By Patrick B. Craine

CHICAGO, Illinois, November 11, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Facing pressure from the old guard at the local and national level, the Chicago branch of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has begun dismantling the “real reform” that earned it so much praise from pro-life groups in the summer.

“Despite the attempts made by some well-intentioned individuals in the Archdiocese of Chicago's CCHD, the powers-that-be at the USCCB and some local bishops and priests have plans to return to the national CCHD's guidelines with this program,” said former Chicago CCHD director Rey Flores. Flores, among others, had initiated the reforms with the initial blessing of Cardinal Francis George.

But a cadre of liberal priests, led by Fr. Larry Dowling, has been calling on the cardinal to reverse the reforms, which included approving grants for the life-saving work of crisis pregnancy centers. Dowling claimed in a recent letter to Cardinal George, for example, that "It has been an insult to many (grantees) to be asked, “Does your organization support abortion or same-sex 'marriage'?"

The same group of priests, who sought the removal of Flores last March, were recently also targeting Flores' former boss, Office of Peace and Justice Director Nicholas Lund-Molfese.

"People really need to keep the CCHD program in their prayers, especially the Chicago CCHD staff, priests and bishops," said Flores, who lost his position in the fall.

Under Flores’ leadership, Chicago’s CCHD had committed to defunding any group opposing Catholic teaching, particularly on life and family issues, as well as funding groups such as crisis pregnancy centres and the Pro-Life Action League, contrary to previous CCHD practice.

The former director told LSN that the rationale for funding such groups, and for ensuring that grantees are in line with Church teaching on life and family issues, is that "the lack of respect for the sanctity of life and the destruction of the necessary societal institutions of traditional marriage and family are the major reason for the moral, physical and spiritual poverty we suffer in the western world.”

Cardinal George – under the recommendations of Auxiliary Bishop Francis Kane, who serves on the U.S. Bishops’ CCHD subcommittee – has agreed to recommit the diocese to CCHD’s long-time policy of not funding groups that offer direct service to the poor, and will also require again that grantees’ boards be mostly composed of low-income people.

The Chicago reforms, which were held up by pro-life groups as a model for the nationwide organization, were especially significant because Chicago is where CCHD began and their collection still brings in the most funds of any diocese every year.

"For a brief moment in Chicago, we had everyone on the same page,” said Flores. “It was awesome to teach people on the social justice side of things about the value of respect life causes as being social justice issues and teaching the respect life warriors about the God-given human dignity of immigrants and workers. I pray that these efforts were not in vain."

"It's sad that the unborn and the innocent poor must suffer because of our misunderstanding of what true social Catholic justice is as Jesus Christ taught us," he added, saying, "We must never sacrifice our Catholic faith and values for secular humanitarian causes."

LifeSiteNews was refused an interview with Lund-Molfese to ask about the status of future funding to pro-life groups.  According to Susan Burritt, the diocese’s media relations director, “There has been no change in the policy of the Archdiocese of Chicago regarding groups eligible for CCHD funding.  Reports to the contrary are mistaken.”

“While we certainly pray that the new leaders of Chicago’s CCHD have the courage to continue Rey Flores' excellent reform effort, it sounds like they're returning to business as usual," said Michael Hichborn, American Life League’s lead researcher on the CCHD. “Given the push to remove Flores from his post by a member of the CCHD’s subcommittee, one has to wonder just how committed to reform the National CCHD office really is.”

“We really commend Rey for his courage and fidelity to the Church for working so hard to make these reforms as the CCHD director,” said Hichborn.  “But the strength and courage it took to go public with what really happened is a sign of his deep faith in Christ.”


Contact Information:

Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago  
PO Box 1979  
Chicago, IL. 60690-1979  
Phone: 312-534-8230  
Fax: 312-534-6379  
E-Mail: archbishop@archchicago.org


See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

Pro-Life Groups Praise ‘Real Reform’ at Chicago CCHD  
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/aug/10080609.html

CCHD in Archdiocese of Chicago Says it is Working to Fix Problems  
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/nov/09112005.html