Monday, November 15, 2010

Why I don't give to the CCHD

Before Mass this Sunday, a lector read the announcements, as is the custom in our parish. This week, he reminded us that the second collection would benefit the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). He further said that the campaign was "strongly supported" by our bishop, Bishop Kevin Vann.

The bishop was, of course, not present, so the notion that he "strongly" supports the CCHD's fundraiser remains hearsay. I wish that I could believe that Bishop Vann is not terribly supportive of the CCHD, although if I have learned one thing about the Catholic hierarchy here in America, it is that so many of them are terribly, terribly slow to let a truly awful idea die, preferring instead to keep it in some kind of zombie state and attempt to solve its hemorrhaging cash flow problems with extra appeals to the faithful to surrender their brains (and their cash) to keep the undead thing going for another year. Or decade, as the case may be.

I've written a few posts over the years about the CCHD and its problems. Here are a few of them:

Obama and the Faith-Based Initiatives

Zen and the Art of Asbestos Removal

Shut Down the CCHD

The definition of help

Rather than repeat all of that information, I'd like to use a Q & A format to discuss some of the main issues I have with the CCHD:

Q. Isn't the CCHD simply a Catholic way to contribute money and other resources to help the poor?

A. No. On the USCCB's website, in the section about grants for the "community organizing" grant recipients, we can read the following:
Ineligible for Funding

The following general classifications do not meet CCHD criteria and/or guidelines for community organizing grants:
  1. Organizations with primary focus on direct service (e.g., daycare centers, recreation programs, community centers, scholarships, subsidies, counseling programs, referral services, cultural enrichment programs, direct clinical services, emergency shelters and other services, refugee resettlement programs, etc.)

  • Similar language can be found at the "Economic Development" grant section on the site.

    What this means is that the CCHD does not raise money which is then spent on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or others of the Corporal Works of Mercy. The CCHD primarily raises money with a view toward "empowering" the poor by giving them a voice in various political efforts in which they have an interest.

    In fact, the mission of the CCHD is as follows:

    The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) established the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the Catholic Church's domestic anti-poverty program, in 1969 with two purposes. The first purpose was to raise funds to support "organized groups of white and minority poor to develop economic strength and political power." The second purpose was to "educate the People of God to a new knowledge of today's problems . . . that can lead to some new approaches that promote a greater sense of solidarity."

    The CCHD philosophy emphasizes empowerment and participation for the poor. By helping the poor to participate in the decisions and actions that affect their lives, CCHD empowers them to move beyond poverty.

    Q. Well, what's wrong with any of that? Shouldn't we help the poor by working for justice and empowerment?

    A. Possibly. But the CCHD has never repudiated its early links to ideas and organizations connected to radical Marxist agitator Saul Alinsky; in fact, as documented here, Alinskyite organizations still receive funding from the CCHD.

    Catholic social teaching, with its focus on unity and solidarity with the poor, generosity in deed and action, true concern for others, and a desire to help those in need is not the same thing as Marxism or socialism, which promotes class envy, derides the idea of private property or ownership, sees political power as the only goal worth achieving and political activism/unrest as a necessary stop toward the achievement of that power. Too often in the past, among CCHD grant recipients there have been those who blur the lines between these two very different ideas.

    Q. Such as...?

    A. Such as ACORN, which the CCHD no longer funds--but did until the spotlight turned on ACORN and its various practices which were at odds with Catholic principles.

    Q. But if the bishops are being more careful about funding, then what's the problem?

    A. The history of the CCHD has been riddled with the funding of organizations which are dubiously radical politically, and have included the funding of pro-abortion groups among others. If there were clear, strong evidence that the ACORN incident had caused a change in structures and ideals at the CCHD, with a greater scrutiny of grant recipients and a humble apology for abusing Catholic funding raised in the past, it might be prudent to give to the CCHD. But not only has there not been a real apology for past abuses, there is evidence that the abuses continue.

    Consider this recent article:

    CHICAGO, Illinois, November 12, 2010 ( – The national office of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) awarded a grant in 2010 to a Chicago-based group, despite the local CCHD branch’s strong warnings that the organization in question coordinated a school-based health program that provides contraception and refers for abortions. The decision to award the grant was made even as CCHD was faced with calls for a boycott over its funding practices, and in the midst of an effort at reform.

    The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), a community organizing project focusing on a wide range of issues such as anti-violence, housing, and immigration, received a $45,000 national grant this year for general operating expenses – the third year in a row it has received such a grant.

    This grant was continued despite strong evidence from the Reform CCHD Now Coalition (RCN), and the local CCHD office, that they were engaged in activities seriously contrary to Church teaching.

    RCN found that SWOP is implementing a school program called Elev8 at Marquette Elementary School. This program includes the provision of health services to the children through a school clinic; but the clinic also provides sex education, distributes condoms and oral contraceptives, and refers for abortion. To run the clinic, SWOP chose an organization called Access Community Health, which provides contraceptives without parental guidance.

    Now it has been revealed that the SWOP grant was awarded despite opposition from the local CCHD office, which vets all grants. [...]

    When vetting SWOP, Flores called the health clinic at Marquette, posing as the father of a grade 7 student who might be pregnant. The nurse told him “in no uncertain terms” that if his “daughter” was pregnant, they could refer her to the nearest abortion provider, he said. Otherwise they could get her “the pill” if he wanted.

    CCHD guidelines prohibit awarding grants to groups that promote or participate in activities that contradict the moral and social teachings of the Catholic Church.

    That article was published just a few days ago, on November 12. Yet the USCCB insists that the CCHD does not give grant money to groups whose activities contradict Church teachings. So how did SWOP end up with $45,000 in donations given, primarily at Mass, by faithful Catholics? And how can Catholics really trust that the USCCB is carefully vetting groups that receive grant monies to ensure that these groups are not engaged in pro-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-gay "marriage," pro-euthanasia, or other activities which clearly contradict Church teaching--let alone that groups are not aligned so far to the political left of the spectrum that they decry private property ownership or call for Marxist-socialist "redistribution of wealth" as a solution to poverty?

    The sad reality is that as of right now, Catholics simply can't trust that the USCCB has done due diligence in ensuring that Catholic donations given to the CCHD aren't being used to promote and support anti-Catholic practices and ideas. In fact, it is more than likely that they are.

    True concern for the poor is an important aspect of Catholic living. But giving to the CCHD to grow its various "community organizing" and grassroots political efforts may not be the most effective way to help the poor; in some instances, giving to the CCHD means giving to organizations whose notion of helping the poor is diametrically opposed to Catholic principles. Instead of giving to the CCHD, Thad and I will be considering how much money we would probably have placed into the collection basket, and will send that amount, instead, to a local pro-life organization which directly helps women in crisis pregnancies and their babies. Giving money to the CCHD just doesn't make sense to me as a Catholic--even if my bishop reportedly holds quite a different opinion.

    UPDATE: Another interesting link: Reform CCHD Now looks like they've got a great deal of specific information about this problem.


    Liz said...

    Our Bishop pulled the plug on them this year and asked that the money that would go to them go to Diocesan programs for work with the poor and needy instead. Our bishop isn't perfect, but we've seen really, really positive change around here in the past few years.

    Maureen said...

    OUr Bishop had a letter read before Mass encouraging giving to the a video playing in the hallway outside of Church. We don't give to the CCHD, we give directly to our local pregnancy center and food pantry and our regular parish donation.

    Siarlys Jenkins said...

    I would like to see CCHD reformed so that it funds pro-life Marxist organizations which empower the poor without in any way advancing an agenda of abortion or contraception.

    Archbishop Dom Helder Camara pray for us. Also Father James Guadalupe Carney.

    I am, as anyone who hangs out here knows, firmly pro-choice. I assiduously defend the Constitution of the United States of America. However, I fully accept Erin's eloquent assertion that no Roman Catholic Church organization should be expected to support activity which is contrary to church teachings. Liberation from the evils of capitalism can happen with or without abortion and contraception.

    For President: Convict # 9653. (Hint, he got over a million votes in 1920).