Center for Ethics and Leadership

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Left/Right Divide over Catholic Bishops' Campaign


The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), celebrating its fortieth year, is once again under attack from the Catholic right. It is an old story. Twenty years ago, William Simon called CCHD "a funding mechanism for radical left political activism in the United States, rather than for traditional types of Catholic charities" (as quoted in F. Kammer, Doing Faithjustice [Paulist Press, 1991]). Twenty years later, a group called Reform CCHD Now (RCN) has again asked the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to closely review the grant awarding activities of CCHD.

To be sure, there have been concerns, most notably with CCHD's funding groups who do not agree with Catholic public policies or have been guilty of corruption themselves. The USCCB has been addressing those problems.

That said, Bishop Roger Morin, chair of the USCCB's subcommittee on CCHD called the allegations outrageous and untruthful. In addition, he said at the November meeting of the USCCB that some of these attacks were motivated by ideological or political agendas. In fact, RCN's web page on CCHD seems as angry over its alleged "radical politics" as its violation of Catholic doctrine. RCN of course called for a lay boycott of the CCHD collection taken last Sunday in most dioceses. Eighteen years ago in Doing Faithjustice, Fr. Fred Kammer pointed out that the attacks on CCHD represented the rejection of wealthy and powerful Catholics of the Church's attempt to side with the poor "by threatening cutbacks on financial support. That would be a traditional exercise of economic and political power."

The American Catholic (Politics and Culture from a Catholic Perspective) took matters a step further. Using a headline to call Bishop Morin a liar, it closed its article with a quote attributed to both Athanasius and John Chrysostom, "The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops." Both were very powerful bishops in the fourth and fifth centuries, by the way, and both are much revered saints.

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