that goes far beyond imprudence or intemperance.

    4. The common good is not a collective notion; socialism and unbridled capitalism both violate it.

    5. Catholic social teaching, if you actually read what the popes have had to say about it, is deeply rooted in the good of the family and in those mediating institutions between the individual and the state. The good of the family, moreover, is something far other than, and far deeper than, monetary income. Policies that undermine the authority of the family, or that substitute for the family, or that make the family a mere ward of the state, violate Catholic social teaching.

    6. The common good is far more than can be achieved by distribution of wealth. I am a distributist by inclination, not a capitalist. But the left is radically collectivist — and has had the family in its gunsights for generations.

    7. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” That didn’t mean “unbridled capitalism,” but it did certainly at least mean a practical independence from the state, such as families and neighborhoods and other organizations of human beings should rightfully enjoy.

    8. Where, out there, are these unbridled capitalists? I’m sorry, but I do want my taxes lowered, not because I am greedy, but because I want to be the more generous: I want to give more, not to the state, but to my children, my church, and my neighborhood.

    9. I am grimly amused when the Left does everything it can to stifle pro-life politicians, and then cries out, “See, they aren’t sincere, they haven’t done anything!”

    10. In any case — see rule number 1. I am not supporting what is in itself evil.

  • Cord Hamrick


    With the exception of the torture item, on which I suspect your view is close to my own, the items you list as “grave scandals” are gravely scandalous to you, but not, I think, to most faithful Catholics, and for good reason.

    The definition of “gravely scandalous” in the context of the Church is not “these folk, holding a permissible interpretation of Church dogma, disagree with my opposing permissible interpretation.” That approach would have the Molinists and Thomists accusing one another of grave scandal on the topic of predestination, or the Jesuits and Dominicans on the topic of Grace.

    I don’t know the particulars of your beef with Michael Novak and Newt Gingrich on the topic of individualism. (Let me quickly point out that one can reasonably have a beef with them on other topics; I am confining myself to the item you raised.) But not every flavor of individualism corresponds to that flavor condemned in Catholic teaching.

    I am a certain kind of individualist, and long have been: That is to say, I believe that free will is exercised by individuals and is a gift of God, intrinsic to human dignity, which ought not ever be overridden by fraud, and ought not be overridden by the threat of force except in just cause and by lawfully authorized persons…and force, whether in war or in legislative action by government, requires that the need cross a high threshold of justifying circumstances, precisely because of the intrinsic human dignity of persons.

    That is a form of individualism, and a popular one among American conservatives: But it is not that which the Church condemns. Are you certain Novak and even Gingrich hold to a form of individualism which the Church does condemn? I ask that sincerely, and not rhetorically, because I never studied Novak and Gingrich closely enough to know what they mean by “individualism.” (Have you? Again, that’s not a snarky rhetorical question: I’m asking, seriously, whether you have.)

    Apart from that, you list the debate over whether healthcare ought to be provided by an entitlement policy architected at the Federal level.

    There, we are clearly on prudential grounds. In my view the healthcare status quo is fairly bad, and I would like to see policy reform. But I hold the reform ought not to be of the proposed type; indeed, that the long-term outcome of such proposals as Obama’s will be far worse than that of a continued status quo. It is, like Luther’s “reform,” a reform with some good intentions, but badly mistaken and headed in entirely the wrong direction.

    In short, I opposed “Obamacare” because I thought it unlawful and unwise and counterproductive to the goal of broadening access to healthcare. I would not wish to damage the poor, in the long run, by supporting it.

    I am sure you think I am wrong about that. Very well. But suppose, for the sake of argument, that I am wrong about this but believe myself correct, not through culpable self-deception but through serious open-minded research of the Constitutional, political, economic, and policy-impact issues. What then?

    Unless my view contradicts a dogma, I cannot justly be accused of sin in holding this opinion, and the holding of this opinion may not justly be the basis for an accusation of scandal.

    But this view cannot contradict a dogma, for dogmas are impossible on such matters as how best, at a level of incentives-systems and practical public health policy, to implement the Church’s desire for the widest possible access to health care. (It is well outside the charism of teaching on faith and morals for the Church to teach on predictive economics or epidemiology!)

    Since my view not only does not contradict a dogma, but cannot, my holding it cannot be the basis for an accusation of scandal.

    I am not saying there aren’t real scandals to which the (politically) conservative wing of American Catholicism are inadequately sensitive.

    But I do believe you’ve allowed your personal hobby-horses (we all have them) to goad you into mixing your own pet peeves and opinions into a list which you purported to enumerate grave scandals against Church teaching. That undermines your argument.

    Cord Hamrick

  • Bob Wiley

    Why are you so offended by fake groups, can’t you trust George Soros in that the ends justifies the means?
    Bob Wiley
    CNN Reporters for Child Pornography
    NY Times Editorial Board for Child Slave Labor

  • Andy


    I must say that I enjoy your posts immensely. You have far more coherence, patience, and charity when dealing with disagreements than I do. It should be noted, though, that Morning’s Minion is the master of Tu Quoque, and has already distorted this entire article over at Vox Nova. You know, the one that’s actually mutually weblinked to Catholics in Alliance and others.

  • jolly swagman

    Brilliant article Anne, and very well said. Keep on lifting up those rocks and see the little critters scurrying for cover.

    Crime! would be a mild, mild word to describe the sheer and utter deception that these low lives use in co-opting the word “Catholic” to describe their heinous groups. I’m also deeply saddened and disheartened that the Bishops of every diocese where these thieving, deceiving con artists operate, do not make it absolutely clear that there is nothing, nought, nil, that is “Catholic” about their positions at all. This is episcopal negligence at its worst. You sirs, are negligent shepherds of the Catholic flock. The wolves are feasting on the lambs as you doze by the fire. There will be a reckoning dear Bishops and it won’t be a fair wind that blows that day for you dear sirs, no, for there are lives that are being plucked away that will point at your face as the ones that made the plucking possible, you who grow fat in your purple cassocks.

    I guess I do feel strongly about this. I will keep praying for you Bishops, but I take nothing back of what I’ve said, because it is what it is.

    Thanks again Anne. God Bless you, and God help American Catholics to never again be hoodwinked by such demons as “Catholics” United and “Catholics” in Alliance for the common good.

  • David

    Thanks for reminding me of the important work of Catholics United. I just sent them a donation.

  • Gabriell Austin

    It would much help clarity were one to avoid Latinisms. “Abortion” is not apecific to what is actually happening.
    Call it baby-killing.

    All then becomes clear.