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The Ford Foundation & The Amazon Synod

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, one of America's most important Social Justice Warriors (GoldmanSachs screenshot)

Gotta love National Catholic Register‘s Edward Pentin, who put the screws to a Brazilian divine on the funding his organization (and through that, the ongoing Amazon Synod) has received from the Ford Foundation:


The response was pure argle-bargle and foofarah:


He didn’t actually answer the question. Perhaps the Archbishop didn’t know, and didn’t want to affirm and later be called out for it.

Pentin said the Ford Foundation’s grants database shows that CIMI received significant funding from 2010 to 2015. It’s true. Here’s a screenshot I took:

According to the Ford site, those grants each year went to:

For capacity building, networking, mobilization and public education to protect and defend the rights of indigenous communities affected by large infrastructure projects in the Amazon

So, nothing to do with abortion or gender ideology. Still, the Ford Foundation is not the kind of philanthropy the Catholic Church should be doing business with. The Ford Foundation, as Pentin said in his question, supports abortion rights. Here’s a screenshot from a Foundation post advocating abortion, and written by its “gender, racial, and ethnic justice” program officer:

This year, according to the Ford Foundation’s own numbers, it has donated just over $5 million to projects supporting “reproductive justice”. It has donated $1.6 million this year to programs in the US and overseas promoting LGBT causes.

The Ford Foundation’s president is Darren Walker, who oversees what the Foundation describes as “an international social justice philanthropy with a $13 billion endowment and $600 million in annual grant making.” That’s huge. Walker is also a board member of the Arcus Foundation, which, according to Catholic News Agency:

Since CNA’s February 2015 report on a multi-million dollar campaign against religious freedom protections, the Arcus Foundation has given an additional $2.8 million in grants earmarked for projects aimed at restricting legal protections for religious freedom, especially religious and conscience exemptions in state and federal law.

Among its recent donations is an ACLU grant designed to “beat back” laws protecting freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

In fact, a CNA examination of grant listings and other documents has shown that the Arcus Foundation has funded a variety of coordinated projects, focused on limiting religious freedom, redefining religious liberty, and perhaps even shaping religious doctrine itself.

That 2015 report, by the way, revealed that the Ford Foundation has given at least $800,000 to fight against religious liberty protections. (Ford stopped giving LGBT-related grants in 2016, on the grounds that that LGBT rights activism was well funded, and its money could be better spent elsewhere.)

In 2016, Larissa MacFarquhar did a long piece in The New Yorker about the Ford Foundation and Darren Walker. It’s a really interesting piece, talking about how philanthropy at the highest stage works. Walker, a gay black man born into south Louisiana poverty, is a truly fascinating figure. If you don’t know much about the Ford Foundation, you really should read the piece. It has been a “social justice” foundation from the word go. It was started by big stock donations from the Ford Motor Company family. The NYer piece quotes an early 1970s interview with Henry Ford II, talking about how one of his greatest regrets in life was losing control of the family foundation, which subsequently went far to the political and social left. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Gates Foundation are development foundations, but Ford puts all its money into so-called “social justice” causes.

It should not be surprising that the interests of the Ford Foundation and the interests of the Catholic Church intersect at some points. In principle, I see no obvious conflict between the Catholic Church in Brazil’s desire to protect indigenous Amazon peoples, and the Ford Foundation’s desire to do the same thing. Does that make it okay for the Catholic Church to take the Ford Foundation’s money?

Churches — Catholic and otherwise — take money from donors who are not always saints. The Bolsheviks destroyed many Orthodox churches in Russia, which are being rebuilt in some cases with donations from Russian oligarchs. Many of the treasured religious buildings of Europe were constructed with money from Catholic and Protestant oligarchs of their own day.

My spidey sense pricks up too when I see the Ford Foundation’s involvement in anything to do with the Christian church, given how much Ford opposes anything to do with orthodox Christianity. The Ford Foundation, from an orthodox Christian perspective, is bad news. They are Social Justice Warriors with $600 million to donate each year. Edward Pentin’s question was justified.

But if we’re going to talk about whether or not a church can take the devil’s money to do God’s work — and that is an important conversation to have! — well, that’s a conversation that goes far beyond Ford and the Amazon.





about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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