Home Christian News With Catholic Anti-Poverty Program Under Attack, Bishops and Activists Mount Defense

With Catholic Anti-Poverty Program Under Attack, Bishops and Activists Mount Defense

Catholic anti-poverty program
Pax Christi USA organized a prayerful demonstration outside the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Louisville, Ky., June 12, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Pax Christi USA)

(RNS) — For more than 50 years, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has provided grants across the U.S. focused on empowerment and systemic change for low-income communities.

With the program under fire from conservative Catholic critics, some Catholic bishops and activists have rallied to the program’s defense.

St. Louis Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski told Religion News Service in an email that, in his archdiocese, CCHD has a “long history of helping fund local and national programs that address the root causes of poverty” and “is fittingly administered by our Peace and Justice Commission.”

“This is what Catholic Social Teaching calls us to do – to work together for equal and just treatment of all our brothers and sisters, with special care for those who are impoverished,” Rozanski wrote.

The future of the program, which is funded by a national collection, was up for debate during the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops taking place in Louisville, Kentucky, from Wednesday through Friday (June 12-14).

Bishops discussed CCHD in executive session, which was closed to the public and the press.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops attend their spring plenary meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. (Video screen grab)

A person familiar with the executive session’s deliberations told RNS that “there was very strong support expressed for CCHD in the session. How it is worked out remains to be seen, but the program and collection will continue.”

In an op-ed published Wednesday by Our Sunday Visitor, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski lauded CCHD’s work in his archdiocese. He said CCHD had helped fund efforts to provide health care for tens of thousands of low-income people and to keep children and teens out of the criminal justice system.

“I will encourage my fellow bishops to find new ways to strengthen CCHD and not allow these challenges to diminish or change the fundamental character of the program,” Wenski wrote.

USCCB’s president, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, told reporters that a subcommittee that oversees CCHD would take the feedback from bishops and “discern the best way to incorporate it into the future work of the CCHD.”

“In all these discussions, the bishops’ ongoing commitment to the vital work of fighting poverty was clear,” Broglio said.

USCCB President Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio addresses the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spring meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. (Video screen grab)

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio addresses the USCCB spring meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. (Video screen grab)

Broglio also told reporters that CCHD’s collection will be reassigned to a conference office that handles other national collections. CCHD currently has its own office and staff.

The CCHD has long been the target of a conservative campaign, which has asked bishops to shut the program down for allegedly working with groups advocating for positions contrary to Catholic teaching.