The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is an annual collection that has, for the past 45 years, funded Alinskyian community organizing and other progressive political-advocacy.
This has always troubled pro-lifers whose own advocacy to protect the child in utero is systematically undermined by CCHD grants. Although CCHD claims to support a “seamless garment” approach to its funding – that is, a consistent ethic of life that respects and protects the dignity of human persons in all circumstances – it has never funded any political activity to oppose legalized abortion, euthanasia, same-sex “marriage,” embryonic experimentation, etc.
On the contrary, CCHD was created to support secular groups that, while formally renouncing any position contrary to Catholic teaching, ally themselves with political forces that do. Thanks to such grants, CCHD has proved an extremely problematic and contentious program.
Besieged by negative publicity, CCHD has begun to emphasize its compatibility with more traditional pro-life work. A recent piece in the National Catholic Register highlighted a 2013 grant to Birth Choice, [i] a California-based pregnancy resource center that has, over the past 20 years, blossomed into three “fully licensed medical clinics.” With help from CCHD money, Birth Choice hopes to partner with “faith-based health clinics to form collaborative primary care clinics that will serve the poor.” [ii]
Regardless of how laudable this one grant may be, the Register observes that lingering questions remain about recent CCHD grants to organizations in flagrant contradiction to Church teaching. Will the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2010 “review and renewal” of the CCHD repair CCHD’s problems? The 2013 grant to Birth Choice is Exhibit A.
The answer to that question depends on what one thinks CCHD’s problems are.
Are they simply a matter of bad public relations, brought to a head because of a few unlucky awards? Then CCHD’s more stringent grant guidelines and more positive publicity is indeed the answer.
If, however, CCHD’s problems are intrinsic to its “vision,” neither an occasional grant to an easily identifiable “pro-life” cause nor more careful elimination of organizations unable to meet CCHD guidelines will provide the remedy.
Indeed, this is the case. CCHD was not founded to promulgate Catholic social teachings; it was founded to generate an alternative source of political power.[iii] The task of organizing this political power was given to secular organizers who were – and are – given access to Church resources, including parishioners. The majority of CCHD grants continue to be awarded to these organizers – whose names are legion.[iv]
Despite CCHD’s embarrassment over decades of funding chapters of the scandalous ACORN network[v] and funding scores of Alinskyian organizations pushing for Obamacare…with its heinous HHS Mandate,[vi] CCHD continues to treat these as aberrations. On the Catholic bishop’s website, where CCHD’s own pages are located, a section called “CCHD in the News”[vii] proudly links to an article titled: Getting Organized: Catholics & Community Activism.”[viii]
Other publicity, notably the Soros-connected, politically progressive Faith in Public Life’s 2013 report, “’Be Not Afraid?’ Guilt by Association, Catholic McCarthyism and Growing Threats to the U.S. Bishops’ Anti-Poverty Mission,” makes a point of defending CCHD’s funding of Alinskyian community organizing. A section of the report, “A rejection of ‘Alinsky-Style’ Organizing,” laments the hostility some Catholics harbor “toward the principles of community organizing despite the church’s long history of shaping and supporting this movement.”[ix]
So a grant to Birth Choices? Nice… but not particularly impressive when all its other grants go to bolster an anti-Catholic political network that impairs Birth Choices’ best efforts.
Spero columnist Stephanie Block is the author of the four-volume 'Change Agents: Alinskyian Organizing Among Religious Bodies', available at Amazon.
[i] CCHD 2013 Strategic National Grants: www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/grants/strategic-national-grants.cfm
[ii] Elizabeth Deffner, “With CCHD’s Help, Taking Pro-Life to the Next Level,” National Catholic Register, 8-14-14.
[iii] See, for example, Block, “The life and mission of a liberationist Catholic priest,”
www.speroforum.com/site/print.asp?id=JOJHAMNKKN56 based on Lawrence M. O’Rourke, Geno: The Life and Mission of Gen Baroni, (Paulist Press:1991).
[iv] See CCHD 2013-2014 Grant Awards: www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/upload/grantee-list-2013-2014.pdf
[v] See Stephanie Block, “The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost,” 9-24-08, www.catholicmediacoalition.org/chickens_come_home.htm
[vi] See Stephanie Block, “Catholic bishops doth protest too much over Obamacare,” 2-2-12,
[vii] www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/ - as accessed 8-19-14.
[viii] Richard L. Wood, Brad Fulton, and Christine Doby, “Getting Organized: Catholics & Community Activism,” Commonweal Magazine, 11-4-13. www.commonwealmagazine.org/getting-organized
[ix] See Stephanie Block, “Defending the Catholic Campaign for Human Development,” 3-19-14. www.speroforum.com/site/print.asp?id=MITEKEXAIJ29