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Catholic guilt by association: how Minnesota marriage amendment politics hurt Land Stewardship Project
The Land Stewardship Project helps new farmers and rural Latinos while opposing factory farms.

The Catholic Church has poured millions into promoting Minnesota’s marriage amendment. Add to that the $48,000 they yanked from the Land Stewardship Project.

LSP is an unlikely candidate for marriage amendment politics: the group helps new farmers and rural Latinos while opposing factory farms. Long supported by the Diocese of Winona, LSP has “not taken positions opposing Catholic teaching,” insists Associate Director Mark Schultz. “We have never taken a position on the marriage amendment or worked on it.”

So how did gay marriage upend efforts to empower the state’s poorest citizens? Call it Catholic guilt by association.

Minneapolis-based LSP is a member of two broad-based groups, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and TakeAction Minnesota. Both formally oppose the marriage amendment (see conflict of interest statement at the end of this article).

After telling LSP it had won the $48,000 organizing grant in July, the national Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) sent a letter stating “if you want to get the money, you have to resign from being a member of these two organizations,” Schultz recalls.

He says LSP is a member of the non-profit council “for occasional seminars — training and bookkeeping — that help make us a better-run organization. We work with TakeAction on reforming health care — a huge issue for our organization, which is primarily rural and outstate. They’ve also take a position against the voter restriction amendment, which we oppose.”

On its website, CCHD — the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — states that it:

… will not fund groups that are knowingly members of coalitions which have as part of their organizational purpose or coalition agenda, positions or actions that contradict fundamental  Catholic moral and social teaching (e.g. promotion or support of abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, racism, as well as use of the death penalty punitive measures toward immigrants, etc.).

Prohibited activities include participation in or endorsing actions that promote legislation, ballot initiatives (including voter guides and other written materials) that contradict Catholic moral or social teaching.  Actions of other coalition partners on non-coalition issues or issues not agreed upon by the coalition members, calls for a different moral analysis.

Schultz argues — perhaps legalistically — that neither TakeAction nor the nonprofits council was formed to oppose the marriage amendment, and neither is a coalition in the sense that they require all members to work on all issues.

Breach of contract

Nevertheless, Joel Hennessy, director of mission advancement for the Winona diocese, says the LSP lost the grant because of “material breach of the contract from the prior year. The Diocese of Winona has given its support to the Land Stewardship Project for many years based on their work for economic justice and environmental stewardship … but will always stand in union with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

Ralph McCloud, CCHD’s director, says the grant denial was “a joint decision” with the Winona diocese, and LSP’s financial support of the membership organizations played a part. Though LSP has done “tremendous, tremendous work over the years … the whole same-sex marriage piece hasn’t been as big an issue in years past,” McCloud says.

Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz

Schultz — who is Catholic — notes CCHD added a “social and moral” clause to grant agreements in the last couple of years.

“CCHD was founded in order to implement the social teachings of the church,” he says. “Jesus talked to prostitutes, tax collectors and the rest. You have to engage. Our organization has never taken a position objecting to the marriage amendment, but we will work with organizations helping us win local democracy, save democracy through protecting the vote, or doing our books better to help stop factory farms.”

He adds: “You never say, ‘We’ll never deal with you.’ That’s not the way actual change happens. This is really bad pastoral ministry.”

McCloud says CCHD encourages people to work in coalitions, but if such work “is contrary to Catholic teaching, Catholic donors, the supervising bishops, we can’t support it.”

Despite CCHD’s decision, Schultz blames outside groups for losing the grant. “We think CCHD is being yanked” by national conservative groups putting pressure on the national church, he says. “It’s far-right Catholics who want to destroy or redirect CCHD.”

One such entity is the American Life League, which opposes “abortion, homosexuality, birth control [and] Marxism,” says Michael Hichborn, who directs ALL’s Defend the Faith project.

ALL compiled a web page documenting LSP’s TakeAction and Council of Nonprofits connections — and included photos of LSP Executive Director George Boody and his wife, noting their personal contributions to Planned Parenthood, and the “pro-homosexual” PFLAG, a family support group for gays and lesbians.

Hichborn — whose group is sometimes at odds with CCHD — says the Winona diocese was not aware of the connection until ALL’s contact.

ALL has other Minnesota CCHD grantees in the cross-hairs. Hichborn ticked off:

Schultz says LSP was determined not to push a media story, but word got out when the groups sent supporters a letter that asked for donations to cover the CCHD grant. (I was contacted by a reader, not LSP.)

“There was no press release, but we’re a membership organization and we felt we had to tell our members what happened, not sugarcoat it,” Schultz says.

Though LSP’s budget could top $2 million for the first time this year, Schultz says the $48,000 grant was critical because “that’s not easy money to raise. It’s for the express purpose of building power by taking on structural racism and corporate power. CCHD is one of the foremost funders of economic and social justice in the country — ask anybody in social change organizing.”

I asked CCHD’s McCloud if his group had found any other Minnesota group to organize rural minorities, beat back voting barriers and preserve the land. “We’re actively looking for groups to consider,” he replied. “We’re receptive to anyone who makes application.”

Conflict of interest statement: I’m a donor to groups opposing the marriage amendment and my wife is a nonprofits lawyer who does legal work for TakeAction. Neither she nor TakeAction was involved in the genesis or reporting of this story.

Comments (43)

  1. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 10/24/2012 - 10:39 am.


    Well now we know where the Winona Diocese got the $50,000 to support Minnesota for Marriage. Maybe you should check the Crookston and St. Cloud Diocese and see if they’ve taken back similar grants in the $50,000 range.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/24/2012 - 11:34 am.

      Thank you Dean

      I’m smiling widely. Thank you for that wonderful thought!

    • Submitted by Karin Freihammer on 10/25/2012 - 10:36 am.

      Better headline: Let’s Bash the Catholic Church

      While the author offers a disclosure of his opposition of the amendment – the anti-Catholic bias is apparent. The CCHD cannot fund nonprofits that also support initiatives they do not see as helpful for society. Schultz says it’s “far right” Catholics who have swayed the CCHD. Huh? To respect all of life – from womb to tomb, is not “far right” for Catholics who have integrated Church teaching into their lives. Secondly, I am tired of all the Catholic bashing – our parish has campaigns and volunteer initiatives to help the homeless, unwed mothers, the hungry; we educate children, visit people in hospitals, reach out to teens, help the elderly….and yet it is fashionable to bash the Church when it upholds a counter-cultural position for what it believes is for the good of all of society. So a grant isn’t handed to you. It shouldn’t be hard to raise the money, Mr. Schultz – it’s a fraction of your budget. The Church does help farmers with land stewardship and cares for Latinos – your organization isn’t the only vehicle by which to do so.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/24/2012 - 10:50 am.

    Missing from this piece

    Is any mention of what the Land Stewardship Project does to help new farmers and rural Latinos.

    What is clear is that they are up to their necks in leftist political agendas, which is in itself antithesis of what the church stands for.

    Seems to me LSP wouldn’t use the grant to support homosexuality like Planned Parenthood doesn’t use tax dollars to commit infanticide.

    • Submitted by David Brauer on 10/24/2012 - 11:05 am.

      Here’s info on the particular project:

      Re: Latino workers, pertinent point is #2, since most are Latino:

      Re: new farmers:

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/24/2012 - 11:52 am.

      Pretty common sense, actually

      The more obvious way that LSP can help people (it’s not just Latinos, clearly) is by providing a way for people to learn how to raise their own food, which is more nutritious than the average low income person’s diet. Pretty common sense, actually. Another way is by teaching people how to be responsible and successful at making a living in farming. More common sense. In case these aren’t common sense, there are ways to figure out how LSP helps new farmers and rural Latinos, such as looking at the LSP website.

      Your last two statements are off-topic and inflammatory, at best.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/24/2012 - 05:36 pm.

      “Leftist political agendas”: Introducing immigrant families and others to sustainable farming methods and supporting local economies.

      “What the church stands for”: Protecting those who sexually molest children.

      I’m not so sure these are antithetical, but I’ll grant you they are different.

    • Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 10/24/2012 - 05:40 pm.

      Minnpost has again abandoned its comment moderation. If you’re not going to moderate comments that violate stated standards, then don’t claim those standards.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/24/2012 - 10:56 am.

    My way or the highway

    This is a nice illustration of the cost of religious orthodoxy – or of not fitting into what’s regarded as immutable truth. Catholic bigotry on this issue undoes much of whatever positive perception the church might have earned by way of its other work with the poor.

    • Submitted by Virginia Martin on 10/24/2012 - 01:47 pm.

      sign on huge big truck

      I just saw a sign on a big truck in the Sears parking lot that read something with this meaning: Catholics who vote NO on the marriage amendment are counterfeit catholics.

  4. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 10/24/2012 - 11:12 am.

    More irony

    I find it ironic that with the newest spate of ads saying if the amendment is defeated, some charities will be forced to close, that the bishops are doing their best to defund anyone who even hints at supporting a basic right.

    I guess we’ll make all of these charities political. I, for one, will stop donating ANYTHING that could possibly go to any program run by Catholic churches, social organizations, fraternal organizations and schools.

    Not fair? Look at who is starting it.

  5. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/24/2012 - 11:34 am.



    1. the act of killing an infant.

    2.the practice of killing newborn infants.

    3.a person who kills an infant.

    From an earlier comment:

    “Seems to me LSP wouldn’t use the grant to support homosexuality like Planned Parenthood doesn’t use tax dollars to commit infanticide.”

    Planned Parenthood does not commit “infanticide.”

    a) abortions performed at Planned Parenthood – or elsewhere – are protected by a Supreme Court decision.

    b) if abortion is actually “infanticide” criminal charges could be pressed. This is not the case.

    In accord with MinnPosts’s civility rules I formally request that commenters not be permitted to refer to legal abortions as “infanticide.”

    Thank you.

    As a gentle reminder:

    “We will reject inflammatory and highly provocative comments that seem likely to hijack the comment thread — by making the discussion more about the commenter’s inflammatory view than about the story.”

  6. Submitted by Steve Clemens on 10/24/2012 - 11:40 am.

    I support their work!

    As a member and annual donor to LSP, I made an extra donation to them today to counter the disgraceful way the increasingly dysfunctional Catholic hierarchy has responded. LSP’s work with immigrants is justice and hope embodied.

  7. Submitted by Steve Braker on 10/24/2012 - 11:40 am.

    And yet more irony

    Somehow the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has overlooked – and ALL has failed to point out to them – that the Diocese of Winona and most major Catholic dioceses and orgs are members of… the evil Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

    Catholic Church Hierarchy 1.0 is in rapid descent – not just for misanthropy but for blindness to the world that surrounds it.

  8. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 10/24/2012 - 11:53 am.

    More proof

    that the socially conservative church hierarchy works to undo the church’s work with the poor.

    We need a reformation in the U.S., a breakaway Catholic church that preaches the word of Jesus instead of GOP talking points. Conservatives worry themselves sick over the UN running everything, yet routinely bow down to the edicts of a Pope elected by a religious version of the UN>

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/24/2012 - 12:28 pm.

      Another breakaway?

      How many do ya figure we need, exactly?

    • Submitted by Virginia Martin on 10/24/2012 - 02:04 pm.

      theses needed

      Maybe we need another Martin Luther to post 95 theses about abuses of Christian church doctrine and abusive practices by the Catholic church and ceremonies with all the religious decked out in regal white, gold and red, and gilded props like a shepherd’s crook, I wonder at how far these men have strayed from Jesus’ simple doctrine: Love thy neighbor. Don’t need fancy clothes or a rich cathedral to do that.

  9. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/24/2012 - 12:34 pm.

    The Roman Catholic Church

    continues to isolate itself from contemporary America, even in areas in which it and other organizations have similar interests. This is but one example.

    Perhaps it’s time the Church’s leadership ask itself who its actions harm, organizations such as LSP or the people it serves.

  10. Submitted by Jeffrey Peterson on 10/24/2012 - 12:41 pm.

    Back story

    Clearly the marriage amendment is the most defining issue of the 2012 election in Minnesota. In addition to the raw numbers of dollars being spent, the lists of supporters and the rhetoric in support and opposition for each side, it is a story like this that helps illuminate the motivation and the unbending advocacy of the proponents. Regardless of the outcome of the vote we are learning a great deal about certain institutions in our society, their priorities and the lengths they will go to cling to the status quo as the ground is shifting beneath them.

  11. Submitted by LynnMarie Lindl on 10/24/2012 - 01:07 pm.

    What I see here is

    the Catholic Church alienating itself from more and more people. As it closes its eyes and shakes its head singing LALALA very loudly with its fingers in its ears so as not to hear or see the changes happening all around it, it digs itself deeper and deeper into being another obsolete entity. Change happens whether or not those living in it want it to happen. The church has adapted on basic church concepts and dogma before. It can again. Or it will fade away like all things do when they don’t adapt. At this rate in a few generations children will remember the Catholic Church only as a concept that was practiced “way back then” before they were born.

    The people can survive without the church. The church can NOT survive without the people. They might want to remember that.

    • Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 10/24/2012 - 01:35 pm.

      I AGREE

      “the Catholic Church alienating itself from more and more people.” I couldn’t agree more. I am leaving the church and my son and daughter already have.

  12. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 10/24/2012 - 01:23 pm.

    Catholic Church

    I am embarassed to have been raised Catholic, My mother would be pounding on the bishops door if she were still alive, and telling him how disgracefull he is to the faith. I wouldn’t go back to catholic church now if the Pope showed up and apologized to me in person. The Pope is as bigot as Neinstedt. And no Neinstedt, you can’t excomminicate me because I quit.

  13. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 10/24/2012 - 02:10 pm.

    Isn’t it time to admit the screamingly obvious?

    As much as we want to pretend they’re nonpartisan, how much more obvious can it be that the Catholic Bishops are an arm of the Republican Party? I know there are loads of non-Republican Catholics, and I even saw a poll the other day showing Obama winning most Catholic votes so I know it’s not true of the grassroots, but the bishops are partisans of the right. Please let’s stop pretending otherwise.

  14. Submitted by Kate Mayer on 10/24/2012 - 03:39 pm.

    Timely article

    After recently stopping my financial contributions to the Catholic Church, I’ve been looking for different organizations that I want to support, those that will use my money towards bettering this world. Looks like I’ve found one!

  15. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 10/24/2012 - 05:45 pm.

    Lurch to the Right

    The Church’s abandonment of the teachings a Christ and its steady drift to the extreme Right is destroying it. Many have left the Church after the exposure of its complicity in the many many cases of pedophilia and the resulting law suits. Many more are leaving due to its funding and politically motivated support of our, and similar marriage amendments, around the country. Its anti-gay posture puts in outside the mainstream, especially with younger people. I looks as though we’ve reached the tipping point, the good that the Church does is not outweighing the bad any longer.

  16. Submitted by Diane Nelson on 10/24/2012 - 07:45 pm.

    Is this really about Catholic principles?

    It seems to me that if the Catholic Church is simply standing by its principles and truly taking these extreme positions for their true concern for the sanctity of life, we should be likewise hearing about its prohibiting participation in anything related to capital punishment. Where are the bishops demanding states rescind the death penalty?

    Or is that not a Republican talking point and polarising issue worthy of the fray?

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/25/2012 - 09:10 am.

      Catholic bishops of the United States: 1980

      “We believe that in the conditions of contemporary American society, the legitimate purposes of punishment do not justify the imposition of the death penalty.”

      This was a break from the earlier position that states have a legitimate right to protect their citizens from harm, and that in some circumstances the death penalty is warranted.

      Happy, as always, to educate those in search of truth.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/25/2012 - 09:51 am.

        Perhaps the Catholic bishops should be distributing CDs

        and heavily advertising their opposition to the death penalty. I recall no such outcry recently.

        You might want to educate yourself, Mr. Swift, about the history of the Catholic church’s position on capital punishment. Murder / capital punishment was permitted and even used officially by the church for centuries.

        Given that the Catholic Church started the Inquisition where people were literally tortured to death, the church’s position in these matters is somewhat suspect.

        It certainly appears as if their position on the death penalty is taken in order to be consistent with their position on abortion.

        And of course this takes us down the slippery slope of a just war and the morality of killing someone in war.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/25/2012 - 10:32 am.

          With all due respect, Bill

          You might want to pay attention to what has been posted. The Bishop’s report broke new ground in 1980…just as I said.

          You of course are entitled to your uninformed opinions regarding the motivations of the church’s decisions, but I simply cannot see the benefit to you, or your ilk, to make uninformed comments qua Catholic theologian in the face of proof to the contrary.

          • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/25/2012 - 11:27 am.

            Catholic theologians, Mr. Swift?

            You mean like St. Thomas Aquinas?

            “The following is a summary of Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 3, Chapter 146 [1], which was written by Aquinas prior to writing the Summa Theologica. St. Thomas was a vocal supporter of the death penalty. This was based on the theory (found in natural moral law), that the state has not only the right, but the duty to protect its citizens from enemies, both from within, and without.”


          • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/26/2012 - 08:20 am.

            You are misrepresenting the position of the Catholic church

            on the death penalty, Mr. Swift.

            “The Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. I know of no official statement from popes or bishops, whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute offenders at least in certain extreme cases. The United States bishops, in their majority statement on capital punishment, conceded that ‘Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the State has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime.’ Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, in his famous speech on the ‘Consistent Ethic of Life’ at Fordham in 1983, stated his concurrence with the ‘classical position’ that the State has the right to inflict capital punishment.”

            Cardinal Avery Dulles
            Catholicism & Capital Punishment
            April 2001 Issue of First Things

            You may also wish to review the original 1980 statement of the Bishops which acknowledges:

            “the fact that Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime, and that the state may take appropriate measures to protect itself and its citizens from grave harm”


            “We recognize that many citizens may believe that capital punishment should be maintained as an integral part of our society’s response to the evils of crime, nor is this position incompatible with Catholic tradition.”


  17. Submitted by Audra Lind-Albrecht on 10/24/2012 - 09:25 pm.

    I’m confused

    Can someone please help me make sense of this? (I’m not Catholic, so I may be missing out on the finer points here.)

    The LSP is a non-profit that has been funded primarily through Catholic charities.
    The LSP assists recent immigrants, especially those in the the Latino community.
    Many Latinos identify as Catholic, so I’m wondering if it is also true that many of LSP clients are Catholics.

    The Catholic church just pulled funding for an organization that assists Latino people, many who are Catholic.

    The Catholic church funding for this group comes with strings attached, including the right to dictate LSP non-profit council affiliations and the personal contributions of members of its governing board.
    The Catholic church disapproved of the LSP association with the Council of Non-profits because the CNP opposes the marriage amendment.

    So the Catholic church pulled funding for the LSP due to its association with the Council of N-P’s. Meanwhile it also has direct associations with the Council of N-P’s.

    So… understanding that the Catholic church places opposition to a politically motivated constitutional amendment ahead of serving some of the poorest of its flock, where does this leave Latinos in the Winona area? And how do they feel about the Catholic church?

    Am I missing something here?

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/30/2012 - 09:45 am.

      You’re not

      You’re seeing exactly what the Church doesn’t want you to. The reasoning the Church gives is a cover up. Or all their affiliated organizations would leave the CNP. I think someone else figured out the link–siphoning money to pay for the Church’s political activism. They figured that this was one people would notice the least.

  18. Submitted by Michael Darger on 10/24/2012 - 10:49 pm.

    CCHD always upheld the principle of subsidiarity

    This is dismaying. I am a long time supporter of Catholic Campaign for Human Development. CCHD has always lived out the Catholic social teaching on Subsidiarity, which holds that human affairs are best handled at the lowest possible level, closest to the affected pesons. So CCHD would help give power to the people — people self-organizing to improve their condition. The LSP project is right up that alley and so are many other groups that CCHD has helped through the years. It saddens me to hear that CCHD is being manipulated in this way. Because it really has been one of the purest social justice ministries within the greater Catholic church. Certainly not the only one, but the one most likely to help independent organizations and groups working with the most disadvantaged in society.

    We need intermediary groups that can stay above the fray of politics and stay focussed on the work of lifting the downtrodden. Apparently, CCDH is no longer a group that is held above the fray and that is truly unfortunate indeed.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/25/2012 - 09:16 am.

      Michael, please visit the sites David has linked to

      It is clear that any service LSP renders to people is a unintended bonus gained from it’s main focus on leftist political agendas.

      The Catholic Campaign for Human Development stands as strong as ever, and continues to fund hundreds of worthy causes. There are bound to be bad apples in the barrel from time to time, and removing them is simply good stewardship.

  19. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 10/24/2012 - 11:23 pm.

    Conflict of Interest

    The church’s mission to empower the poor and marginalized has always been in conflict with its quest for temporal power. This is the last gasp of an aging and irrelevant male hierarchy. Around the world, Catholic churches are empty or in ruins, many of its nominal adherents are poor with no prospects for their families, and the gold and power still sit in Rome.

    Where the church’s social justice work is being done, I don’t see religious doctrine being pushed like this at all but the nuns and priests leading it seem to sidestep the Neinstedts. Out of the six siblings in my family, there’s only one who remains even a nominal Catholic. I still volunteer for a branch of Catholic Outreach that is doing Jesus’s work, but I designate my financial support for those initiatives only so it doesn’t go to the sad old men in robes.

  20. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 10/25/2012 - 02:57 am.

    Support LSP

    An anonymous donor has come forward with a $25,000 matching challenge grant to replace the denied $48,000. Dig deep if you can in the next six weeks, and mail your check to:

    LSP Southeast MN Field Office
    180 E. Main St./ Box 139
    Lewiston, MN 55952

    Your gift will be doubled.

  21. Submitted by Karen Cole on 10/26/2012 - 03:22 pm.

    Weekly donations to the church

    The archbishop announced a separate campaign to raise funds for the marriage amendment a bit ago. Perhaps he did that because Catholics were uncomfortable making their regular weekly donations in the collection basket, thinking that those contributions were funding work on the amendment opposed by many. So Catholics were being asked to continue making their regular donations.

    But if the same standard applies, and all donations to entities and causes connected in any way to the amendment are cut off, then maybe Catholics should rethink those regular donations. . . .

  22. Submitted by Ann Richards on 10/26/2012 - 03:25 pm.

    I worked on several projects of LSP in So Minn- specifically to teach Latinos how to raise chickens and hogs as a source of income. Most projects go beyond feeding oneself, but with income in mind. I wasn’t aware of any ‘leftist agenda’ but I suppose that working with immigrants and those on the margins of society would be suspect to the ignorant. Regarding their funding. They work with very little funding, some govt funding, from colleges, donations, etc. Much like the Catholic Church in fact. Don’t imagine that that ‘good work’ the church does with the poor is funded all by members. They too get govt aid.I would love to see an article with a breakdown of where the money comes from and how it is spent.

    We should not be surprised by what has happened to the Catholic Church……if you don’t care who you get in bed with (the GOP) you are bound to lose your way. The Voter ID amendment will have an even greater effect on the poor than the marriage amendment will, yet the church has been silent about that. I wonder if Isiahi (affordable housing) has run into the same funding problems as LSP- their coalition is quite broad. What about the Downtown Council of Churches? Surely many of it’s members support gay marriage, will the church back out of that as well? Is the earth still the center of the universe?

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