U.S. Catholic Funders: Resist Calls to Abandon Social Justice

In the last few years community organizers have learned it’s in their self-interest to become astute Vatican watchers. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) which is run by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has long been one of the most consistent and generous supporters of community organizing in the U.S.  And since the election of Pope Francis, eradicating poverty is suddenly center stage.

Unfortunately, for the last several years, small but well-funded groups like Reform CCHD Now have targeted this venerable organization. Reform CCHD Now wants to stop support for social justice groups like Building One New Jersey, which trains grassroots leaders to create walkable, livable, and vibrant communities.

But this week a group of more than 50 pre-eminent Catholic leaders, including retired Bishops, ambassadors to the Vatican and past directors of the U.S. Catholic Bishops anti-poverty campaign joined the debate.

On the eve of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore, the new group urged Bishops to strengthen their anti-poverty campaign and to resist attacks by right-wing pressure groups.

The group urges Bishops to “take to the streets,” quoting Pope Francis and become a “poor Church for the poor.”  It’s strong language, but hardly matches the level of vitrolic rhetoric from the groups that are attacking CCHD itself.

The soul of the Catholic church in America is at stake. Here’s hoping that the USCCB returns their great campaign against poverty, which for so long shed a great beacon of light in this country.

For more on faith-based community development issues, see the January/February 2001 issue of Shelterforce, including editor Miriam Axel-Lute’s piece “We Can’t Be Pegged.”

(Photo by Marjan Lazarevski CC BY-ND)

Laura Barrett is the executive director Interfaith Worker Justice.


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