Sunday, November 9, 2008
Picking Pockets in the Pew: the CCHD Scandal
On November 23rd in Catholic churches around the country ushers will pass collection baskets for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Millions of trusting Catholics will contribute “to help the poor.” What many don’t know is that their hard-earned dollars will pour into the coffers of liberal organizations promoting causes they oppose and which often hurt the poor.
In 1969, the U.S. bishops established CCHD “to fund low-income controlled empowerment projects and to educate Catholics about the root causes of poverty.1 Since then the campaign has spent $300 million funding community and parish organizing. According to the grant application criteria on the CCHD website, groups offering direct services, e.g., soup kitchens, day care centers, homeless shelters, etc. are ineligible. So scrap the Missionaries of Charity, your local free clinic, or crisis pregnancy center; they are banned by definition. Not a single one appears on the 2007 summary of CCHD grantees.2 To be eligible, groups must organize the poor “to enact institutional change.” That means working for modification of existing laws and/or policies; and establishment of participatory and just social structures and/or redistribution of decision-making powers so that people living in poverty can be involved in policy-making that affects their lives.”3 (There is also an "economic development" category of funding for businesses run by and creating jobs for low-income people, but it's a small percentage of the pie – useful, however, for CCHD PR.)
The bottom line is CCHD primarily funds community organizers who go into neighborhoods and agitate for change using local people led by trained organizers, the real decision-makers. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on the change and the tactics used, but CCHD has a shaky history of funding groups that promote radical left socialism rather than Catholicism. CCHD policy is modeled more on the failed strategies of secular poverty programs than on Catholic social justice philosophy. (Continued...)