CCHD Closes All Communication, Refuses to Answer Questions

News: US News
by Rob Gasper  •  •  July 25, 2023   

US bishops' charity has something to hide

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Over the weekend, the Lepanto Institute received a letter from Bp. Timothy Senior, the current chairman of the subcommittee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), slamming the door on any discussion regarding serious concerns related to CCHD grantees while refusing to publish the most recent grant list. Despite the CCHD's vigorous commitment to "operate at the highest levels of … transparency," this letter from the CCHD's leadership proves otherwise.

Bp. Timothy Senior

Last November, the Lepanto Institute published a report showing that over 30% of organizations receiving funding from the CCHD from 2020–2021 were in violation of Catholic moral teaching and CCHD grant guidelines through the promotion of abortion, contraception, LGBTQ ideologies and outright Marxism.

Of the $11,249,000 distributed by the CCHD in FY 2020–2021, $3,430,000 went to organizations acting against Holy Mother Church. One example of an organization the CCHD refuses to discuss is ABLE NH, which received $40,000 from the CCHD and is a partner of Planned Parenthood, promotes masturbation, and promotes LGBTQ ideologies.

Another example is Faith in Florida ($40,000), which very publicly decried the overturning of Roe v. Wade and committed itself to defending abortion "as a right." CTUL ($60,000) actively campaigned for socialist political leaders and actively pushed LGBTQ ideologies, while the Ostara Initiative ($65,000) actively works to help incarcerated women obtain access to abortions. The report analysis can be read here, and the complete list of clickable reports for violating organizations can be found here.

Despite the findings of this report, the CCHD has adamantly refused to answer any questions or address any concerns. The Lepanto Institute has heard from hundreds of supporters who have emailed and called CCHD officials over the last eight months to ask about the groups profiled in our report, and not a single one has received an answer. All have reported that CCHD officials are not answering their phones — nor are they responding to emails.

CCHD has adamantly refused to answer any questions or address any concerns. 

One of the major questions supporters have had for CCHD officials is when the next CCHD grant list will be published. Again, the answer from the CCHD is not to answer. The last grant list published by the CCHD is for 2020–2021, and it was published in February 2022. Despite claiming to "publish a list of recent grantees online each year," it's now almost a year and a half since the last grantee list was released and over a year since the 2021–2022 grants were fulfilled, as can be seen here. There is simply no reason for the CCHD to withhold this grant list except to hide its grantees from investigators, thereby proving its refusal to be transparent.

On the CCHD's Frequently Asked Questions page, it makes three claims to full transparency. In the very first sentence of the page, the CCHD claims:

As the official anti-poverty agency of the Catholic bishops in the United States, CCHD operates at the highest levels of fidelity to Church teaching, integrity, and transparency in its mission to provide critical support to people experiencing poverty.

Under the question, "What kind of initiatives does CCHD fund?" the CCHD explains the types of grants it provides, concluding with:

Since beginning its work in 1970, CCHD has awarded over 440 million dollars in grants supporting nearly 12,000 community-based, grassroots-led organizations. CCHD is committed to transparency and continues to publish a list of recent grantees online each year.

The first question under the heading "CCHD's Catholic Identity" is the question, "Is CCHD Catholic?" Following a list of the CCHD's purported "themes" regarding Catholic teaching is the following entry:

Faithful Stewardship: CCHD seeks to make effective and faithful use of resources — financial, institutional, and human — to advance CCHD's mission in accountable and transparent ways.

By failing to answer phone calls from concerned Catholics or provide any answers submitted by email, the CCHD has proved beyond all measure that it is not interested in accountability and is absolutely NOT being "transparent."

Because of the CCHD's steadfast refusal to answer questions regarding the Lepanto Institute's 2022 report on CCHD grantees, and because the CCHD has refused to publish the 2021-2022 grants list or indicate when faithful Catholics can expect it to be published, Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute sent a series of letters to the CCHD's current chairman, Bp. Timothy Senior of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, beginning in May. Bp. Senior's last letter confirmed that the CCHD's vaunted "transparency" is a farce by refusing to even entertain the possibility of discussion.

Our only recourse is to inform the laity and the rest of the bishops.

Our first letter provided some background to Bp. Senior on the problems at the CCHD and the clear lack of transparency coming from its leadership. This letter was sent via certified mail, requiring a signature, on May 4, 2023. It was received on May 8, 2023, and signed for by Betsy Myers. Our second letter, dated May 25, is a response to his reply and a request for a meeting. The third letter, sent on June 30, was a reminder of the request for a meeting. The last letter from Bp. Senior, dated July 19, simply states that they discussed our concerns in-house and will not communicate with us any further. Because of this, our only recourse is to inform the laity and the rest of the bishops of the United States that the CCHD is refusing to be transparent by answering serious concerns raised by us and by other members of the lay faithful. What follows is a record of the communication between Lepanto Institute and Bp. Senior.

This is the first letter we sent to Bp. Senior:

May 3, 2023

His Excellency, The Most Reverend Timothy Senior
4800 Union Deposit Rd.
Harrisburg, PA 17111-3710

Your Excellency,

I pray this letter finds you in good health as you settle into your office as the new bishop of Harrisburg. I am writing to you today, however, in your capacity as the chairman of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

For the last fifteen years, I have been conducting deep investigations into the organizations receiving funding from the CCHD, showing many of them to be heavily involved in the promotion of grave moral evils. When I began this research in 2008, I sincerely believed that what I was discovering about the grantees was a serious oversight and honestly thought that providing this information to the CCHD and to the bishops would lead to an internal investigation with measures to ensure such oversights never happened again. I was edified and hopeful in 2010 when my research led to a series of meetings with CCHD staff and even a "Review and Renewal" process which incorporated my suggestion that the CCHD have a specified guideline prohibiting grantees from being members of other organizations which are directly acting against Catholic moral and social teaching. This hope soon faded, however, as the CCHD staff stonewalled me by refusing to share information or explain how certain grantees continued to receive funding, even after we provided them with indisputable evidence of those grantees violating CCHD grant guidelines.

In 2012, all communication with the CCHD was closed after providing a CCHD director with direct proof that the Gamaliel Foundation lied about its relationship with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM). In short, after submitting information to the CCHD director for the diocese of Pittsburgh that Gamaliel was a member and on the executive committee of FIRM while FIRM had taken a formal position on same-sex "marriage," my team received a letter from the same CCHD director claiming that the Gamaliel Foundation "severed relations with FIRM in May 2010." Because I had proof from the Gamaliel Foundation's own website showing that it was a member of FIRM in 2011 and had been selected to continue serving as a member of FIRM's steering committee for the year 2012, I knew for an absolute fact that the Gamaliel Foundation had lied. My team and I provided this proof to the Pittsburgh CCHD director, who was very upset about it and said she would pass it on to Ralph McCloud for further instructions. The only response we ever received was a one-line email from Mr. McCloud canceling our upcoming meeting by saying, "We see no reason to meet at this time."

I tell you this because I want you to understand that we had been taking our findings to the CCHD before publishing any information on CCHD grantees, hoping to clear up any misunderstandings and to help the CCHD avoid funding organizations acting against the Church. Sadly, it was the CCHD that cut off communication with us.

Since that time, and because Mr. McCloud has decided to refuse all future communication with me, I have continued to investigate CCHD grantees and produce reports on what we find so the faithful can make informed decisions as to whether or not these are the kind of organizations they wish to see receiving their own donations.

The CCHD claims on an FAQ page on the USCCB website:

"As the official anti-poverty agency of the Catholic bishops in the United States, CCHD operates at the highest levels of fidelity to Church teaching, integrity, and transparency in its mission to provide critical support to people experiencing poverty." (emphasis added)

In order to operate with the highest levels of transparency, as the CCHD claims, this would include addressing serious concerns to direct evidence regarding the organizations to which it is providing funding. I have personally received hundreds of emails and phone calls from faithful Catholics who are exceedingly frustrated with the boilerplate dismissals and (of late) the complete lack of response they have received from the CCHD. These faithful Catholics, seeking detailed responses to direct questions about specific CCHD grantees, have received canned responses which never address any of the specific questions. And lately, it seems that the CCHD staff in D.C. are no longer answering their phones or responding to emails.

On top of this, the CCHD's published list of grantees is now out of date by two years. The last grants list published on the CCHD website is for 2020–2021, and it was published in February of 2022. Now, a full year and three months later, it remains the last grants list in the public record.

If the CCHD "operates at the highest levels of … transparency," as it claims, then at the very least, this would mean publishing its most recent list of grantees. But it would also mean providing direct responses to faithful Catholics seeking an explanation about the use of funds for specific organizations acting against the moral and social teachings of the Catholic Church.

So, in light of all of this, I have three questions that I hope you can help me with:

  • Why is the 2021–2022 CCHD grants list still unpublished, and when can we expect it to be published?
  • Can we expect that faithful Catholics will receive prompt responses and clear answers to their concerns regarding CCHD-granted organizations?
  • Would it be possible for me to sit down with you to discuss my grave concerns regarding CCHD grantees?

Please know that I am praying for Your Excellency.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Michael Hichborn
President, Lepanto Institute

This is the signed receipt confirming delivery of this letter.

On May 19, we received the following very short response from Bp. Senior, simply thanking us for our concerns and indicating that he had passed the letter to Ralph McCloud.

This is the letter we sent on May 25, and to which we have not yet received a response.

Read the rest at Lepanto Institute.

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