Will the Catholic Campaign for Human Development Keep Its Promises?

Deal W. Hudson
November 1, 2010

Last week, the USCCB issued its “Review and Renewal of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.” The document contains a series of recommendations to reform CCHD grant awards in response to alarming disclosures that financial support was going to groups that supported abortion and same-sex marriage.

Five groups were defunded, but dozens more have been designated as problematic by the Reform CCHD Now Coalition. Whether any of these groups have been funded for 2010 remains to be seen; publication of the list of this year’s grantees is now several months late.

Evidently, the 2010 CCHD grantees cannot be announced until the bishops approve the reform recommendations and the grantees’ sign contracts promising not to advocate positions at odds with the Catholic Church. The bishops will meet in Baltimore November 15-19 where they will decide whether the CCHD can keep its promises, as contained in the “Review and Renewal” document.

As I reported after the media call with Bishop Roger Morin, chair of the USCCB subcommittee on CCHD; John Carr, head of Justice, Peace, and Human Development at the USCCB; and Ralph McCloud, head of the CCHD, it appears that those in charge of the report have made a serious effort to respond to the critics.

Having read the document in full, I share some of the concerns of others who have reviewed it. The success of “Review and Renewal” will depend entirely on the success of enforcing its guidelines. The guidelines themselves, however, have not changed. CCHD should never have given grants to groups supporting abortion and same-sex marriage. If the research done by the Reform CCHD Now Coalition had never been done, the offending groups would presumably still be receiving Catholic support.

What the recommendations contain is an admission that CCHD has been too lax regarding the coalition relationships of the groups receiving grants:

CCHD will not fund groups that are members of coalitions which have, as part of their organizational purpose or coalition agenda, positions or actions that contradict fundamental Catholic moral and social teaching.

Perhaps this will put an end to the accusation that CCHD critics have used a “guilt by association” strategy to make false accusations about CCHD and some of its grantees. The CCHD can no longer ignore the networks connecting groups with other questionable community organizations and activism.

Bishop Morin and John Carr both elaborated on the problem of coalitions during the media call. Bishop Morin took a much more conciliatory tone than the one he used when the CCHD scandal broke last fall, when he said, “Personally I think [the claims] are totally ridiculous.” And Carr seemed to have put aside any concern that he was the object of a personal attack.

Thus, one thing is absolutely clear: Unless the leadership of CCHD has undergone a serious about-face on the problems plaguing the bishops’ “war on poverty,” then mistakes will continue.

The “Review and Renewal” document itself contains some troubling language suggesting that the CCHD leadership’s attitude toward its critics has not fundamentally changed:

From its first days, there have been some criticisms about CCHD’s goals, guidelines, and grantees. This criticism has become more visible with the wider use of internet communication and as polarization has increased in society and in the Church… CCHD deeply regrets that in this past year five groups (out of 270) violated CCHD requirements and lost all CCHD funding because they acted in conflict with Catholic teaching. We apologize for the violations of CCHD policies by these groups and for the damage and confusion they have caused.

This statement is notable for several reasons, most importantly the insistence that the problems at CCHD were not systemic but limited to five unfortunate cases. The research of the Reform CCHD Now Coalition has so far revealed potential problems with 67 of the 270 grantees (about 25 percent).

There is also the implication that loose cannons on the Internet were to blame for creating “polarization” in their reporting on CCHD. Rather than thanking the researchers whose hours of hard work ended the financial support of groups promoting abortion and same-sex marriage, the report implies both incompetence and darker motives.

Many Catholics worry that the reform proposals will change nothing; groups actively promoting an anti-Catholic agenda will continue to receive funding. They see the problems arising from the nature of the groups CCHD prefers to support.

CCHD’s mission is “to address the root causes of poverty in America through promotion and support of community-controlled, self-help organizations and through transformative education.” The CCHD Web site states that a preferred vehicle for accomplishing that mission is the funding of “community organizing groups.” Nothing in the “Review and Renewal” documents suggests that emphasis will change.

One bishop has already come to the conclusion that community-organizing groups are a too high risk to receive Catholic funding. Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph decided to exclude these groups from future funding:

Many organizing groups began to develop a partisan edge to their work. What is more, many organizing groups began to advocate for causes that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, most notably in the areas of abortion, same sex marriage, and health care reform.

Bishop Finn’s diocese will only provide grants to groups promoting economic development: “We have found that economic development is an effective tool in combating poverty and in developing authentic community throughout the diocese.”

When the bishops meet to consider the CCHD reforms in a few weeks, all will share a commitment to seek ways in which the Church can directly alleviate poverty. Many will wonder, however – as do many Catholics – whether the CCHD and its leadership have addressed the core, systemic reasons for the support of anti-Catholic groups.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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