San Diego Bishop . . . Reinforces Leftism, Opens Church To Alinskyite Organizing

San Diego Bishop . . . Reinforces Leftism, Opens Church To Alinskyite Organizing

May 5, 2017

A “Faith Not Fear Summit” held at a Catholic church in the Diocese of San Diego raised fears among some orthodox Catholics that the diocese had been co-opted to promote political liberalism in accord with the views of local Bishop Robert McElroy, named by Pope Francis in 2015 to come down from San Francisco to head this border episcopate.
The diocese’s Office for Social Ministry posted an invitation on March 23 to attend the April 19 event at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Barrio Logan, a generally Hispanic neighborhood by shipyards on San Diego Bay.
Calling on people to “put your faith into action,” the social-ministry office’s notice said: “Refuse religious intolerance. Reform immigration. Reject racism. Resist mass incarceration. Redeem healthcare. . . . Join Bishop Robert McElroy and other faith leaders and elected officials to get empowered and learn how to stand up for all families in our community.
“The Faith Not Fear Summit will gather leaders to share powerful stories, inspire hope, and create change rooted in faith, not fear. We will invite our elected leaders to join us and to pledge to protect our families,” it added.
An article posted April 15 at the area’s major news platform, The San Diego Union-Tribune, said organizers said the goal of the upcoming event was “to form ‘action teams’ to focus on immigration, racial profiling, the criminal-justice system, health care, and affordable housing.”
However, a local conservative Catholic and pro-life activist who attended, Allyson Smith, told The Wanderer that the “summit was a left-wing, pro-Democrat talking points, false ecumenism event that should never have been allowed to take place on Catholic parish property.
“The faithful of the San Diego Diocese have their hands full opposing our new bishop, who seems to be fully on board with the San Diego Organizing Project and its Alinskyian aspirations and goals,” Smith said on May 1.
She said introductions at the event included recognizing only elected officials who are “pro-abortion, pro-sodomy Democrats. No pro-life, conservative, Republican politicians were similarly recognized.”
In February, McElroy spoke in Modesto, Calif., at a regional gathering of the left-wing World Meeting of Popular Movements, saying that “we must all become disruptors” in Donald Trump’s America. (See p. 1A of the March 2 hardcopy edition of The Wanderer, “Selective Morality: California Bishop’s Call To Disrupt Trump’s America Betrays His Political Bias.”)
The Wanderer asked the diocese’s media office for a response to criticism that the mid-April Faith Not Fear Summit was biased toward liberal political activism.
This newspaper said, “The San Diego Organizing Project was heavily involved. Allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. against ‘deportation’ was a topic. Attendees were asked to choose activities to participate in, including creating an action team for ‘a weekly act of disruption.’ What was to be disrupted? Is this echoing Bishop McElroy’s disruption speech in Modesto?”
Also, this newspaper said, “This seems as heavily partisan as if, on the other side, the diocese had opened Our Lady of Guadalupe Church for a program with Republican officials advocating substantially cutting taxes, repealing President Obama’s (Affordable Care Act), and building a border wall, while (the conservative) Eagle Forum distributed information packets.
“The Faith Not Fear Summit certainly didn’t have as participants, say, Californians for Population Stabilization, the Center for Immigration Studies, or the Federation for American Immigration Reform,” The Wanderer said.
Kevin Eckery, the San Diego Diocese’s vice chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs, promptly responded on May 1: “The ‘Faith Not Fear’ summit was held at Our Lady of Guadalupe, but it was sponsored by the San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP), which organized the event and invited the speakers and the attendees.
“Bishop McElroy participated and offered pastoral remarks about the need to respect refugees and foreigners, as well as to keep in mind how complicated the situation is, especially with regard to ‘Dreamers’ who currently enjoy a level of protection from executive orders issued by President Obama and endorsed by President Trump, and with regard to families who may have one or both parents without legal residency, but whose U.S. citizen children may find themselves effectively orphaned if both parents are taken away,” Eckery said.
“Regarding partisanship, the makeup of the speakers reflected SDOP’s sponsorship, much like one would expect a pro-life meeting to reflect their point of view. Given that fact, it’s hardly surprising that SDOP chose not to invite opponents of their point of view to the event,” he said.
As a follow-up, The Wanderer asked Eckery if it wasn’t true that the diocese promoted the event. This newspaper cited an invitation to attend that a Catholic woman saw in a parish bulletin in Oceanside, in northern San Diego County — closer to the opposite end of the county from where the Faith Not Fear event was held — as well as the Office of Social Ministry’s own posting.
“I don’t know what we did to promote the event,” Eckery said in a phone call, adding that it’s not surprising the Office of Social Ministry spread the word, although the diocese didn’t send out news releases.
McElroy’s remarks at the event were “very pastoral…trying to keep it in human terms, not political terms,” Eckery said.
Allyson Smith, the Catholic pro-lifer who attended, told The Wanderer that SDOP chartered buses to bring in members from local Catholic parishes. “This shows what a stronghold SDOP has within the San Diego Diocese,” she said, adding, “…Inside the church, the sanctuary (including the tabernacle) was largely obstructed by a large banner proclaiming the Faith Not Fear Summit.”
An estimated 700 people filled the church.
Another speaker, Muslim cleric Imam Taha Hassane, said it was his third time to speak at Our Lady of Guadalupe, and described that church as “becoming the hub of social-justice work here in San Diego,” Smith said. She added, “At the conclusion of Hassane’s speech, he was met with wild applause and a standing ovation.”
During a “commissioning” segment that wasn’t listed on the program, Smith said, “an overhead slide was displayed that said, ‘Will you take five minutes each week to respond to a “Weekly Act of Defiance” and get your five team members to let your representatives know that we are closely watching the stands they take on health care, immigration, housing, mass incarceration, among others?’ Attendees were asked to respond, ‘By faith, we will’.”
A nun from St. Thomas More Parish asked attendees “to commit to ‘disrupt hateful rhetoric’,” Smith said.
As McElroy entered the church, Smith said, she yelled at him, “asking him what his response was to a shooting that had taken place in Fresno the previous day, where three people were gunned down by a guy yelling ‘Allahu Akbar,’ including one he shot to death in the parking lot of Catholic Charities Fresno. Also yelled at him to convert Muslims to Catholicism instead of climbing into bed with him. Of course, McElroy completely ignored me.”

Hateful Rhetoric

Another Catholic who went to the event is a convert to the Church, Patti J. Smith. She’s not related to Allyson Smith. The rest of the references to “Smith” in this article are to Patti J. Smith.
Patti Smith said the invitation in the Oceanside church bulletin to attend the summit included the goal of resisting a return to being tough on crime.
Both the San Diego County sheriff, wearing civilian clothes, and city police chief, in uniform, attended the summit, Smith said. “Whenever everybody applauded, they applauded. . . . They were just as enthusiastic as the rest of the crowd.”
The implications were disturbing, Smith said. “It’s basically telling ordinary San Diego citizens that our police force shouldn’t be doing” their duty. “As long as you’re an illegal immigrant, come on in.”
A small group of about eight orthodox Catholics questioning the summit was “friendly, peaceful and respectful, but that didn’t stop the hateful rhetoric from being spewed in our direction, even though the event leaders claimed that one of their goals is to ‘disrupt hateful rhetoric’,” Smith said at her blog, named “Where Is the Outrage?” (
“Even so-called tolerant and loving priests, a nun, and the imam contradicted themselves by throwing daggers toward us with their eyes,” she added.
On April 21 she blogged that SDOP is an Alinskyian-style community-organizing group “that proudly claims association with the PICO National Network,” which receives funding from George Soros, “a promoter of socialism.”
SDOP handed out a folder at the summit with material including a solicitation to sign up for weekly disruptions, she told The Wanderer.
“We were trying to dialogue with some of the church leaders as they were going in, but they ignored us, like they didn’t want to know what we had to say,” Smith said.
She said she wrote to McElroy after he made his speech in Modesto to be disruptors in Trump’s America, but his written reply was “general liberal rhetoric” which made her think he believes that a person who doesn’t follow liberal political views isn’t in harmony with the Church.
A former longtime liberal Democrat, Smith said she became a Republican after President Bill Clinton. “I finally started realizing that under the Democrats, the law only applied to certain people.”
Smith became a Catholic in 2006 after being invited to attend Mass, she told The Wanderer. “I just fell in love with the Catholic Church. . . . I loved the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
However, she added later that “I just don’t want it to be infiltrated and ruined. . . . And how can we be dedicated to the Church when our Church is in such an uproar right now?. . . I hope more people start standing up. . . . Maybe our voices will be heard.”
Longtime previous San Diego Bishop Robert Brom “stayed away from politics pretty much,” but McElroy is the opposite, Smith said. “He is confusing the flock. . . . It’s frustrating,” she said.

“Invidious Discrimination”

Barbara Simpson, a Catholic and conservative commentator in the San Francisco area, recalled for The Wanderer that McElroy was known for “his left-wing sympathies” when he was an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese there.
“He is a cleric who favors changes that traditional Catholics find abhorrent. Yes, receiving Communion should be okay for divorced and remarried Catholics. Yes, churches should provide ‘safe harbor’ for immigrants. He doesn’t call them illegal aliens, which is what they are,” Simpson said May 1.
“He wants the church to provide sanctuary and seems willing to have people take to the streets to do it,” she added.
“His tendencies were notable during his tenure in San Francisco,” Simpson said. “But he got major publicity when he got involved in a major dispute over the decision by the pastor of the Star of the Sea Church not to allow girls as altar servers.
“His view was that excluding girls from being altar servers is ‘invidious discrimination,’ and to do this in this day and age in our culture had no justification,” she said. “That he disagreed with his boss, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, on this matter didn’t make things any better. It became a cause célèbre in San Francisco Church circles and it became a media circus.
“With San Diego being on the border, McElroy is positioned to vent his anti-Trump views and garner support from illegals to give him the higher profile he seems to enjoy,” Simpson said. “Whether he loses mainstream Catholic support remains to be seen, but Pope Francis must be happy about appointing him to the Diocese of San Diego.”

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