Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay has announced the end of a moratorium on local collections for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development because of policy changes aimed at preventing grants to groups whose actions contradict Catholic teaching.
“I am confident that we have the necessary checks in place that will help us to be better informed and assist us in discerning grant requests properly,” Bishop Ricken said in his seven-page Feb. 16 pastoral statement.
The bishop noted “significant disagreement” about some of the campaign's grants. Though the campaign has done “much good,” a few organizations that received its funds acted in conflict with Catholic teaching or had direct connections to coalitions which acted in contradiction to Catholic principles of social justice.
There was also concern about the “appearance of partisan political positions” some of these organizations had taken and whether this reflected poorly upon the adherence of a parish or diocese to the U.S. bishops’ guidelines for political involvement.
Bishop Ricken had ordered a moratorium on the collection in his diocese pending further review by the U.S. bishops’ conference. Five of the campaign’s 270 grants made in 2010 were defunded once the U.S. Bishops’ Conference became aware of the grantees’ conflicts with Catholic teaching.
The new application process for grants will give “increased consideration” to Catholic social justice organizations. The applications will first be considered at the local diocesan level and will continue to require the local bishop’s permission before they advance to the national level of the bishops’ conference.
Addressing parish involvement with local non-Catholic social justice groups, Bishop Ricken also said parishes should cease their membership in the community organizing groups JOSHUA and ESTHER. ESTHER has worked for Latino rights while JOSHUA has worked to address homelessness and drug abuse.
Although he praised their “truly commendable” works, Bishop Ricken cited concerns about the “lack of oversight” of non-Catholic groups whose positions may be inconsistent with Catholic teaching.
Both groups are connected to a state-level organization called WISDOM and a national organization called the Gamaliel Foundation. ESTHER became the subject of local controversy when an announcement from a pro-abortion coalition appeared on its webpage. The local, state and national organizations immediately severed their connection to this coalition.
The bishop said he is not forbidding individual parishioners from being members of the organization and he is not barring parish groups from working with them on “specific projects consistent with Catholic Social Teaching.”
His action has prompted a review of all diocesan and parish relationships with other organizations. He advised the pursuit of project partnerships with other organizations rather than memberships.
Bishop Ricken’s letter also announced the creation of a commission to lead the diocese in the teaching and implementation of Catholic social teaching.
He stressed the “genuine need” to understand the social doctrine of the Church.
“The Catholic Church has one of the largest bodies of teaching on charity and social justice of any organization in the world,” the bishop explained. “Much of this teaching is largely unknown by many Catholics and the teaching is also often misunderstood or misconstrued and interpreted in a way that was not intended.”
Those who do acts of charity, he explained, need to consider how they can be part of the solution to injustice on a “systemic level.” Acts of justice which are not rooted in charity, he cautioned, can “easily become politicized and lose the connection to the Gospel mandate of charity.”
The new Commission on Living Justice will help the diocese and its individual parishes “live out the gospel message of justice and charity” as outlined in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Bishop Ricken hoped that the commission will be established by early fall 2011.
The Diocese of Green Bay’s next collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development will take place on April 2.