your collection plate dollars at work

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 22, 2006

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development claims to have provided more than $280 million in grants, over the 35 years of its existence, to sponsor projects such as Poverty Awareness Month. It recently announced the results of its Poverty Pulse survey:

WASHINGTON (January 19, 2006) Nearly two-thirds of Americans -- 65 percent -- fear that poverty will increase in the United States in 2006 while seven in 10 (71 percent) believe there are more poor people today than a year ago and 63 percent worry that they could themselves become poor, according to the latest Poverty Pulse survey by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

I don't get it. What's the point -- given the USCCB's responsibilities -- of gauging the man in the street's fears about poverty? Who benefits? What action are we, or the bishops, supposed to take as a result? We're not told whether the poll respondents were given a working definition of poverty (e.g., a certain family income level) on which to base their replies, or whether "poverty" was just a bogey-word, left for the respondent to interpret on his own. The fact that 63 percent of the respondents "worry that they could themselves become poor" indicates a pretty elastic understanding of poverty (and of worry, for that matter).

Unlike Salvadoran or Sudanese poverty, American poverty is overwhelmingly a consequence of family pathology. If your mother's boyfriend is not your father, chances are you're poor. Catholic moral teaching, applied with any pastoral canniness, is an antidote to this disease, yet it seldom rates a mention by the CCHD. The monies paid to conduct the survey neither fed the hungry nor instructed them, but provided more footnote fodder, I suppose, for policy statements. As with everything it touches, it's hard to shake the suspicion that the CCHD's concern here is less for poor folks than for politics.

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