If you’re a Catholic and you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the sponsored posts. If you’re a person living in the DC Metro area, you’ve probably heard the radio ads, seen the posters at bus stops, or maybe even the full-page ad in the Washington Post.
These ads, from a San Francisco-based non profit called the “Knights of St. Francis,” are showing up everywhere, and unless the space is being donated, at significant expense. I decided to dig a little deeper to find out who was behind the group, and I didn’t have to look too far.
According the the group’s “about” page, their founder is one Angela Alioto. Her Wikipedia page lists quite a leftist pedigree, among which is that she is the daughter of former Democratic Mayor of San Francisco, Joseph Alioto, and that she herself is a former Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party.
The Knights of St. Francis website states that the group
is an international and universal association consisting of single and married lay people, ordained clergy and men and women religious who share in a common spirituality and mission in equal partnership with its Interfaith Auxiliary Membership.
The Knights of Saint Francis’ first service is to Jesus Christ, Our Lord. In 2008, with this service, the Knights became guardians and protectors of the Holy Chapel: La Porziuncola Nuova at the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi in San Francisco, California.
We are servers. Where there is a need to serve the sick, the poor, the rich, the sad, the discouraged, the environment and of course, all of God’s creatures, that’s where we the Knights of Saint Francis can be found.
It turns out that Austin Ruse of C-Fam has done his own homework, and published a report about the Knights of St. Francis last week at Breitbart News:
The center piece of Alioto’s ad is the quote from Francis about God judging us by how we cared “for Earth.” But did the Pope really say that or could it be the product of an over-exited headline writer at the Associated Press?
An AP story headlined “God will judge you on whether you cared for Earth” certainly rocketed around the globe last May after Francis gave a homily to the Catholic relief group Caritas in Rome. But, the story does not contain that quote. In fact, Francis said that at God’s judgment, “…it will be revealed if [the powerful of the Earth] really tried to provide for Him in every person, and if they did what they could to preserve the environment so that it could produce this food.” Not even a close approximation of the headline in the story and in Alito’s ads.
It is at least remotely possible that Alioto got this quote from one of the impromptu back of the plane interviews that Francis is fond of giving. But either way such a quote hardly binds the consciences of Catholics as Alioto implies in her ads.
And what of Alioto’s own faith? Since she is holding D.C. Catholics to account for a single Francis quote of questionable provenance, does she adhere to actual and fundamental teachings of the Church?
Alioto has certainly never taken out ads in Washington D.C. or elsewhere holding pro-abortion politicians to account for Church teaching on that issue, or on the issue of marriage either. In fact one can see in the public record that she has publicly opposed such teachings.
She authored a resolution calling upon the State legislature to fund testing of the abortion drug RU486. She voted for a resolution condemning a pro-life group that wanted to rally on the steps of City Hall. The resolution said it was ““an act of provocation when a right-wing Christian fundamentalist group brings their anti-gay and anti-choice agenda of intolerance to the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall.”
Alioto voted for a resolution opposing legislative efforts to limit marriage to a man and a woman. She also voted for a resolution opposing the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.
So, how is it that a dissident Catholic from lefty San Francisco politics lectures D.C. Catholics using a questionable quote from Pope Francis? It’s that lefty Catholics have waited decades for a Pope who would give them a stick to beat conservatives with and they are taking every opportunity to use it, even if they have to invent the stick.
Guidestar has financial data for the Knights of St. Francis for 2012, and it’s quite modest. So how does a West Coast organization with less than six-figures of revenue just three years ago come up with a budget for a multi-six-figure carpetbagging ad spend in our nation’s capital in 2015?
I have no idea. And I don’t have the investigative journalism resources to pursue it. But that’s big money for a local charity that mostly maintains a chapel and does outreach work in the community to start dumping into DC without big pockets funding it – especially so perfectly timed to exploit the release of Laudato Si. In fact, they have an army of quotes from the encyclical (mixed in with phony quotes, like the one about “God will judge you on whether you cared for Earth”) on a website primed and ready for social sharing. And with all that money going towards publicity, you’d think they’d have a big fundraising campaign to replenish their coffers. Nope. Just a teeny little Paypal donate button on their homepage.
Something fishy is going on here.
Let’s hope a news organization with the wherewithal to shed some light on this decides its worth exploring. Until then, I’d advise that you to share this story, and to warn family and friends not to be lured in by their prolific “quoting” of Pope Francis.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.