EPISO: How Much Does It Cost?

Author: Theresa Caballero

As established in the previous article, EPISO is an arm of the Catholic Church which has entered the fray of public policy and the fight for public monies.  EPISO (driven by the Catholic Church) has become a political action group shrouded under the mantel of “men and women of the cloth.”  In other words, the Church has boldly and brazenly stepped out of the realm of Church and crossed the threshold into State, contrary to the laws separating Church and State which are an underpinning of our democracy.

One of the questions becomes, what is the platform of EPISO.  For brevity’s sake, this writer will only name a few, which I believe will give the reader an adequate view of the mindset running EPISO.

EPISO espouses a living wage which is $10.50/hour.  EPISO has written in its platform that private businesses who receive tax abatements should be forced by the government to provide a living wage to its workers.EPISO calls for preventative health care for all uninsured immigrants regardless of legal status.

EPISO calls for long term retraining programs.

Thus enters the training program called “Project Arriba” an entity under the auspices of EPISO/the Catholic Church.  Project Arriba bills itself as a retraining program.  El Paso Bishop, Armando X. Ochoa wrote as a guest columnist for the El Paso Times on September 29, 2002, calling for the County Government to commit taxpayer dollars to the project.  He wrote, “I urge the County in its deliberations to continue to invest in Project Arriba.  It is imperative that a local entity attend to the welfare of this community and assist our most vulnerable.”How much money did the Bishop ask the County to give?  The budget request form filled out by Roman Ortiz, Executive Director of Project Arriba, asked for:

  • Personnel $62,000 and then $35,000
  • Fringe $6,200 and then $3,500
  • Rent $17,000 and then $34,500
  • Office Expense $11,800 and then $10,000
  • Furniture and Equipment $5,000
  • Printing $2,000
  • Insurance $3,000
  • Professional Fees $10,000
  • Tuition, Books, Materials and support services for students attending EPCC and the Workforce Development Academy $300,000
  • TOTAL $500,000

Four out of the nine board members of Project Arriba are Catholic priests.  They include, Co-Chairman Rev, Ed Roden-Lucero (Pastor of San Juan Diego), Rev. James Hall (Pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church), Rev. Ken Ducre (Pastor of All Saints) and Rev. John Stowe, (Pastor of Mt. Carmel).

Aside from the tax money already supporting El Paso Community College which takes Arriba people, the money the County has heretofore pitched in, the El Paso Empowerment Zone approved a second year of funding to Project Arriba to the tune of $250,000.

If you add it all up, the Arriba graduates are getting a very expensive training at tax payer’s expense.  If you also look at the second column on that expense sheet, the Catholic Church, which used to educate and medically treat members of this community at its own expense, is now delegating this duty to the public and is getting a free ride off the backs of the local and federal tax payer all the while looking like the good guy.
To ad insult to injury, EPISO corners political candidates running for office and asks them where they stand on EPISO projects and if they will monetarily support those projects once in office.  Many candidates desperate for votes and without scruples succumb to the pressure of the men in collars who have great influence over their congregations and commit themselves to EPISO, in essence, buying EPISO votes with our tax dollars.

If the Bishop wants to enter politics, I invite him to take off his robe and run for office.  If the Bishop supports “long term” retraining for our displaced workers, I invite him to open the doors of the Catholic schools and pay for this retraining himself. What better training program than Notre Dame, Georgetown, Marquette, etc.  The buildings and the teachers are there.  If the Bishop believes in health care for anyone who crosses the border, I invite him to buy back the white elephant of Hotel Dieu, the hospital the Church abandoned and sold to the County.  If the Bishop believes in a “living wage”, I invite him to open the doors of the Church’s many institutions and employ us by the thousands, paying a living wage out of the church coffers.  If the Bishop believes that taxes should be used for his projects, then I invite him and the Church to give up their tax exempt status and start paying taxes.  If the Bishop does not want to do any of these things, then I say to him, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” and stay out of politics and the tax payer’s pocket.