The Vetting - Obama's War on Catholic Church Began at His First Job

One of the least explored periods of Barack Obama’s life is the period between his graduation from Columbia University in 1983 and his arrival at Harvard Law School in 1988.

This was a crucial, formative time for the young Obama. It was during these years that Barack Obama, “community organizer,” forged his identity and the relationships that would bring him to the White House. And he did so hand-in-hand with the radical Catholic left in Chicago.

Obama’s first job in Chicago began in 1985 with Jerry Kellman, a Saul Alinksy-trained community organizer who continues to work with the radical Catholic left in the Windy City. Kellman was a veteran protester of the ‘60s--he once joked that he majored in protesting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before transferring to the progressive Reed College--and wanted to use the “social justice” teachings of the radical Catholic left to co-opt the Church for his Alinskyite project.

Obama’s job was to help Kellman expand his project's reach into the black churches.

He was paid by these radical Catholic leftists, who in turn had received their money from their parishioners or the larger Catholic church. Obama’s travel documents and expenses were signed and approved by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin,a  controversial figure in the Catholic church who supported nearly every left-wing movement within it. Though Bernardin was well liked in Chicago, especially by a fawning media anxious to have a Catholic imprimatur on nearly every social issue of the day, Bernardin's work undermined many Catholic teachings.

Early on, he tried to maneuver around Paul VI’s teaching in Humanae Vitae, which governs the morally appropriate way to deal with sex and birth. At a dinner party, Bernardin famously credited Mikhail Gorbachev, not Reagan or John Paul II, with ending the Soviet Union. And perhaps most mischievously, Bernardin called for a “consistent ethic of life,” which tied the anti-abortion cause to pacifism and redistributionism and therefore gave cover to liberal Democrats trying to claim they were Catholic.  

Bernardin’s most enduring left-wing project was the Campaign for Human Development (CHD)—which, according to Obama biographer Stanley Kurtz, is “probably the largest funding source for community organizing in the United States.” According to George Weigel, writing in First Things, “the Campaign for Human Development began to support programs of community organizing modeled on or promoted by Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation.

One of those organizations was Kellman and Obama’s Developing Communities Project (DCP), which was, according to one early Obama article, “funded by south-side Catholic churches.” Those that could not afford the $5,000 donation for membership in the DCP, like Bill Stenzel, the former priest of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Roseland, donated their office space. Like any good bargainers, Kellman and Obama promised these social justice-inspired churches that joining their organization increased attendance—and collection money.

One of those South side Catholic churches was St. Sabina Church, headed by Father Michael Pfleger. Pfleger and Obama knew each other well. Pfleger later backed Obama in his failed 2000 congressional bid against Congressman Bobbie Rush. (It was only when Pfleger’s controversial comments about Hillary Clinton at Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ surfaced in 2008 that Obama broke from the Reverend Wright and left Trinity.)

So what did Obama actually do with the DCP? He explained in his first autobiography, Dreams from My Father:

The day after the rally, Marty [Jerry Kellman in Dreams] decided it was time for me to do some real work, and he handed me a long list of people to interview. Find out their self-interest, he said. That’s why people become involved in organizing—because they think they’ll get something out of it.  Once I found an issue enough people cared about, I could take them into action. With enough actions, I could start to build power. Issues, action, power, self-interest. I liked these concepts. They bespoke a certain hardheadedness, a worldly lack of sentiment; politics, not religion. (Dreams from My Father, p. 155, 2007 edition)

Politics, not religion. That was what Obama learned from Kellman. But he learned something more: how to exploit religion to advance his own politics, always toward getting more and more power, which, after all, is what “community organizing” is all about.

Obama forged his initial Chicago connections through the militant leftist Catholic movement. And it remains his entrée to the Catholic community today; he has been able to avoid charges of anti-Catholicism despite his specific targeting of traditional Catholic institutions simply by praising radical Catholics with whom he once associated.

It is no coincidence, for example, that before meeting with the Pope in 2009 and at the commencement of the University of Notre Dame, Obama praised Bernardin’s teachings.

Obama needs Catholics—54% of whom voted for him in 2008—to come out for him again, especially in the post-industrial states of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Obama hopes to manipulate the Catholic population in 2012 the same way he once did in Chicago: by working with liberal Catholics to “community organize” the rest of the church, and the nation.

“I’m still organizing,” Obama told Kellman during the health care debate, according to New York Times columnist Jodi Kantor in "The Obamas." The message was clear to everyone but Kantor: Kellman, who had begun his radical career at the 1968 convention in Chicago and had a speaking slot at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, had trained this President.

Kellman, who had learned Alinskyite tactics at a school headed by none other than Saul Alinsky himself, was hearing form his star pupil that he had not forgotten the master’s lessons. And Obama hasn’t forgotten his master’s lessons on how to exploit the Catholic community, either, as we shall see in subsequent posts. 


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