USCCB News Release
November 13, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Catholic Campaign for Human Development Ends All Funding to ACORN
BALTIMORE—Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the national anti-poverty program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has ended all funding to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Bishop Roger Morin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Catholic Campaign for Human Development, announced in a November 11 report at the USCCB Fall General Assembly.
The report follows:
Report of Bishop Roger Morin, Chair of the CCHD Subcommittee to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
My brother Bishops,
As chair of the Bishops' Subcommittee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, I welcome this opportunity to thank you and our Catholic people for your generous and steadfast support of CCHD and it's essential work to help break the "cycle of poverty" in urban neighborhoods and rural communities in dioceses across our nation.
Those who were at our gathering last night know CCHD is alive, well and doing great work. CCHD is how we together practice what the Church teaches about the option for the poor, solidarity and subsidiarity, the principle of participation, the dignity of work and the rights of workers.
CCHD is a wonderful partnership between our Conference of Bishops and local diocese in raising resources from a collection in most dioceses the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and reviewing proposals and funding groups of low income people working to assist in helping people pull themselves from poverty and dependence.
I want to thank you for this partnership and report to you and the Catholic community some important steps we have taken and are taking to insure that CCHD uses these resources wisely and carefully to fund only those activities which conform to CCHD's guidelines and mission.
I have reported to you as bishops three times on the steps we have taken and are taking to address serious questions and concerns that have arisen regarding the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN. Let me summarize these actions:
In the past, CCHD has funded proposals from local organizations affiliated with ACORN when those activities conform to the CCHD guidelines and when the local diocesan CCHD director and the local diocesan bishop explicitly approve the proposal. Many of these local ACORN groups have done impressive work preventing home foreclosures, creating jobs opportunities, raising wages, addressing crime and improving education.
Last June, CCHD cut off funding to all ACORN groups when we learned about a major case of embezzlement eight years ago which raised serious concerns about national ACORN's financial accountability, transparency, governance and organizational integrity. Even though CCHD was only funding local ACORN organizations, and not these national structures, we felt it was necessary to cut off CCHD funding and review support of all ACORN groups.
More recently, the Subcommittee also became concerned about widespread reports of ACORN involvement in alleged voter registration fraud and political partisanship. As a result of the cut-off earlier this year, no CCHD funds were involved in any of these activities. However, the allegations intensified our questions and problems around ACORN's organizational integrity, competence and non-partisanship. Therefore, we extended the cut off of CCHD funding of any ACORN organizations.
The Bishops' CCHD Subcommittee met November 8-9 and reviewed this matter at length and discussed it in depth. The Bishop members of the Subcommittee voted unanimously to reaffirm, extend and formalize the decision to end CCHD funding of ACORN organizations because of serious concerns about financial accountability, organizational performance and political partisanship. While not all the specifics can be known, we simply had too many continuing questions and concerns about these serious matters to permit CCHD funding of ACORN groups. This cut off means that no CCHD grants were given to ACORN groups this year (using funds from the 2007 CCHD collection) and no funds from the coming collection (to be taken up in on November 23-24 in many dioceses) will go to ACORN in any place or at any level.
In addition to this funding cutoff, the CCHD Subcommittee and staff have taken a number of other steps:
-- I am chairing a special working group who will continue to monitor and act in these matters.
-- CCHD and the USCCB have secured the services of specialists in forensic accounting.
-- CCHD, USCCB staff and I have met with ACORN leaders to express our serious concerns and to seek answers to specific questions.
-- We continue to consult with our CCHD Diocesan Directors to seek their guidance.
CCHD's current criteria and guidelines prohibit partisan activity and funding of any group that engages in activities contrary to Catholic moral teaching, whether or not those activities are funded by CCHD. These criteria are actively enforced and have led CCHD to deny funding to many groups and to quickly terminate any group that violates these prohibitions. The Bishops' CCHD Subcommittee and staff are reviewing these existing CCHD's policies, grant agreements, and other safeguards in order to reaffirm and strengthen our protections in areas of Church teaching, financial and organizational accountability, and partisan political activity. We are also examining ways to affirm and articulate the continuing efforts of CCHD in language clearly reflecting the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, which are at the heart of our mission.
I share these steps in detail so that you and the Catholic people can know that CCHD has responded quickly, carefully and effectively to protect CCHD's resources and mission. We will distribute copies of our report, a set of Question and Answers and a copy of the CCHD criteria and funding guidelines.
We have acted decisively in this instance, because it is essential that that the great work in so many communities in so many dioceses not be overshadowed or tainted by the actions of a few. Everyday in countless ways, low-income people with the help of CCHD and the Church are coming together to defend their lives and dignity as children of God, to make their neighborhoods and communities safer and better, to work for better jobs at just wages, to improve schools and make housing more affordable. CCHD is the Gospel at work.
I want to reassure you and the Catholic community that our Bishops' Subcommittee is vigilant in assuring that the resources of CCHD are well used. More importantly, I want to thank you and our Catholic people for your steadfast support of CCHD and urge our Catholic people to continue to give generously when the CCHD collection is taken up the weekend after next in most parishes.
CCHD is an essential way the Catholic Church in the United States carries out in our own day Jesus' mission "to bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, new sight to the blind and to set the downtrodden free." (Luke 4)