WASHINGTON, D.C., October 21, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The U.S. Bishops’ Conference has cut off a social justice grantee after it was revealed the group, which distributes condoms in New York City, had lied about its adherence to Catholic teaching against contraception.
The change followed upon an independent report released last month presenting evidence that numerous grants by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the bishops’ domestic social justice arm, were allegedly funding objectionable groups.
Last month, the Reform CCHD Now Coalition pointed to the NYC AIDS Housing Network as one such group, as it was listed as a condom distributor on a government website. Within weeks, private investigators corroborated the information by contacting the group, which told callers it provided condoms.
After the USCCB was questioned about this on their Facebook page Thursday, it said the group would be deemed ineligible for funding.
“NYC Aids Housing’s CCHD grant expired in June of 2011. In the future, NYC Aids Housing Network would not be eligible for CCHD funding,” the USCCB wrote Thursday afternoon on their Facebook page.
“During the time it was funded by CCHD, the organization went through the same rigorous vetting process that included the support of the bishop,” the USCCB wrote. “If at any point the the dioceses or CCHD had found evidence that the organization was in any way involved with condom distribution, the grant would have been immediately canceled. There was no evidence of this.”
Michael Hichborn of American Life League, a lead researcher for the most recent report, said the affair raises doubts about the effectiveness of CCHD’s vetting processes.
“We met with CCHD staff 4 times in the past year, even going over the evidence slide-by-slide,” he said. “When we asked CCHD why they will be defunding only one group (Centro Campesino, for distributing condoms), they said that they thoroughly vetted each individual grantee by calling the local archdiocese and the grantees.”
CCHD officials had initially responded by saying the report, which alleged 54 CCHD grantees were implicated in activity contrary to Catholic teaching, was “without substance” but one allegation, and otherwise poorly investigated and a recycling of old accusations. They named Hichborn and American Life League president Judie Brown, and charged that they had “unfairly attacked” CCHD.
Regarding the NYC AIDS Housing Network, Hichborn said in their meetings CCHD leaders had suggested the government website was wrong in listing the group as a condom distributor, because officials had been told by the group that they were unaware of the listing.
Although the USCCB further claimed on Facebook that the NYC group “was totally in line with CCHD criteria and guidelines” at the time of its funding, Hichborn noted that a press release from 2004 shows that the group had organized a protest supporting the distribution of condoms in prisons.
They also organized a “condom conga line” at the U.S. Social Forum in June 2010 shortly before receiving the grant from CCHD.
Provided with this information, the CCHD issued a follow-up statement to LifeSiteNews emphasizing that the group only received funding for one year, and with the approval of the local bishop, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn.
“The information regarding the grantee and condoms was not known to CCHD staff during the grant approval process or while it was funded,” they wrote.
“Had this information been available during the grant period, the charges would have been reviewed and the grant likely cancelled,” they continued. “The grantee did not reapply for CCHD funding, reportedly because of the strengthened application and assessment mandated by the CCHD Review and Renewal.”
But Hichborn is continuing to stand by his claim that CCHD’s vetting process is still lacking. “If NYC AIDS Housing Network lied about its participation, how many other grantees lied to CCHD staff in order to maintain their grants?” he asked.
After the Reform CCHD Now Coalition (RCN) released several major reports between August 2009 and March 2010 detailing abuses of funds, at least twelve U.S. bishops had chosen not to contribute to national CCHD collections based on the findings. The CCHD subsequently rolled out a major renewal campaign in October 2010, including the establishment of a review board and new guidelines for grantee approval.