Inspired by the leftwing ideology and the community-organizing tactics of Saul Alinsky, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) was founded in 1969 as the charitable arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Asserting that the Campaign was created specifically to serve as a permanent source of funding for Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation, Catholic writer Paul Likoudis describes CCHD as “a political mechanism bonding the American Church to the welfare state.” In its early days, CCHD was headed by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who sought to persuade pro-life Catholics to embrace a “consistent ethic of life” that included also support for pacifism and wealth redistribution.
A member of the Caritas Internationalis federation, CCHD focuses its philanthropy on domestic anti-poverty and social-justice programs. Its mission is “to address the root causes of poverty in America through promotion and support of community-controlled, self-help organizations and through transformative … education for justice, leading toward solidarity between poor and non-poor.” When Barack Obama was a young community organizer with the Chicago-based Developing Communities Project (DCP) from 1985-88, CCHD financially supported his efforts to bring the “social justice” teachings of leftwing Catholicism to black churches in particular. According to author Stanley Kurtz, CCHD is “probably the largest funding source for community organizing in the United States.”
CCHD identifies capitalism as the source of America’s “pervasive” indigence, stating that “the causes of poverty are understood to be an aspect of ‘social sin’ rooted in our social and economic structures and institutions.” To address the problems allegedly spawned by capitalism, CCHD promotes transformative institutional change in the form of “alternative economic structures” that will “broaden the sharing of economic power” and foster “economic decisions [that are] more accountable to the common good.” Toward this end, CCHD calls for a “family living wage” to be paid to all working people; “a just balance of individual- and community-held assets”; and a “bridg[ing] over” of the “gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty,” so as to bring “the respective classes … nearer to each other.” The Catholic magazine Crisis observes that “the way the CCHD educates others about transformative change and empowerment” is very much “in line with the socialist and Marxist ideals so prevalent in community organizing.”
Since its founding, CCHD has financed voter-registration drives, community organizations, community-run schools, job training programs, and minority-owned cooperatives and credit unions. These initiatives have focused particularly on “poor and vulnerable” people who “have a special place in Catholic social teaching,” and who consequently, as CCHD sees it, deserve to have their needs met “first.” Caling on advocates for the poor to maintain a spirit of “solidarity,” CCHD encourages “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good … because we are all really responsible for all.”
CCHD’s charitable giving is not channeled directly to poor families or individuals, but rather to activist organizations claiming to represent the economic and political interests of the poor. Between 1969 and 2009, CCHD provided more than 8,000 grants (collectively worth as much as $450 million) to such groups. In addition, the Campaign has funded thousands of smaller projects with money collected by Catholic dioceses.
Because CCHD opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, it does not give money to groups that openly promote those practices. Any leftist organization that steers clear of those two issues, however, is eligible for Campaign grants. Among the more notable recipients of CCHD funding have been ACORN, the Direct Action & Research Training Institute, the Gamaliel Foundation, the Industrial Areas Foundation, the Midwest Academy, and People Improving Communities Through Organizing. Between 1999 and 2009, for example, the Campaign gave ACORN $7.3 million which it had collected from churchgoers; only after a series of massive ACORN scandals were revealed in 2009 did CCHD cut off funding for that organization.
The late William E. Simon, a Catholic who served as U.S. Treasury Secretary during the Nixon and Ford administrations, once called CCHD a “funding mechanism for radical left-wing political activism in the United States, rather than for traditional types of charities.”
For additional information on CCHD, click here.