CCHD: Charges of Non-Compliance Are Unfounded

by Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Officials with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development rebutted a report that 55 agencies funded by the U.S. bishops’ anti-poverty program in 2010-11 were in conflict with Church teaching.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif.; Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif.; and Ralph McCloud, CCHD executive director, said the charges leveled in an American Life League study against all but one of the agencies were unfounded.

McCloud said that funding was withdrawn from one organization cited in the report. That case involved the immigrant rights group Centro Campesino in Owatonna, Minn., which was found to be distributing condoms. McCloud acknowledged the league’s role in pointing out the organization’s practice.

McCloud also said the 54 remaining agencies were found in compliance after a follow-up investigation by CCHD staff that involved contacting each named group.

The 212-page report – completed in March but not made public until October when it was posted on the American Life League’s website, according to its primary researcher – accused the grassroots organizations of promoting abortion, homosexuality and Marxist ideology contrary to Church doctrine.

Michael Hitchborn, director of the league’s Defend the Faith project and the report’s author, said his research showed that the organizations violated Church doctrine either through specific activities or through coalitions addressing a broad array of social concerns.

The agencies in question received nearly $1.9 million in 2010-11, according to CCHD records. Overall, CCHD funded 229 organizations with national grants from a collection that netted about $9.5 million for both national and local diocesan distribution during the period.

The report is the latest salvo from the American Life League and a small group of vocal critics, which, since 2008, have questioned the thoroughness of CCHD’s process for vetting grant applications from poverty-fighting agencies. It was released just weeks before the annual CCHD collection in parishes, which is set for the weekend of Nov. 19-20.

The persistent questions were among the factors that led CCHD to revise its review process in October 2010 in an effort to renew the grant-making program. Capuchin Father Daniel Mindling, a moral theologian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., also joined the program as a consultant on moral and ethical issues.

McCloud referred to a Sept. 28 memorandum from Bishop Soto, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and Bishop Blaire, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, to their fellow bishops that outlined the concerns they had with the report.

The bishops said the American Life League’s charges “are without substance.”

“CCHD staff has met repeatedly with representatives of the American Life League to explain CCHD’s mission, requirements and processes,” the memo said. “They (league officials) simply do not agree with CCHD’s mission and how we apply our guidelines and requirements.”