November 15, 2013

CCHD, CRS collections help those in need, are constantly monitored by Church

By John Shaughnessy

David Siler views it as an opportunity for Catholics to help people in poverty “change their destiny.”

It could happen through a program such as Hearts and Hands of Indiana, which makes houses available to first-time home buyers who wouldn’t have the chance otherwise to own a home.

It could happen through Seeds of Hope, a program for women recovering from addiction that helps them turn their lives around and offers them a path to a better future.

It could also happen through the archdiocese’s Refugee Resettlement Program, which assists people from around the world who come to the United States after fleeing their homelands because of war, persecution, civil conflict or natural disaster.

All those life-changing programs in the archdiocese have received grants through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)—the annual campaign that Catholics are being asked to support during collections at their churches on Nov. 23-24.

“The emphasis of CCHD is to break the cycle of poverty,” says Siler, executive director of Catholic Charities for the archdiocese. “The Church does an awful lot to provide direct services to people in need, but CCHD is really about changing the destiny of people who are poor by giving them some empowerment.

“CCHD is about giving them a voice by bringing them together and giving them leadership skills to speak up for themselves, and really try to change their circumstances in life. That’s different from anything else we do in the Church.”

Another CCHD-funded program that reflects the approach of “changing the destiny of people” is the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network (IndyCAN).

The organization is currently focused on three initiatives: reducing gun violence, working to improve immigration laws, and improving public transportation with the end goal of helping people get and keep jobs.

“It’s about helping people see they can make a change, they have dignity, they have worth,” says Theresa Chamblee, director of CCHD for the archdiocese.

Both Chamblee and Siler addressed the criticism that is sometimes directed at the CCHD and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international humanitarian agency of the bishops of the United States.

“Some of the things the American Life League have said is that we partner with organizations that will promote abortion, homosexuality, contraception—and that simply isn’t true,” Chamblee says. “People need to be informed.”

She encouraged people who want more information on the issue to visit the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at

In a section titled “Truth about CCHD,” the USCCB website states, “As the official anti-poverty agency of the Catholic bishops in the United States, CCHD is accountable to them and operates at the highest levels of fidelity to Church teaching, integrity and transparency in its mission to provide critical support to poor persons.

“CCHD monitors grant recipients through an exacting reporting process in cooperation with the local diocese. Only groups that have received formal approval from the local bishop may receive a CCHD grant.”

The bishops’ statement further notes, “If a group commits offenses against Catholic moral teaching, or undermines the Church’s defense of the unborn or her promotion of the family, a grant qualification is rescinded.”

That same review and vetting system is noted in a section of the USCCB website that is titled “Support for Catholic Relief Services.”

“CRS has a careful vetting system to ensure that its activities and partnerships with other groups or governments are forms of cooperation that do not violate Catholic teaching,” it reads. “As CRS’ work necessitates collaboration with a broad network of partners in complex environments with a regularly changing focus, the system is constantly reviewed and updated.

“The agency welcomes questions and concerns offered in a spirit of Christian charity. If any weaknesses or problems are found, assessment and action are undertaken to correct the problem.”

A similar approach guides the awarding of CCHD grants in the archdiocese, according to Siler and Chamblee.

“The archbishop has to approve those grants, and we have a committee of people from the archdiocese that vet these groups to make sure the funds will be used for the purpose they were intended, and that they’re in line with Catholic teaching,” Siler notes. “We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve had great success in ensuring that that happens. A few years ago, we found a group that was in violation of that contract and we terminated it immediately.”

Chamblee monitors the grants and grant recipients through the year, following a policy that requires the organizations to submit reports of how the grant money is being spent.

“There are very strict guidelines,” she says. “On the CCHD side, we will give grants pretty much to any faith-based organization, as long as they sign the stipulation that they will not promote anything that’s counter to the moral and social teachings of the Church. With that being said, we do prefer giving to Catholic organizations.” †

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