HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » My time spent working wit...
Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 03:00 PM

My time spent working with the Catholic Church

Back in the 1980's I had a job working with Catholic Charities in San Francisco. They called it Catholic Social Services back then. It had two divisions, one was Direct Services and the other was Community Organizing. Yes, Community Organizing. Catholic Charities hired Community Organizers back then in San Francisco. I was hired by that division (Direct Services had things like Group Homes and Senior Services). One of my fellow organizers worked full time supporting the Sanctuary movement. Back then there was a Class War going on in El Salvador, the rich against the poor - complete with Army death squads. Catholic Churches across the U.S. sheltered "illegal" refugees from El Salvador - providing sanctuary from deportation by our government. Our staff helped organize that movement.

Remember Archbishop Oscar Romero? If not read up on him - he was assassinated by the Junta while giving Mass. He spoke up for the Poor, he defended them; he faced down the soldiers and called out the Rich. But once he was very close to the powerful elite - he personally ministered to core of members of the Ruling Class. When Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador the government welcomed it, while many in the Church whose ministry was to the poor were upset due to the conservative reputation he had earned up till that point. Romero’s eyes were ultimately opened by some Catholic priests he met who had dedicated their life to the poor. When one of those radical priests who Romero was close to was assassinated, Romero started using the spotlight that his office gave him and the full power of the Church against the violence of the State, and for that he lost his life.

While working with Catholic Charities I met one of those Priests who Romero had become close to (whose name unfortunately I do not remember) He himself had once been detained by the El Salvador military and tortured. Ultimately that priest had to leave El Salvador due to continued VERY credible death threats against him. I had the honor of driving him to several speaking engagements organized by Catholic Social Services of San Francisco. He was a gentle and humble man with a spine of steel and complete dedication to a mission of serving those most in need that never wavered. If anyone can be called a true Man of God, he was one. I don’t know what became of him since I met him 30 years ago.

The man who was Archbishop of San Francisco when I worked at Catholic Social Services – which means that all of us there worked under him, was Archbishop John Quinn. He was present at the funeral of Oscar Romero in San Salvador when what is believed to have been government orchestrated violence erupted against the crowd of mourners leading to dozens of deaths. Archbishop John R. Quinn was president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference from 1977–1980. During that time the American Bishops supported a number of progressive social justice causes..

Many at the time saw Quinn as likely to rise further in the Church, on track to become a Cardinal. He was said to be well regarded at the Vatican. That did not happen. The Church in San Francisco back then, while never overtly breaking with Catholic theology, was notably compassionate toward Gays and Lesbians, and Quinn kept lines open with Gay Catholic leaders and organizations. In a few years he was replaced in San Francisco by a new Archbishop with more traditional conservative leanings. I believe it was said at the time that Archbishop Quinn was exhausted, and he was given time to pursue a personal prayerful retreat. I long since lost track of what became of him.

My work at Catholic Social Services started out as a needs assessment of un-served homeless populations in S.F., which started out as a temporary contract. It grew into full time work. We ultimately chose to focus on the homeless youth population in that City. Ultimately I helped develop new outreach, shelter, and counseling services for youth on the streets – targeted on teens 18 or below (but we fudged on the upper range some). We identified three distinct primary subsets of youth on the streets. They were gay and lesbian youth who either fled or were rejected by families that could not accept them, punk oriented kids who could not easily assimilate with the cultural expectations of their home communities and/or families and therefore also fled or were rejected by their families, and undocumented youth arriving in San Francisco from Mexico and Central America – mostly young male economic refugees.

The programs we developed hired gays, punks and Latinos. There was no overt or even covert religious agenda beyond the fact that the first shelter we opened used the basement of a Catholic Church for its location – not for any theological reason but simply because the parish council donated that space to us for free. We helped develop first a city wide and ultimately a state wide coalition to advocate on behalf of homeless youth which lobbied for essential funding and updated attitudes toward youth in need. Those coalitions included Gay and Lesbian organizations, other Churches in addition to the Catholic Church, youth advocates in general, and groups concerned with the needs of immigrants. Before we started operating our shelter we were warned that it couldn’t work – those groups could not work together, but they did. The youth in particular always found that they had more in common than the differences that divided them.

To say I that I was a lapsed Catholic at the time I worked for Catholic Charities way overstates any connection to Catholicism that I ever had. I had a Grandmother who wanted my company in Church on Sundays for a couple of years – my parents never went and they taught me no religion. I became confirmed as a Catholic rather late, as a teenager, only so the Church would let me have a role as an usher at my older Sister’s wedding inside a Catholic Church. That was all in the early to mid sixties and I had nothing to do with Catholicism after that until I worked for Catholic Charities in the 80's, and I haven’t since that time.

I can not begin to defend the Catholic Church on a wide range of issues, but I do know from personal experience that some wonderful people in this world are Catholics, and that the Church at times has worked for what I consider Good, as well as for what I consider Evil. Both for me come in and out of focus.

22 replies, 2236 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 22 replies Author Time Post
Reply My time spent working with the Catholic Church (Original post)
Tom Rinaldo Mar 2013 OP
tomg Mar 2013 #1
freshwest Mar 2013 #2
Tom Rinaldo Mar 2013 #4
a la izquierda Mar 2013 #3
Sanity Claws Mar 2013 #5
Tom Rinaldo Mar 2013 #6
Bluenorthwest Mar 2013 #7
Tom Rinaldo Mar 2013 #8
michigandem58 Mar 2013 #9
Tom Rinaldo Mar 2013 #10
HiPointDem Mar 2013 #15
michigandem58 Mar 2013 #16
HiPointDem Mar 2013 #17
Tom Rinaldo Mar 2013 #18
BellaLuna Mar 2013 #11
Tom Rinaldo Mar 2013 #13
BellaLuna Mar 2013 #19
onehandle Mar 2013 #12
JDPriestly Mar 2013 #14
nadinbrzezinski Mar 2013 #20
kwassa Mar 2013 #21
MichiganVote Mar 2013 #22

Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 03:21 PM

1. Thank you. As a lapsed and very

disgusted former Catholic and now agnostic, I need to remind myself that for Ratzinger there is a Dorothy Day, for a Cardinal Law, an Archbishop Romero.

edit:typo

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 03:29 PM

2. I'm humbled by your story. You have gained an insight few have had.

This was my view of Catholicism (not in any way related my family, self, etc.) and the blatant rightward political shift we've seen since the seventies in many areas of the country have hurt so many. I am glad to make your acquaintance, limited as being online is, knowing what work you have done. Thanks.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to freshwest (Reply #2)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 03:37 PM

4. I was truly humbled by the story of the priest I met from El Salvador

All of the political and social work I had been or was doing at the time seemed to pale to almost trivial when I heard him relate the mission he was aon and the conditions under which he worked - the certain constant presence of potential violence including the actual torture he suffered, without it ever breaking his will.

The rightward lurch of a lot of the Catholic Church and much of current Christianity has been unsettling to me as well. And it is good meeting you here as well. It is part of what I love about DU.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 03:32 PM

3. Bravo!

Thanks for posting and for your work with your fellow man. I grew up in an Irish and Mediterranean Catholic home. I hate the hierarchy of the Church. But I deeply admire men like Archbishop Romero, who had the courage of his convictions, in spite of incredible danger.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 03:38 PM

5. I also work with a Catholic agency

It does a tremendous amount of good and it provides its services without regard to religion, immigration status, national origin. Many people who have no other recourse or who do not feel safe because of their immigration status, get help from this agency or other Catholic agencies.

At the same time, I know that Catholic agencies are filled with secrets. For example, non-profits generally have to file 990s, a tax return. Although they may have tax-exempt status, they still have to account to the IRS for the funds generated and spent. One big exception is churches and their agencies. They do not file 990s; there is no way for the public to know how much money they generate and how they spend it. Let's just say I have some issues with this.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Sanity Claws (Reply #5)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 03:45 PM

6. I can understand those issues

A local (not Catholic) church hosts a thrift store that raises money for that Church but the person running it also is given discretion to donate money directly to local people facing financial hardships. I know and completely trust that person. People whp would otherwise feel too proud to ask for help accept money from that thrift store probably because it is completely informal and private- I don't think there are any records kept of who is given money or why. When it works like that it is a blessing - but the potential for abuse is always there if the people running it aren't firmly grounded in all of the right reasons for doing so.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 03:55 PM

7. And where does the money Catholic Charities speds come from? This is what gets left out:

Catholic Charities affiliates received a total of nearly $2.9 billion a year from the government in 2010, about 62 percent of its annual revenue of $4.67 billion. Only 3 percent came from churches in the diocese (the rest came from in-kind contributions, investments, program fees and community donations).

And the RCC sues in 2011 for the right to discriminate using tax dollars:

"Catholic Charities in Illinois continues to make news in the wake of the state’s passage of the
"Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which granted Illinois’ same-sex couples some state-level relationship recognition. They already made good on their threat to pull out of foster and adoption services in three diocese so far over the contention they did not want to place children with “same-sex or unmarried couples.” Catholic Charities has now filed a lawsuit looking to get a blanket “religious exemption” under state law in how they administer their services.

At the heart of the issue is the over $30 million dollars that Catholic Charities receives from the state of Illinois for foster care and adoption services. This effectively moves them from a private faith-based organization, which does have built-in religious exemptions as the name of the civil unions law implies, to an administrator of state-funded public services. The are essentially acting as an agent of the state.

In the suit, Catholic Charities for the dioceses of Springfield, Joliet, and Peoria claim that their state-funded adoption services are exempt from the civil unions law under existing state religious freedom protections, despite the public funding of those services. "
http://neighborhoods.redeyechicago.com/boystown/chatter/2011/06/09/catholic-charities-lawsuit-seeks-to-use-tax-dollars-to-discriminate/



.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Bluenorthwest (Reply #7)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 04:06 PM

8. True. Don't doubt a word of it...

I do know that when I was working for Catholic Social Services in San Francisco at the time that there was no one else out there, on any organized scale at least, who was going to fund an organizing effort to protect "illegal aliens" fleeing a right wing government in Central America from being deported by the U.S. government back to that war zone.

I guess I am just saying that the full spectrum of human behavior seems to emerge when people either are or claim to be motivated by faith. I guess you can put me into the anti one broad brush stroke fits all camp. I don't doubt for a minute that in many many cses, maybe a clear majority of them, that I can find often very serious fault with what Catholic Charities does or how it is allowed to operate. I just shared my personal story of working with them in a given time in a given place.

Ultimatey the programs I developed for homeless youth received government funding, and ultimateloy (this was after I left) they amicably were spun off into independent non-profit agencies, but the initial seed money to get all of that going and in place included in large part money that was donated by Catholics, through Church collections, to Catholic Charities.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 04:21 PM

9. Hamas does a lot of charity work

 

Just food for thought.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to michigandem58 (Reply #9)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 04:26 PM

10. Granted

I think much of whatever credibility it has was earned through that. Honestly, I can see how that is effective, especially if those actually doing the charity are going about that work sincerely.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to michigandem58 (Reply #9)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 06:17 PM

15. you're equating the catholic church with hamas now? okay. "the US does a lot of charity work.

 

food for thought."

"the israeli government does a lot of charity work. food for thought."

"bill gates does a lot of charity work. food for thought."


all equally truthful comments. and i don't doubt that the US, israel and bill gates are all involved in things that could be classified as terrorism.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to HiPointDem (Reply #15)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 06:38 PM

16. The OP understood my point

 

Apparently you didn't.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to michigandem58 (Reply #16)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 06:39 PM

17. i understood very well.

 

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to HiPointDem (Reply #17)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 10:45 PM

18. Actually I think I understand both your points for what it's worth n/t

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 04:37 PM

11. There is a lot of good at the local levels

But..that's not the problem.

The problem lies with the powerful at the top.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to BellaLuna (Reply #11)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 05:10 PM

13. Yes, there are some exceptions, like Romero, and I would likely add John XXIII

but your point is well taken. There are also some problematic people at the local level. And current Church dogma in several areas, for someone with my and I dare say your values also, makes it hard to feel fully respective toward any Catholic leader, even those with good hearts and real compassion for the downtrodden.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Reply #13)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 10:56 PM

19. Agreed

Some of my own family members have gotten so ate up with the dogma they scare me. They can't interpret reality anymore.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 05:01 PM

12. I know someone who has a work association with Catholic Charities in Philly.

She praises their valuable work highly.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 06:05 PM

14. I agree with the OP. Many Catholics are wonderful.

But I also believe that the Catholic Church and the bank of that church are extremely corrupt.

I think it is interesting that Pope Benedict resigned around the time that John Kerry became the Secretary of State for the Obama administration. There may be no link. Nevertheless, let's remember that John Kerry investigated the scandals at the banks linked to the Vatican Bank. Does the name Sindona ring a bell? How about Banco Ambrosiano?

John Kerry literally knew, maybe still knows, where the bodies were/are buried at the Vatican. Interesting in my opinion.

But I agree that the Catholic Church has a striking number of wonderful programs to help the homeless and needy and that many, many, if not most Catholics care deeply about the poor and working people.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 11:01 PM

20. Some of the files of refugees we opened

We're from El Salvador, a few from Guatemala. Like you I met some priests that were absolutely committed.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 11:15 PM

21. I worked for Catholic Charities for a year.

There was no religious test or questions, ever, for me or for our clients. I am not Catholic, never have been, never will be. It didn't matter.

The program I worked for existed to help "re-eds", former South Vietnamese military officers who were abandoned when we left Vietnam, only to be imprisoned in harsh labor camps by the North Vietnamese, average stay about 7 years. After release they were ostracized and not allowed to hold jobs.

The US government finally ponied up and brought them over here, and we provided social services to help the acclimatize to the US. I was the only non-Vietnamese in the program. I only left because the grant ran out.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Tom Rinaldo (Original post)

Sat Mar 16, 2013, 11:20 PM

22. I think most people want to be heroes. And for some, an ave. has been the

social justice arm of the church which has largely only survived as a PR tool for the powerful church interests. Whatever. Let's not kid ourselves. What some guy or gal does as a part of the 'help people' part of the church, devined by Jesus or not, is in no way even possibly going to replace the fact that priests buggered kids. Not a few--alot. A lot of priests supported by a lot of Bishops and Cardinals and frankly, the Pope's too.

Frankly, some people probably thought that Hitler was a great guy unless you got in the way of his Jew stuff. If you truly knew what victims of sex abuse by priests have been going through for the last 30 years, you might feel very differently about the Catholic Church.

I do and I'm not ashamed to say it. The youth in the Catholic religion are at risk. They are lied to, they are abused and they are ignored. And all the little countryside or "cool" urban retreats with the nice guitar masses and cool feel good warm fuzzies are not going to change that.

When any organization is unsafe for kids, its unsafe to or for people. As far as I'm concerned, the Catholic church is unsafe for kids.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread