By Patrick B. Craine and Steve Jalsevac
CHICAGO, Illinois, November 20, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Archdiocese of Chicago's Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) office, caught up in controversy following the publication last Friday of a strongly-worded letter against some of their critics, insists that they are taking the evidence against their grantees seriously, and are making concrete improvements to their organization, with the support of Chicago Archbishop and USCCB president Cardinal Francis George.
Last Friday, Catholic columnist Matt C. Abbott published a letter signed by officials of the Archdiocese's Office for Peace and Justice, including CCHD program director Rey Flores, in which they decried the criticism levied against them by “certain groups.”
In the context, the letter was taken as a public condemnation of those organizations seeking reform of the CCHD, primarily the members of Reform CCHD Now (RCN). This coalition has called for a boycott of this Sunday's CCHD collection based on a large body of evidence that numerous grantees are involved in activities contravening Church teaching, particularly in promoting abortion, contraception, and/or same-sex “marriage”.
It has now been claimed, however, that the letter was not directed at RCN, but rather, was meant as a private communication to the office's mailing list in response to some strong e-mails and phone calls received by the Chicago CCHD office.
Flores, who has only been in his position for three months, told LifeSiteNews.com that most of the communications received were “very reasonable,” but he said that they had also received what they considered to be “hateful messages,” including some that they perceived as “dehumanizing” to the immigrant population.
“We didn't want to make a blanket statement [about] everybody who's criticizing us,” he said. “I mean, there are legitimate concerns and we understand. People want to reform some of the CCHD staff's errors and that's absolutely understandable.”
“Has the Campaign for Human Development done some good work? Absolutely,” he said. “Have there been some errors? Yes. Are we trying to fix that? Absolutely.”
Flores explained that his office is becoming more flexible in their funding, opening grants to organizations that serve the poor directly. “Right now we're trying to reassess in 2010 what poverty means to Catholics, and I think we're taking the initiative to be more flexible in our funding guidelines,” he said.
CCHD's traditional grant categories are (1) community organizing, and (2) economic development, with its policies specifically excluding grants for direct services to the poor.
“We're taking new angles,” said Flores, however. According to him, community organizing “could mean anything, because that's a way to do things, it's not a category.” His office has established four funding categories: (1) economic development, which he described as “something you can measure, something tangible”; (2) human development, which he said could be given to direct-service groups, but they are challenging them to “take the next step,” “not just handing them food or clothing, but helping them develop job skills”; (3) legal advocacy; and (4) life and family initiatives.
For example, they are considering giving grants to a crisis pregnancy center, and a Catholic legal aid organization.
Chicago's CCHD office has been implicated in the RCN's reports, with evidence involving several grantees from the archdiocese. These include the Southwest Organizing Project (SOP) and the Chicago Workers Collaborative (CWC).
Asked if they are investigating the implicated groups, Flores responded, “Yes. We are right now in a process of asking every single group that has been funded in our diocese to provide us a written request. We haven't got anything back yet.”
SOP, in part, works with a group called [Elev8] to provide healthcare to poor communities. As Flores explained, “Elev8 apparently has their hands in what they call age-appropriate sex-ed, which includes STD prevention, pregnancy prevention, which you know and I know what that means.”
“Trust me, there's a microscope here,” he said. “That's something that's under close investigation, absolutely.”
Regarding CWC, they have been found to have strong ties to socialism. Flores said he had just spoken to CWC's executive director, who will be reporting back to him in writing in a week or so.
He explained that they cannot simply “yank funding” from a group without following proper procedures. “These, for all intents and purposes, are a contract that we get into with organizations that we fund,” he said.
Flores challenged CCHD's critics to get involved and help improve the organization from within. He said he has invited critics to join the allocations committee, which advises him on which groups to fund, but they haven't taken him up on the offer.
In September, having been shown evidence that, in particular, four current grantees were promoting abortion, contraception, and/or same-sex “marriage”, CCHD's national office responded quickly and defunded two of the groups. They are not yet known to have responded adequately to the evidence regarding the other two groups, however. Further, they have repeatedly maintained that the two groups that were defunded only became involved in the objectionable activities after CCHD began to fund them, but evidence uncovered by CCHD critics contradicts that assertion.
Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) Information by American Life League