By Barb Arland-Fye
Supporters of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) are urging support for the anti-poverty program in a letter addressed to the nation’s bishops, who meet Nov. 11-14 in Baltimore. Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a retired priest of the Diocese of Davenport who once served as the anti-poverty program’s national director, is among dozens of clergy and lay leaders who have signed the letter.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) affirms the work of CCHD as the bishops’ official anti-poverty agency. But, according to the letter, well-funded groups relentlessly attack CCHD and pressure U.S. bishops to withdraw from effective coalitions. The attacks accelerate around the time of the annual CCHD collection in parishes across the nation (Nov. 23-24 this year). Msgr. Mottet said he has heard that six bishops no longer hold annual collections for CCHD. The longtime social justice activist and others who signed the letter ask the U.S. bishops to resist the pressure, and to re-double commitment to social justice ministries that lift people out of poverty.
“CCHD is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in the country and has a proud history of supporting community organizing to empower low-income citizens,” the letter states.
“Serving the common good sometimes requires Catholic-funded organizations to work with others who are not in agreement with Church teaching on every issue,” the letter writers suggest to the bishops. “In fact, CCHD advances the Church’s mission to defend human dignity precisely by building diverse coalitions that have led to living wages for workers, quality health care, better schools and stronger communities.”
CCHD, however, has a strict policy of excluding funding from organizations which are not in agreement with Church teaching, said Loxi Hopkins, the Davenport Diocese’s CCHD director.
Msgr. Mottet says some opponents of CCHD simply “do not think that poor people should organize. Doctors, lawyers and bankers can organize, but not poor people. If organizing is so bad, why does the Tea Party do it? Why does Karl Rove do it? Why do the rich and powerful organize? Some of the same people don’t want poor people to vote. Can you imagine Jesus ever saying anything like that? … Was Moses wrong in organizing the Jewish people to get out of Egypt? After all, God called him to do that. Moses is considered the father of organizing and he risked his life to do it.”
The Catholic identity of CCHD can be affirmed without backing away from essential partnerships, the letter continues. “Critics of CCHD misuse the Catholic principle of moral cooperation by distorting it into a blanket rejection of working for the common good with those with whom we disagree on other issues. In contrast, Pope Francis challenges us to the difficult fidelity that does not seek the purity of isolation, but risks working in the world — ‘in the streets’ — to advance the Gospel.”
“The U.S. bishops have already come out with statements refuting accusations that have been brought against CCHD,” said Kent Ferris, director of Social Action and of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Davenport. He referred to statements on the USCCB web site, including this paragraph:
“Despite significant progress, some things don’t change. The American Life League continues to attack CCHD and the USCCB. ALL continues to recycle allegations that CCHD funds many organizations that are in conflict with Catholic teaching. They simply do not agree with CCHD’s mission and how we apply our guidelines and requirements,” note Bishop Stephen Blaire, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Jaime Soto, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on CCHD (www.usccb.org).
The Davenport Diocese has two recipients of local and national CCHD funds: Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI), a coalition of congregations and community groups working to build local leadership and address issues in the Iowa and Illinois Quad-Cities; and the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ), a membership-based organization that unites low-wage workers across race, ethnicity and immigration status to pursue social and economic justice.
“Local and national grant recipients from the diocese are reviewed thoroughly by the CCHD grant committee and, in turn, by Bishop Martin Amos,” Ferris said. “The funded organizations have to adhere to Church teaching.”
Hopkins believes that opponents of the anti-poverty program would feel differently if they “sit down with members of organizations funded by CCHD and hear stories of faith put into action. These people are truly doing the work of the Church. Unfortunately there have been groups that have betrayed their promise to CCHD. They have been defunded. Groups must sign an agreement to follow Catholic Social Teaching.”
In their letter to the bishops, Catholics and other supporters of CCHD concluded: “May we all be guided by the Holy Spirit, and in the words of Pope Francis let us have the courage to ‘take to the streets’ and become a ‘poor church for the poor.’”
Diocese offers video spotlighting work of CCHD
A new video highlights the work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in the Diocese of Davenport and across the nation. You can view it on the diocesan website at www.davenportdiocese.org and The Catholic Messenger website at www.catholicmessenger.net.
Bishop Roger Morin, chairman of the CCHD Subcommittee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, observes that “CCHD is the Gospel at work and Catholic Social Teaching in action.”
Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action and of Catholic Charities, notes “There is a real need to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit those in jail, and we do so in a spirit of Gospel charity. But it alone is incomplete. Responding to immediate need and addressing systemic injustice and empowering the marginalized are equally important goals. By walking with both feet of social justice, we express our full love of God and our love of neighbor as ourselves.
“What we hoped to do by producing a local CCHD video is to spotlight the work of our grant recipients so that local parishes could see that they didn’t have to create justice steps, but could work with or follow the lead of groups already undertaking such efforts. The beauty of groups such as Quad Cities Interfaith and the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa is that we not only have the means of walking with both feet, but even running, or dare I say, dancing towards justice for all.”
The annual CCHD collection will be held the weekend of Nov. 23-24 in parishes throughout the Diocese of Davenport. Funding for the anti-poverty campaign comes almost entirely through the annual collection; 75 percent of the collection goes to the CCHD national office to invest in anti-poverty projects across the nation while 25 percent remains in the diocese for local initiatives.