US bishops anti-poverty arm defends grants after pro-life groups issue exposé
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 2, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In an internal memo sent to diocesan Catholic Campaign for Human Development directors, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has claimed that the “near totality” of a critical report about its grantees is “based on false suppositions” and “tenuous connections.”
At the same time, the U.S. Bishops domestic anti-poverty agency has amended its website to accuse the report’s researchers – namely those with the pro-life group American Life League - of having a “consistent track record of misreporting.” The pro-life group has responded that CCHD has offered no evidence of the misreporting.
The CCHD 2011-2012 Grants Report issued by the Reform CCHD Now Coalition (RCN), of which American Life League is a member, lays out evidence indicating that 38% of CCHD’s grant recipients are in violation of the organization’s own grantee guidelines.
But according to CCHD’s internal memo, sent in October, the report subjects their grantees to “irresponsible criticism.” It adds, however, that “CCHD staff and diocesan directors throughout the country are investigating these claims responsibly.”
“How can CCHD’s investigations be responsible and ours not when we provide screen-captures and links to all of the evidence we have found, while CCHD offers blanket dismissals and no explanations?” asked Michael Hichborn, spokesman for the RCN coalition.
The internal memo regarding “Recent allegations concerning CCHD funded groups” explains that the “CCHD is accountable to the bishops and operates at the highest levels of fidelity to Church teaching, integrity and transparency in its mission to provide critical support to poor persons.”
With regard to its grantees, the memo states that the CCHD’s guidelines require “the highest standards of accountability as well as conformity with the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.”
”Only groups that have received formal approval from the local bishop may receive a CCHD grant,” the memo adds. “If a group commits offenses against Catholic moral teaching or demonstrates questionable practices in any regard, a grant qualification is immediately rescinded or otherwise resolved prudently in deference to the local Ordinary.”
The memo does not provide explanations as to which of the Reform CCHD Now report’s suppositions are “false,” nor does it explain which of its connections are “tenuous” or in what way.
Echoing the sentiments found in the memo, the revised “Truth About CCHD” page on the USCCB website states:
“CCHD staff and dioceses throughout the country investigate all claims made against grantees responsibly, but prudence demands taking account of these groups’ consistent track record of misreporting. In the interest of promoting the genuine Review and Renewal of CCHD, and after repeated attempts at constructive communication, CCHD has decided against further engagement with [American Life League] and its associate groups at this time.”
The amendments to the CCHD website includes a quote by Bishop Jaime Soto, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on CCHD:
“Despite significant progress, some things don’t change. The American Life League continues to attack CCHD and the USCCB. ALL continue[s] to recycle allegations that CCHD funds many organizations that are in conflict with Catholic teaching. They simply do not agree with CCHD’s mission and how we apply our guidelines and requirements.”
The amendments to the website contain the CCHD’s first public remarks about the newest report. Rather than addressing the allegations of the report directly, the CCHD commented on the report’s researchers, saying, “The USCCB, CCHD and CCHD grantees are frequently subject to exploitative scrutiny by organized pressure groups and their peers, like the American Life League (ALL), operating to further narrow viewpoints and aims.”
Hichborn pointed out that over a dozen bishops have discontinued the CCHD collection in their diocese due to concerns over the organization’s funding practices.
“One wonders whether the CCHD also believes that more than 13 bishops are also guilty of ‘exploitative scrutiny,’ since they have stopped supporting the national CCHD due to their own investigations of its continuing problems,” said Hichborn. “These bishops have made it clear that they also disagree with how CCHD applies its guidelines and requirements, and have made the prudential decision to be more careful where their money is sent in service of the poor and marginalized.”
One group featured by the RCN report to be in violation of CCHD grant guidelines is Adalante Mujeres, which worked directly with Western States Center to promote homosexual activism. Adalante Mujeros received $60,000 from CCHD during 2011-2012.
Another example is Juntos, a Philadelphia-based “human rights” organization. It published a reference guide that includes a link to Planned Parenthood in the section for “Women’s Health Services/Family Planning.”
In September of 2010, the Portland, Oregon based Street Roots lost CCHD funding for similarly producing a reference guide that referred homeless people to Planned Parenthood.
“The CCHD has continued a pattern of ignoring the facts and denying the allegations for decades,” said Hichborn. “On December 20, the Richmond Times Dispatch republished an editorial by the late Bishop Sullivan that carries all of the same exact defenses the CCHD continues to use against the same exact allegations.”
The November 22, 1989 editorial by Bishop Sullivan addressed “attacks” against the CCHD from a report published the previous year that claimed that the CCHD was funding pro-abortion organizations and the “political left.” Bishop Sullivan, without addressing the facts, claimed that the report was “investigated and discredited by” the US bishops, and then alleged guilt by association.
“The proof is in our reports,” said Hichborn. “The onus is on the CCHD to explain, in detail, where the reports are wrong.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment.