After going to see the Nuns on the Bus in Janesville, WI, I found on facebook a video the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters had recorded of Sr Simone Campbell earlier the same day, in which Sr Simone described candidly that “we asked for help in DC, and our colleagues, all the big players, they came together and helped us brainstorm this.” Certainly made me wonder who were “the big players” in DC that helped make this happen. Well, we can now verify one of them: Faith in Public Life, the George Soros-funded, Center for American Progress-associated political progressive organization that is also engaging in a media campaign against the Fortnight for Freedom, as shown in this recent Advisory Memo to Journalists from the USCCB. Among other efforts, they put out talking points to try to get journalists to politicize the Fortnight for Freedom and trip up bishops — see also Fr Z’s coverage and commentary of the Advisory Memo.
Well, no wonder the Nuns on the Bus so entirely wanted to evade and hide the religious freedom message we brought to them in Janesville. No wonder all Sr Simone had to say about it, while walking right next to FIPL staffer Casey Schoeneberger, was “it’s complicated”!
The photo at the top of this blog post shows Sr Simone with Casey Schoeneberger, who traveled on the bus doing media relations for them. The picture below is from the FIPL staff page, which also explains, “Before coming to Faith in Public Life, Casey participated in the Associate Program at NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. At NETWORK, Casey advocated for the protection of federal safety net programs.”
A June 14th news article about the Nuns on the Bus verifies Casey’s role with the bus tour:
“The sisters are merely raising concerns about Paul Ryan’s budget and saying that a budget that decimates services for the poor does not follow their religious values,” said tour spokeswoman Casey Schoeneberger.
When I met up with the Nuns on the Bus in Janesville, Casey accompanied Sr Simone closely and her media role was obvious. As I queried Sr Simone about her views on the HHS Mandate and the Fortnight for Freedom while she walked back toward the bus following the brief press conference, and she mainly only reiterated, as described above, that “it’s complicated”, Casey was also responding to me, for instance insistently correcting my perception of something eyebrow-raising I thought I heard Sr Simone say and hurrying Sr Simone away from me. The photo at the top of this post shows Casey accompanying Sr Simone to where CNN had set up for an interview.
So what is “Faith in Public Life”? It’s bad news, and certainly does not have Catholic concerns faithfully at heart. As Sr Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB quoted from this page that has all the details, they are “a group founded with help from a pro-abortion group long directed by John Podesta called the Center for American Progress. . . (CAP); like the CAP it has received funding . . . from billionaire atheist George Soros. . . . ”
The bus tour has now just ended, but I think one thing it’s helped make it very crystal-clear is why the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was right to specifically suggest that women religious leaders should not be involved with NETWORK Lobby. This is pure progressive politics, in coalition with other progressive “big players”, without any distinction made (indeed a refusal to make a distinction) between NETWORK Lobby’s perspective and the stridently pro-abortion politics of secular progressivism.
[UPDATE: additional details you may find interesting:]
The first leader of Faith in Public Life, Rev. Meg A. Riley, describes some of her previous qualifications, and the group’s founding.
While Unitarian Universalism is my home base, I have spent the past eighteen years building relationships with national leaders across the faith spectrum. I have served on national boards including The Interfaith Alliance, Americans United for Separation of State, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and Interfaith Worker Justice. This means that I have relationships across a spectrum of faith.
I have been part of founding two nonprofits for interfaith work: In 1997, anticipating the Million Man March of the Promise Keepers, I worked with others to launch Equal Partners in Faith, which worked to link racism and homophobia and to challenge the Promise Keepers’ premise of being nonsectarian. Before the UUA even had a Public Witness team, I appeared on dozens of national TV shows.
Following the 2004 elections, I gathered with other people of faith at the invitation of John Podesta from Center for American Progress, to reflect about what we might do. I emerged from that meeting as the leader of a group empowered to start another nonprofit, which has become Faith in Public Life (FPL). See www.FaithinPublicLife.org. Next year I will complete two terms as founding board chair of that group. FPL is amazingly effective, well-connected, and creative. Founded on the principle of open source support for religious groups on the ground rather than institutional self-promotion, we have quickly become a go-to group for progressive religious initiatives.
From the site “Discover the Networks”, which was linked to by USCCB’s Sister MaryAnn Walsh to supply background information on Faith In Public Life:
Established in 2006, Faith in Public Life (FPL) is a tax-exempt charity which was originally launched to strengthen the progressive evangelical movement. Its founding mission was to counter what it describes as the modus operandi of President Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, in which “faith was often deployed in service of a narrow and partisan agenda.”
While 40 religious leaders throughout the United States played some role in FPL’s founding, the principal founders were Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Melissa Rogers, director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University; Rev. Dr. Jim A. Forbes, Jr., founder of Healing of the Nations Foundation; Ricken Patel, co-founder and executive director of Avaaz.org, which is a project of Moveon.org and Res Publica; and Sister Catherine Pinkerton, a NETWORK lobbyist who gave the closing benediction at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
FPL’s sister organization is Faithful America, which is also affiliated with True Majority and Res Publica. While FPL has hundreds of affiliates throughout the United States, its primary partners are Sojourners, Interfaith Worker Justice, Vote the Common Good, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Episcopal Public Policy Network, and the National Council of Churches.
FPL also has a close relationship with John Podesta‘s Center for American Progress (CAP). Two of CAP’s senior fellows, Fred Rotondaro and Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, currently serve on FPL’s board. Another FPL board member, Tom Chabolla, is the assistant to the president at the Service Employees International Union, and he previously served as associate director of programs for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Other noteworthy groups affiliated with FPL include People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO), ACORN, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Interfaith Alliance, People for the American Way, the Center for American Values and Public Life, and Pax Christi USA.
A number of prominent leaders in the progressive movement serve as speakers and organizers for FPL. Among these are Greg Galluzzo, national director of the Gamaliel Foundation; Kim Bobo, founder of Interfaith Worker Justice; Sister Simone Campbell, national coordinator of NETWORK; and Rabbi Jonah Presner of the Industrial Areas Foundation.
On June 27th, Sr Simone was interviewed by a reporter for Bill Moyers’ PBS show. Her reponse to “Tell us about your own personal journey. Who are your greatest influences?” does not mention Jesus, or any Catholic leader. Her response to “What does being Catholic mean to you?” has only vaguely to do with Catholicism, but entails a rejection of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, in favor of a materialist interpretation of the story that George Soros would find entirely satisfying.
Fredericks: What does being Catholic mean to you?
Sister Simone: To me it’s that amazing history of spiritual practice, social engagement, witnessing to the fact that Jesus lives in our world now and says that there is enough if we share. The miracle of the loaves and fishes — one of the accounts says 5,000 men ate. Well, the reason they only counted the men was the women and children knew it was the women who had brought all the food! Only the guys thought it was a miracle, the women knew it was about breaking bread and sharing it. This isn’t biblical — this is just my interpretation of it, but to me the miracle was sharing.
Yikes. She’s right that isn’t Biblical. Neither is it Catholic. As Steve Ray points out in his Catholic response to this fashionable error, “the entire patrimony of the Catholic Church upholds without any deviation whatsoever that our Lord actually did multiply loaves and fishes by divine power to feed the multitudes.” But oddly enough… one thing I get out of Sr Simone’s re-conception of it is that subsidiarity works.