By Patrick B. Craine
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 23, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - While many U.S. bishops have publicly acknowledged problems with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) has confirmed that at least four bishops opted to not take up this year's national collection.
A controversy has erupted in the U.S. Church in recent weeks after evidence came to light showing that numerous CCHD grantees have promoted issues and practices in violation of Catholic teaching, including abortion, contraception, and same-sex "marriage." In response to the revelations a coalition of Catholic organizations, the Reform CCHD Now Coalition, formed, calling for a boycott of the November 21-22 national CCHD collection.
Shortly thereafter Bishop Roger Morin, chairman of the USCCB's subcommittee on the CCHD, delivered a passionate plea to the bishops' plenary meeting last week, pledging the CCHD's commitment to ensure grantees' respect for Catholic teaching.
In his speech Morin lashed out at what he called "outrageous" allegations that the bishops' charitable-arm funds pro-abortion and anti-family organizations "or other untruths." He charged that some such claims were motivated by "ideological or political agendas." The bishop chairman of CCHD even went so far as to state, "For these groups, this seems to be just another way to attack the Church and its shepherds."
Nevertheless, at least four bishops will not contribute to the national CCHD fund this year: Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pennsylvania; Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska; Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin; and Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, Alabama.
Bishop Barres has suspended the collection for this year, though he may continue it in future years, said diocesan communications director Matthew Kerr in an interview with LSN. Kerr said that Bishop Barres gave no reason for the suspension and also that, as a new bishop, he is "reviewing a lot of things."
Further, Bishop Bruskewitz has chosen not to take part in the CCHD collection, says diocesan chancellor Fr. Daniel Rayer. It had normally been included in a combined collection, he said, but they have now dropped it for the first time. Bishop Bruskewitz was not available to comment further today.
As he did last year, Bishop Morlino chose to allocate the national campaign's portion of the collection to a different cause. Last year, the funds were sent to the Hurricane Ike recovery fund, and this year he allocated the contributions to the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have an international outreach to the elderly.
In a November 11th letter to the faithful of his diocese, Bishop Morlino assured them that the diocesan portion would continue to support "important tasks of assisting the poor of our own diocese."
He insisted, however, that their money would not be allowed to support groups violating Church teaching. "In light of recent discussions and protests regarding money from CCHD going to fund ACORN and other entities which do not uphold, and sometimes act in opposition to, the teachings of the Church," he said, "I feel it necessary to make clear that your money will not go to such groups."
According to CCHD policy, every funded group must be vetted by the local bishop. Of the collected funds, however, 25 percent remains in the diocese, while 75 percent goes to the national fund, which is then distributed to grantees throughout the nation. So while a local bishop has control over which groups are funded in his own diocese, if his diocese contributes to the national fund he cannot personally ensure that the funds go only to grantees that are in line with Church teaching.
Bishop Baker held his second annual collection for the Church of Latin America in lieu of the CCHD collection. In a November 6th letter, he informed the faithful of this collection for November 21-22 and extolled the good work brought about in the past by American Catholics' donations to Latin America.
At the end, he wrote: "The offertory envelopes you have may include an envelope for 'Catholic Campaign for Human Development,' instead of the 'Church in Latin America.' If this is the case, just cross out the 'Campaign' name, and write in 'Church in Latin America' for this year."
Stephen Phelan, communications manager for Human Life International, and spokesman for Reform CCHD Now, said he was "pleased" at the leadership exercised by these bishops. "Of course we're pleased that some bishops have chosen to suspend their support of the CCHD until serious reforms are made, or until they are sure that the groups they support do not oppose the Church in any way," he commented. "These are positive developments, and very much in keeping with the call of our shepherds to lead their flocks in service and in truth."
"We continue to watch for major reforms at the national level, and stand ready to support the CCHD should these reforms happen," he stated. "We continue to pray that these reforms will take place and that the CCHD can be a cause that unifies Catholics instead of one that divides us."
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