Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) is a political nonprofit group that was founded in 2005 by a network of religious-left activists—most notably Alexia Kelley, who had served as the Democratic National Committee’s religious-outreach director during John Kerry‘s 2004 presidential campaign. Consisting of some 30,000 members nationwide, CACG frames Christian social teachings in terms of secular social-justice theory, in an effort to generate support from the Catholic community for left-wing candidates, causes, and legislation. Toward that end, the organization conducts “communications and grassroots outreach and strategic coordination” by means of newsletters, ads, political-action campaigns, and Internet-based social networking initiatives.
Asserting that “government, or the state, has at its core a positive moral function”—which is to serve as “an instrument to promote human dignity, human rights and the common good”—CACG advocates the use of big-government action to inject “Christian love” into “our political life.” Indeed, the organization lauds the government for having previously “taken steps in the direction of greater social justice” through such measures as the creation of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Shortly before the 2006 mid-term elections, CACG and Pax Christi USA collaborated to organize a “Called to the Common Good” campaign designed to help churches and dioceses “organize and speak out so that those progressive values which are rooted in our faith … play a central role in deciding the direction of our nation.” And in 2008, CACG helped launch a similar initiative called “Vote Out Poverty, Vote Out War, Vote in the Common Good,” urging Catholics to cast their ballots for candidates who supported the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the reduction of global poverty by means of government-managed “social spending.” Other groups involved in this project included Catholics United, NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, and Pax Christi USA.
CACG characterizes modern America as a society where “greed, materialism, and excessive individualism” run rampant; where “large corporations continue to rack up record profits” and exploit a host of “tax loopholes”; where “hedge fund managers, able to manipulate the tax code, pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries”; and where “social programs that help the poor are being cut while the super-rich are not asked to contribute in the least to closing the deficit.” Emphasizing that “the unregulated market … cannot achieve justice as the Church understands it,” CACG contends that it is government’s obligation to “ste[p] in to meet those important social goods that the wealthy, in pursuit of profit only, leave unmet.” Christian duty, says the organization, entails working “to radically improve the situation of society’s poor and most vulnerable members”—and using government-administered wealth redistribution to help achieve this.
CACG believes that “while people have a basic right to economic initiative and private property, this right has its limits”—i.e., “no person should amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necessities of life.” Proclaiming that “we are our brother’s keeper,” the organization decries “the gap between the very rich and the very poor” as a fundamental evil that is woven into very fabric of capitalism. “Every human has a fundamental right to … food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education and employment,” says CACG, and government must work to guarantee “access to these benefits … on a collective scale.” By CACG’s reckoning, “we must not only be responsible for ourselves or for our families,” but “must also promote a society where the right to life and to material well being in accordance with human decency is made available and attainable to all.”
Viewing conservative politics and free markets as the enemies of authentic social justice, CACG deplores the Tea Party movement as a phenomenon that “celebrates a hyper-individualism that specifically denies the possibility of a Common Good,” “is rooted in explicitly anti-Christian teachings,” and “is dedicated to a form of social Darwinism in which the poor and vulnerable are despised and only the achievements and wealth of the strong merit political protection.”
Other matters of major concern to CACG include:
* Pro-Life Issues: CACG categorizes abortion, which it unequivocally opposes, as an evil of no greater magnitude than other “threats to human life” such as “war, euthanasia, and poverty.” That is, a genuine “pro-life” stance is not achieved merely by opposing abortion, but also requires the promotion of a government that neither “ignores the cries of the poor” nor “fail[s] to consider the horrific human cost of war.” CACG’s pro-life catechism also includes opposition to the death penalty, given that “every human life—whether young or old, guilty or innocent, born or unborn—is both precious and sacred.”
* Workers’ Rights: CACG holds that “all workers have the right to organize and join unions,” as well as “the right to fair wages, safe working environments, and access to productive work.” The organization laments “the assault on workers’ rights in several states,” where budget shortfalls have caused legislatures and governors “to restrict wage increases, benefits and pensions.” “Historically,” says CACG, “unions have served the Common Good by helping to raise wages for all workers,… advocating an end to child labor and other exploitative practices, securing time for family and social engagement by enacting the forty-hour work week, and … securing better access to health care and other benefits.”
* Health Care: In 2008, CACG joined the Faith for Health coalition in support of President Barack Obama’s quest to sign a healthcare-reform bill into law. Other participating organizations included Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, People Improving Communities through Organizing, and Sojourners. In 2010, CACG “proudly supported” the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—commonly referred to as “Obamacare”—which “finally guarantees universal access to health care coverage,” protects Americans from being “left to the mercy of insurance companies,” and, “[like] Medicare and Medicaid[,] give[s] concrete expression to the biblical belief that we are our brothers’ keeper.”
* Foreign Affairs: While “honor[ing] those Christians who, in conscience, give witness to the ancient Christian belief in pacifism,” CACG also endorses Just War Theory, whose principles “would keep our nation, and other nations, from the kind of militaristic forays that wreak such suffering and havoc”—most notably the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were, in CACG’s estimation, “never necessary” and “never winnable,” respectively. The organization contends that America could better promote worldwide peace by increasing its foreign aid, which represents only “a miniscule amount of the federal budget,” and by “pay[ing] closer attention to the socio-economic needs of our neighbors in Latin America, where America’s thirst for drugs and abundance of weaponry for export wreak havoc on still fragile democracies.” Warning that “economic injustice” commonly sows “the seeds of resentment, unrest and civil strife,” CACG exhorts the U.S. to “work towards a just, even, and fair development of our world, where no one society is exalted materially above the rest, and no other society is left, quite literally, in the dust.”
In 2013, CACG “commend[ed]” President Obama for “his skillful handling of the revolution in Libya, supporting indigenous efforts to reclaim their country, with the active support of America’s NATO allies, and without the U.S. military becoming the face of U.S. interest and concern in that beleaguered nation.”
* Religious Liberty: CACG has expressed displeasure over the Affordable Care Act’s mandate requiring religious institutions to provide their employees with health-insurance plans that cover items and procedures to which the institutions may object on religious grounds, such as contraception, sterilization services, and abortifacients. Nevertheless, CACG praised the “steps” that President Obama took “to accommodate the conscience rights of our Catholic institutions” when, in response to harsh public criticism, he unilaterally altered the ACA statute and announced that insurance companies would be required to offer the aforementioned benefits free-of-charge to all people, regardless of where they worked—thereby absolving religious employers from the responsibility of paying for them. Critics pointed out, however, that insurers obviously would build extra costs into their plans to cover the “free” benefits—and those costs would be paid by the employers.
* Immigration Reform: CACG calls for “the passage of immigration reform with a path to citizenship” for those currently living in the U.S. illegally. Beginning in November 2013, the organization became a sponsor of Fast for Families, an initiative where immigration activists, abstaining from all food, gathered daily on the National Mall in an effort “to move the hearts and compassion of members of Congress.”
* Stewardship of God’s Creation: According to CACG, “Catholic tradition insists that we show respect for the Creator through our stewardship of creation, a stewardship that makes sure that we preserve our forests, maintain clean water sources, preserve species in the wild and maintain their natural habitats.”
* Political Activism and Participation: CACG emphasizes not only that “all people have a right and a responsibility to participate in political institutions,” but also that it is “fundamentally wrong to exclude any person or group from participating.” From that premise, the organization reasons that voter-ID laws, designed to prevent election fraud, are unjustified because they allegedly have a disparate impact on poor, nonwhite minorities.
To help cultivate a new generation of left-wing Catholic activists, CACG publishes Millennial, an online journal and blog featuring the writings of young Catholics who were born during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II (1978-2005). These writings address numerous issues related to politics, religion, and culture.
In a February 2012 email exchange that was later hacked and made public by WikiLeaks, Voices For Progress founder Sandy Newman told longtime Democrat operative John Podesta: “There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church.” In response, Podesta said that CACG was an organization that had been established for the purpose of recruiting religious people who could help lead such a transformative revolution when the time was right: “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up.”
CACG’s board chairman is Alfred Rotondaro, who is also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a board member of the Faith and Public Policy Institute, and an advisory council member of the Arab American Institute. Another key CACG board member is Broderick Johnson, who served as President Bill Clinton‘s deputy assistant for legislative affairs from 1998-2000, and as a senior advisor to the 2012 re-election campaign of President Obama. Additional CACG board members have held high-ranking posts with such organizations as the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, Catholics United, and the CAP.
CACG’s advisors include notables like Paul Begala, Mike McCurry (former press secretary for Bill Clinton), and John Podesta, as well as numerous individuals affiliated with such groups as the AFL-CIO, the CAP, Oxfam America, Pax Christi USA, and the Service Employees International Union, among others.
CACG has received financial support from a number of charitable foundations, including the Altman/Kazickas Foundation, the Bauman Family Foundation, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, the Dallas Foundation, the Foundation to Promote Open Society, the Murphy Family Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Rattner Family Foundation, the Ruesch Family Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.
After the conservative radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh suggested, on November 27, 2013, that Pope Francis’s recent denunciation of capitalist economies “sounded Marxist,” CACG launched a petition demanding that Limbaugh retract his remarks and apologize to the pope. To view the CACG petition as well as Limbaugh’s response to it, click here.