November 19, 2010


The CCHD collection

This weekend, the Church is asking us to contribute to the U.S. bishops’ annual appeal for its Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

The CCHD fights poverty in America by helping groups of low-income Americans address the causes of poverty through such things as job training, improved education, affordable housing, and other tools for reducing poverty in our nation.

This has not been the most popular annual collection. In fact, it has sometimes been the center of controversy because of accusations that some of the organizations that have received support from the collection engage in practices that conflict with Catholic teachings, including support for abortion and same-sex marriage.

An organization called Bellarmine Veritas Ministry made a detailed study of CCHD recipients and formed a coalition with other groups opposed to the CCHD.

This coalition, called Reform CCHD Now, accused 67 grant recipients of ignoring Catholic teachings. That prompted some bishops to declare that they would not take up the collection in their dioceses.

The CCHD responded with its own thorough investigation, an 11-month examination of its practices. That resulted in a 15-page document, released on Oct. 26, called “The Review and Renewal of the Campaign for Human Development.” It renewed the bishops’ commitment to combat poverty, and added safeguards to ensure that grant recipients in the future adhere to Church teaching.

Among other things, a new staff position has been created to focus specifically on the Catholic identity of CCHD. An independent review board, consisting of four to six members, will offer ethical guidance on funding choices, and a moral theologian will now be in a consulting relationship with CCHD.

The campaign’s pre-application and grant agreements have been rewritten to eliminate any groups that support things opposed by the Church. This particularly includes groups that advocate in favor of pro-choice efforts and same-sex marriage. Furthermore, preference will be given to grant applicants that have Catholic involvement in their programs—something you would think would have already existed.

There will also be a more direct link between CCHD and other committees and priorities of the bishops’ conference. This means collaboration in the areas of pro-life activities, cultural diversity and family life, among others. The national CCHD office will also work more closely with diocesan directors to help them screen applicants.

While the CCHD was conducting its investigation and examination, it decided to withhold its grants for this year until its new procedures were in place. A list of the 2010 grants has not yet been released.

The fact that the CCHD responded to the criticism it had received, and is now making significant changes in its procedures, shows that there indeed were problems that required correction.

Bishop Robert P. Morin of Biloxi, Miss., chairman of the bishops’ CCHD subcommittee, has acknowledged past mistakes and apologized for them.

The U.S. bishops met this week for their annual fall meeting and had a chance to review the changes being made.

Will the changes be sufficient to satisfy its critics? Reform CCHD Now issued a statement that said, in part, “The renewal document is a positive step forward for the CCHD and, if vigorously implemented, we hope to see an overall improvement in their funding practices. It remains to be seen whether or not the CCHD will be able to effectively implement these reforms. We will have a much better idea once the 2010 grants list is released.”

The CCHD has been attacking the problem of poverty since 1969, and it has accomplished a great deal of good during the past 41 years. It can continue to do so and will be able to do it even better with these new procedures in place. It is unfortunate that mistakes have been made, but the CCHD seems to have taken the necessary steps to correct them.

—John F. Fink

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