Acorn, CCHD And The Principle Of Subsidiarity

By Phil Sevilla
Last November, after the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now voter fraud and embezzlement scandals surfaced in the media before and during the 2008 election, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops cut off funding  for the radical group, which had received community grants to the tune of $7,300,000 over the last 10 years from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The Campaign for Human Development was created in 1969 by the American bishops' conference to combat poverty. But where have the hundreds of millions of Catholic dollars gone? Did you know that Barack Obama was once Chicago ACORN’s attorney and worked to train ACORN leaders?
With egg on its face, the USCCB voted to stop further funding of ACORN late last year due to growing public outrage. Did you also know that the U.S. bishops' conference was alerted long ago about ACORN’s corruption, but refused to heed the warnings made in Wanderer Forum Foundation’s report  on the CCHD, prepared for the bishops in the late 1990s, as well as those made by Catholic whistleblowers such as Paul Likoudis, of the Wanderer Press in his 1994 exposé, The Legacy of CHD; and Stephanie Block, a Catholic investigative journalist in New Mexico who has written extensively on this topic? Only when the egregious ACORN scandals made the national media headlines, conservative talk radio shows and internet blogs did they act.

Well, ACORN has not been the only problem. According to a recent article published by California Catholic Daily on the CCHD, it is apparent, despite the CCHD leadership’s assurances that the problem with grant funding scrutiny has been fixed, that the problem has definitely not been fixed. In California, investigations show CCHD funds for 2009-2010 have gone to two organizations, one of which promotes same-sex marriage and the other of which opposes parental notification for abortion on a minor.

Bellarmine Veritatis Ministry conducted an eye-popping, well-documented review of recent grants approved by CCHD for advocacy organizations that promote abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception.

Remember this next time your diocese starts promoting its annual CCHD fundraising campaign. It is time to just say no to CCHD. Shut it down. Enough! ¡Basta!

The Principle of Subsidiarity

According to a well-written exegesis by Charles Gernazian, director of the Catholic American Center on Law and Religion, the principle of subsidiarity

has been an integral part of Catholic social teaching for over a century, [and] states that only things that need to be done at the national or “federal” level should be done by a “federal” government; and allows for things that can be done at the local or smaller level to be done at the more local and smaller units of society. Where individuals, intermediary groups, or small private groups of persons can address the particular exigencies and realities of a given situation, it is best to defer to such smaller groups because human beings need some flexibility and autonomy in order to effectively address their particular circumstances.

Besides the scandal of the national organization of American Catholic bishops’ long-standing financial support of politically motivated, corrupt and morally bankrupt organizations, paid for by donations of average Catholics in the pews, I have a bone to pick with the bishops about their continual violation of the principle of subsidiarity within the area of Catholic social action.

Why are we delegating our duties and responsibilities as Christians to a national bureaucracy such as the CCHD, which has funded notoriously politically partisan organizations that promote the culture of death? What about Catholic Charities organizations that have accepted federal, state and local funding, and have paid the price for it? There are Catholic Charities organizations around the country that have been taken over by agents of immoral radical social change. Think about it. Christ taught in Matthew 25:45, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” He did not say that we must donate to big national bureaucracies to carry out our charitable works. He called us to personally help feed, clothe, shelter and comfort our neighbor.

The application of Catholic social teaching has been corrupted by so-called social service organizations that have done great harm to the Church’s mission by giving up their financial independence and freedom in order to promote works of charity. Publicly funded Catholic Charities in Boston had to shut down its adoption services when the state dictated that it could not discriminate against homosexual couples seeking to adopt. Publicly funded Catholic Charities in San Francisco was forced by the city supervisors to provide benefits to same-sex partners of their employees or else lose its funding. (Why was Catholic Charities in San Francisco hiring active homosexuals in the first place? Because sexual orientation nondiscrimination ordinances, which violate the rights of nonprofit religious organizations, have not been challenged by the Church!)

Read this declaration on Catholic Charities USA’s web site: “President Barack Obama in his famous campaign speech dealing with racism challenges everyone to have faith in God and faith in the American people. Together, we can overcome centuries of racial division to form a more perfect union – in the words of the Declaration of Independence.” I would ask the author of this statement, what about the rights of the preborn and their exclusion from our “more perfect union”?

The Gift of Self

There is another aspect of the principle of subsidiarity that has been violated by social change agents within the Church. When speaking to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in May 2008, Pope Benedict XVI summarized the Catholic principle of subsidiarity as the “coordination of society’s activities in a way that supports the internal life of the local communities.” Aren’t these bureaucratic organizations such as the CCHD and Catholic Charities USA in violation of this principle? Was the parable of the good Samaritan about delegating our good works to someone else or about a personal commitment to help our neighbor? How can we individual Catholics grow in the virtue of sacrificial charity and self-giving if all we’re asked to do is write checks?

In “A Catholic Solution to America’s Health Care Problem,” David Rusch, Ph.D. wrote,

A number of years ago I calculated the number of poor families in the U.S. and pondered how the Church might respond to their needs. I concluded that if each parish adopted two poor families, poverty in this nation would vanish. I suggested that the size of the parish or church determine how many families they would support, with an average of two per parish. The support would include all that was necessary for them to be a part of the community: food, job opportunities, education, and health care. Each parish voluntarily provides all these essentials, and poverty vanishes.

Wow! What a concept! Individual members of Catholic parishes adopting and supporting needy members of their parish or members of the community at large who have fallen on hard times. This, in a nutshell, is the essence of the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity.

What better way to promote Catholic social teaching is there than at the parish level and ultimately at the family level – where families or groups of families in the parish adopt those members of their local community who desperately need food, shelter, work, education and support for crisis pregnancies? In other words, rather than writing a check or dropping a few dollars in the second collection basket, you and I –and our families – become individual Saint Vincent de Paul societies, Legions of Mary and Gabriel Projects. A Gabriel Project ministry is a parish-based ministry that endeavors to provide parish-level first-responder assistance to mothers within their local community who are experiencing crisis pregnancies.

We give of ourselves, our time, talents and caritas, not just our treasure. Treasure by itself is always easier to give up, especially when there’s an abundance. Our time and talents are more difficult to offer and share in service to others.

Think about what our children can learn when, on Sundays or other days of the week, they spend time playing with or taking children less fortunate than they are to museums or other cultural activities, or going fishing, or throwing Frisbees or footballs together. We parents can pray and read the Bible together while preparing a meal for a family whose breadwinner has lost his job or may have a serious illness. We can help mothers facing crisis pregnancies with their housing, medical and prenatal needs; counseling; job training and job hunting; emotional and spiritual support; and, most importantly, our unconditional love and attention.

Something to think about.

Phil Sevilla is executive director of Project Defending Lifea nonprofit Catholic pro-life ministry in Albuquerque, New Mexico,  and an American Life League Associate group. Project Defending Life’s ministry office and chapel are located next to Planned Parenthood of New Mexico, the state’s largest abortion mill. Phil is also president of the Catholic Coalition of New Mexico a 501(c)(4) educational and lobbying organization, promoting pro-life and pro-family values in legislation and in Catholic communities around the state.