--- Andrew P. Porter
2012 September 21
A few months ago, my parish hosted the CEO of Catholic Charities of the East Bay (CCEB). We knew there were problems with Catholic Charities and with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, but with no sense that we were well-informed, we postponed discussing the criticisms. In the time since, inquiries have turned up a little more information, of which more below.
The shape of the story is not complicated, though the details probably are. The Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Charities were indeed giving money to groups opposed to Catholic moral teaching. The bishops appear to have reformed both organizations, though there are grounds for caution. I would like to thank the bishops, especially our own, Salvatore Cordileone, and offer some encouragement and appreciation. My general conclusion can be stated at the outset:
Catholic Charities has come far, but I think it still has a long way to go.For that reason my encouragement is only cautiously optimistic.
Catholic Charities does much good work, and I here record my appreciation. The problems are a past history of involvement with projects supporting contraceptives, abortion, gay marriage, etc.
The focus of the problem is Catholic Charities' past and present support for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which has a long history of support for groups promoting abortion, contraceptives, the gay agenda, etc. Catholic Charities hosts the local offices of the Campaign for Human Development at its Jefferson Street address in Oakland.
What follows may still be incomplete, but for what it's worth, here are some links that mark the course of the controversy about the Campaign for Human Development in the national church.
The Catholic Bishops have responded to the critics, claiming to have reformed the Campaign for Human development and now to defend it: This web-site has many links to further USCCB documents, of which this one seems to be the main USCCB report on the Campaign for Human Development: The critics of the Campaign for Human Development, alas, were not impressed, much less convinced. Catholic Media Coalition has many links. The USCCB has responded again. Here is the Catholic Media Coalition's response to the bishops' response. This is merely what I am aware of; there may be more to the story.The Catholic Bishops say that the Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Charities have been reformed, and they continue to endorse both organizations. In the Diocese of Oakland, Catholic Charities of the East Bay is run by a board of directors wholly appointed by the Bishop of Oakland. Hence the new name, Catholic Charities of the East Bay.
Catholic Charities maintains close ties with its state and national counterparts.
Here is Catholic Charities of the East Bay's
public commitment of support
to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Catholic Charities hosts the local Campaign for Human Development
the executive leadership is in part shared.
The Critics' Prognosis
A pessimistic prognosis would be that Catholic Charities and the local Catholic Campaign for Human Development will hunker down and lay low until the storm of criticism has passed and the critics have gotten bored or moved on to other things. Then Catholic Charities and the Campaign for Human Development will resume collaboration with other "progressive" organizations, being a little bit careful to keep promotion of the sexual revolution in the other organizations, without implicating Catholic Charities or the Campaign for Human Development.
There are grounds for such a disappointing prognosis, in recent events with Catholic Charities and the Campaign for Human Development nationwide. Rey Flores, a past director of the Campaign for Human Development in Chicago, tells the story in Crisis magazine: A blog post from late 2011 not only doesn't see much progress, but says things are getting worse: The same blog reports in an August, 2012 post that in Boston, the Campaign for Human Development tried to give money to a gay group that refused the money because they disagreed with Catholic moral teaching: ``CCHD to gay activist group --- You WILL take our money!''
Ah, yes, another week, another Catholic charities scandal. In this case, a Boston area gay advocacy group decided that they couldn't accept money from the Church in good conscience, since their activities would tend to run counter to what the Church believes. They decided to return the $40,000 grant given them by the Campaign for Human Development. CCHD says, hey, not so fast! All this ``doctrine'' stuff is flexible!
Stephanie Block, blogger for Spero News, has provided many articles on the moral compromises of Catholic charitable organizations, and here gives a profile of CCHD's origins and habits:
This does not make for a very encouraging prognosis. To do better, Catholic Charities will have to take an informed and wise account of the culture in which it moves and acts. Catholic Charities and its subsidiary the Campaign for Human Development face daunting moral challenges. I wish them every blessing, especially inasmuch as some on the Board of Catholic Charities are neighbors in my own parish.
The Moral Neighborhood
Let us see what some of the challenges are that face any kind of charity operation that wants to be truly Catholic. There is a culture of community organizing groups, most of them inspired by Saul Alinsky, many of them present in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. They have national affiliations, too. There are too many small organizations to name, but some can be found on the 2011 Campaign for Human Development grantees list. There are a few larger umbrella organizations:
GenesisThey are all community organizing outfits, and they can be mobilized quickly to pressure politicians, neither of which by itself is reprehensible. When it is noted that they are Alinskyian community organizing outfits, and that the politics claim to be nonpartisan but effectively support partisan stands and move in a crowd that supports contraceptives, abortion, etc., then problems arise. Catholic laypeople are quite capable of supporting political organizations on their own, without going through the Church; and in any case, they (i. e., we) should not be supporting groups opposed to Catholic moral teaching.
People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO)
Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF)
Faith in Public Life
Berkeley Organizing Committee for Action (BOCA), an affiliate of PICO
GENESIS, founded in 2007, is a regional, faith and value based community organization in the Bay area affiliated with the Gamaliel Foundation, an international network of faith and value based organizations. Members represent religious congregations, associations, union locals, and other community organizations.Among Genesis's member organizations:
Corpus Christi Catholic (Fr. Leo Edgerly)
First Congregational Church of Oakland
St. Augustine's Episcopal (Fr. Monrelle Williams)
St. John's Episcopal (Rev. Scott Denman)
St. Theresa's Catholic Church (Fr. Patrick Goodwin)
PICO had its birth in Alinskyian organizing, as the Wiki articles on both Saul Alinsky and PICO itself attest. PICO speaks of promoting ``access to healthcare.'' In this moral climate, that has to include access to contraceptives and abortion. See especially this.
JustFaith is extensively supported in and by the Diocese, with 30-week JustFaith training programs in several parishes. Many activities come together here, including the Diocesan Respect Life ministry, so it's not all bad. But JustFaith does have a leftist political flavor.
The Industrial Areas Foundation may be the original Alinskyian organization.
Faith in Public Life is ``a sort of clearing house for the Alinskyian organizations.'' as Stephanie Block notes. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is part of Faith in Public Life. I don't know whether any of the Northern California dioceses are also.
JustFaith is a program that trains people in community organizing of a leftist nature. Its connection to Christian faith has the flavor of Liberation Theology. Here is the start of a series of web-posts by Stephanie Block on JustFaith, yet another incarnation of Liberation Theology:
One can multiply examples easily. Catholic Relief Services has been implicated in giving money to CARE, an overseas relief organization that is funding contraceptives.
When Fr. John Direen, the new pastor of St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley, denied BOCA access to the parish conference room, and Bishop Cordileone came for confirmation, demonstrators protested the bishop. Kudos to the bishop! But the problem of Catholic support for organizations opposed to Catholic moral teaching remains, even in the Diocese of Oakland.
The Background in Liberation Theology
There is a pattern to the groups noted above and their entire culture. They are Alinskyian in methods and socialist in character. It is not entirely a coincidence that opposition to Catholic moral teaching travels with socialism. Here, that means contraceptives, abortion, gay marriage, etc., all in opposition to Catholic social ethics of sex.
If I may simplify complex issues, modern socialism has two roots of interest (among possibly many others). One is in the Bible, one is in Marxism. The biblical root is a command to give to the poor. Karl Marx is another matter. Marxism sometimes describes itself as ``historical materialism,'' meaning a basic life orientation that is historical but is also materalistic. ``Materialistic'' here means denial of transcendence in any form. It was a time when the modern form of transcendence, i. e., the modern supernatural, lost credibility for many in the nineteenth century. The problem was that few were able to muster a credible replacement for the modern supernatural. When transcendence was reduced to the supernatural, and the supernatural lost credibility, transcendence itself also lost credibility. What resulted was a naturalistic world-view, with no interest in anything ultimately good beyond nature.
With loss of transcendence comes loss of hope. In effect, Marxism was a disingenuous attempt to practice the virtue of love without the virtue of hope. The results are well known, and have been disastrous at all scales of human and social life.
The 1984 CDF ``Instruction on Certain Aspects of the `Theology of Liberation','' if I read it accurately, takes approximately the same view, with much more detail. Alinskyian community organizing groups have brought Liberation Theology to North America.
Why are Life Issues so Important?
Catholics resist abortion, contraceptives, and gay marriage on instinct, but perhaps it might help to remember some of the reasons why we do so. There are two kinds of reasons. Some are general and arguable wherever Constitutional liberties are to be preserved or the public welfare provided for. Here fall the objections to abortion on grounds that it takes innocent lives, and some objections to contraceptives and gay marriage, as we shall see. Other reasons are based in Catholic faith: it is said that grace builds on nature, and likewise Catholic social ethics builds on the broader structures of a just civilized society. Here fall reasons why the Catholic faith can never make peace with abortion etc. and still remain Catholic.
The greatest weakness of the arguments against abortion is also their greatest strength: they are very simple. It is wrong to kill innocent human beings. But since the innocent victims have no voice, they can be ignored. There is a vast literature of controversy trying to fudge the issue, but for present purposes, I take it as resolved in favor of the pro-life position.
For the Church, there is more at stake in abortion than taking innocent lives. The Church, as part of biblical religion and its affirmation of the goodness of creation, is committed to affirming the goodness of all human life. It is inconsistent to claim that one affirms the goodness of all human life and at the same time say that some human lives are not good enough, and may be prevented or terminated. The Church fatally compromises its commitment to the doctrine of creation if it colludes with abortion.
Contraceptives are more subtle. They are so widely claimed as a basic right that Monty Python could lampoon that claim in a preposterous skit early in The Meaning of Life. What is not widely noticed in debates about contraceptives is the damage they do. Contraceptives work to define pregnancy as a woman's problem, thereby allowing rampant males to get away with anything and then skip town when it comes time to take responsibility for their sexual activities. Contraceptives are a technology of irresponsibility and disrespect. This can be argued forthrightly in the public square: they do a great deal of damage, and public policy is entitled to respond to that damage.
In a marriage service, the congregation is asked whether they will support the vows of the spouses. Marriage is a corporate institution, it is not just something that two people do independently and apart from the life of the larger society. If it were an individual thing, those opposed to gay ``marriage'' would not care much about it. But its corporate nature is the reason why legalizing it arouses so much opposition. I have a stake in other people's marriages simply because I am part of the congregation that supports them. From all that I can see, it's not easy to get married, and it's even harder to stay married. It's quite a challenge, it needs all the social support it can get, and it is fundamentally about two people of different sex.
Among the Causes of Poverty
As noted above, contraceptives are a technology of disrespect and irresponsibility. They corrupt and corrode every human relationship they touch. Sooner or later, directly or indirectly, they touch every human relationship, because they redefine what it is to be a sexual being. By breaking down the family structures that safeguard, protect, and nurture people, they are a contributing cause of poverty. Some causes of poverty are perennial, but in our time and culture, we suffer additional causes. Contraceptives, abortion and all the other assaults on family life are our own special pathology. In other words, one of the best remedies and preventive measures against poverty is simply Catholic moral teaching, or traditional values of marriage and family life. Any anti-poverty program that ignores the central contemporary cause of poverty, namely contraceptives, is not realistic.
Catholic Charities Has a Name Problem
Virtually all of the examples of mischief come from the Campaign for Human Development outside of the Diocese of Oakland, and so Catholic Charities and the local Campaign for Human Development could with apparent reason complain that they are being indicted in a form of guilt by association. Yes and no. The local Catholic Charities and Campaign for Human Development do have connections to each other and to their national counterparts, and they are part of a culture of organized Catholic almsgiving as it stands today.
If the Oakland diocesan almsgiving agency is really serious about avoiding guilt by association, it could change its name to something that does not have the phrase ``Catholic Charities'' in it, and has no connection to the Campaign for Human Development. For the purposes of this report, let us fancifully call it just the Diocesan Almsgiving Organization. The name is impossible, which leaves plenty of room for something better.
The problem of names is symptomatic of something larger. Catholic layfolk are asked to give to one of these outfits, and assured that the abuses are all outside of the Diocese of Oakland, but the local organizations share names with and talk to the national organizations. It is a little like being offered a plate of food, with spinach, meat, gravy, potatoes, and salad on it. The spinach has salmonella in it, so you shouldn't eat it, but the other foods are ``quite safe.'' Would you eat any of it? I wouldn't.
Put it another way: Even if some of the particulars cited above are erroneous, they aren't all wrong. Checking out the allegations is a time-consuming effort, and can involve inquiries beyond what's available on the Net. There is no Snopes to do it for you. If it costs this much effort in research to support diocesan almsgiving organizations safely, I can give money to local groups in Livermore that are not just free of problems, but free of allegations of problems.
There needs to be a clean and radical separation between the diocesan almsgiving organizations on one side and Catholic Charities and the Campaign for Human Development on the other. But the separation should go much deeper than just names.
What is presently Catholic Charities of the East Bay needs to reinvent itself as first a pro-life organization that also and in a supporting capacity is engaged in almsgiving.
One of the primary ways to address the causes of poverty today would be to work against contraceptives and work to return fathers to the homes of their women and children. In short, Catholic moral teaching is one of the best measures against poverty imaginable, and it should be promoted in preaching, in almsgiving, and in community organizing. It used to be just values taken for granted, today sometimes known polemically as ``traditional'' values.
Others have come to similar conclusions about Catholic Charities and the Campaign for Human Development. Tantamergo writes,
I believe the only way to ``reform'' Campaign for Human Development is to terminate its present goal of ``empowering the poor through community organizing.'' There are many ways to help the poor be empowered --- I don't believe left wing political organizing is the way the Church should aid the poor. I recommend that no one give to the Campaign for Human Development collection frequently taken around Thanksgiving.I am not endorsing all of Tantamergo's opinions, but his take on the Campaign for Human Development strikes me as shrewd.
These pathologies are well known. In an example that just came with random mail the other day, Russell Nieli notes that growing up in a two-parent intact biological family is one of the best predictors of academic and later economic success. Murray and Nieli stay away from policy recommendations for the most part, but Nieli allows himself some rather pregnant observations.
[T]he new upper class, [inter alia, a product of intact families] Murray charges, has lost confidence in itself as an educating and civilizing force because of its adoption of relativism.Relativism is only one problem; loss of transcendence strikes me as more damaging. Murray says little about religion, but apparently still can see ``how important religious revivals have been throughout American history in counteracting drunkenness, debauchery, lawlessness, family disintegration, and other antisocial developments.''
Loss of transcendence means loss of hope, resulting in nihilism and relativism. The traditional sexual morality is one of the things that follow from hope; and loss of hope generally means that nothing matters and anything goes. Scarcely a basis for the hard work and delayed gratification that are among the principal ways out of poverty.
Catholic Charities could protest that it does a lot of good work. And indeed it does.
But is almsgiving a necessary (and temporary) bandaid needed on the way out of poverty, or is it a way to pamper dysfunction without challenging the sources of dysfunction? It does not yet appear to be fostering the right kind of ``community organizing,'' organizing that would cultivate the traditional values of hope, discipline, and continence that are the real road out of poverty.
Hope, alas, means religion.  One does not have to be Catholic to be Christian, and I could cite Protestant ecclesial communities that do a far better job than we do in meeting the causes of poverty. But some kind of candor in religion really wouold help in dealing with the dysfunctional culture of the East Bay. It would be much better if our allies were Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants than Alinskyian socialist groups that are not friendly to the Catholic Church except when they can get a handout (and sometimes not even then, as we are seeing with the current attempts to force the Catholic Church to promote contraceptives and abortion etc.).
Working only from resources on the Internet, there does not appear to be evidence of gross wrongdoing at either Catholic Charities of the East Bay or the local Campaign for Human Development, although they both participate in the same old culture of political community organizing that slides into opposition to Catholic moral teaching. There is plenty of evidence that both organizations in the Diocese of Oakland get along cordially with a secularist culture of community organizing that a Catholic would do well to be very cautious about. Beyond that, serious problems remain at the national level. Catholic Charities of the East Bay and the local Campaign for Human Development are not just local organizations; they have ties to their state-level and national counterparts. They are part of the same network that is still engaged in mischief in other states.
In effect, Catholic Charities and the Campaign for Human Development fit into H. Richard Niebuhr's typology in Christ and Culture under the heading ``Christ of Culture'': they are very accomodating to secular culture. I think both are too accomodative to anti-Catholic aspects of contemporary culture. The opposite pole of Niebuhr's typology, Christ against Culture, is something few are called to and the Church probably should not adopt unless it has no other alternative. But that does sometimes happen.
Catholic Charities has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go, and I have not seen any evidence of the necessary theological vision in Catholic Charities' managment. The current flavor of Catholic Charities and the Campaign for Human Development is Alinskyian socialist community organizing, but social justice ``without contraceptives and abortion etc.'' Those, of course, are left to other Alinskyian groups. Stephanie Block is the best resource in criticism:
CCHD has chosen to hand over the discernment of what and how it will do "social justice" to people with very superficial understanding of Catholic teaching (except in so far as is makes good propaganda for their purposes). A significant proportion of its grants goes --- and has always gone --- into funding and promoting Alinskyian organizing. This is accomplished via the several major national networks of PICO, the Industrial Areas Foundation, Gamaliel, DART, as well as a number of smaller, regional groups. The local affiliates of these networks receive millions of CCHD dollars each year as they have since CCHD was founded in 1969/70.My reluctance to give, vote for, or recommend unrestricted funds for Catholic Charities arises from three considerations.
(1) It would be nice to see a clean separation between the local almsgiving office and the wider Catholic Charities and Campaign for Human Development. The national organizations will be reformed only slowly. The Diocese of Oakland needs to move rapidly.
(2) More pastoral and theological vision would help. At a minimum, that means avoiding the problems of Liberation Theology.
(3) Matthew 5.11 has it that the secular culture will ``speak all kinds of calumny about you on my [Jesus's] account.'' I don't hear that about Catholic Charities; not yet.
Bishop Cordileone has succeeded in making himself obnoxious to the anti-Catholic Left. Catholic Charities has not. One way to do that is to make Catholic moral teaching (one of the best remedies for poverty) conspicuous and central in the Diocese's almsgiving efforts.
 An officer of CCEB was quoted to me as saying, ``The relationship between CCEB and CCHD at the local level is pretty tight.''
 Diocese of Oakland web-site commitment to ``economic justice.'' This web-site also names other leftist groups in Berkeley and Oakland. This is inevitable, given the politics of the area, but how does one distinguish between leftists who are prolife (assuming there are any) and those who are not? When the pro-life leftists associate with those who support abortion etc.?
 In its attention to history, Marxism could appear to agree with the Bible, but its understanding of history is not really the same.
 I am not saying that contraceptives should be criminalized or prohibited by law. That would be a further argument, and one my Libertarian instincts would be skeptical of. It would be reasonable to treat contraceptives like smoking: legal, but deprecated in policy and rhetoric.
 Russell K. Nieli, ``Preach what you practice: Charles Murray on our new class divide,'' NAS Academic Questions 25 (2012/summer) 286--296, a review of Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. New York: Crown Forum, 2012.
 Nieli, pp. 294, 295.
 Hope is impossible without some kind of transcendence, but there are many ways to understand transcendence. Josef Pieper, in On Hope (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), was conspicuously cautious about saying what transcendence is. Transcendence by means of the modern supernatural works quite well for some people, and they are often the Church's most loyal and faithful supporters. It does not work at all well for many others in modern culture. There are other ways to understand transcendence than as the modern supernatural, and they draw on philosophical resources from the twentieth century. But they put the believer in the awkward position of Moses at the Burning Bush, who asked God His name, and was told not to worry about that: ``I will be with you as who I am shall I will be with you.'' I. e., put one foot in front of the other and get moving. (Exodus 3:14 in John Courtney Murray's words, The Problem of God (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964), p. 9.
 H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper Brothers, 1951). The Wiki article on H. Richard Niebuhr does not offer as much detail as one might wish. Interestingly, it does single out Christ and Culture, but neglects his other major works. Summaries of Christ and Culture can be found on the Web here and here.
 One root of Liberation Theology is sometimes diagnosed as a failure of ``transcendence.'' That's a fifty-dollar word, and one only about five hundred years old. Put it negatively instead of positively: A robust sense of transcendence means remembering that both almsgiving and poverty have a context that is much larger than either, and some of that context we cannot see. Handling the problem requires a sense of transcendence that is both responsible to tradition and intelligible in contemporary terms. John Courtney Murray's The Problem of God is a good start, and in the end he deals with several modern ways to deny transcendence. The problem in our time has changed since its patristic, medieval and modern form, and has returned to a biblical form in which transcendence is more mystery than puzzle.