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By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 27, 2007

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the Plymouth Duster of the U.S. Bishops Conference, a relic of early-1970s social activism that -- except for its value as a fashion statement -- was a disappointment when it was launched and hasn't improved with age. Yesterday we were given our official annual spadeful of the 40-year-old rhetoric:

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) distributed more than $9.5 million in grants to local organizations working to overcome poverty in the United States.

The 2007, grants, totaling $9,578,000, will be used by 314 projects in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The average award is $30,500 and will go to local organizations that address the specific concerns of their poor and low-income members. These groups work toward economic justice, fair housing, health care access, living wages, and immigrant and worker rights, among other concerns.

Note the phrase "working to overcome poverty" -- this is the key element in the CCHD mission and what we're told makes it different from a conventional charity: i.e., poverty relief through almsgiving. Helping the poor overcome their poverty is a noble endeavor, but the CCHD's idea of overcoming poverty seems in every case to be a statist solution: cash disbursements to Left-leaning action groups aimed at redirecting government funds towards their own purposes.

Think of it this way: you'd be pleased to learn your pastor gave your 12-year-old a part-time job; less pleased to discover that what the job consists in is pestering you for a larger allowance. The grantees the CCHD chose to tell us about are the Mississippi Poultry Workers Center, Natural Home Cleaning Professionals (Oakland), Albany Park Neighborhood Council (Chicago), Women's Community Revitalization (Philadelphia), Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (Brooklyn), and the Disabled Rights Action Committee (Salt Lake City). One notes that organizations aimed at empowering home-schoolers and pregnancy help centers are not much in evidence. A visit to the website of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE, get it?) provides a list of "victories" chalked up to the organization -- victories at overcoming poverty, I presume. For example:

  • We worked with welfare rights group around the country to influence the debate for TANF Reauthorization in 2002. This included participating in a take over of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, a protest at Hillary Clinton's residence and a historic march on President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
  • As a part of the core organizing coalition of Still We Rise (an alliance of NYC groups fighting to bring the agenda of poor to low income peoples to the forefront) FUREE helped lead the organizing of the march against the Republican National Convention in NYC on August 30th 2004 with thousands of New Yorkers.

A take-over of the Heritage Foundation? That'll feed a lot of hungry children. Try a mirror-image reversal of the party politics and ask yourself much cash the CCHD would toss at a group that shut down the ACLU or the National Lawyers Guild.

Three points. One: the partisan politics of the CCHD are overwhelmingly lopsided, yet its Leftist bias is never candidly admitted come special collection time. Two: the funded programs don't teach unskilled workers to become welders or encourage men to marry and stay married to the mothers of their children, but rather take social breakdown for granted and seek government monies to make the breakdown less irksome; it can be argued that this approach doesn't overcome poverty but perpetuates it. Three: even where the funds fought for and won serve a good cause, other good causes will thereby go unfunded; who's to say the net change is for the better?

Almost every social ill in the U.S. has its roots in the breakdown of the family, and, conversely, a healthy family situation gives its members advantages that almost no external misfortune can offset. And the Catholic Church is uniquely well-placed to use her teaching to remedy the ills of family life. The irony of the CCHD is that it seems consciously to exclude the Catholic view of the human person from its understanding of poverty and its programs for overcoming it. True, $9 million isn't a huge sum by the standards of contemporary diocesan pay-outs (barely five creation spirituality convictions, at current rates), but it still seems Catholics could untrouser the cash they have left for purposes closer to their hearts.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Oct. 29, 2007 8:38 PM ET USA

    Saul Alinsky lives on in CCHD.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2007 4:15 PM ET USA

    As a recovering liberal, now faithfully conservative for over fifteen years, I used to work for and with progressive Catholic organizations and am quite familiar with the leftist secular bent of CHD. Moreover, it is even disliked by a number of leftist groups, especially Catholics, who feel that it rewards those organizations that have an inside track to its reviewing committees on a local and national basis. And as it comes from the US Bishops Conference, I would keep my pockets pinned.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2007 10:29 AM ET USA

    As to ' a breakdown of the family causing social ills', I favor a different antecedent idea - the relentless individualism of classical Liberalism. It spawns paid activism and Govt charity that reduce the individual's solidarity with others. Thru CCHD, etc. the Works of Mercy SEEM to get handled by other paid persons and thus relieve the burden on individual conscience. I have never paid a cent to this campaign. There are other more immediate demands to help families and sound education.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 27, 2007 6:37 PM ET USA

    I hope, Diogenes, that you're not just catching onto this scam. I started folding my arms as conspicuously as I could when the basket for the CCHD went by at least 20 years ago, probably more.

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