Tuesday November 9, 2010

Updated: The Catholic Campaign’s New Problem with Coalitions

Commentary by Deal Hudson

(see response from

November 9, 2010 ( – When the USCCB issued its document a few weeks ago announcing the “Review and Renewal of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development,” I wondered aloud if the CCHD would be able to keep its promises.

As it turns out, one of the promises was broken the moment the document was published. “Review and Renewal” specifically praises and promotes the work of a grant recipient – The Coalition of Immokalee Workers – that is in violation of one of the “ethical guidelines for CCHD”:

CCHD funds cannot go to groups that knowingly participate in coalitions that have as part of their organizational purpose or coalition agenda, positions or actions that contradict fundamental Catholic moral and social teaching.

According to research published last week by Reform CCHD Now, the Coalition for Immokalee Workers belongs not just to one, but to two coalitions that support abortion rights and other positions at odds with the Catholic Church.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), located near Naples, Florida, is a workers’ rights organization that fights on behalf of low-wage immigrant labor for fair wages and better housing as well as against human trafficking.

However, the coalition’s work on behalf of migrant workers had led the coalition to align themselves formally with the U.S. Human Rights Network and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative.

These two groups have “agenda[s], positions, or actions that contradict Catholic moral and social teachings,” thus disqualifying CIW from receiving a CCHD grant.

The website of the U.S. Human Rights Network contains a number of pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality links (a full list is available at Reform CCHD Now).

The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative published this document titled “Examining New Frameworks: The Right to Reproductive Health.”

A question had already been raised about CIW when I noted their participation in June’s U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. While a presence at this conference was not in itself in violation of CCHD ethical guidelines, it should have been a red flag to the CCHD, as it was for Reform CCHD researchers, who did a little more research on CIW and discovered its membership in the two pro-abortion, pro-homosexual organizations.

This information was not that hard to find, according to the researchers. All it required was an Internet search of CIW, determining its membership in various coalitions, and reading the materials provided at the Web sites of those coalitions.

Either this level of vetting is not presently being done by CCHD, or its own ethical guidelines regarding offending coalitions has yet to be enforced. Clearly the CCHD did not properly vet the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, or it would not have been singled out for praise in the “Renewal and Revision” document.

The document contained several references to “moral theologians” who have been contacted to advise the CCHD on the problems of coalitions. Is this really necessary? Shouldn’t Catholic common sense be our guide? Or is the CCHD attempting to articulate a “remote cooperation” argument that allows grant recipients to remain coalition partners of some indeterminate kind?

The 2010 list of CCHD grantees has yet to be published, but the CCHD is going ahead with its annual November collection in a few weeks. What’s the rush? Wouldn’t it be preferable if the bishops postponed the collection until vetting mistakes like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers were eliminated? To delay the collection would signal that the USCCB is determined to fulfill the promises made in its “Renewal and Revision” document.

From Deal Hudson: On November 10, 2010, we received the following response to this column from the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. We print it in its entirety:

Responses to the CCHD Review and Renewal

The report on the Review and Renewal of CCHD has generally been very well received. It has been reported as a reaffirmation of CCHD’s Catholic foundations and priority for the poor, a genuine response to concerns about CCHD funding policies and a detailed road map for CCHD’s future with 10 commitments to strengthen CCHD as a faithful and effective expression of Catholic teaching and the Gospel.

The Reform CCHD Now Coalition said, “the renewal document is a positive step forward for the CCHD and if vigorously implemented, we hope to see an overall improvement in their funding practices. “ However, they did not endorse CCHD and they and others have raised three additional concerns that merit a response:

1. “However, that being said, the CCHD will most likely not release the 2010 grantee list in time for this year’s collection.” The CCHD Review and Renewal calls for the development of a substantially revised CCHD Grant Agreement “to be used for all pending and future funding allocations and grants.” This new contract will “be more explicit about the positions, activities and relationships not permitted by CCHD” and “strengthen prohibitions on partisan politics.” After the Bishops’ CCHD Subcommittee reviews and approves the revised Grant Agreement and the bishops discuss the CCHD Report at their General Meeting in Baltimore, this stronger contract will be finalized and sent to all potential 2010 grantees. While these groups were selected under earlier CCHD guidelines, only groups which sign the new Grant Agreement will receive CCHD funds. Therefore, the list cannot be published now since some groups may be unwilling to sign or abide by the conditions of the new Grant Agreement.

2. “CCHD repeatedly mentions that 5 out of 270 grantees were defunded last year. What is odd is the CCHD lists 6 grantees which were defunded.” One of the six listed groups (the Rebecca Project) was denied re-funding when CCHD in reviewing their application learned they had recently violated CCHD requirements. Because they had recently acted in conflict with Catholic moral and social teaching their application was rejected, as are many others who fail to meet CCHD requirements. The bishops’ Report says: CCHD takes any alleged violation of Catholic principles and CCHD policies very seriously…. We apologize for the violations of CCHD policies by these groups and for the damage and confusion they have caused.”

3. Another criticism focuses on the reference in the Report to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) because they offered workshops at the US Social Forum in Detroit which had other workshops in conflict with Catholic social and moral teaching. Here is what the CCHD Report said: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is an organization of Latino, and Haitian migrant farm workers in Florida. Working with the local diocese, the Florida Catholic Conference and many other groups, CIW has won groundbreaking agreements with major fast food chains to increase wages and improve better working conditions for their members who pick tomatoes.”

In rejecting this guilt by association, CIW expressed regret that they were not contacted before these unfair charges were published and explained that the Immokalee Workers attended the Forum to draw support for their effort to get decent wages and working conditions for migrant workers, not to advance any other cause. The meeting drew a reported 15,000 people from many organizations and approximately 1000 different workshops led by a wide variety of groups. The CIW shared their efforts to improve conditions for farm workers and their Campaign for Fair Food aimed at ending poverty and modern-day slavery in the fields. They were a part of several related workshops which had nothing to do with abortion, homosexuality or related issues. CIW emphatically denies that it is implicated in the pro-abortion or homosexual rights activities of other organizations. The Immokalee Workers have joined with other groups to share conditions in the fields and seek assistance for their efforts to improve wages and working conditions for tomato pickers, not to advance positions contrary to Catholic teaching. They have never supported abortion or same sex marriage. Their impressive efforts have had the active support of the USCCB Domestic Policy Committee, the Florida State Catholic Conference and their home diocese of Venice, Florida and many other Catholic institutions. CIW is a member of the Florida State Catholic Conference’s Committee on Farm worker Justice. CIW is not currently a CCHD grantee, but has earned wide respect in the Catholic community for their much needed work to protect the lives and dignity of the people who pick our food.

This article reprinted with permission from

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