At Mass yesterday the Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection was taken up. Once again we heard that our bishop, Bishop Kevin W. Vann, "strongly" supported the effort.
I guess Bishop Vann doesn't really care that the CCHD has a terrible history, a spotty track record, and a present reality of still giving to grant recipients who give out contraception and/or refer for abortions. No, I don't honestly think he doesn't care; I think he doesn't know, and hasn't made any effort to find out. And I think that the default position of bishops is: we can't suddenly stop supporting something we've supported for years, just because some disgruntled lay people have exposed the hideous underbelly of the thing we've been supporting! Why, if we stopped supporting it now, we might appear to lack credibility!
I'm going to be honest about something a little personal. As a small-"0"-orthodox, Cold War/Spirit of VII Era, pro-life conservative Catholic (how's that for a plethora of labels?), I have sometimes believed that the biggest obstacle for me to be able to understand and accept the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church has been--the United States Catholic bishops. Sure, there's been the exception here or there, but so often the US bishops as a whole appear to support such leftist and socialist ideas (which is not what Church social justice teaching is, not by a long shot) that they appear to be slightly to the left of Nancy Pelosi in their pronouncements and support of left-wing initiatives. And since I don't think the Church in America is, or ought to be, the Democratic Party at prayer, I have been impeded in my understanding and acceptance, on occasion, of important Church teachings by this odd reality.
Church teaching against torture is the obvious example. Back when I wrestled with the idea, I won't say that there was ever a time when I actually thought, "But the US bishops oppose torture--so there must be something good about it!" However, I wouldn't be surprised if I came pretty close to framing the issue in that way (and I've certainly encountered torture defenders since then who think about the issue in that way, and I can't help but sympathize even as I firmly oppose any pro-torture conclusions).
As wrong as that was of me, I can't help but look at certain things the US bishops have done or continue to do as--not justifications, but explanations for why some Catholics of a certain age and experience tend to roll their eyes when the bishops talk about things like health care access, or immigration reform, or just wages. Because, frankly, we still are tempted to think that by "health care" they mean socialized medicine, and by "immigration reform" they mean open borders, and by "just wages" they mean redistribution of wealth. And it's not entirely our fault that we tend to be tempted to think those things.
Which is why, when I heard again that Bishop Vann was "strongly supporting" the collection for the dodgy CCHD with its tendency to give grant money to organizations with all sorts of dubious ties to leftist, pro-abortion, and ultimately anti-Catholic activities, I was only disappointed, not surprised. The only time, I'm afraid, I'm ever surprised by any of the United States bishops is when they do something that is clearly orthodox and Catholic.