This most recent newsletter from Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., received this morning, has some interesting historical information, some frank talk, and some strong opinions:
I recognize the community organizer approach that Townsend commends in this piece. I learned Sol Alinsky style of community organizing as a novice in Chicago when President Obama was a little boy living in Jakarta, Indonesia. Mr. Tom Gaudette, an associate of Sol Alinsky, trained a number of us Jesuits. I was the youngest man in the group, and I was certainly not well developed in the practice of organizing, but I tried my best in COUP - the acronym for Community of United People - on Chicago's near West Side. Most of the folks were African Americans trying to get their public housing projects brought up to city codes; I especially made contact with the Mexican community near Racine and Taylor streets, a line of housing between Italian residents and the public housing projects. I was particularly drawn to work with a street gang, which saw a lot of gang fights in the year I worked there. In fact, I eventually had to leave the area after having seen a friend of mine killed: they made him kneel down and shot him through the head; they merely beat me up.
Despite the trauma, I never forgot the lessons I learned about Alinsky's community organizing. The key to starting an organization was to find an issue that united the people. The issue should be small enough to win a victory, but large enough to matter to the folks. Second, after choosing the issue we had to identify an enemy the community could recognize as the personification of the issue. Usually this was some politician or businessman. Third, an action had to be designed by which the people could attack the enemy and force his or her hand on the issue, thereby giving the folks a victory. That would motivate them to take on bigger and more important issues, while the leaders among the people could emerge. This was a means of bringing power to the people.
Townsend certainly understands these tactics, as does President Obama. Notice how she has focused on issues of human sexuality, since these concern the most intimate areas of any person's life. People feel these issues quite strongly, so it would be popular to take them on. Second, she identifies the enemies who personify the problem: the Pope, the bishops and the pro-life activists. She develops the strategy of making popular popes - John Paul II, who motivated Paul VI to promulgate Humani Vitae, which continued the age old Christian rejection of artificial birth control and abortion, and Benedict XVI, whom she portrays as a man sheltered within the Roman Curia who is more concerned with papal power than with love of the people. Her approach reminds me of the battle cries after Humani Vitae: "I don't want the pope in my bedroom." My response is: "You flatter yourself; he does not want to be in there, either. But the pope will insist that God is Lord of the sexual realm, including everyone's bedroom."
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, President Barack Hussein Obama, and a number of others will arise to make the pope and bishops into our enemies. This will be especially important as the politicians begin pushing the end of life and the prevention of life as money saving programs in the health care proposals. Already Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed three hundred million dollars for condoms as a part of this congress' first stimulus bill - a rather odd idea for a bill focused on stimulating the economy. However, her reason was to prevent births as a money saver for the states. That is one of the ways she sees the birth of children. There will be many more proposals for taxpayer funding of abortions and euthanasia, since early infancy and end of life are the most expensive periods in regard to health care. The proposed health care bill in the House of Representatives will require the elderly to consult with their doctors every five years about alternatives to long term care. The doctors may be required to inform the elderly about assisted suicide, or at least the need to refrain from long term, expensive procedures. "Grandma may just need to take a pain pill," President Obama told us in a town meeting recently.
Of course, Kennedy Townsend and Obama want to make the pope and bishops into our enemies. I, however, ask why? Do the politicians fear the Magisterium's authority to teach us the holiness of human sexuality, the sacredness of Matrimony, or the sanctity of the right to life which comes from God our Creator and never from the state? Do they fear the goodness of our popes or the deep joy in Jesus Christ which radiates from their eyes, attracting many people to the Catholic Church? Do they fear a solid Catholic critique of their proposals to use death of the unborn and elderly or the prevention of new life as a solution to their inability to pay for all of the medical care they have promised but cannot deliver without eliminating the most vulnerable people who might need care?
Let us not fall for the Alinsky tricks of letting community organizers set up our enemies. These organizers try to stay in the background, manipulating the folks to go after an enemy. We Catholics will do well to stand shoulder to shoulder with our pope and bishops as we move forward in history to promote life and love, all the way to heaven. Those who sow division between us and our leaders will march to their own chosen destinations.
In Christ Jesus,
• Happy 60th, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.! (July 25, 2009)
• The Dull, Dissenting Americanism of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (July 12, 2009)