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Is politics the key to human development? An olfactory question

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jun 20, 2014

The United States Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development has announced its 2014 grants. Our news story summarizing the grants suggests that a very large number of them fund political advocacy. It would be very interesting to know what percentage.

As compared with what? Well, as compared with direct charitable activities in which Catholics help those in need to adopt the values required for human well-being, acquire the education and formation necessary to spiritual and material success, develop the habits and infrastructures necessary for economic and community development, and fund specific initiatives (such as new businesses) which put people to work.

Is there anything fundamentally wrong with political advocacy? No. Are there grave problems with a vision which sees politics as the key to human development? Yes.

The way the CCHD works continues to raise deep questions about Catholicism, evangelization and culture. Read especially Part II of Pope Benedict’s 2009 encyclical God Is Love. Part II is entitled “The Practice of Love by the Church as a ‘Community of Love’”.

I am not claiming that habitual critics of the CCHD are doing better. But political advocacy is most often the easiest way to sieze the moral high ground. This makes it both the cheapest and least substantial form of self-justification. Or, to put the question in terms Pope Francis might use: How often do we really smell the sheep in politics?

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  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Jun. 22, 2014 9:55 PM ET USA

    As you say, some of the bishops' money may support worthy causes, even some that are overtly political. But given the prelates' recent track record, I wouldn't place a very large bet on that being the case. So I find myself aligned with the "perennial critics" of CCHD. When it asks for money each year, I have to decline in favor or more trustworthy charities.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jun. 22, 2014 9:47 PM ET USA

    "Are there grave problems with a vision which sees politics as the key to human development? Yes" This is so grossly understated as to border on the ridiculous. Almost EVERYTHING that our American bishops do nowadays is framed in politics. There is no reasonable enforcement of Canon Law on Catholic institutions & those who try militantly to preach orthodoxy are heckled and then betrayed. The grim reality is is that the "Camelot" characterized by JFK cannot be sustained & will ultimately collapse

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