Pope Should Correct U.S. Bishops' "Ideological Colonization" of CCHD Grantees

Pope Francis

Pope Francis is making headlines again with another blockbuster interview on a plane ride home from an international visit, this one his trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. What is capturing journalists’ attention are the plans for the pope’s U.S. trip and his remarks about birth control and family planning, which seem to be a radical departure from the traditional ban on artificial means of contraception.  (Full transcript of interview can be found by clicking here.)

What has captured my attention, however, is his elaboration of a term he used at a conference of families in the Philippines on Friday:  “ideological colonization.”    It seems to me that Pope Francis’ explanation of this term can equally apply to Catholic organizations such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), as it does for the international aid organizations, which seemed to be the pope’s immediate referent.  I’ll explain below; first, some background.

On Friday, while speaking of dangers to the family, Pope Francis said:

“There is an ideological colonization we have to be careful of that tries to destroy the family. Just as our peoples were able to say no to the period of colonization, as families we have to be very wise and very strong with fortitude to say no to these initiatives of colonization that could destroy the family.”

A Vatican spokesperson then said that, in part, the pope was referring to same-gender marriage. New Ways Ministry’s response can be read by clicking here.

In the interview on the plane back to Rome on Monday, the pope explained more about what he meant by “ideological colonization.”  The National Catholic Reporter captured that part of the interview:

“Continuing to clarify his concept of ‘ideological colonization,’ Francis said he heard concerns about the matter from African bishops during last fall’s Synod, who told him they often face difficult choices when presented with conditions of acceptance on much needed financial aid.

” ‘I say to many that I have seen this,’ said the pope.

“Francis compared such colonization to criticisms he has frequently made about the process of globalization — saying that the homogenizing of peoples is ‘the globalization of the sphere — [where] all the points are equidistant from the center.’

” ‘It is important to globalize but not like the sphere — like the polyhedron,’ he continued. ‘Namely, that every people, every part, conserves its own identity without being ideologically colonized.’ “

Basically, Pope Francis is saying that money for aid and charity should not be tied to the ideological values of the donating organization.  The pope should be instructing not international aid organizations about that principle, but his own Catholic bishops in the U.S.

For several years now (see list at end of this post), we have seen the U.S. bishops’ domestic aid project, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, withdraw funds from charitable and empowerment organizations they have funded when it has been found that the organization has some sort of connection to organizations which support marriage equality.  This connection may even be quite tenuous, such as participating in the same coalition.

Isn’t this practice “ideological colonization”?  Why is it okay for U.S. bishops to practice this method of philanthropy, but not other organizations or countries?

Following Pope Francis’ geometric analogy, it should not be necessary to tie CCHD aid to the bishops’ political agenda, making all agencies that receive such funds be equidistant from the bishops on all principles, creating a sphere. Rather, the bishops can create instead, as the pope suggests, a polyhedron, which would encourage diversity of strategies to achieve a common end. If an immigrant rights group determines that working with other organizations that support marriage equality is the best way to aid and empower people, the bishops should then respect that local decision.

In Francis’ view, “ideological colonization” has dangerous outcomes, and also dangerous precedents.  The National Catholic Reporter transmitted his remarks on this concept:

” ‘It colonizes the people with an idea that changes, or wants to change, a mentality or a structure.’

” ‘It is not new, this,’ he continued. ‘The same was done by the dictators of the last century. They came with their own doctrine — think of the Balilla [youth groups of Fascist Italy], think of the Hitler Youth.’

” ‘They colonized the people,’ he continued. ‘How much suffering — peoples must not lose liberty.’

” ‘Every people has its own culture,’ said Francis. ‘But when imposed conditions come from the imperial colonizers, they seek to make [peoples] lose their own identity and make an homogeny.’ “

Of course, the same problems are true for the way that the CCHD is being run.  In being so ideological, using marriage equality as a litmus test,  the bishops are denying liberty and eradicating local decision-making.  Worse yet, they are alienating people and organizations with whom they should be building bridges.

If Pope Francis is serious about working against “ideological colonization,” he should start in his own backyard and tell Catholic bishops that they should not tie aid to their own political objectives.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts

Bondings 2.0 has been reporting on these cases involving the withdrawal of CCHD funds because of connections to groups which support marriage equality.  Here’s a list of some of the posts:

April 12, 2012: “WithCharityForAll.org”

August 5, 2012: “Catholic Grant Money Returned Because of Warning About LGBT Rights Involvement

November 1, 2012: “Marriage Debate In Minnesota Creates Conflicts for Catholics

June 15, 2013: “Attacks Against Bishops’ Anti-Poverty Efforts Come at the Expense of LGBT Community

August 6, 2013: “On Gay and Lesbian Immigrants, Catholic Bishops Need to Do a Lot Better

October 3, 2013: “Donors Fill the Gap When Bishops Cut Funds Because of Marriage Equality Support

October 21, 2013: “Immigrant Rights’ Groups Cut Budgets Because of Loss of Catholic Funds

July 19, 2014: “Bishops Defund Immigrant Rights Group in Guilt-By-Association Case





11 replies
  1. terryweldon
    terryweldon says:

    Reblogged this on Queering the Church and commented:
    Pope Francis says it is unacceptable that the donors of international aid to poor countries should make that help conditional on the recipients falling into line with the donors’ ideological preferences. At Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBenardo says that to be consistent, he should also tell the US bishops that it i equally unacceptable for them to make their own charitable giving conditional on the recipients falling into line with their ideological preferences.

  2. Bill Freeman
    Bill Freeman says:

    I think the optimism is overstated. While in the Philippines, the Pope clearly stated that same-sex marriage threatened families. Cardinal Burke and his ill must be elected. There aren’t words to express how devastating Pope Francis’ comments are. Further, he has telegraphed to those preparing for the next Synod that homophobia will remain the position of the church and they can forget about any welcome of gay and lesbian relationships. Two weeks ago, my partner and I celebrated 27 years together; we were legally married in Washington DC on our 26th anniversary last year. The message is loud and clear. Shame on me for ever thinking things might be different. And shame on a Jesuit trained as a chemist who could not listen to the sense of the faithful or the wisdom of the time. I’m done!

    • Sister Lea
      Sister Lea says:

      No shame on you, Bill, “for ever thinking things might be different.” They WILL be different, no doubt about that…The Church cannot forever resist evolution or paradigm shifts without falling in upon itself.

      Besides, no one needs the approbation of the Church for how she/he lives. Maybe that is what we are supposed to learn from all this RC resistance to change…how to take responsibility for our own lives and not expect anyone else’s approbation. We only need to live fully and responsibly in our love for each other and the world!

  3. Lynne Miller
    Lynne Miller says:

    i find this very confusing. it doesn’t seem to concur with what pope francis has been saying all along. if the writer is correct and he is talking about people of different cultures having to change their culture in order to receive aid, then others have been mistaken when they relate it to same-sex equality. if bill freeman, above, is correct, then i have been wrong in what i thought the pope has been saying. maybe we won’t know until he himself clarifies what he said, but in the meanwhile, it’s confusing.

  4. Friends
    Friends says:

    A curious footnote to one element of Pope Francis’ statement. To wit:

    “The same was done by the dictators of the last century. They came with their own doctrine — think of the Balilla [youth groups of Fascist Italy], think of the Hitler Youth.” The curious footnote is that Pope Emeritus Benedict, one of the most rabidly ideological of far-right-wing Popes, was himself an active member of the Hitler Youth in Germany. See a gallery of documentary photos here:

    Make of it what you will. Pope Francis is clearly a man of good intentions and good will. But the doctrine of “Papal Infallibility” is now considerably frayed…probably beyond any hope of repair.

  5. Benjamin Regotti
    Benjamin Regotti says:

    Funny that the Pope doesn’t seem to see the parallel between “ideological colonization” and what Catholic/Christian missionaries have been doing for centuries. The US Bishops, unfortunately, are just one more small example of this “missionary position”.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Francis has remarked on ideological colonization or gender identity issues before.   His strongest negative remarks about gender identity came in […]

  2. […] on “sexual complementarity” last fall, and an address about marriage and family during his visit to the Philippines are two examples. Yet, as a Guardian analysis of Parolin’s remarks pointed […]

  3. […] harsh rhetoric on LGBT issues creep into his public remarks.  We saw this with his remark about “ideological colonization” of marriage, and more recently by comparing gender theory to nuclear […]

  4. […] Pope Francis, for all his welcome, has not fully embraced LGBT issues.  He has opposed marriage equality and adoption rights for lesbian and gay couples.  He has promoted the concept of  gender […]

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