By Patrick B. Craine
September 22, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the U.S. bishops' domestic social justice arm, says it has taken "decisive action" on a new report that reveals they have been funding groups that support abortion, contraception, same-sex "marriage," and legalized prostitution.
The organization's funding practices have been the subject of growing scrutiny in the last several years, especially after it was revealed that CCHD had funded the scandal-plagued ACORN organization to the tune of millions of dollars.
The report about CCHD's problematic funding practices was prepared by the new Bellarmine Veritas Ministry (BVM), which has launched a national campaign aimed at addressing the problems with the organization. The group's founder, Rob Gasper, said he is "pleased" with the CCHD's response, but insisted that the organization is in need of further reform before the problems can be said to have been dealt with.
Founded in 1969, the CCHD's mission is to "address the root causes of poverty in America through promotion and support of community-controlled, self-help organizations and through transformative education." They raise funds primarily through an annual parish collection on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Scandal erupted in the U.S. Church last year over the CCHD's funding of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a liberal network of local community activism groups. At least two dioceses, in fact, opted not to take up the collection last fall. The CCHD, which has given ACORN millions of dollars in the last ten years, cut their funding last year based on reports of embezzlement within the organization. In recent weeks, several ACORN offices were caught condoning child prostitution and sex trafficking in a series of videotaped sting operations conducted by veteran pro-life investigators.
In his report on the ACORN scandal, Bishop Roger Morin, chair of the U.S. bishops' subcommittee on the CCHD, assured American Catholics that "CCHD's current criteria and guidelines prohibit partisan activity and funding of any group that engages in activities contrary to Catholic moral teaching, whether or not those activities are funded by CCHD."
"These criteria are actively enforced," he wrote, "and have led CCHD to deny funding to many groups and to quickly terminate any group that violates these prohibitions."
The BVM report, however, offers concrete evidence that grantees on CCHD's list for both 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 advocate policies and activities deeply contrary to fundamental Christian moral teaching, such as abortion, contraception and legalized prostitution. The report also observes that some of these groups are involved in pushing Obama's health care reform without prejudice to its proposed funding of abortion and contraception.
The report lists four groups from the 2009-2010 grantee list that actively support policies or practices contrary to Church teaching. In total, these groups have been allocated $125,000 this year. The report also lists seven groups that have pushed for the current version of Obama's health care reform.
On September 10th, LSN advised CCHD Director Ralph McCloud of the BVM report's findings. On Friday, McCloud informed LSN that the organization had defunded two of the four groups, and said that, in regard to the remaining two, he was still waiting to hear back from the local bishop, who must sign off on every funded group in his diocese.
According to McCloud, they have defunded the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), which has been funded for the last four years, and was set to receive $30,000 this year. The CPA's 2008 voters guide (on the BVM website here and here) urged Californians to vote against enshrining the true definition of marriage in the state's constitution (proposition 8) and requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortions (proposition 4). LSN left a message with CPA, but has not heard back.
CCHD has also defunded the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), says McCloud, which has been funded for the last five years and was to receive $40,000 this year. LACAN has promoted same-sex "marriage" and actively supports contraception and the morning-after pill through a clinic at the Downtown Women's Center. An LACAN representative told LSN that they have not yet been informed about any change to their funding status.
McCloud says he is still waiting to hear back about Young Workers United (YWU), which is a new addition to the grantee list, currently set to receive $25,000. This group has come out publicly in support of abortion, same-sex "marriage," and the legalization of prostitution. In their 2008 voters guide they advocated against proposition 8 and proposition 4. They also advised San Francisco residents to adopt proposition K, decriminalizing prostitution.
Finally, the Women's Community Revitalization Project is currently scheduled to receive $30,000. They are a "coalition partner" of WomenVotePA, which works to secure abortion rights; they also push the morning-after pill, contraception, and same-sex "marriage."
Reacting to the BVM report, McCloud said, "I was shocked." McCloud also told LSN that he had not seen any of the information before. "We routinely, whenever we get complaints and issues that are with some of our groups that even remotely could be contrary to Catholic teaching, we do a serious investigation and look at them," he said. "And that's what we're doing on these."
Asked how the groups were put on the list in the first place, McCloud explained that "[the] profile of the work that [these groups] were doing in low-income communities did not include things like voters guides. When we had first begun a relationship with them, they weren't doing any advocacy at all, and we focus just on that particular portion of the work."
In response to the CCHD's handling of the report, Gasper stated, "My organization's pleased that they're taking some active steps, obviously." However, "we're still concerned about how these groups managed to receive funding in the first place," he said. "We would like to see some steps taken to ensure that that doesn't happen again in the future."
McCloud did not commit to any concrete policy changes, but did indicate that information like that provided by BVM always causes them to re-evaluate. As an example, he noted the need for "looking at the websites of organizations more frequently."
"These were brought to our attention, but we find so many others on our own," McCloud pointed out.
Gasper says, however, that the response so far is not satisfying. He maintains that every grantee should be required to state publicly, rather than merely privately, that they would abide by the Church's social teaching, including on the right to life. "Put that in a public forum and I think that would go a long way to help the situation," he said, "because, some of these groups, they don't mind doing this sort of thing in private, ... but they wouldn't want to do something like that in public, because their membership base would be in an uproar."
Such a public statement, he said, would ensure the confidence of the CCHD's Catholic supporters. While the CCHD might drop an organization or two each year, he said, "there's still more added every year." "We never know that our donations are going to be safe to give to the CCHD. But if they put in [the requirement of a public statement], then people might feel a little better."
Gasper also stated that his organization is concerned about the groups that are indiscriminately advocating for Obamacare, without pressing the need for protections for the unborn. "That touches on the life issue," said Gasper, "especially if you read the writings of Cardinal Rigali and some of the letters the other bishops in the USCCB have put out, that those groups who are pushing for this healthcare legislation should face more rigorous requirements."
McCloud defended the CCHD's funding of these groups, however, saying that all of them "encourage denominations that are part of their network to advocate based on ... their denominational viewpoint. They basically lift up the importance of healthcare and how it contributes to the human dignity of the person."
Noting that he had not seen such language on any of the groups' websites, Gasper responded, "If money from Catholics is going to those grantees, one would think that they should be required to just uphold to the Catholic social teaching on that issue."
Gasper pointed to the example of the Vermont Workers Center, who had a $30,000 grant revoked by the Vermont diocese earlier this year because they refused to specify opposition to abortion funding in their promotion of healthcare reform.
Criticisms based upon the CCHD's questionable funding practices are not new. The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus claimed last year, in the wake of the ACORN scandal, that the CCHD "has nothing to do with Catholicism, except that Catholics are asked to pay for it."
He called the organization "misbegotten in concept and corrupt in practice," and went so far as to urge that it be terminated. "What most Catholics don't know, and what would likely astonish them," wrote Fr. Neuhaus, "is that CHD very explicitly does not fund Catholic institutions and apostolates that work with the poor." Neuhaus suggested that the bishops would do better to spend their money on more Catholic-related projects, such as "Catholic inner-city schools."
Catholic Campaign for Human Development
3211 Fourth St. NE
Washington DC 20017
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