The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is facing a critical test of support among the US bishops this week, CWN has learned.
All members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have been asked to respond by Friday, August 27, to a confidential report on the CCHD. The document—“The Review and Renewal of the Catholic Campaign for Human Deveopment”—was prepared in response to bishops’ concerns that the CCHD has strayed from its original and become too closely involved with radical political movements.
Although the “Review and Renewal” document has gone through 5 successive drafts, a number of bishops within the USCCB appear unsatisfied with the document, and supporters of the CHD are fearful that at their November meeting, the US bishops may call for sweeping changes in the program.
“CCHD is being closely examined and its mission questioned,” one ardent advocate for the program wrote in a letter to the heads of diocesan social agencies. Robert Gorman, the executive director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, urged allies to contact their bishops and urge them to express their satisfaction with the “Review and Renewal” document, thus giving their support to the current direction and leadership of the CCHD.
The urgency with which CCHD supporters are lobbying the American bishops suggests that they expect a showdown with the program’s critics in coming weeks. So Catholics who hope for a fundamental change in the CCHD approach might also be inclined contact their bishops this week, to express their own concerns before the Friday deadline for comments on the “Review and Renewal” document.
The CCHD was established by the US bishops in 1970 to attack the root causes of poverty in America. For years the program has been troubled by critics who have said the CCHD has become too closely aligned with radical activist groups. Last year that criticism reached a crescendo, as lay Catholic groups exposed CCHD funding for organizations that promote causes inimical to Catholic teaching, such as legal abortion and same-sex marriage. While the CCHD leadership said that such grants accounted for only a small percentage of the organization’s funding for self-help groups, several American bishops announced that they were withdrawing their dioceses from the nationwide campaign to support the CCHD.
The “Review and Renewal” document, which is currently available only to bishops and their staff members, is an effort to reassure the USSCB members that CCHD grants will go only to organizations whose purposes and activities are compatible with Catholic social teaching.
But critics of the current CCHD approach have called for more definitive reform of the organization’s activities. Rather than forming alliances with groups that promote radical social change, they say, the CCHD should recognize the underlying causes of poverty as seen through the eyes of Church social teaching: the breakdown of marriage and family life and the lack of access to quality education.