By Patrick B. Craine

CHICAGO, Illinois, November 12, 2010 ( – The national office of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) awarded a grant in 2010 to a Chicago-based group, despite the local CCHD branch’s strong warnings that the organization in question coordinated a school-based health program that provides contraception and refers for abortions. The decision to award the grant was made even as CCHD was faced with calls for a boycott over its funding practices, and in the midst of an effort at reform.

The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), a community organizing project focusing on a wide range of issues such as anti-violence, housing, and immigration, received a $45,000 national grant this year for general operating expenses – the third year in a row it has received such a grant.

This grant was continued despite strong evidence from the Reform CCHD Now Coalition (RCN), and the local CCHD office, that they were engaged in activities seriously contrary to Church teaching.

RCN found that SWOP is implementing a school program called Elev8 at Marquette Elementary School.  This program includes the provision of health services to the children through a school clinic; but the clinic also provides sex education, distributes condoms and oral contraceptives, and refers for abortion.  To run the clinic, SWOP chose an organization called Access Community Health, which provides contraceptives without parental guidance.

Now it has been revealed that the SWOP grant was awarded despite opposition from the local CCHD office, which vets all grants.

“Despite strong recommendations against this funding and clear requests from the Chicago CCHD office that the national CCHD further investigate SWOP and its Elev8 activities, the national CCHD saw it fit to award the grant anyway,” explained Rey Flores, former director of Chicago’s CCHD program, who was terminated from the position this fall. 

Under Flores’ leadership, Chicago’s CCHD had committed to defunding any group opposing Catholic teaching, particularly on life and family issues, as well as funding pro-life groups, contrary to previous CCHD practice.  These reforms were strongly opposed by some of the diocese’s clergy, and it appears that they are now being dismantled.

When vetting SWOP, Flores called the health clinic at Marquette, posing as the father of a grade 7 student who might be pregnant.  The nurse told him “in no uncertain terms” that if his “daughter” was pregnant, they could refer her to the nearest abortion provider, he said.  Otherwise they could get her “the pill” if he wanted.

CCHD guidelines prohibit awarding grants to groups that promote or participate in activities that contradict the moral and social teachings of the Catholic Church.

Faced with a strong movement for reform since the fall of 2009, including the actions of at least ten bishops who ceased contributing to the national pot, CCHD launched a process of renewal and reform this fall.  Among numerous commitments, they plan to strengthen CCHD's Catholic identity and tighten its funding protocols.  They have also established a guideline dictating that CCHD funds may not go to groups that join coalitions which advocate for positions contrary to Catholic teaching.

RCN has questioned the authenticity of the reform, given that CCHD’s own renewal documents praise the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a grantee that is a member of several pro-abortion and homosexualist organizations.  RCN has also pointed out that, while CCHD continues to insist that only five grantees were problematic, they have presented evidence implicating dozens of groups.  As such, RCN is again calling for a boycott of this year’s collection.

Rob Gasper of American Life League, a lead researcher for RCN, said it was “unfortunate” that the national CCHD did not heed the Chicago office’s recommendation.  “The evidence that SWOP participated in providing access to contraceptives to children by implementing the ELEV8 program is clear cut,” he explained.  “Hopefully National CCHD will reconsider this grant under the Review and Renew guidelines.  Grantees should not be involved in promoting the contraceptive mentality to children.”

See related coverage:

Report: ‘Real Reform’ at Chicago CCHD Being Dismantled

Pro-Life Groups Praise ‘Real Reform’ at Chicago CCHD