The Catholic Campaign’s New Problem with Coalitions

Deal W. Hudson
November 9, 2010

When the USCCB issued its document a few weeks ago announcing the “Review and Renewal of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development,” I wondered aloud if the CCHD would be able to keep its promises.

As it turns out, one of the promises was broken the moment the document was published. “Review and Renewal” specifically praises and promotes the work of a grant recipient – The Coalition of Immokalee Workers – that is in violation of one of the “ethical guidelines for CCHD”:

CCHD funds cannot go to groups that knowingly participate in coalitions that have as part of their organizational purpose or coalition agenda, positions or actions that contradict fundamental Catholic moral and social teaching.

According to research published last week by Reform CCHD Now, the Coalition for Immokalee Workers belongs not just to one, but to several coalitions that support abortion rights and other positions at odds with the Catholic Church.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), located near Naples, Florida, is a workers’-rights organization that fights on behalf of low-wage immigrant labor for fair wages and better housing as well as against human trafficking.

However, the coalition’s work on behalf of migrant workers had led the coalition to align themselves formally with the U.S. Human Rights Network and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative.

These two groups have “agenda[s], positions, or actions that contradict Catholic moral and social teachings,” thus disqualifying CIW from receiving a CCHD grant.

The Website of the U.S. Human Rights Network contains a number of pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality links (a full list is available at Reform CCHD Now.) This document specifically promotes abortion rights for Latina women.

The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative published this document titled “Examining New Frameworks: The Right to Reproductive Health.”

A question had already been raised about CIW when I noted their participation in June’s U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. While a presence at this conference was not in itself in violation of CCHD ethical guidelines, it should have been a red flag to the CCHD, as it was for Reform CCHD researchers, who did a little more research on CIW and discovered its membership in the two pro-abortion, pro-homosexual organizations.

This information was not that hard to find, according to the researchers. All it required was an Internet search of CIW, determining its membership in various coalitions, and reading the materials provided at the Web sites of those coalitions.

Either this level of vetting is not presently being done by CCHD, or its own ethical guidelines regarding offending coalitions has yet to be enforced. Clearly, the CCHD did not properly vet the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, or it would not have been singled out for praise in the “Renewal and Revision” document.

The document contained several references to “moral theologians” who have been contacted to advise the CCHD on the problems of coalitions. Is this really necessary? Shouldn’t Catholic common sense be our guide? Or is the CCHD attempting to articulate a “remote cooperation” argument that allows grant recipients to remain coalition partners of some indeterminate kind?

The 2010 list of CCHD grantees have yet to be published, but the CCHD is going ahead with its annual November collection in a few weeks. What’s the rush? Wouldn’t it be preferable if the bishops postponed the collection until vetting mistakes like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers were eliminated? To delay the collection would signal that the USCCB is determined to fulfill the promises made in its “Renewal and Revision” document.

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