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
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”
November 1, 2012: “Marriage Debate In Minnesota Creates Conflicts for Catholics”
August 6, 2013: “On Gay and Lesbian Immigrants, Catholic Bishops Need to Do a Lot Better”
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”