Archbishop Charles J. Chaput did not enjoy his first and only encounter with two leaders of Catholics United.
“It was an interesting experience,” Archbishop Chaput recounted in his Oct. 13 column for Catholic Philly magazine.
“Both men were obvious flacks for the Obama campaign and the
Democratic Party – creatures of a political machine, not men of the
Church; less concerned with Catholic teaching than with its influence,”
“And presumably (for them) bishops were dumb enough to be used as tools, or at least prevented from helping the other side.”
Right now the group is in the news after being mentioned in a leak of
emails published by the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks. The Feb. 10-11,
2012 emails were reputedly hacked from the account of John Podesta,
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s current campaign
manager, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, and past
president of the Center for American Progress think tank.
Sandy Newman, president of the progressive organization Voices for
Progress, wrote Podesta about the controversy over Catholic resistance
to the Obama administration’s then-new rule mandating insurance plan
coverage of contraceptives, including some drugs that can cause
For Newman, a longtime political actor who once hired a young Barack
Obama for a voter registration project in Illinois in 1993, the
controversy appeared to be a chance to foment revolution within the
“There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves
demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a
little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic
church,” Newman suggested to Podesta.
“Even if the idea isn't crazy, I don't qualify to be involved and I
have not thought at all about how one would ‘plant the seeds of the
revolution,’ or who would plant them,” Newman added. “Just wondering…”
To this email, Podesta responded:
“We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for
a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now.
Likewise Catholics United,” Podesta replied, according to the email.
“Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom
Podesta suggested consultation with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former
Lt. Governor of Maryland and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy.
In his column, Archbishop Chaput recounted his visit from two young
men from Catholics United just weeks before the 2008 presidential
election between Barack Obama and John McCain.
The two men “voiced great concern at the manipulative skill of
Catholic agents for the Republican Party,” Archbishop Chaput reported.
“And they hoped my brother bishops and I would resist identifying the
Church with single-issue and partisan (read: abortion) politics.”
“Yet these two young men not only equaled but surpassed their
Republican cousins in the talents of servile partisan hustling,” the
archbishop charged. “Thanks to their work, and activists like them,
American Catholics helped to elect an administration that has been the
most stubbornly unfriendly to religious believers, institutions,
concerns and liberty in generations.”
“I never saw either young man again. The cultural damage done by the
current White House has – apparently — made courting America’s bishops
unnecessary,” the archbishop lamented. “But bad can always get worse.”
The archbishop noted other emails in the leak showing staffers at the
Center for American Progress insulting Catholics and Catholic converts,
claiming they “must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely
backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian
He cited a letter from a nationally prominent non-Catholic attorney
experienced in Church-State relations. The attorney declared the emails
“some of the worst bigotry by a political machine I have seen… (a)
Church has an absolute right to protect itself when under attack as a
faith and Church by civil political forces.”
He suggested it would be nice if former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton repudiated its content: “All of us backward-thinking Catholics
who actually believe what Scripture and the Church teach would be so
Yet Archbishop Chaput appeared no friendlier to Clinton’s leading
rival. He recounted a friend’s description of the leading political
candidates: “A vulgar, boorish lout and disrespecter of women, with a
serious impulse control problem; or a scheming, robotic liar with a
lifelong appetite for power and an entourage riddled with anti-Catholic
The archbishop lamented that in a country where the concept of choice
is “the unofficial state religion,” the menu is “remarkably small.”
His unnamed attorney interlocutor also reflected on the state of the
country, saying that before the leaks there was been “strong evidence”
of the current administration’s hostility to religious organizations.
“Now there is clear proof that this approach is deliberate and will
accelerate if these actors have any continuing, let alone louder, say in
government,” the attorney said, according to the archbishop’s column.
The attorney charged there is an active strategy to shape Catholicism into the religion the political leaders wish.
“Look where we are now. We have political actors trying to
orchestrate a coup to destroy Catholic values, and they even analogize
their takeover to a coup in the Middle East, which amplifies their
bigotry and hatred of the Church,” the attorney said.
After 2008, Catholics United would go on to run efforts in Colorado
and in Pennsylvania critical of the Catholic Church. It would also go on
to take funding from the Gill Foundation of Tim Gill, a politically
savvy Colorado-based millionaire businessman, and from the Arcus
Foundation of billionaire heir Jon Stryker. Both men are deeply
influential LGBT activists involved in funding Catholic dissenting
groups and efforts to restrict religious freedom they consider
Catholics United’s aligned organization, Catholics in Alliance for
the Common Good, received hundreds of thousands of dollars from
billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations from 2006-2010.