One long-standing complaint about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), an annual Catholic “poverty” appeal, is that it has consistently misrepresented its work to the people from whom it solicits donations.
CCHD exists to create progressive social change. An analysis of CCHD’s nation-wide 2013-2014 grants – using the most recent information available [i] – showed over half these grants going into Alinskyian community organizing. [ii] The remaining grants were mostly given to independent “advocacy” groups, fighting for specific political and/or policy outcomes. Only a small percentage of grants is directed toward actual “human development” projects.
Given CCHD’s predominant thrust, one would expect its promotional material to focus on organizing and advocacy. To the contrary, it’s the “human development” projects that are routinely trotted out as illustrative of CCHD’s “good” work, atypical as they may be. A case in point is the recently developed promotional video about Chicago’s CCHD program.[iii]
As CCHD has done in the past, the Chicago Archdiocese’s promotional video certainly gives a skewed idea of how CCHD grants are used.
The six-minute video begins by focusing on people with various disabilities who have benefited from CCHD grants to help them achieve independent housing. The second group highlighted is the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, which works with young people in violent neighborhoods. It’s hard to tell from the video what exactly that work is – one gathers it offers job skills training and a safe environment, off the streets.
The third featured group is United Power for Action and Justice (UPAJ) – the mega-Alinskyian organization in Chicago. The video might used this segment to explain Alinskyian organizing but, in that case, it would have reflected what one finds in a “google” search of images about UPAJ: endless meetings and speeches, punctuated by occasional marches.
To hear the promotional video tell it, however, UPAJ is another housing project. The viewer sees images of buildings, construction, and hardhats while listening to an UPAJ leader speak about her concern for the disabled. Is UPAJ another housing program for the disabled?
Another minute goes to the Latino Union, showing people selling coffee beans and being prepared to get jobs. Lastly, the work of a local priest who has established an exemplary domestic violence program in his parish with the help of CCHD money is showcased. One happy couple, who greatly benefited from the program, embraces before church doors.
It’s a lovely set of images, depicting the CCHD as supportive of all the things Catholics agree it should support: family-building, neighborhood enhancement, job creation, and support – in various ways – for the dignity of one’s fellows.
However, this is image-building; it isn’t the reality.
The reality is that 2014-2015 CCHD grants to the Archdiocese of Chicago total $552,500 ($215,000 of local grant awards and $337,500 in national awards).[iv] Forty-five percent of that goes into Alinskyian organizing.[v] It isn’t quite as high as one finds elsewhere but it’s high enough. Further, one must understand that CCHD is not the only source of Catholic money that the Alinskyian organizations have.
All of this is a problem. UPAJ, a Chicago affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation, is not a housing project to help the disabled…even if it has lent some of its “social capital” to support such a project. It exists to create progressive social change.
And “progressive social change” is frequently anti-Catholic. For example,[vi] UPAJ member, Access Community Health Network, openly advertises on its website that it “provides comprehensive family planning and related preventative health services, including:
· Birth control consultation and education
· Family planning
· Emergency contraception”[vii]
The chair for UPAJ’s Gilead Campaign for the Uninsured, Michael Savage, is also the CEO of the Access Community Health Network. UPAJ-member and CCHD-funded Interfaith Leadership Project boasts among its accomplishments assistance “in the opening of a community-based health clinic in Cicero ….the Access Community Health Network Hawthorne Clinic.”[viii] Access Community Health Network isn’t “just a member” of the UPAJ coalition; it serves UPAJ’s goals for healthcare provision.
This isn’t guilt by association. Over a decade ago, when UPAJ first initiated the Gilead Campaign for the Uninsured and created the Gilead Outreach and Referral center to connect uninsured people with health benefit programs, its participating health care organizations did abortions. They fought to maintain abortion “rights.” [ix] UPAJ is simply continuing to do what it has always done.
What makes this consequential is that Catholic money is supporting health clinics that morally mislead and physically abuse[x] their patients. It isn’t accidental that that these “family planning” programs are present in the UPAJ clinics – they are part of a progressive, secular vision of a well-managed society with a well-controlled population.
One could go through all the CCHD-funded Alinskyian organizations in Chicago and point to similar progressive activism. It’s a tedious and disheartening exercise. Therefore a promotional video, whose producers have mastered the “science of image-making” and are paid to craft a compelling sales pitch, will never show a beaming, grateful family being handed birth control pills. They will never present the image of an agitator, stirring up mobs to “fight for their rights.” Catholics don’t want to support that.
What resonates with generous people is to see a former gang member at work in a productive business, gaining marketable skills that will seriously improve his life and the lives of his family and community. That’s what they want to support.
So that’s what the video gives them.
In the cynical words of George Todd, a Presbyterian chortling over a Protestant collection that paralleled the CCHD: “One day, ‘all the little old ladies in tennis shoes’ are going to find out what we have been doing with their contributions...”[xi]
That day has come. The “little old ladies in tennis shoes” want better use of CCHD money.
[i] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Catholic Campaign for Human Development
2013-2014 Grantees:” www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/upload/grantee-list-2013-2014.pdf
[ii] See Stephanie Block, “No reforming the Catholic Campaign for Human Development: The CCHD, which has a charitable tax exemption, is a Catholic organization that funds leftist political activities throughout the U.S.,” Spero News, 10-7-14: www.speroforum.com/site/print.asp?id=CMGWXWABAT47
[iii] Spirit Juice Studios, Catholic Campaign for Human Development: www.spiritjuicestudios.com/portfolio_archive/the-catholic-campaign-for-human-development
[iv] Archdiocese of Chicago, Office for Peace and Social Justice, “2014-15 CCHD Grantees:”
[v] From the 2014-2015 list of CCHD grantees within the Chicago Archdiocese: www.chicagopeaceandjustice.org/2014-15-cchd-grantees
Alinskyian organizations funded:
UPAJ (2nd year) - $20,000 [UPAJ is a member of the Industrial Areas Foundation]
Interfaith Leadership Project (3rd year) - $15,000 [ILP is a member of UPAJ]
ONE Northside (3rd year) - $15,000 [ONE Northside is a merger of two organization that have been UPAJ members - Lakeview Action Coalition and ONE (Organization of the Northeast); LAC is still listed independently as a UPAJ member; ONE Northside is a National People’s Action affiliate]]
Progress Center for Independent Living (6th year) - $65,000 [UPAJ member]