A leftwing group based in Washington has issued a 24-page report accusing a “small but well-funded network” of conservative Catholics of waging McCarthyism against the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the controversial anti-poverty program sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Its principal target is the American Life League and the Reform CCHD Now coalition, whom they claim practice “guilt by association and other tactics from the McCarthy-era playbook.” At one point, a dozen or so dioceses refrained from taking up a CCHD collection over concerns about the campaign’s priorities and its recipients’ ties to questionable groups. Are the bishops of these dioceses guilty of McCarthyism too?

No real attempt is made to respond to the charges of critics that many CCHD-funded organizations peddle radical leftwing politics only tenuously linked to the Church’s social mission. Rather, the report’s authors are content to question the motives of CCHD critics. This has been the tactic of Tony Stieritz, the director of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Catholic Social Action office that oversees local administration of the CCHD, who told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2010 that CCHD critics “are very selective about what parts of church teaching are important. … They have another agenda: They oppose the bishops’ support for social justice.” And for what it’s worth, Archbishop Schnurr backed Stieritz’s smear when I asked for his response.

Here’s an excerpt from an LTE I wrote to the Enquirer in November of 2010 that sums up why the CCHD’s problems aren’t limited to the company their grant recipients keep, i.e., the “McCarthyite,” guilt-by-association charge, troublesome as that is:

The standard for Catholics shouldn’t be merely to avoid funding groups that oppose our central teachings. I would hope we could take as much for granted! Rather, our standard should be to support organizations with a clearly recognizable Catholic identity or set of guiding principles. That can’t happen when CCHD recipients include highly politicized groups like the Contact Center, whose website masthead once featured the slogan “welfare reform = death,” and the Amos Project, an organization known for shaking down local businesses with unfounded charges of racism. Ditto for the scandal-plagued ACORN, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the CCHD even after it was exposed for various financial improprieties.

Moreover, when it comes to societal problems with a variety of legitimate Catholic solutions, e.g., how best to help the poor, the role of bishops and priests is to inform the laity of the principles they should take into the public square. It’s then up to the laity, not a bishops conference or a chancery — and certainly not the CCHD — to apply those principles to concrete situations in their communities. Part of that application is determining which local groups are worthy of support.

And the title of this post is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but if you’re going to trot out a fifty-year-old cliche, you can expect a response in kind.

Tip, Catholic World News.

UPDATE, 16 June 2013. The group behind the report is affiliated with Planned Parenthood. Shocker.

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