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US bishops’ conference strongly criticizes CCHD critics

Catholic World News - November 08, 2011

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is offering unusually strong and public criticism of critics of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the USCCB’s controversial anti-poverty program.

“Despite significant progress, some things don’t change,” said Bishops Jaime Soto and Stephen Blaire in a memo to all US bishops. “The American Life League continues to attack CCHD and the USCCB. Judie Brown, Michael Hichborn and the American Life League (ALL) continue to recycle allegations that CCHD funds many organizations that are in conflict with Catholic teaching.”

“In one case, a clear violation occurred after the grant was approved and CCHD funding was swiftly and completely terminated,” they added. “We expressed our appreciation for this information. However, other ALL allegations are without substance … Frankly, in these areas we rely on the judgment of the local bishop and diocese, not the repeated accusations of those with clear ideological and ecclesial agendas.”

In its “Response to Recent Attacks on CCHD,” the USCCB added:

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has been repeatedly attacked by Judie Brown, Michael Hichborn and the American Life League (ALL) for several years … CCHD disagree[s] with ALL’s efforts to accuse groups of violating CCHD guidelines based on web searches and without any contact with the groups or dioceses.

Groups which work on legitimate issues were listed as “partners” or “members” of another organization which allegedly took actions in conflict with Catholic teaching. The CCHD funded group had never agreed to be a partner nor was a member of the other organization and had not participated in the development of an offending policy and was not even aware of the position that they were alleged to support …

Other allegations involve identification of CCHD funded groups with positions of a national organization where the position in conflict with Catholic teaching was the action of an individual staff member who acted without approval or authorization of the organization (for example, adding the organization’s name to material which appeared on the web.) This raises issues of accountability within the other organization (which CCHD does not fund), but does not involve CCHD funded groups in violation of our guidelines or contract.

“They issue a very sweeping blanket dismissal of the report, never once addressing the specifics,” said Michael Hitchborn, media director of the American Life League. “They don't go into any of the information we have in our report. They just say, 'It's wrong,'" he said.”

“We would go over and over and over our facts, but they didn't really have any answers for us,” he added. “What we told the bishops and what we told CCHD is, 'Look, we're not out here to give the Catholic Church a bloody nose. We're out here to help the church maintain the Catholic identity of this program.'”

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Show 14 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Nov. 09, 2011 4:24 PM ET USA

    I notice this year's envelop for the CCHD has Life at the Poverty Line as the main heading and in tiny font - so small I can't read it without my reading glasses - Catholic Campaign for Human Development and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Are they hoping we won't notice it's for CCHD?

  • Posted by: mrschips19308196 - Nov. 09, 2011 12:52 PM ET USA

    At least two years ago I spoke to our pastor about my concerns re CCHD. His immediate response was stern and informed me that he would rather believe the bishops than all the critics. Being non-confrontational, I backed off,but on reflection wished I could have been quick enough to respond, "So would I , but unfortunately in my experience not all bishops can be trusted."

  • Posted by: billsnaer2818 - Nov. 09, 2011 10:31 AM ET USA

    I created a video about the CCHD. It is lighthearted but completely factual. It is on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqcK8uvGUq8 The video makes the point that, although the CCHD has stopped giving grants to ACORN, it is still funding other similar community organizations. That message was reinforced last month when two chartered buses delivered protestors to the home of the new Wells Fargo CFO in San Marino, California, a few doors down the street from a longtime friend of mine. They trampled his yard, pounded on his door, chanted, blew horns and rang cowbells. The violation of privacy and property rights was so egregious that the chief of police issued a formal written apology to the community that his officers had not done more to control the trespass. The demonstration was organized under the leadership of ACCE, the renamed successor to ACORN in California. Most of the bused demonstrators came from an organization called POWER (People Organized for Westside Renewal.) Power has received a grant from CCHD every year for the past six years for a total of $235,000. The grant amount for each of the last two years has been $50,000. Just picture that. In difficult financial times, goodhearted Catholics donated money so that demonstrators proclaiming their “solidarity” with Occupy Wall Street could charter buses. It is way past time for pastors to disclose the design of the CCHD grant model. If people still want to give, bless their hearts. But presenting CCHD as a conventional Catholic charity is misleading and unethical.

  • Posted by: unum - Nov. 09, 2011 9:47 AM ET USA

    It appears that the two bishops have learned nothing and are still in the "trust me" mode that cost the USCCB its credibility during the abuse scandals. If the bishops won't provide specifics to support their contention that the USCCB CCHD grants conform to Church teaching after past abuses, then they are further damaging trust in the U.S. Church.

  • Posted by: jimpoc8837 - Nov. 09, 2011 8:08 AM ET USA

    Dear Bishops Blaire and Soto, please tell us again how much money went to ACORN before they were exposed and CCHD had to finally cut off funding? So much for due diligence and good stewardship by the bishops.

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Nov. 09, 2011 6:11 AM ET USA

    It is also unfortunate that the USCCB chose to publically criticize an organization like the American Life League that works tirelessly to save the lives of unborn children.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Nov. 09, 2011 2:34 AM ET USA

    When accusations as carefully documented as those in ALL's report are made, only a page-by-page analysis could constitute a true rebuttal. The bishops' statements lack this level of detail, and thus are unconvincing. Rhetorically, their petulant tone is a sign of weakness, not strength.

  • Posted by: billsnaer2818 - Nov. 09, 2011 1:31 AM ET USA

    I have campaigned against the Campaign for Human Development in my Diocese of San Bernardino, California for three years. To say that my efforts have been spectacularly unsuccessful would be greatly exaggerating my success. But, I am not the first to fail. When I discovered the community organization model of CCHD (then strongly ACORN-supportive) I thought I was Columbus discovering America. Imagine my surprise when I learned that others, particularly writers at “The Wanderer,” had been ringing this bell for ten years! The American Life League and Reform CCHD Now are currently mounting their offensives, and the USCCB is deflecting their efforts. Part of the reason for this failure is the limitation of the criticism of CCHD to doctrinal matters. The basic problem with the CCHD-community organization model is ideological. CCHD support for the neo-Marxist community organization model makes it inevitable that grantees will be aligned with partners who are at odds with Catholic doctrine. That is inescapable ideological arithmetic. The problem can only be solved by confronting the problem: the “direct action” community organization model devoted to “empowering” an underclass to seize its rightful share, instead of helping it to earn a truly entitled share. Forty years ago, the USCCB bought into the “Great Society” vision, and they absolutely refuse to abandon it. They don’t have to. Thousands upon thousands of Catholics throw dollars into the CCHD collection because they have no idea of what they are supporting. Catholics must come to grips with the reality that the basic problem is politico-ideological, not doctrinal.

  • Posted by: jflare293129 - Nov. 08, 2011 11:58 PM ET USA

    I find this view..downright astonishing! Two popes insist on opposing abortion as top priority; our nation debates it endlessly for 40 years. Still, the CCHD doesn't KNOW what all the partnerships are about? Do they vet groups or don't they?! Groups cite services or advocacy for a reason. If we find support for abortion, gay marriage, or related concerns on a web site, there's have enough interest for an auto DisQualify. This type of organization does not need Catholic funding!

  • Posted by: Steve214 - Nov. 08, 2011 8:47 PM ET USA

    The CCHD funds an IDEOLOGY which is totally incompatible with Catholicism: and they continue to be surprised by the inevitable results.

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Nov. 08, 2011 8:20 PM ET USA

    The Amercan Life League(ALL) report for 2010-2011 on CCHD funded organizations seems very detailed and includes the amounts given to various organizations and the actions by any funded organizations that are in opposition to Catholic teaching. I choose to give my money to the American Life League for their wise steadfast defense of human life within sound Catholic teachings.

  • Posted by: GabrielAustin9013 - Nov. 08, 2011 7:24 PM ET USA

    An organization [the USCCB] cannot criticize anyone. Despite the Supreme Court, an organization is not a person. If the sheep are bleating, it behooves the shepherds to address the problem, not to blame the sheep. I think the shepherds have not yet realized how bad is their reputation after their negligence during the sex scandals. Why should one believe them now, or the spokes "persons" of their bureaucracy? "The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops" said St. John Chrysostom.

  • Posted by: kmbold - Nov. 08, 2011 6:50 PM ET USA

    Our family never donates to anything Catholic if it uses the words bishop, justice and peace (separate or together), poor, sustainability, social, partnership, community, parenting skills...or Campaign for Human Development.

  • Posted by: mkvh1980 - Nov. 08, 2011 4:57 PM ET USA

    While many dioceses are having to reduce & reorganize parishes, personnel, and properties, it is equally sensible for the USCCB to do likewise. The CCHD competes for the same dollars that better Catholic organizations need, re: lay contributions. The bishops should reduce the competition & eliminate duplication of effort.

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