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CHICAGO, Illinois, November 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Archdiocese of Chicago appeared to confirm in an interview last week that they are dismantling some of the key reforms they recently brought in at their branch of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) that had been praised by pro-life groups.

The Chicago Tribune reported November 15th that leaders of Chicago’s CCHD will “scale back” the reforms that led to the funding of pro-life groups like pregnancy resource centres and the Pro-Life Action League’s sidewalk counseling initiative.

Bishop Francis Kane, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese, told the paper that “it’s hard to say” (in the reporter’s words) whether the Chicago reforms went too far.  “I don’t know if it’s an easy black-and-white answer,” he said. “We want to be sure some of the work of the groups being funded will create an atmosphere where social change will happen to enhance the life of poor people.”

In the last year, the Chicago CCHD had committed itself to affirming respect for unborn life as part of its mission to the poor, a move inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate.  Under the leadership of director Rey Flores, who was terminated this fall, they began funding pro-life initiatives in addition to groups that aligned with CCHD’s focus on economic development and similar issues.

But Flores’ efforts faced stiff opposition from certain clergy in the diocese who supported the status quo. In particular, a group of priests led by Fr. Larry Dowling called on Cardinal Francis George to reverse the reforms.

At the same time, Ann and Joe Scheidler of Chicago’s Pro-Life Action League have recently come to the defence of Chicago’s CCHD.  Ann Scheidler told LifeSiteNews that Office of Peace and Justice Director Nicholas Lund-Molfese has assured them that their grant this year is safe and encouraged them to apply again next year.

In a blog post last Thursday, Mrs. Scheidler sought to correct reports that pro-life groups in Chicago have been defunded.  “The Pro-Life Action League has not been notified of any change to either the program or to the grant it was awarded,” she wrote.  “We received half of the grant in September and are due to receive the last installment in January.”

“Other pro-life awardees also report that they have no reason to think their grants are in jeopardy,” she added.

Describing a meeting they attended with other potential grantees as part of the CCHD application process, Scheidler said: “My sense … was that this was truly the Church at its best — each of us working in our own niche to bring hope to those people who often live with despair.”

Scheidler, who recently spoke at a Catholic parish to promote the CCHD collection, said she is “saddened” by the divisions among Catholics over CCHD.  “I believe that all involved in the controversy have the best intentions, but attacking one another is blatantly un-Christian,” she wrote.

However, critics of the bishops’ anti-poverty arm have said that while CCHD may pay out grant installments to pro-life groups that it has already committed itself to, the Tribune interview with Bishop Kane would appear to indicate that pro-life groups should not expect funding in the future.

The bishop, who is a member of the U.S. Bishops’ CCHD sub-committee, confirmed that Chicago’s CCHD will again adopt the approach taken at the national level.  “I think we would like to have (Chicago’s) guidelines consistent with our national guidelines,” Bishop Kane told the Tribune.  “Some of the ideas that have come from what we’re doing in Chicago are influencing how we will work with the campaign nationally, as well as locally.”

In his comments to the Tribune, Bishop Kane juxtaposed those advocating “social justice” and those promoting the pro-life cause, and decried the tension between them.

“It’s like the church against itself,” he said. “You don’t want social justice people saying they somehow have to compete with pro-life people. It’s like children in the same family. You want them both to be strong and be nurtured.”

The national CCHD office has faced strong criticism from some bishops and many pro-life organizations in the last year after revelations that they were funding numerous groups who advocated abortion, homosexual “marriage,” and other questionable activities.

In response, CCHD has launched a large-scale renewal with a commitment to strengthen their Catholic identity and funding protocols.

While the intention for renewal and many of the new protocols have been praised by those calling for CCHD reform, the renewal’s authenticity has been questioned due to the fact that CCHD has continued to defend many of the grants that were found to be objectionable.

LifeSiteNews.com did not hear back from the Archdiocese of Chicago by press time.

Contact Information:

Cardinal Francis George
Office of the Archbishop
Archdiocese of Chicago
PO Box 1979
Chicago, IL.  60690-1979
Phone:  312-534-8230
E-Mail:  [email protected]

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