Victims of clerical pedophilia will tell you that as horrific as the initial violation was, it was often aggravated by the mad scramble of Church officials to bury offenses in secrecy and prevarication. Further, some bishops went so far as to deny any problem whatsoever – despite increasingly demonstrable evidence – and further compounded damage to the Church by generating a general mistrust among the laity.
Blessedly, when it’s come to misappropriation of Catholic money into left-wing causes, including pro-abortion activism, several bishops are taking forthright measures. Bishops John O. Barres of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma , Victor Galeone of St. Augustine, Florida , and Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, Alabama have either suspended the scandal-ridden Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) collection in their dioceses or deflected funds to worthier causes. Their actions were supported by the premier pro-life organizations in the United States, Human Life International and the American Life League.
Other bishops, however, have reverted to the dysfunctional behaviors they honed during the pedophilia crisis, pretending there is no elephant in the living room. “I reiterate,” writes an ostensibly irate Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe using bold typeface for this sentence in a longer article, “CCHD does not fund organizations that promote issues contrary to Church teaching.” [Sheehan, “The Catholic Campaign for Human Development: A Commitment to Life and Dignity of the Human Person,” People of God, monthly newspaper for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, April 2010]
One wonders if Archbishop Sheehan has read the same reports as the other bishops. If he hasn’t, he certainly could. The most damning of them appear at the Reform CCHD Now website: reformcchdnow.com and they contain facts that are easily verified.
Singling out Archbishop Sheehan is a bit unfair. His defensive instincts are shared by others in the American Catholic hierarchy but it is he who has written a column articulating the positions of CCHD apologists and is therefore the one whose arguments must be examined. Let’s consider seven of the Archbishop’s assertions, buried in the text of his April column:
Archbishop Sheehan: “CCHD’s mission is to address the root causes of poverty in America through promotion of community-controlled self-help organizations.”
This sentence echoes CCHD’s description of itself. Unfortunately, the terms are so vague they could describe an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting – which has never yet received a penny of CCHD money. Nor is the term “root cause” defined. Catholic teaching would describe the ultimate root cause as human sin but there is nothing in CCHD grants to help people gain greater access to the Confessional.
However, CCHD grants have nothing at all to do with “root causes of poverty” as Catholics understand them – broken homes and fractured lives – and everything to do with supporting political public policies that may or may not “help” the poor. CCHD apologists know this very well: see point #3 (below).
Archbishop Sheehan: “CCHD also provides educational opportunities for Catholics to learn about poverty, to interact and build solidarity with those affected by it, and reflect on a faith response to poverty.”
The educational opportunities provided by CCHD for Catholics to “learn about poverty” are not Catholic but liberationist and, therefore, are as likely to produce a flawed “faith response” to poverty as an authentic response. The Catholic Media Coalition website [www.catholicmediacoalition.org/USCCB.htm] carries an extensive dossier on liberationist materials, with a section examining, in some detail, educational materials produced by the CCHD.
Three out of many published over the past 40 years are:
The “Sourcebook on Poverty, Development and Justice,” which was a collection of five essays produced by the CHD (before 1997, there was no “Catholic” in CHD’s name) in the 1970s. One essay “acknowledges” that its thinking comes from the theology of liberation as it has “issued from the leaders of the Latin American Church.” Using a liberationist lens, “the whole struggle of Jesus, who came to set at liberty those who are oppressed, was with His own people who had made the law of Israel and the land of Israel too narrow and exclusive.” Other essays dismiss the ravages of personal sin and are concerned only about structural sins, scriptural stories are twisted for political ends, and there is a demand for “liberating education,” as distinct from traditional western education.
"People Like Us” was a CHD promotional booklet produced in the 1990s and reprinted several times, as recently as 2005. It begins with a “dedication” to Democrat Socialist Michael Harrington, including a quote by him: “At precisely that moment in history where for the first time a people have the material ability to end poverty, they lack the will to do so.” (emphasis added)
"Poverty and Faithjustice” is CCHD-prepared material intended for use by small groups “in a context of faith and prayer” and remains in current use. It is a guide for six facilitated sessions designed to “encourage everyone to participate and to do so from personal experience and conviction rather than from abstract theories or ideologies.” The sessions are structured according to a modified see-judge-act pedagogy. Participants “see,” based on personal experience and the facts provided by the booklet. They “judge,” based on scripture or social justice text selections provided by the booklet. “Action” is suggested, namely that participants engage in political activism that supports CCHD-identified issues and to support CCHD-funded projects in the local community.
The opening statement of the CCHD-prepared booklet acknowledges its intention to conscientize, “to raise the consciousness of parishioners.” Its facilitators are to encourage participation “from personal experience and conviction rather than from abstract theories or ideologies” – which means that the “judgment” component of these materials isn’t based on Catholic teaching but on what individual participants “feel” about given issues.
CCHD has worked with other Catholic agencies on equally questionable educational materials. “A Catholic Call to Justice: Activity Book for Raising Social Justice Awareness” was a consciousness-raising lesson plan jointly produced with Catholic Relief Services in 1998. Young people are “asked to play the role of refugees” and develop some understanding of “the difficulties of being poor and on the move.” However, the program is guided to interpret the problems of refugees in strictly class and economic terms. The perspective isn’t Catholic – it’s liberationist.
These “educational opportunities for Catholics to learn about poverty, to interact and build solidarity with those affected by it, and reflect on a faith response to poverty” are not Catholic educational opportunities. They don’t provide a Catholic perspective to poverty. While it is absolutely proper to have sympathy for the poor, the Church also teaches that liberationist politics ultimately do more harm than good.
Archbishop Sheehan: “The [CCHD-funded] organizations do this by giving poor people a chance to improve their lives and neighborhoods by advocating for more just policies (like affordable housing, preserving the acequia way of life in New Mexico, comprehensive immigration reform, getting basic services like water/sewer services, access to jobs, and just wages), or by starting small businesses and creating jobs that would provide some stable income.” AND “Partisan activity is strictly prohibited.”
Ah… we find that, after all, the CCHD “mission” isn’t quite as vague as first presented. There is an agenda and it involves a lot of government intervention. That’s a political “solution” to poverty, not a moral solution…and political solutions are, by their very nature, negotiable. While good men will agree there is a moral obligation on the part of the more fortunate to help those who are in trouble, there is a legitimate range of differences about how this help should be accomplished. Robbing a bank (or the public treasury) in order to “give away” money is quite a different “solution” than “starting small businesses and creating jobs that would provide some stable income.”
Would that CCHD funded more of the latter (which accounts for about a third of its grants) and less of the former (which accounts for the rest).
Archbishop Sheehan: “Last year, two national organizations funded by CCHD were found to be involved with work that was contrary to Catholic teaching…”
Now here’s a sentence that belies the emphatic statement, “CCHD does not fund organizations that promote issues contrary to Church teaching.” Clearly, it has.
The Archbishop’s point, of course, is that since CCHD has defunded these two, the collection has demonstrated its commitment to Church teaching. One might just as easily argue, however, that defunding two out of the mass of other offenders (read the reports!) is a cynical attempt to save the majority of grantees by sacrificing two that are no more or less egregious than in those still funded – all being servants of progressive, culture of death politics.
Archbishop Sheehan: “…many allegations [against CCHD] are simply untrue.”
However, not one is named in this article and this author has yet to see any “untrue allegation” named by any bishop in the United States. The researchers behind the CCHD reports have done such a meticulous job of presenting the evidence that it is highly unlikely a bishop would be so imprudent as to attempt a positive defense of these funding choices.
Archbishop Sheehan: “Within our diocese, I review all CCHD grant applications and approve proposals only after careful screening.”
In 1997, every bishop in the US overseeing a diocese was sent a 4-inch binder containing a Commentary and extensive, supportive evidence about CHD grants – including an entire section describing serious problems, among them the pro-abortion affiliations of its leadership, of ACORN. Archbishop Michael Sheehan was among the bishops who received this binder.
It caused a good bit of stir. The name of CHD had “Catholic” added to it and CCHD improved its guidelines to read that no group with programs violating Church teaching would be funded.
Unfortunately, these reforms weren’t enough. In the years after 1997, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, together with many other US dioceses, gave ACORN millions of dollars (specifically, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe gave ACORN no less than $177,500).
Whatever oversight was given to local CCHD grantees, it did not take into account the voluminous information concerning this blighted group, which is only one among many others that have been demonstrated to hold such affiliations.
Archbishop Sheehan: “I am, however, asking CCHD leadership to adjust their funding requirements to allow Catholic groups such as our immigrant program at Catholic Charities to be funded.”
This statement exposes two problems. Overtly Catholic groups were, at one point, expressly exempted from applying for C/CHD money according to CHD guidelines. If Archbishop Sheen must ask “CCHD leadership to adjust their funding requirements to allow Catholic groups” to apply for grants, it suggests the requirement banning Catholic groups remains, if not expressly at least functionally, operational still. That’s scandalous enough and Catholics have been complaining about it since C/CHD’s inception.
The other scandal is that, because the CCHD is not really a Catholic charity in the sense that Catholic money is used according to Catholic understanding of charity or social justice, entire areas of public policy, in which the dignity of human persons are grossly offended, are also exempt from CCHD grants. Specifically, any organization that ministers to unwed mothers or advocates for life issues is exempt from CCHD grants. This fact alone makes it difficult for CCHD to deny its patently progressive political bias, replete with all the pro-death public policies that bias holds.
Look, the history – written by the folks who support C/CHD – is there for anyone to read. CHD was designed to fund Alinskyian community organizing. These organizations are engaged in progressive political activism that directly and/or indirectly includes pro-abortion advocacy. For the past 40 years CCHD funding has done exactly what it was created to do. All the denials in the world won’t change those sorry facts – any more than they made the pedophile problem go away.
Reform CCHD Now.
Stephanie Block is the editor of the New Mexico-based Los Pequenos Newspaper and a founder of the Catholic Media Coalition.