CCHD Under Fire

cchdFascinating developments, these. Angry Catholics are lining up to sink the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Can’t stop women from having abortions. Can’t stop the doctors and medical people from performing them. Can’t stop lawmakers from refusing to legislate against it, and in turn, local authorities to police against it. Judges won’t stop activist mischief. Politicians won’t stop appointing judges. And this past month: can’t stop voters from continuing to elect politicians who promise not to make laws to stop people from assisting other people to terminate pregnancies.

Do I have that right?

The spin on this would be amusing, if it weren’t so sadsack. And typical of addictive and codependent behavior. Too many pro-lifers have latched onto the addiction of abortion. They can’t change the addicts. And heaven forbid someone would have to admit fault on their own part, so they settle for the nearest target for their anger.

Let’s concede: maybe they have something to be angry about.

Exhibit one: a lukewarm Republican party that caught a lot of blame for screwing up and sinking much public confidence in the conservative approach. Politicians, mostly majority Republicans haven’t gotten much right lately: economic crisis, Treasury, the Fed, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorists, Katrina response. Maybe that’s not wholly fair, but competence in leadership would rise above the incompetence in both parties and get a few things done, right? Would you think?

Exhibit two: bishop backlash. As a liturgist, I’m very sensitive to the “air time” politics gets at Sunday Mass. Either you believe that all the faithful, good Catholics are going to Mass or they’re not. If they are, then why are bishops and clergy preaching to the choir onl ife issues? And if they’re not, why all the handwringing about how real Catholics didn’t elect pro-choice pols, the lapsed heretics sipping latte over the NYT Sunday crossword did.

Exhibit three: being in business used to be honorable, and now we’re facing a whole generation of jokes aimed not at lawyers, but at bankers, auto execs, mortgage providers, and FEMA. CCHD shut down grants to ACORN months ago, and despite the fact that most if not all CCHD ACORN money went to local chapters, people who chronically misspell names of bishops and political parties still want this particular party shut down. When in danger of being a punchline for a joke, punch out somebody else instead, I guess. I don’t see, despite conservative insistence to the contrary, that community organizers are going to be the target of jokes. Unless the Right cuts off all social ties with the Center and beyond. Helping people for a low to middle five-figure salary is serious work for a seriously good cause.

Exhibit four: powerlessness. It was nice while it lasted, having Republicans in control and giving lip service to abortion. The bright side is that pro-lifers can’t count on somebody else doing it for us. It will take persuasion and hard work, something a bit more than press releases and homily directives from chanceries.

If you find your parish full of boycott literature this weekend, and you’re not sure about the cause, pay careful attention to how things are being said. Misspelling isn’t a crime, but if they can’t get an acronym right, it’s more a sign they don’t care about their target and you’ve stumbled into some bad blood. Ask some questions: Is this really about the poor? How did you feel on election night?

You might consider that the bishops have already addressed concerns of the boycotters. Have you read them? If you’re inclined to withhold money from the CCHD collection, make sure you send the same amount, and perhaps with a bonus, to the local Birthright. Corollary: any web site that can’t offer an on-the-spot alternative (not their own coffers) to sending money for the poor, caveat emptor, as they say in traditionalist circles.

There are alternatives for good Catholics to consider on those exhibits above: Ephesians 4:1 and the verses that follow.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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15 Responses to CCHD Under Fire

  1. Catholic Donor says:

    With respect, you have totally missed the point as to why Catholics are angry. Have you thought about where the CCHD gets the money that it hands out? That would be from me. That is why I am angry!

  2. Todd says:

    I’ve donated to the CCHD, too, and I don’t mind a prudent judgment on distributing the money. I don’t have a reasonable cause to doubt Bishop Morin and the other members of his committee for making investigations and adjusting priorities. No problem either on the principle of sending some money to community organizing projects. Most do good work, and operate on the principle of teach-to-fish rather than give-a-fish.

    I note that some anger comes from frustrated Catholic political people. The CCHD makes for an easy target in the eyes of some, that’s all.

  3. Tony says:

    I think that de-funding the lefty political arm of Catholic charities is a good thing. I am going to divert my funds to a better cause.

    And Todd, if you’re murdering innocent people nothing else matters.

  4. Todd says:

    “(I)f you’re murdering innocent people nothing else matters.”

    I’m inclined to agree murder is grave, but my point is that those who protest against it seem to have made little difference on the legal front. And what few changes have been made are now threatened to be undone.

    Do angry Catholics have another strategy to put into place? Or is their approach totally about subtraction without a hope of adding something of God’s grace to the situation?

  5. Todd:

    You’ve made some peripheral criticisms of the anti-CCHD crowd that have merit, but on the central issue — at least why others and I object to the CCHD — you seem to have missed the point.

    For years now, many people have raised objections about the organizations getting funding from this collection. Catholics have sounded the alarm as have non-Catholic organizations who ask, is this recipient’s purpose consistent with Catholic belief?

    And every time, the bishops or their reps say, oh no, there’s no problem, those charges are bogus; then someone produces something that shows the problem, then the bishops drop that organization; then the next year, it starts all over again.

    Too much of CCHD money goes to ideological and political activities that are dear to the left wing, and it’s been pointed out, with painstaking detail, for at least 10 years now. The “We’re shocked–shocked!–to find politics going on here!” reaction to ACORN is no more convincing from the bishops, than it was from Claude Rains (did I spell that right?) in Casablanca.

  6. Todd says:

    Fr Fox, thanks for the comment. I confess I haven’t heard of these criticisms, at least not in my parishes, and except for the present one, most were large, diverse places that could not necessarily be described as social justice progressive.

    More to the point of accountability, I don’t know how the CCHD would wean itself off a committee of bishops and onto a committee of accountable lay people. Personally, I find giving money to social justice causes locally to be far more satisfactory.

    Sometimes it’s hard to ferret out the Right’s objection: Is it that some favor charity over justice? Or are some Catholics just cheapskates? I’m reminded of Dom Helder Camara’s statement about being called a saint when he feeds a poor person, but being called a communist when he asks why the person is poor.

    I’d like to know why there’s a problem from some Catholics on the Right with supporting an activism that asks questions of the culture, calls it to task on its treatment of the weak and powerless, and advocates for change, joining sometimes with non-Catholic people to achieve a common goal.

  7. Michael says:

    ACORN registers people to vote. That’s a good thing. Occasionally, voter registration fraud happens because people are paid to collect registrations. ACORN is required by law to submit every name it collects, and alerts authorities to those it considers problematic. That the Right has assaulted ACORN as somehow treasonous says a lot about the fundamental evil of today’s conservatives.

    I am coming to believe that the Catholic Right is Satanic. They certainly aren’t Christian in any way.

  8. Excellent content and style…keep up the good work!

  9. Todd says:

    Michael, I would agree that it is a human trait, not necessarily a liberal one, that causes too much of a good thing to occasionally go wrong.

    I wouldn’t say that the Right is S—— so much as they are human, and governed by the same human impulses, tripped up by the same human sins as any of the rest of us.

    I see a lot more childishness than outright evil in Conservatives. But I also recognize this month has been a bitter pill indeed for them to swallow. Three years ago I would not have expected it.

  10. Google “Capital Research Center” and you will find what it has been writing for at least 10 years about the problems with the CCHD. Some of the problems have been projects that are clearly political, others are that they also involved cooperation with projects and causes that contradict Catholic teaching.

    To the extent the CCHD has been so political, it is noteworthy that the funding always, always, always goes to the left. But of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean bias–oh heaven no! Just an astonishing coincidence!

  11. Todd says:

    First, CRC professes to be an organ of the Right. That’s not to say they don’t uncover authentic truth, but they do bring a basic bias to what they study. Their own record is tarnished to some degree in that they have taken funds from some people and corporations for whom it would be convenient to avoid scrutiny, to investigate the other side, as it were.

    It seems to me that conservatives, more often than liberals, check out of programs that “lend a hand up.” If the Left has a natural advantage in having more programs organized by the Left on behalf of the poor, that’s a fault of conservatives, it would seem. Do you really think that a conservative-run charity doing good work would be refused consideration for a CCHD grant?

    Fr Fox, what would be a few examples of worthy Right charities you would commend to the CCHD?

    That said, I do agree there’s value in going beyond simple efforts of charity, the feed-a-fish approach. Community organizing, for example, permits citizens to band together to work against drug trafficking, and work in favor of keeping businesses in city cores, improving police presence, working together with landlords, rather than antagonistically.

    Again, CCHD funding for local political projects is seen as problematic. I don’t agree. But I’m willing to hear a better case made against it than what I’ve heard so far. I’d be open to posting an original essay or linking elsewhere if a person has something substantive to contribute.

  12. Todd:

    I’ll get back to you on “worthy right charities” — but I am amused by what seems a double standard here:

    First, we’re supposed to believe that just because recipients of CCHD grants tack left doesn’t mean they don’t do good work — it’s irrelevant to their merit…

    Then, the fact that criticism comes from the right suddenly is relevant to whether their criticisms have merit!


    If, in fact, the Capital Research Center has caught the CCHD funding things it shouldn’t — and that is the case, insofar as repeatedly, grants stoutly defended one year were dropped the next, ACORN being only the latest example — then the facts speak for themselves, the merits of the messenger are irrelevant.

    Now, as far as someone who might merit a grant, but didn’t: how about the Acton Institute, a Catholic organization led by Rev. Robert Sirico, seeking more market-based approaches to poverty? Or, to empower workers, how about some group that protects workers who are pushed around by union abuses? How about giving grants to promoting knocking down trade barriers?

    I think it would be very interesting to have a broader discussion of how pursuit of boutique causes such as the environment or the efforts of trial lawyers for various victim-groups have all had perverse effects, reinforcing poverty? I am confident, if the bishops wanted to give a grant for such work, they could find someone capable.

    Finally, I would not cede all the various groups that help the poor to “the left.” The people who help all the many groups that exist are both “right” and left.” My limited experience is that most of them are not very political.

    Finally, I think the problem is the bishops are not very well versed in politics and tend to delgate most of the work to the staff of the conference. And if you don’t think that staff tacks left, politically, you might want to talk to people who have worked their, and take a look at the revolving door between the USCCB staff and Capitol Hill.

  13. Todd says:

    Fr Fox, I think you’ve lost me on ths so-called double standard. The problem with CRC isn’t that they tack right, but that they’ve accepted money from others on the right to discredit the left.

    That could be a coincidence, but it casts something of a shadow over CRC’s credibility. More than one witness, as it were, would be helpful.

    I think the Right would have to offer more than the trickle-down efforts of Fr Sirico. I don’t know that he has ever or would consider a USCCB grant. The answer would be interesting. If the Right has few actual organizations–remember it’s not the job of the CCHD to organize secondary unions and the like–it would seem they’ve self-selected for non-participation in the CCHD.

    I agree with you that the culture of victimhood finds allies, witting and otherwise on the Left. They certainly have enough allies on the Right.

    I have no doubt that most people working in Catholic social justice are progressives. They even populate a good chunk of the anti-abortion effort. Clearly, conservatives have not found that sort of work or ministry appealing. I’m not sympathetic to the Right’s complaint, not unless there’s a lot more to bring to light.

  14. Pingback: CCHD: The Sequel « Catholic Sensibility

  15. Hal says:

    Excellent commentary. Spot on. Keep up the good work.

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