Buying the Catholic Vote?

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue has charged that George Soros and his Open Society Institute are funding some of the more vocal Catholic groups on the left.

NEW YORK — Bill Donohue, Catholic League president, claims pro-abortion multibillionaire George Soros funds at least one dissenting Catholic organization in order to confuse Catholics about abortion so they might vote for Barack Obama.

“Catholics in Alliance [for the Common Good] willfully misrepresents Church teachings on abortion, and George Soros funds them through the Open Society Institute. Is it illegal? No. Is it immoral? Yes,” Donohue told the Register.

Donohue said Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is on a mission to elect Obama and veils its agenda only slightly. He points to the fact that the group’s founder, Alexia Kelley, co-authored A Nation for All, a book that urges Catholics to stop making abortion a central theme in voting decisions.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, speaking Oct. 17 to a Catholic women’s group, also criticized Catholics in Alliance and close affiliate Catholics United for confusing Catholics about abortion. (See related story on page 3.)

“Democratic-friendly groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn,” Archbishop Chaput said, as quoted in an Associated Press article.

He added that pro-Obama Catholics “seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues.”

Soros, who supports Obama and other pro-abortion candidates and causes, founded and funds the Open Society Institute. Research of public documents by the Catholic League found that the institute gave $100,000 to Catholics in Alliance in 2006 and $50,000 in 2005. The Alliance’s annual budget is roughly $1 million.

Catholics United has received no money from the Soros organization, but it shares a building with Catholics in Alliance, and the organizations work closely together.

‘We’re Pro-Life’

Jennifer Goff, director of communications for Catholics in Alliance, said her organization focuses on social justice issues, including promotion of a living wage and more affordable and accessible health care — positions the organization considers “pro-life.”

Goff insisted the organization doesn’t support one candidate for president over the other, because Internal Revenue Service regulations that govern non-profit organizations forbid it.

Goff said she was “saddened” by Archbishop Chaput’s criticism of the organization for being Democratic-friendly.

“We are unequivocally pro-life,” Goff said. “We are totally in line with what the Church teaches about abortion. We support full legal protection of the unborn.”

Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, said his organization is dedicated to ending war, ending poverty and making sure all Americans have health care — issues he says are pro-life.

“If that’s far left, then, fine, we’re far left. But we’re also Catholic,” Korzen said. “Better health care and better economics for women are pro-life positions.”

Korzen said Americans have been battling over abortion laws for 30 years and that most Americans don’t favor making abortion illegal.

After Donohue issued his criticism of Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance, Korzen sent an e-mail to the Catholic League that said: “We don’t take any money from OSI [the Soros organization], but I would have absolutely no problem doing so …” because the organization does “great work.”

Among other things, the Open Society Institute supports improving access to contraception and same-sex “marriage.”

Korzen, who authored A Nation for All with Kelley, posted an entry on the Huffington Post blog Oct. 22 that said Catholics should feel free to vote for Obama, regardless of his abortion stand. The book Korzen and Kelley wrote advocates a national agenda to combat poverty and pollution.

In an interview with the The Boston Globe, the two argued that a ban on abortion could be counterproductive.

“Like so many things, saying that a candidate’s position on abortion makes him or her unfit for the Catholic vote works better in theory than practice,” Korzen wrote in his blog entry.

He added that groups such as “Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United have a long way to go before they match the money, members and infrastructure of the right’s machine. Nonetheless, they have managed to keep up with their competition this year, reaching millions of Catholics through TV and radio ads, direct mail pieces, phone banks and local press coverage.”

He criticized Donohue and the Catholic League for trying “to convince Catholics that abortion is the overriding issue at the ballot box. But this time around, the faithful aren’t buying it.”

Alexander Krstevski, communication assistant for the Open Society Institute, said the organization’s funding of Catholic organizations has nothing to do with a mission to elect Obama or to promote pro-abortion politics.

“I can assure you that would not be a motivating factor in anything we do,” Krstevski said.

Donohue begged to differ, saying: “That’s the entire purpose for this — to confuse Catholics about abortion, by equating it with issues like pollution and the living wage.”

Wayne Laugesen is

based in Colorado.