Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Frances Kissling's Confused Attack on Catholics in Alliance

Hard core abortion supporters are up in arms about President Obama's appointment of Catholics in Alliance Chair Alexia Kelley to head the Health and Human Services Department's Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Former Catholics for Free Choice head Frances Kissling leads the attack with a June 7 editorial in Salon. Kissling makes some salient points about Catholics in Alliance, but her worries that Kelley would stand in the way of funding Kissling's favored sex-ed / contraceptive approach are regrettably false.

Kissling correctly diagnoses the nature of Catholics in Alliance:
With support from George Soros and Michael Kieschnick, the founder of Working Assets and Credo Mobile, groups like Sojourners, Faith in Public Life and Catholics in Alliance entered the electoral arena. Catholics in Alliance and its sister organization, Catholics United, were active in voter registration and organizing Catholic voters in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2006 and 2008. Presenting themselves as more Catholic than the pope -- faithful to church teachings on contraception, abortion and everything else the majority of Catholics have long rejected -- the groups insisted in press release after press release that good Catholics could vote for pro-choice candidates, so long as those candidates were also working to reduce the number of abortions.

Kissling suggests Kelley's appointment is political payback for her efforts to provide "abortion cover for the president and for candidates like Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius."

All of which is true. Where Kissling goes wrong is in believing there was any semblance of sincerity in Catholics in Alliance' campaign rhetoric. In fact, the group's aims post-election have tracked the President's.

Kissling worries that the HHS job
which includes oversight of the department's faith-based grant-making in family planning, HIV and AIDS and in small-scale research into the effect of religion and spirituality on early sexual behavior, has gone to someone who both believes abortion should be illegal and opposes contraception. That's right -- Kelley's group of self-described progressive Catholics takes a position held by only a small minority, that the Catholic church is right to prohibit birth control.

At issue, is whether Kelley is likely in HHS her role to support the Planned Parenthood-style teen sex ed./contraceptive approach to teen pregnancy or will her supposed "more Catholic than the pope" views interfere with the abortion lobby's preferred methods.

Catholics in Alliance own website indicates Kelley would be no obstacle to Kissling's aims. Under the heading Consistent Ethic of Life on Catholics in Alliance' recently revamped website, the group provides "links to organizations that promote human dignity and a consistent ethic of life."

The only one called out for special attention is The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Catholics in Alliance asks viewers to join an NCPTUP forum "exploring the increase in the teen birth rate and what might be done to reverse the recent rise."

NCPTUP makes no secret of its goal to supplant abstinence-only education programs in favor of what both they and Kissling euphemistically call "evidence-based" approaches.

NCPTUP is funded largely by abortion rights and population control advocating foundations including most prominently the Susan Thompson Buffet, Turner and William and Flora Hewlitt Foundations. Various population control advocates are represented on the board including Planned Parenthood and their religion and values advisors include the Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board Chair, Catholics for Free Choice Board Chair and the president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

If Kelley was opposed to a contraceptive approach, why would she highlight this group on her web page? I fear Kissling has nothing to worry about in this appointment.

On a side note - What is the former head of the Catholic Health Association - Chicago priest Fr. Michael D. Place - doing on the board of a contraception lobbying group?