The National Catholic Review
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A Heartbeat Away

There has not been a Catholic in the White House since John F. Kennedy, but on Inauguration Day, Joseph R. Biden, an Irish Catholic born in Scranton, Pa., will be sworn in as vice president, the first Catholic ever elected to the post.

Some have judged Senator Biden’s commitment to Catholicism by his votes regarding abortion and have found it wanting. His record is mixed. Mr. Biden has described himself as “a practicing Catholic prepared to accept my church’s view that life begins at conception.” He has also said he would not support overturning Roe v. Wade. But the senator has opposed both federal funding for abortion and the practice of partial birth or late-term abortion. And he supported a $100 million bill aimed to reduce teen pregnancies. As a senator, Biden voted to limit both the number of abortions and the reasons some women procure them.

But is even a legislator’s entire voting record enough to judge his or her faith commitment? It does indicate one’s values, but so do major life choices, habits of worship, service to others, civic involvement and quality of family life. In Mr. Biden’s case, his faith also appears to have been reflected in the way he dealt with personal loss—the death of his first wife and infant daughter and his own brain aneurysm. His commitment to draw close to his sons as a single father for years and his choice not to enrich himself through his Senate seat also reflect the faith of the man oon to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Still a Catholic Charity

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska got some of her biggest (intentional) laughs of the presidential campaign during her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, when she lambasted Senator Barack Obama’s work as a community organizer. “I guess a small-town mayor is like a community organizer,” she said, “except that you have actual responsibilities.” It is hard to understand such mocking of those who help the poor organize in order to obtain justice and fair treatment.

The disdain spread into the Catholic world, making a target of the Catholic Campaign for Human Develop-ment, the church’s leading organization for fighting poverty in this country. The campaign has provided $7.3 million in grant money, spread out over 10 years, to local branches of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as Acorn. On its blog, the periodical First Things called C.C.H.D. “misbegotten in concept and corrupt in practice,” argued for its abolition, charging that it supported “pro-abortion activities and politicians” and, for good measure, claimed that C.C.H.D. had dropped the word “Catholic” from its name.

Wrong on all counts. It remains the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; its grants are given to projects in accord with Catholic teaching; and it is a model of efficient management, providing an array of services for the poor. Sadly, that magazine’s false accusations were echoed during the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November. Just as sad, the charges came before C.C.H.D.’s annual fundraising campaign.

Let’s set the record straight: C.C.H.D. does the Gospel work of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless. (After charges of improprieties emerged about Acorn, C.C.H.D. stopped its grants to the group.) The importance of the kind of work done by C.C.H.D. was underlined repeatedly by another community organizer—not one from 1990s Chicago but another fellow, from first-century Palestine.

Missionaries in Peril

On Nov. 10 two religious sisters were kidnapped by armed men in northeastern Kenya, near the border with Somalia. The sisters are members of the Contemplative Missionary Movement of Charles de Foucauld. Sister Caterina Giraudo, 67, and Sister Maria Teresa Oliviero, 61, have worked in Kenya since the early 1970s. It is presumed that they have been taken across the border into Somalia, and both church and civil authorities are trying to arrange their release.

In northeast Congo, the devastating effects of a civil war are now multiplied by a severe food shortage and an outbreak of cholera. Despite these perils, representatives of the missionary congregations serving in the area have promised “to remain alongside the Congolese people, sharing the difficulties of this crisis.” There are at least 10 different religious orders of both men and women serving in the region. There is high alarm also for foreign religious working in Zamboanga del Sur in the Philippines. The religious have been threatened by some armed gangs and groups affiliated with the local Al Qaeda cell.

The situation is the same in many other places where expatriate missionaries work. The example of those who work in North Kivu in the Congo is typical of these missionary men and women. They want to stay with their people. While they acknowledge the threats they face, they point out that their people live daily with even greater threats. They all deserve our prayers, encouragement and support.

Comments

LEONARD VILLA | 12/4/2008 - 7:01pm
Your "apologia" for Senator Biden won't wash. The fact that Biden claims that he accepts his Church's teaching that human life begins at conception says it all. It's this type of subterfuge seeking to make abortion a matter of Catholic doctrine that is either crass ignorance or knavery. The Holy See has rejected the seemless garment of life argument which sought to put all "life issues" on the same moral plane hence with regard to the abortion issue Biden's voting record is irrelevant. For these other things to matter you have to be alive. The Dem message roundly supported by these Catholics is: if you make it out of the womb, we are ready to feel your pain and help you. The true evil is that pols like Biden, Pelosi, Kennedy,Cuomo,the whole ilk,know that human life begins at conception because it's a matter of science, and natural law and not simply Catholic teaching. Their detestable cooperation in evil is their facilitation of the eugenic-abortion crowd's principle that certain lives are not worth living (Does that phrase sound familiar?) and that the value of human life is assigned by others. Hence human life then becomes potentially in jeopardy at every stage of development. President-elect Obama voted against bills that would protect the lives of infants born alive after botched abortions without blinking an eye. Can arguments for infanticide be far behind as part of the choice-game? With respect to the CHD, you have to know it has a checkered past. Consider how much CHD money found its way to abortion-promoting organizations. Was that an accident?? The ACORN grants were the latest example of a penchant for CHD to favor the political left in the name of Catholic social teaching equating it with Saul Alinsky radicalism hence CHD's legacy is a very mixed bag.
Robert Koch | 12/4/2008 - 3:54pm
Had I known that CCHD money was being distributed to Acorn, I would NOT have pledged any money at all to the fund. I will be examining CCHD's disbursements more closely in the future, before I give. As for Sarah Palin's comments concerning "community organizer" Barack Obama, I think she was right on. The Current Comment column seem to always have a left slant.
Marie Rehbein | 12/3/2008 - 3:17pm
What Joe Biden claimed as charitable contributions on his tax returns is not necessarily all he donated. Some people do not keep track of their donations for the purpose of reducing the amount of income tax they pay.
Mary Moritz | 12/3/2008 - 2:59pm
My greatest disappointment in this article was that Jesus is referred to as a community organizer (like Obama). Is that what Jesus was? The beatitudes are about community organizing? I am less disappointed that you try to minimize what is morally incorrect in Joe Biden's stances, as I expected this, just as I have come to expect your continual bashing of Bush. Neither am I surprised at your poking at Sarah Palin. It seems that you see abortion (and support of it) as the least of the sins and take aim instead at the other sins you see in politicians you like less than those on the far left. My husband and I are not renewing our subscription.
Colin Donovan | 12/2/2008 - 9:48am
Wow, yet another myopic editorial by the editors of America. Charges and evidence of CCHD support for organizations which use Saul Alinski-style (i.e Marxist) political rhetoric and action go back decades, not just to the uncovering of embezzlement in ACORN. As the current Pope as Prefect worked to end liberal theology's influence in Latin America in the 1980s and 90s it has flourished in some Catholic religious congregations and agencies in the United States. It is not sad that the CCHD is being looked at and reformed, it is about time!!!
david hennessy | 12/2/2008 - 9:42am
DUDES I JUST RENEWED MY SUBSCRIPTION BECAUSE OF THE BEAUTIFUL ARTICLE ON ST JOSEPH. THEN I READ THIS ARTICLE AND REMEMBER WHY I WAS READY TO LET MY SUBSCRIPTION LAPSE. BIDEN IS NOT PRO LIFE.......HE IS A LEFT WING RELATIVIST. BESIDES THAT HE IS FULL OF CRAP.LOOK AT HIS RECORD. IT IS WONDERFUL THAT AFTER THE TRAGIC DEATH OF HIS WIFE THAT HE TOOK CARE OF HIS CHILDREN HE STILL HAS LEAD A SENATORIAL CAREER AT THE FOREFRONT OF A POLITICAL PARTY THAT HAS CHAMPIONED A WOMENS RIGHT TO CHOOSE THE MURDER OF 48 MILLION INNOCENT LIVES.ON TOP OF THAT HE CHOOSES TO RUN WITH A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WHO HAS STATED THAT HIS FIRST COURSE OF ACTION WILL BE TO SIGN A FREEDOM OF CHOICE(TO KILL THE UNBORN) ACT. I AM NO FAN OF DON WUERL BUT THIS IS ONE GUY WHO SHOULD BE TURNED AWAY AT THE COMMUNION RAIL. AS FOR BASHING SARAH PALIN,I CAN SEE WHY A MOTHER OF FIVE WHO HOLDS RIGHT TO LIFE VIEWS AND LIVES THEM IN HER OWN PERSONNEL LIFE IS RIPE FOR THE BASHING BY THE LEFTIST BUFFOONS WHO CONTRIBUTE HERE.NOT ENOUGH OF AN LEFT WING PSUEDO INTELLECTUAL FOR THE JEBS GUYS SOCIALISM AND CATHOLICISM ARE NOT COMPATIBLE. POPE JOHN PAUL(POLISH DUDE....BIG GUY.....WHITE HAIR.....OUTLANDISH HEADGEAR.......REMEMBER HIM) MENTIONED THAT THIRTY YEATS AGO A SEMINARY PROFESSOR(SECULAR PRIEST) OF MINE MENTIONED HIS SADNESS ON MY LEAVING THE CHURCH WHEN I ENROLLED AT FORDHAM (JESUIT). THE OLDER I GET THE MORE I REALIZE THE WISDOM OF HIS WORDS. WHAT A WASTE OF TWENTY FOUR BUCKS........
Eric Schaefer | 12/2/2008 - 8:16am
How sad it is to see the editors make every possible contortion to cast Biden's troubling-at-best pro-life record in the best possible light while castigating Palin for one comment without any context or charitable nuance.
Terry Halladay | 12/1/2008 - 11:15pm
How low can you go? As a segue into CCHD Sarah's comment meant Osbama's lack of leadership experience to qualify him for the presidency, not derision of his work with the poor. Never once have I heard that he was a leader of his group...just an "organizer" whatever that means!
Dave | 12/1/2008 - 7:49pm
Interesting that Sarah Palin is lambasted in this article.She was not the first to mock community organizers. Also, how dishonest it is for the Bishops of this nation to NOT DISCLOSE that the money for CCHD cannot go to "direct aid to the poor," and cannot be given to Catholic organizations. Never again will I give money to any Bishop's second collection.
Joseph Franklin | 12/1/2008 - 6:06pm
Senator Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and the Governor of Michigan are some of the Catholic politicians who publically made false statements about Catholic beliefs on when life begins, and why embryonic stem cell research is really pro-life because it might cure someone. In 2008 Biden voted against an amendment sponsored by Sen. David Vitter that would permanently prevent abortion funding with federal Indian Health Service (IHS) funds at Indian health care service facilities. In April 2005 Biden voted against the Mexico City Policy, an initiative to prohibit taxpayer funding of groups that promote or perform abortions overseas. In 2003, Biden voted to repeal the law that prohibits performance of abortions of military base hospitals, which are taxpayer funded. Some Bishops have stated that "resistance to abortion is a matter of human rights, not religious opinion," and that a failure to defend innocent life means that "all of us - from senators and members of Congress, to Catholic laypeople in the pews - fail not only as believers and disciples, but also as citizens." The Oct 8, 2008 issue of CNA stated that “Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s early work as a community organizer has brought to the fore the Catholic Campaign for Human Development’s (CCHD) longstanding support for political organizations accused of promoting radical left-wing politics and distorting Catholic teaching under the pretense of helping the poor. Perhaps CCHD management should not be funding voter registration drives for democratic candidates who support the culture of death.
Andrew Russell | 12/1/2008 - 4:52pm
I participated in a CCHD funded community organizer training program in 1989. The purpose of the program was to enable ordinary (mostly poor) people in Chicago organize school reform and elect responsible members of local school boards. Community organizing is one of the few ways that those who lack monetary resources can influence the political process. It is not surprising that rich and politically powerful people would denigrate community organizing. It threatens their powerful position. On the other hand, there are people who comfort themselves by supporting a self-proclaimed right-to-life candidate who subsequently oppresses the poor and promotes unjust wars. CCHD has done and continues to do the work of Christ. In many places in our country it is the only way to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those oppressed. Maybe now their task will be to give sight to the blind who cannot see the speck in their neighbors eye for the plank in their own.
Tom Faranda | 12/1/2008 - 4:50pm
It's interesting that you have overlooked Joe Biden's astounding record of not personally supporting charities. According to his own ten years of tax returns, he earned almost two and a half million dollars, over those ten years, while making donations of all of $3,690, for the entire ten years. Let's see, that's an average of a quarter million dollars a year in earnings and $369 in donations. And he's pro-abortion. I suppose you could say, at least he's consistent. Not exactly what we'd like to brag about as the public political face of Catholicism.
Nancy Danielson | 12/1/2008 - 2:44pm
I am wondering why anyone, who professes to be a member of Christ's Church, would think Christ is in error regarding the Sacrament of Marriage and the Sacredness and Dignity of Human Life. "render onto Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar, and to God, what belongs to God." -Christ
tpfarrelly | 12/1/2008 - 2:09pm
Regarding Biden: Let it be noted that during his campaigning for the Obama/Biden ticket,Biden vehemently proclaimed the importance of selecting judges who would uphold Roe vs Wade. Regarding the C.C.H.D: I will certainly never give another penny. I wonder in what other ways they are wasting the contributions they receive. There are more trustworthy charities to give to.
Jerry McFadden | 12/1/2008 - 1:37pm
You have no idea how much damage you are doing to the real Catholic Church by supporting Cafeteria Catholics like Joe Biden. Please change your name to National Catholic Weakly.
Livia Fiordelisi | 12/1/2008 - 1:16pm
So sad to hear that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development was caught in the crossfire of the culture war and the irresponsible comments of the campaign season. Sadder still that the USCCB is so un- or under-informed about the CCHD's mission and record of service. It is unfortunate that so many rely on EWTN (the Catholic Fox News)-type sources for information on such urgent matters. My hope is that the faithful will see through the polemics and continue to support CCHD's important work.
GeorgeR | 12/1/2008 - 12:58pm
This editorial fails to factually address the very serious problems with CCHD. Simply saying "wrong on all counts" does not refute the mountains of evidence that CCHD has and continues to support groups working to elect pro-abortion politicians. Even cutting off ACORN was only described as a response to the embezzlement disclosure and the allegations of voter fraud. Why was the fact of ACORN support for pro-abortion politicians not cause for cutting off funding years ago? And why do other equally objectionable groups continue to receive CCHD support?
leonard Nugent | 12/1/2008 - 12:50pm
In your article you state: "Mr. Biden has described himself as “a practicing Catholic prepared to accept my church’s view that life begins at conception.” He has also said he would not support overturning Roe v. Wade." Perhaps Mr. Biden has made a 3/5 th compromise. If the fetus in the mothers womb counts as 3/5 of a human being he's perfect. Kind of a bitter irony I think.
Eggy | 12/1/2008 - 12:45pm
Speaking as somebody who has been acquainted with several, I can assure you community organizers don't "help the poor organize in order to obtain justice." They lie around in bed until mid-day, smoking dope, committing onanism and watching TV. For which they demand that ordinary hard-working people fork over a contribution so they can have a middle-class salary. Just like Jesuit priests.

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