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Read: Open letter to U.S. bishops on the future of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development

A group of young Catholics is pushing the USCCB ahead of their spring plenary, where the CCHD could be on the chopping block. Read their open letter.

Editor’s note: According to recent reports, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will discuss at its 2024 Spring Plenary Assembly the future of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), which annually funds various initiatives throughout the United States related to the elimination of poverty and promotion of social justice. Longtime CCHD director Ralph McCloud resigned in April after 16 years at the helm, and reports soon emerged that the organization is facing a financial shortfall and may be in danger of shuttering.

A diverse group of young American Catholic leaders is responding with an open letter to U.S. Church officials, calling for a concerted effort to keep the CCHD and its programs active. It is republished here with permission and followed by a digital version with a list of signatories.

Dear Bishops,

We, the community organizers, lay faithful, supporters, friends, partnering communities and organizations have been deeply impacted by the work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and extend our heartfelt thanks for your unwavering support of CCHD. Your commitment to this initiative is a testament to the Church's dedication to the Gospel call to serve the least among us and has permeated justice throughout the United States. 

As a historic anti-poverty initiative CCHD has been a beacon of hope for impoverished and vulnerable communities across the United States. Over the past 53 years, it has awarded over 9,000 grants, fostering leadership development, systemic change, and poverty alleviation. Through the annual CCHD National Collection, each diocese is asked to contribute 75% of their collections while retaining 25% for local efforts; these vital funds have and continue to significantly impact countless lives. We are writing to you to let you know of our prayers and conviction to support the continuing work of CCHD, for the next 50 years.

CCHD has served as a vehicle for collaboration among people of different faiths and has been successful in bringing people to the Catholic faith. CCHD supports transformative education on Catholic Social teaching and has formed hundreds of interns that have served around the country assisting dioceses to advance the social mission of the Church, many of whom have become lay ministers, women religious, and clergy.

In this time of polarization and distrust of institutions, CCHD has proven to be a solid program that transcends traditional differences promoting subsidiarity and solidarity. It is vital to support Catholic institutions that operate with a high level of transparency and accountability. CCHD utilizes rigorous standards for grant recipients that outline adherence to the teachings of the Church and requires that those who are living in poverty are an integral part of the governance of the organization.

As Jesus taught us, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). Pope Francis has emphasized that "the measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need" (Address to the U.S. Congress, 2015). Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that "The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbors, the more effectively we love them… This is the institutional path - we might also call it the political path - of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbor directly." (Caritas in Veritate, no. 7). Saint John Paul II declared that "the needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich; the rights of workers over the maximization of profits" (Centesimus Annus, 35).

These words are brought to life through CCHD, whose grant money and funding offer a concrete way for the larger U.S. Catholic Church to embody Catholic Social Teaching through sharing financial resources and building positive collaborations. We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant upheaval to parish life and funding of good works of the Church like CCHD.  But, we believe this challenge may be addressed by new and creative efforts to invite support for and participation in this vital work. The diminishment of CCHD would have a devastating impact on communities already on the margin, risking the erosion of the moral authority of the Catholic Church in the United States.

Statistics show that in the U.S., over 38 million people live in poverty, including 11 million children (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). The economic disenfranchisement and continuing exploitation of the poor and most vulnerable are pressing issues that require our collective action. Without CCHD, many of the grassroots initiatives that bring hope and tangible change to these communities would be at risk.

We respectfully call on you, our shepherds, to guide us through these perilous times. The work of CCHD is more crucial than ever, ensuring that the Church remains a steadfast advocate for justice and compassion. Your continued support will help us address these challenges and uphold the values of our faith.

As we live into Pentecost, we are reminded of the Holy Spirit's power to renew and inspire us. Let us carry this spirit of renewal into our efforts to support CCHD, ensuring that it can continue to be an even stronger force for the common good for another 50 years. 

With gratitude and hope,

Christian Bentley - Catholic Mental Health & Social Justice Advocate 
Cecilia Flores - Chair, Young Adult Multicultural Advisory Committee
Will Rutt - Executive Director, Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center
Casey Stanton - Co-Director, Discerning Deacon

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