The Catholic Thing
Catholic Charities: A Two-Fold Challenge Print E-mail
By Matthew Hanley   
Thursday, 19 November 2009

Having funded groups that support abortion and “same sex marriage,” and funneled more than $7 million to ACORN over the span of a decade, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is coming knocking again this weekend at a parish near you amidst calls for reform, The special CCHD Sunday collection, which funds non-Catholic organizations and does not provide direct relief to the poor, arrives at a challenging time for charitable agencies.

Government bodies are increasingly making public funding contingent upon accepting ideological terms and conditions antithetical to the very identity that inspires Catholic social services. But that identity has long been withering from within. Lay people are called to engage vital issues in an indifferent or hostile public square. What recourse is there when their own official charitable agencies fail spectacularly to reflect basic beliefs?

This is all part of a broader trend. African bishops meeting in Rome in October repeatedly denounced the "virulent ideological poisons” being imposed on Africa from the West, precisely what Catholic agencies encounter – and sometimes succumb to – here at home as well. A Ghanaian bishop stated that there is a deliberate campaign being advanced by some NGOs, governments, and international agencies to undermine the family and African cultural values. A South African bishop pointed to the "second wave of colonization" from "liberalism, secularism, and from lobbyists who squat at the United Nations."

It’s ironic that our American Caesar, so celebrated on account of his African extraction, champions destructive western ideologies that African bishops regard as a “subtle and ruthless” form of colonization. Some have argued that, by his actions and rhetoric, he sees himself as more than merely an American president – a transnational leader of sorts. Well, he is (as its most powerful and visible proponent) the present face of the culture of death, whose malignancy knows no borders. It is a distinction that, unlike the Nobel Peace Prize, has been earned.

The culture of death knows no borders (or classes) because, as Solzhenitsyn put it in the Gulag Archipelago, “the line separating good and evil” cuts first and foremost “through every human heart.” He further reflects:

In the intoxication of youthful success I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power, I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments, I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systemic arguments.

Perhaps there would be enough in these words to trigger an epiphany within our Caesar’s conscience, if he read them, though it is admittedly a stretch to suggest that he has ever been well supplied with arguments for his unrelenting disregard for life (even as C.D.C. data indicate that the number of abortions among African-Americans exceeds their top seven causes of mortality combined). He has merely been equipped with what Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput calls “great media handlers,” and is abetted by an elite culture that has distanced itself from both faith and reason.

Solzhenitsyn stresses that the line separating good and evil within each of us shifts; it “oscillates with the years.” This is one reason why steady witness to the Gospel – being reminders of what is good and true – is such an indispensible part of Catholic charitable activity.

True, our American Caesar “bullies religion while he claims to respect it.” But he does not need to shake down all the kids for lunch money by himself as long as CCHD lends a willing hand. Internal reform of the many Catholic agencies such as CCHD that have gone flagrantly adrift of their own volition is a burning priority. The litany of accommodation, in one form or another, is all too familiar: contraception, abortion, condoms, “gay adoption,” etc. Underestimating the perils of statism and the value of subsidiarity in large-scale new initiatives like the healthcare debate is another concern.

Reform of our own agencies means nurturing a climate in which committed Catholics can live out their vocations of service even if that means accepting the hazards of being countercultural. At present, such Catholics are unwelcome or marginalized within several Catholic agencies. While that remains the case, reform will stall. This is a matter quite beyond the control of the laity.

Cozy careerism compounds the ideological threats to charitable endeavors, as Theodore Dalrymple attests: “One man’s poverty is another man’s employment opportunity: as long ago as the sixteenth century, a German bishop remarked that the poor are a gold mine.” I once heard Dalrymple address his own lack of belief by saying that the leap of faith has thus far simply eluded him – an honest and even moving admission, which reminded me that faith is a gift. It can be asked for, but not procured – even by those who are immensely gifted. This is a mystery. It is also a mystery when those granted custody over Catholic charitable agencies sometimes act as if they would rather exchange that gift for the public esteem that comes not from genuinely noble acts, but from what the elite imagine to be their own providential role in society.

We have all squandered the gift of faith. And yet God keeps giving. A renewed gratitude for that gift should animate the reform of our Catholic charitable agencies. That much, at the very least, the bishops can control, and CCHD would be a good place to start. Whether or not we are ultimately able to stay afloat on the high, hostile seas of America’s Caesar, we can at least leave harbor prepared for the voyage with sturdy vessels and full sails.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center will be publishing Matthew Hanley's book, with Jokin D. Irala, M.D., Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West.

© 2009 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info at thecatholicthing dot org

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Comments (11)Add Comment
40 Years of Neglect
written by William H. Phelan, November 20, 2009
Thank you, Mr. Hanley, for a very well done article. I appreciate the scholarship. This began forty years ago when John D. Rockefeller asked Fr. Ted Hesburgh of Noter Dame to intercede for him to meet with Paul VI who, at the time, was preparing Humanae Vitae.. Fr. Ted obliged and Notre Dame and others began the sales of their souls at that point.
These are the times ...
written by Ars Artium, November 20, 2009
These times can be ranked among those that "try men's souls". Trusting anyone or any group is becoming more and more difficult. The Catholic Bishops cannot put a stop to this? Or is it that they will not?
Dies irae, dies illa.
written by Willie, November 20, 2009
Very fine indeed! A cogent presentation of the state of affairs. We have been recently treated to a clerical sex abuse scandal, a pandering of Catholic colleges to our Caesar and now our Church contributions being used to support secular anti-life causes.This is enough to test anyone's faith.The radical students of the 60s have now come of age.They are in our government and Church, causing apathy and despair. How else could the new Caesar assume power. The winds of the Antichrist are blowing,
written by Liz, November 20, 2009
Over the past 9 - 10 months I have been called upon to help the needy and homeless. First it was a homeless 18 yr old pregnant woman & her 19 yr old husband I called Catholic Charities. I could get them into all sorts of "programs" - but not an ounce of any type of assistance and the local churches don't want to be bothered. Yet, on one Sunday $25,000 was collected for tsunami victims in one church alone. Have we lost our way?
written by Dennis Bartlett, November 20, 2009
While attending a 10th anniversary of Humanae Vitae conference, I heard Cambridge philosophy professor, Elizabeth Anscombe exhort us to pray for our bishops "for it will be with difficulty that they save their souls." Looks like the advice still has currency.
Contribute? I think not!
written by Martial Artist, November 20, 2009
Mr. Hanley,

As one who left the Episcopal Church because of their material support of abortion using a small portion of my tithes, and am a candidate in RCIA, I am verg grateful to you for this information. I am not sure that my parish will participate, but if it does they can count on me to abstain from contributing.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Toepfer
Money, money, money
written by Joseph, November 21, 2009
Why is it that the sordid topic of coin always arises when discussing health care, charity or virtually any other issue in America? Did not Jesus say to the rich man to sell all his possessions and follow Him?

Yet, it seems impossible to discuss aiding the sick, poor or anyone else in need without the obligatory mention of "cost," typically expressed in dollars. One supposes the Good Samaritan could have simply written a check, but he crossed the road to help. There's more to charity than cash.
How about...
written by Elizabeth, November 21, 2009
Would it make any sense to print this essay and send it to the Campaign's headquarters?
Re: Money Money
written by Chuck, November 21, 2009
Joseph: even our Lord indicated that the Good Samaritan paid the innkeeper for taking care of the man found by the side of the road. Have you read His advice about "counting the cost"? Luke 14:25-35
Material Cooperation
written by Leo, November 21, 2009
"At present, [committed] Catholics are unwelcome or marginalized within several Catholic agencies." Here, in diocese known for being faithful, a number of medical clinics under the umbrella of a large Catholic health care organization, employ many physicians who prescribe oral contraceptives to anyone asking for them. A committed Catholic health care manager or nurse needs to carefully assess the degree of material cooperation involved before working in these "Catholic" facilities.
They are everywhere
written by A. Nonimous, November 21, 2009
I once gave a talk on apologetics in a Spanish-speaking parish. The parishioners--mostly Mexican--faithful modest people with very little education, asked some questions after the talk. I answered a few about contraception, sterilization etc. Little did I know that was going to get me in trouble with the parish priest who later talked to me sternly about telling the parishioners that contraception is evil. I was never invited back.

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