BALTIMORE, MD, December 16, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Archdiocese of Baltimore has cut funding to a local grantee of its Catholic Campaign for Human Development after Catholics raised concern over the grantee’s support for Planned Parenthood and the homosexual agenda.
CCHD reform advocates are praising Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori for acting quickly on complaints, but are also expressing concern that the grant was awarded in the first place given that the group’s problematic associations were easily found on its website.
In an interview, Msgr. William Burke, director of Baltimore’s CCHD, said the Catholic agency had not reviewed the organization’s website as part of their compliance review. Asked if they will now be revising their vetting procedures, he said, “I guess we have to.”
At the same time, the priest lamented the group’s defunding and the frequent criticisms directed at CCHD. He said the problematic activities he was aware of took place two years ago and that that does not mean the group is currently out of step with Catholic teaching. (See full transcript of LSN’s interview with Msgr. Burke at bottom.)
The grantee at issue is New Lens, a youth organization that aims to advance social justice causes through art and media. Baltimore’s local CCHD program awarded the group $13,000 in August.
The Baltimore-based pro-life group Defend Life reported in early November, however, that a quick viewing of News Lens’ website showed the organization’s version of social justice departs from Catholic teaching.
In 2011, the organization partnered with Planned Parenthood of Maryland to produce a video promoting contraceptives and the abortifacient morning-after pill. The New Lens employee who was listed as a contact on CCHD’s website, Rebecca Yenawine, was featured in the video’s credits as an “adult facilitator”.
In 2012, the organization partnered with the Baltimore City Health Department, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations on the “Know What U Want: U Choose” project to promote contraceptive use among teens.
Earlier this year, the group produced a video in conjunction with PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), titled ‘No Homo’, promoting acceptance of homosexual relationships.
On November 22, the Archdiocese announced that the grant had been withdrawn in a piece published by its official newspaper The Catholic Review.
Sean Caine, the Archdiocese’s communications director, told LifeSiteNews December 10th that Archbishop Lori had asked New Lens to return the grant money. “Once he learned of the information about the group and their previous associations, for him it was a very, very clear decision to do that,” said Caine.
Judie Brown, president of American Life League, thanked Archbishop Lori for his “courage in taking swift, corrective action.”
“In defending the faith, he demonstrated that all it takes is the will to act,” she said. “Many young people of Baltimore will benefit from His Excellency’s resolve and for that we should all be grateful.”
While praising the Archbishop, American Life League raised questions about CCHD’s explanation for how it came to award the grant. The explanation published in The Catholic Review’s November 22nd article stated: “[New Lens] met CCHD requirements when it applied for the grant, but has since become ineligible after producing a video that conflicted with church teachings.”
LifeSiteNews interviewed Msgr. Burke on December 13th. The priest admitted a need to revise the vetting procedures, but also maintained that the group was in “complete compliance” with Church teaching during an on-site review in the spring of 2013. He observed that the problematic video was from 2011.
“I mean it was two years ago. Does that make any sense?” he asked. “You know, in terms of Catholic teaching we also – abhor the wrong, forgive the sinner. These people had no idea that they were doing anything wrong at the time they did it.”
“Later on, this group, Defend Life and American Life League, they went to the website of this group – they’re teenage kids who are trying to develop skills – and they had made a film with the Baltimore City Health Department in the year 2011,” he continued. “And because it had to do with safe sex practices, … that was enough to determine that they weren’t in compliance, according to the people taking objection.”
“So Archbishop Lori in turn said that they were ineligible to receive the grant,” he added. “They’ve been so notified and intend to return the money.”
Msgr. Burke explained that the people behind New Lens are “very, very humble, poor young people,” and that the grant was intended to help them develop skills for the workplace.
“There was no malice intended or anything like that,” he said. “And at the time, as I said, when they made the application, they were in compliance, so case closed as far as we’re concerned.”
Asked why the problematic videos were not discovered during the vetting process, he said: “Because nobody thought it was necessary. We didn’t know it even existed.”
The priest also chided CCHD’s critics. “I mean what I have a problem with is every year when we have the campaign, you know, these objections come out just at the time of the appeal for the collection,” he said. “Nobody’s trying to pull any fast things on anybody but the overall good that the campaign has done to help people goes unnoticed by a lot of these groups that take objection to a number of things.”
“But everything that we do in terms of the local committee here is according to the Church’s teachings,” he added.
Michael Hichborn of American Life League told LifeSiteNews that he believes Msgr. Burke’s response to the findings is inadequate, and is similar to responses the group has received from CCHD officials across the country.
“The Monseigneur treats a simple examination of New Lens' website, before sending Catholic dollars, as a personal imposition,” said Hichborn in an e-mail to LSN. “He suggests that a grantee promoting contraception is only a violation of CCHD rules ‘according to the people taking objection.’ But not him?”
“Unbelievably, he says he will look at potential grantees' websites in the future because, ‘I guess I have to,’” Hichborn continued. “Even now, Monsignor Burke rejects the idea anything was wrong in funding A PARTNER OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD.”
“Personnel is policy: perhaps a true review and renewal of the CCHD should begin with a renewed vetting of CCHD staff,” Hichborn added.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development includes both a national component, which receives 75% of the annual collection in each diocese, and a local component, which receives the remaining funds. Grants are distributed from the national office and local diocesan offices. All grants in a diocese, local and national, are approved by the local bishop.
The organization has been undergoing a renewal since 2010 after a series of reports documenting its funding of groups that advocate activities such as abortion, same-sex “marriage”, or contraception.
CCHD’s guidelines now state that “no group that advocates or acts in opposition to fundamental Catholic social and moral teaching is eligible for or will receive CCHD funding.”
American Life League, which has led the calls for CCHD reform, recently reported that CCHD’s grants list for 2013 shows a marked improvement, even though problems remain. In October, nine grantees were denied nearly $300,000 in funding because of their support for same-sex “marriage”. But ALL says over 20 problematic groups remain on the national grantee list.
Transcript of LSN interview with Msgr. William Burke, Baltimore’s CCHD Director
LSN: I had some questions for you about the CCHD there and about the grant that was recently taken back from New Lens. I had been speaking to Sean Caine at the Diocese and he had mentioned about the decision to defund the group. I saw that part of the explanation given for defunding it was that the group had taken up some of these issues after it received the grant. Is that correct?
Msgr. Burke: That’s not correct at all. No. We have a local CCHD committee and when the on-site evaluation was made they were in complete compliance with the Catholic Church teachings. Later on, this group, Defend Life and American Life League, they went to the website of this group – they’re teenage kids who are trying to develop skills – and they had made a film with the Baltimore City Health Department in the year 2011. And because it had to do with safe sex practices, and that was enough to determine that they weren’t in compliance according to the people taking objection. So Archbishop Lori in turn said that they were ineligible to receive the grant. They’ve been so notified and intend to return the money. That’s the correct sequence of events.
LSN: When was it determined that it complied with Catholic teaching? Was that in advance of its grant in 2013?
Msgr. Burke: Of course. Back in the spring when they made application for a local grant.
LSN: How come this video from 2011 wasn’t found at that point?
Msgr. Burke: There were no – they were in compliance with Catholic Church teachings in 2013.
LSN: But if they produced that video in 2011, that was before the review took place, right?
Msgr. Burke: Two years ago. … We didn’t learn of it until it was brought to our attention after the grant had been made. … These are very, very humble, poor young people. You know, they’re trying to develop skills and that was the idea behind our trying to help them. There was no malice intended or anything like that. And at the time, as I said, when they made the application, they were in compliance, so case closed as far as we’re concerned.
LSN: I guess I’m just wondering, if this video was out there, why wasn’t it found when the compliance review was undertaken?
Msgr. Burke: Because nobody thought it was necessary. We didn’t know it even existed.
LSN: Okay. I mean, the information was found on their own website.
Msgr. Burke: That’s what I’m told.
LSN: Yeah. Do the vetting procedures for these groups involve doing a review of their websites?
Msgr. Burke: Well I guess it’ll have to be now. But I mean it was two years ago. Does that make any sense? You know, in terms of Catholic teaching we also – abhor the wrong, forgive the sinner. These people had no idea that they were doing anything wrong at the time they did it.
LSN: The videos are still being promoted on their website and their Youtube page even now. So I’m not sure we can say that they’ve repented if they’re still promoting their videos.
Msgr. Burke: Well, that’s your interpretation. I don’t have to – I’m not getting into that with you. The money has been asked to be refunded to the Campaign for Human Development and the matter is closed. I mean what I have a problem with is every year when we have the campaign, you know, these objections come out just at the time of the appeal for the collection. Nobody’s trying to pull any fast things on anybody but the overall good that the campaign has done to help people goes unnoticed by a lot of these groups that take objection to a number of things. But everything that we do in terms of the local committee here is according to the Church’s teachings.
LSN: Yeah, and well we certainly appreciate the swift action that was taken when this issue was raised. It’s just the concern that this information was found on their website very easily. It’s in their promotional materials, it doesn’t take much work at all to find the problems here.
Msgr. Burke: Well thank you for your instruction and appreciate your insight.
LSN: I’m just –
Msgr. Burke: I think the matter is closed and that’s all I have to say about it. I mean if it’s there, it’s there, and that’s why the request was made to return the funding.
LSN: Yeah. But you just mentioned that you’ll be looking at the vetting procedures in the future so that this doesn’t happen again, I guess.
Msgr. Burke: I guess we have to.
LSN: Okay, okay.
Msgr. Burke: We’ll have to hire the people that you work for to do it for us I guess.
LSN: I mean if you would like that, we would be more than happy to do that research for you.
Msgr. Burke: Sure. Okay. I hope I answered your questions.