The Bishops, the Poor, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development

We need a public conversation among the bishops about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and whether it is a good use of money in service to the poor.

In 1969, the United States bishops created the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Its mission is to fund programs that address “systems and structures” of injustice and poverty in America. Unfortunately, over the years many CCHD programs have not upheld basic principles of Catholic social teaching. The CCHD has also used its money to fund left-wing political groups and support community organizing programs.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently met for a general assembly, where they held a closed-door, confidential discussion about the future of the CCHD. This was prompted largely by the CCHD’s desperate financial situation: It ran a deficit of $5.7 million dollars in 2022. The 2023 numbers are not available. The bishops also wanted to assess whether CCHD is effective—that is, a good use of the generosity of the faithful, who fund the organization. Is CCHD money serving the poor while upholding Church teaching? And is it serving the poor effectively?

Care for the poor is a moral obligation for Catholics. This is not open to debate. As Archbishop Chaput once said, “If we ignore the poor, we will go to hell.” Yet how we most effectively care for the poor is open to debate, and it is fitting that the bishops of the United States periodically examine whether a particular use of limited resources is the best or even an adequate approach—especially since CCHD’s resources come from the faithful in the pews.

After the assembly, detailed information on the bishops’ private discussions about CCHD was leaked to the National Catholic Reporter, which ran a piece criticizing the bishops’ discussion and suggesting that to question CCHD is to be against the poor. This is not a serious critique. Those who genuinely want to support the poor should have no problem with a rigorous discussion about the merits of CCHD and the work it supports. Stated intentions to serve the poor do not on their own feed, house, evangelize, or otherwise serve the poor.

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