Deal W. Hudson
December 7, 2007
Marshall Ganz, a Harvard sociologist, was a major force behind organizing Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), a dissenting Catholic organization devoted to “structural” change in the Church. VOTF, you may recall, used the occasion of the priest sex scandals to call for changes in Catholic doctrine such as the addition of a married priesthood and popularly-elected bishops.
Ganz is a nationally known expert in political organizing. In 2004 he was an adviser to Howard Dean – Ganz now advises Democratic presidential candidate, Barak Obama.
Ganz’s intent in helping to found VOTF is made clear from a letter published on the VOTF web site by his former graduate assistant, Aimee Caravich. Caravich was hired by VOTF to develop a training program for regional coordinators and affiliate leaders.
Caravich, in a letter to VOTF members, wrote:
I sincerely believe… VOTF can rise to its feet and claim a piece of the power that the Catholic hierarchy currently holds. I am here to get that ball rolling… After all, as the VOTF opening prayer states, ‘We are the Church.’
Ganz recruited her into VOTF after they spent two years together teaching “People, Power, and Change” at the Kennedy School of Government.
Now the same man who helped create an organization to change the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church is a chief adviser to Barak Obama. Last summer, for example, Ganz helped to design and implement “Camp Obama” in five cities across the country. Camp Obama was a three-day training session for volunteers who were tasked with creating a precinct level political organization from the grassroots up.
The Camp Obama website features a video where Ganz explains, “How we can develop our own stories of self so we can relate with voters on a deeper emotional level than just to transfer information.”
Ganz certainly has the credentials for this line of work. He was a civil rights and labor organizer with figures like Cesar Chavez. Additionally, he also worked for 16 years with the United Farm Workers, eventually becoming their National Organizing Director. Ganz tells the story of his work with UFW in his book, Why David Sometimes Wins.
Perhaps Ganz sees Obama as the David who can topple the Goliath who is Hillary Clinton. Obviously, he views the successful grassroots organization as a key to an Obama victory over the well-financed Clinton political machine.
But the presence of Ganz in the Obama campaign suggests the candidate himself applauds the kind of change in the Catholic Church Ganz and his associates were trying to effect through VOTF.
So what is Obama’s attitude toward Catholics?
In his speech, last summer to the Call to Renewal Conference he explained, “The majority of Catholics practice birth control because they, like all Americans, ‘intuitively’ recognize religious teachings that are ‘more culturally specific’ and may be modified to accommodate modern life.”
Marshall Ganz may or may not have had a hand in writing that speech, but it sounds like it came right out of the VOTF handbook for Catholic dissent. Obama applauds Catholics in their dissent against Humanae Vitae as intuitive and distinctively American.
Obama has Catholic support, including a priest from Chicago, Fr. Michael Pfleger who said,”I think Barak Obama is in a class of his own.” Not really, Father. Just like presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Rudy Giuliani, Obama is pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage.
Now that Clinton is sliding downward in the polls, and the Obama campaign is gaining ground, we may be hearing more of Obama’s opinions on Catholic teaching.