God’s Money Doing the Devil’s Work

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They say the homosexual scenes in the new Elton John biopic are the most titillating ever in a mainstream movie. They make Brokeback Mountain look like Bringing Up Baby. Less discussed, perhaps, is the fact that ordinary Catholic pew-sitters paid for it via their Peter’s Pence donations to the Pope.

The cash came from a fairly small Malta-based investment fund called Centurion Global, which is run by Enrico Crasso, who has been much lauded by the Vatican Secretary of State and the Pope. It turns out the Vatican is by far the biggest investor in this fund which has been charged with all sorts of shenanigans.

Now, in fairness, there’s a very good chance that no one at the Vatican knew the fund was investing in movies (including a reboot of Men in Black), let alone soft-core gay porn. Once you hand over money to a fund, you never know where it goes from there. But the investor and the fund can set rules down in advance. In retrospect, a rule about no movies would have been a good one, since most movies these days are morally problematic in some way.

Nonetheless, we are left wondering whether it would have mattered to certain powerful churchmen that our money was going to gay movie rutting. After all, they tell us ad nauseam we need to be less judgmental. I guess this is the kind of thing we are building bridges to. It is reported the German bishops have said homosexuality is peachy. Father James Martin certainly seems to be on board.

It appears to some of us that this is nothing less than God’s money doing the devil’s work. Recently, the question was raised whether the devil’s money can do God’s work.

In October, Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register reported that organizations  connected to the Church in Brazil, which were involved in putting on the controversial Amazon synod, had received significant money from the Ford Foundation, one of the global financial engines of social radicalism. Over the years, the Ford Foundation has donated significant funds to the promotion of contraception, abortion, and the homosexual agenda.

Between 1952 and 1965, the Ford Foundation was one of the major funders of the modern population control movement. It gave significant money to the Population Council, the Population Research Bureau, and other key groups in that sector. According to researcher Martin Wooster, “In March 1959, Ford funded the first of what would become $150 million in grants for research on birth control, with grants peaking at $18 million in 1969.” By 1960, Ford’s goal included developing a contraceptive pill that could be taken once a month. Ford also helped develop the IUD and funded research that led to in vitro fertilization.

At the United Nations, the Ford Foundation supports dozens of radical groups that work feverishly to promote a global right to abortion and that fight openly against the teachings of the Church. Planned Parenthood is considered an “apex NGO” at the U.N. Its former chief, Cecile Richards, sits on the Ford Foundation’s board of directors. In 2011, Ford gave almost $2 million to Planned Parenthood affiliates around the world.

Moreover, I’m not quite sure what to make of reports that the money of Salesforce chief Marc Benioff has gone to support Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and the Benedict XVI Institute in their work to promote the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

First, some caveats. I am a great admirer of the Archbishop. He has been one of the few bishops to stand for traditional marriage in any meaningful sense. He even attended the various marches for marriage that Brian Brown and the National Organization for Marriage organized in Washington, D.C. This put a massive target on His Excellency’s back, especially since he is from the homosexual capital of the world.

I am also a huge admirer of the Benedict XVI Institute’s executive director, Maggie Gallagher, who has been one of the foremost defenders of traditional marriage. She was at the forefront of the fight, ahead of practically everyone. She is also my friend.

But Marc Benioff is a bad guy. He has used his vast fortune and his corporate muscle to threaten the livelihoods of Christians who do not want to serve homosexual marriages.

Four years ago, the legislature of the State of Indiana passed a religious freedom bill that would have allowed small businesses to decline customers who wanted their help in homosexual weddings. (Think of the baker who refused to bake the gay wedding cake.) The state offered protection to similar small businesses, and the law was signed by then-Governor Mike Pence.

Then came the typical lies about the bill. A Forbes columnist said that if you “hate Jews,” Mr. Pence and his allies in the legislature had just passed a law saying you didn’t need to serve them. Inevitably, leftists compared it to Kristallnacht. A raft of businesses criticized the bill, including NASCAR (oddly) and Apple (less so). However, Benioff went even further: he threatened to pull his companies out of Indiana altogether, thereby harming ordinary Indianans.

Within days, Pence caved to Marc Benioff and the other corporate bullies.

A few weeks ago, Benioff’s money helped put on a truly spectacular event at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C: the Mass of the Americas, celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. This new setting of the Mass was commissioned by the Benedict XVI Institute and written by its composer-in-residence, Frank La Rocca. It was standing-room-only at the Basilica that day; everyone who attended said it was otherworldly, transporting, even life-changing. I’m sorry I missed it.

And this is the idea behind Ms. Gallagher and the Archbishop’s Benedict XVI Institute: to change the culture and hope that politics follow. This is perfectly admirable—and, while we sure miss Maggie’s generalship on the political hustings, the Mass of the Americas shows that she and her colleagues know what they’re doing.

But here’s a question, and I know it’s one they’ve pondered. What would happen to Benioff’s donation if Archbishop Cordileone (for instance) moves to close the radical gay parishes that operate openly in Benioff’s hometown of San Francisco—something the writer Joseph Sciambra has been reporting on and lamenting for years? I know this would be a remarkably hard thing to do, given how entrenched that culture is in San Francisco. It would mean going to war with the whole city. But what if Benioff would ask something of them that they could not give?

Of course, they would be ready to forego the money. I have no doubt they would. Still, as anyone who has run an NGO will tell you, sometimes losing a big donor creates a hole in your budget so large you would have been better off refusing his money to begin with. As someone who runs an NGO (and an underfunded one at that), I can tell you how tempting such money can be. Not that I’ve ever been offered anything like it, but it does put you in a potentially untenable position.

Though I do not know the Church in Brazil, I do know Maggie and Archbishop Cordileone. I know they will always do the right thing. Still, there’s an old saying: if you sup with the devil, you best sup with a long spoon. I hope theirs is long enough.

Photo credit: Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

Austin Ruse

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Austin Ruse is a contributing editor to Crisis Magazine. He is the author, most recently, of No Finer Time to be a Faithful Catholic (Sophia Institute Press, 2021).

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