In the interest of full disclosure, organizations to which I belong have joined Reform the CCHD Now coalition. The Reform the CCHD Now coalition is calling for a boycott of the annual Catholic collection, asking that there be greater transparency in the grants process and more authentically Catholic criteria for choosing grantees.
“We support without qualification our Catholic bishops,” said Stephen Phelan, Communications Manager for Human Life International, in the release. “We are confident that many of them will support this call for greater transparency in the CCHD, and to a deep reform in the organization. In this campaign we are asking that the CCHD reconsider its philosophy and practices.”
As I said, organizations to which I belong have joined Reform the CCHD Now coalition and I’m glad they did but I’ve been this route before – not the boycott but the call for reform. Twelve years ago, another group prepared an extensive Commentary on the CCHD – including quite detailed objections to its funding ACORN – that resulted in refreshed guidelines and an expanded name…but no very substantive changes in its funding pattern. [See the Wanderer Forum Foundation, Commentary on the Campaign for Human Development, 1997 and Commentary on the Industrial Areas Foundation, 1998: www.wandererforum.org, publications section.]
The big problem in reforming the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is that oversight of its grant-giving is only part of the problem. The CCHD has two functions: grant-giving and education. Therefore reform of the CCHD must address problems on both fronts.
Now, concerning its grants, the CCHD is funding political groups that organize in churches for progressive political power, which, in the progressive world includes abortion and homosexual “rights” – explaining why a pro-life group such as Human Life International and the American Life League want it reformed. Obviously, therefore, any reform of the CCCHD must be able to identify these progressively networked groups and must absolutely stop funding them.
That’s harder than one would think. In many dioceses, not only has the Alinskyian local received Catholic money (and how many folks would recognize an Alinskyian organization if it bit them on the nose?) but so have various associated projects, all having different names. The funders need to have a lot of information about these groups and must really want to ferret them out.
So let’s make it simple: never fund organizations with indefinite agendas. The ecumenical group that claims it’s all about “building relationships” and providing a “civic education” that will be determined by “house meetings” could be supporting anything. CCHD grants should be given to groups with very specific, local goals rather than those hankering after spectacular national, political power-grabs.
Another remedy would be to assiduously defund coalitions that include institutions supportive of intrinsic evil – like abortion. Is there a Unitarian Universalist among the member institutions? They formally support a woman’s “right” to kill her pre-born child. Any alliance with such an institution is fraught with peril. One would think that was obvious.
But the problem of CCHD isn’t addressed once Alinskyian organizations have been defunded. Current CCHD funding guidelines are grounded on a faulty understanding of the Catholic charity. To listen to these people, one would think poverty is nothing but a dearth of money and government services. Without a robust grasp of the root causes of poverty, how can CCHD begin to address those root causes?
Which brings us to the second thrust of the CCHD – education. If CCHD funding guidelines are deficient, it’s because the people who developed them were thinking with a secular worldview. Unfortunately, that same worldview troubles the educational material disseminated by the CCHD – they are written from the perspective of a faulty (uncatholic) philosophy of charity. New educational materials that are authentically Catholic must be part of any reasonable reform of the CCHD.
So, while I generally applaud the enthusiasm of those who call for reform of the CCHD, I’m guarded. Cosmetic CCHD reform was attempted in 1997-98. It failed because it didn’t address the inconsistencies of the CCHD’s philosophy with Catholic teaching…and that is going to take a radical conversion.
Stephanie Block is the editor of the New Mexico-based Los Pequenos newspaper and a founder of the Catholic Media Coalition.