Catholic group investigating claims that it's funding leftist activist organizations

Catholic Bishops meet at the start of an afternoon session during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Annual Spring Assembly in Atlanta, Georgia, June 13, 2012.
Catholic Bishops meet at the start of an afternoon session during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Annual Spring Assembly in Atlanta, Georgia, June 13, 2012. | Reuters/Tami Chappell

A Catholic group funded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says it's investigating claims by the Lepanto Institute that a grant recipient, which was awarded $1.5 million, is funding organizations that are urging people to support and donate to political candidates, which is a violation of guidelines forbidding partisan activities.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which receives its funding from donations that bishops often mandate from their churches, awards grants to many organizations around the country.

According to the Lepanto Institute, a research and education organization dedicated to the defense of the Catholic Church, one such group is Faith in Action. Faith in Action is a multi-faith community organizing group that received $1.5 million from CCHD in 2019-2020.

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The Faith in Action network includes 49 organizations in 20 states. At least 29 affiliates of Faith in Acton’s network "receive funding from the CCHD," the Lepanto Institute reports. 

CCHD's grant guidelines state that groups that receive grants must not engage in partisan activities and must adhere to CCHD and IRS guidelines. 

Faith in Action states on its website that it and its affiliates are "non-partisan and are not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party."

"We do not endorse or support candidates for office," the website reads.

Heather Cabral of Faith in Action told The Christian Post that none of the group’s work is partisan.

“Our voter engagement efforts are and always have been non-partisan; we do not endorse or oppose candidates or political parties. Not one dollar of CCHD funds — or any other sources of funding for our 501-C3 work — goes toward partisan work,” she said. “Faith in Action works diligently on behalf of God's poorest and most needy people and through this work we adhere to the rigorous standards of nonpartisanship.” 

However, on the FIA Live Free Twitter account, the organization has shared posts from Planned Parenthood, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and posts urging Americans to vote for Democratic candidates and against President Donald Trump. 

Faith in Action's Live Free project says it aims to end gun violence and mass incarceration."

In 2017, Google awarded FIA's Live Free and the Community Justice Reform Coalition a $2 million grant to "promote effective gun violence reduction models in at least 10 target cities including Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Oakland, San Bernardino, Stockton, Sacramento, Miami, Orlando, and Birmingham," according to Faith in Action's website. 

One of the tweets shared on the FIA Live Free account that the Lepanto Institute found to be in violation of CCHD guidelines was a retweeted post sent on Oct. 11 that "directly calls for the funding of Gary Peters, the Democrat Senator from Michigan." 

Another post shared by FIA Live Free was a tweet from Planned Parenthood in opposition to the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as an associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. The tweet said: “When Amy Coney Barrett was questioned on constitutionality of: Abortion: no answer; IVF: no answer; Voter intimidation: no answer. But we got our answer: Barrett is a threat to our health and democracy.” 

Similarly, FIA Live Free retweeted a post in reference to Trump during the first presidential debate earlier this month that said: “You cannot debate a piece of s***. This is not a debate.” 

Although the political statements on Faith in Action’s Live Free social media accounts are retweets and reposts, they are still political activism, Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute told CP. 

“If you’re going to put it on your social media feed, it belongs to you. It’s pretty standard fare," Hichborn said. "If you post a retweet calling for funding of Planned Parenthood, then you are calling for funding of Planned Parenthood.”   

Faith in Action’s financial structure is complex and interconnected, he explained. Their tax forms show that the organization collects fees from network members. When CCHD funds individual national chapters, they fund the entire group.

“With this story, my guess is the CCHD were probably tangentially aware of what Faith in Action did, but they’re aware now. They have an obligation to shut down all funding to this group,” Hichborn asserted.

People who donate to Faith in Action might think they’re giving to a group that focuses on helping the poor, he added, arguing that they are not.

“The money doesn’t go to soup kitchens or places that help the poor. It goes through political agitation groups that lobby for hard-left ideologies,” Hichborn contended.

CCHD’s guidelines forbid organizations that receive funds from participating in political campaigns either for or against public office candidates.

The guidelines also forbid organizations from participating in or promoting same-sex marriage, discrimination, capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia or punitive measures toward immigrants.

In an official statement, CCHD said it's investigating the Lepanto Institute's claims.

CCHD said all of its initiatives are carefully investigated and monitored before and after they receive money. After CCHD conducts a formal investigation alongside Faith in Action, the group says it will make a formal statement. 

"Catholics can be confident that the CCHD does not fund organizations that violate the moral teaching of the church. Any departure from this irrevocable commitment would lead to immediate termination of funding support," the statement said. 

Hichborn told CP, however, that "the CCHD was set up as an organization to fund Saul Alinsky’s community organizing groups, and they’ve always been groups that support hard-left socialist Marxist ideologies.” 

“The problem is that the Catholic Church has been infiltrated by individuals that are very hard left,” he said. 

Many of the CCHD’s founders were former members of Interfaith Worker Justice, a group that supports abortion, homosexuality and Marxism, added Hichborn, who contends that CCHD has often funded groups that don’t support Christian principles.

The Lepanto Institute also noted that Faith in Action’s Director, the Rev. Michael McBride, helped found a pro-Biden group called Black Church Political Action Committee.

The website endorses former Vice President Joe Biden for president, along with four other pro-abortion candidates. PICO, a larger regional group that contains the 19 regional Faith in Action groups, posted Black Church PAC political ads and events on its Twitter page.

“We are not affiliated with Black Church PAC,” Cabral of Faith in Action told CP.

McBride’s use of the group’s Twitter pages to promote his political group breaks CCHD’s guidelines and IRS guidelines for charities, Hichborn said. Even so, it’s unlikely the CCHD will take action, he believes.

“The CCHD hasn’t responded to any of our reports. When we catch them funding organizations that promote abortion and homosexuality, they tend to ignore it,” he said.

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