The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) launched a program of “review and renewal” on October 26, acknowledging mistakes and pledging to uphold “Catholic principles” in all future decisions.
The chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' CCHD subcommittee, Bishop Roger Morin, spoke to reporters in an Oct. 26 conference call. He was joined by the bishops' Executive Director for Justice, Peace and Human Development John Carr, and by CCHD director Ralph McCloud. They explained steps being taken to uphold Catholic morality while fighting poverty.
Bishop Morin stressed the importance of the campaign, which he said complements other forms of poverty relief and Catholic action. But he acknowledged that some of its funding choices and associations were made in error, and had caused some Catholics --including some bishops-- to question its work.
Critics have highlighted the campaign's history with groups promoting abortion and homosexuality. The campaign's new guidelines give priority to funding Catholic groups, while screening other recipients more rigorously.
CNA asked John Carr how the new approach would apply to difficult situations, when a choice might arise between achieving important goals with questionable partners, or taking a stand on Catholic “first principles” at the expense of certain worthwhile goals.
“That's not a hard choice,” Carr answered. “If good work is being done, but it's being done by a group that acts in conflict with Catholic social and moral teaching, then they can't have CCHD money.” He promised “a whole new set of tools,” including a new grant process, “to make sure that doesn't happen.” Carr also mentioned an increased oversight role for moral theologians, and a review board for difficult cases.
“We have to be very direct,” Carr emphasized. “A group which may do nice work in housing, but advocates same-sex marriage or federal funding for abortion, is ineligible for CCHD funds-- and if they were to engage in that activity, they wouldn't get it, or would be cut off.”
Bishop Morin agreed, saying the campaign could not become an agent of cooperation with evil in order to accomplish some degree of good. “You're either in, with, and totally committed to what it is that the Church teaches and preaches socially and morally-- or you're not in, and you're not eligible for funding,” the prelate stated.
Deal Hudson of InsideCatholic.com, who has criticized some of CCHD's collaborations, asked about the “tricky issue of coalitions,” citing situations in which a grant from CCHD could go to a collection of groups, some of which may work against the Church, in areas separate from the coalition's aim.
“The coalitions are a complicated area,” Carr said, noting that moral theologians and the planned review board would be offering assistance. He said that while CCHD-supported groups were encouraged to develop such connections, they were “not permitted” to join coalitions working against Church teaching.
He clarified that Catholic groups could join in coalition with groups that happened to hold objectionable positions, provided that the coalition did not serve those ends in any way. But Carr also acknowledged that “the question of scandal” should prevent coalition-building with particularly notorious groups such as Planned Parenthood, even if the coalition's aim was not controversial.
All of the campaign's spokesmen expressed hope that the campaign's new priorities and procedures would improve its effectiveness as an instrument for Catholic evangelization, as well as poverty relief. “CCHD is important not just for what it does,” they reiterated in a document summarizing the changes, “but for how it demonstrates who we are and what we believe.”