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.

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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 for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. She is the author of The Politics of Envy (Crisis Publications, 2020).

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