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CCHD head resigns; program facing financial woes

The director of the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development resigned this month, as anti-poverty program faces questions regarding its financial management and ongoing viability.

U.S. bishops' conference. Pillar Media file photo.

Ralph McCloud, who began leading the CCHD in 2008, resigned earlier this month, USCCB spokesperson Chieko Noguchi confirmed to The Pillar Monday.

“After sixteen years of working on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised, Ralph recently made the decision to leave his position with the USCCB,” Noguchi said.

“Since this is a personnel matter, further detail will not be discussed at this time,” she added.

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According to several sources close to the USCCB, McCloud’s resignation comes amid acute financial troubles for CCHD, which has reportedly dwindled its cash reserves by conferring grants beyond its own financial resources.

“CCHD is in a difficult situation, because it’s been giving out more in grants than it takes in,” one source close to the conference told The Pillar. “It’s becoming clear that’s not sustainable.”

Sources told The Pillar that a cash crunch could mean more resignations for CCHD personnel, and a tightened budget for CCHD grant recipients — with both personnel and grant allocations expected to be discussed by bishops during plenary meetings later this year.

Financial troubles at CCHD could also mean discussion among the U.S. bishops this year about the direction of mission of their grantmaking organization, which was founded in 1969 as the “National Catholic Crusade Against Poverty.”

The program is funded by an annual second collection, which takes place during Sunday Masses in parishes across the country. To encourage robust participation in the CCHD collection, dioceses keep 25% of revenue for local anti-poverty programs, while sending 75% to the USCCB for distribution.

But according to USCCB records, CCHD’s available cash has dwindled in recent years. In 2019, the program had nearly $36 million on hand, and took in $9.5 million from the annual second collection. The program gave out $12 million in grants, and ran almost a $3 million deficit for the year.

By the end of 2022, the most recent year in which data was available, CCHD had only $8.5 million on hand — a combination of annual spending in excess of revenue, and investment portfolio losses. In 2022 alone, the program saw its net assets decline by more than $8 million — the organization gave out significantly more than it had taken in, while at the same time realizing investment losses. 

While second collection revenue in 2022 was $8.1 million, CCHD collections flagged significantly during 2020 and 2021, when churches were closed amid the pandemic, with only $4 million collected in 2020, and only $6 million in 2021.  


While more recent USCCB records are not yet available, sources close to the conference have told The Pillar that financial concerns for CCHD have become more acute. 

With bishops expected to discuss the matter at their 2024 plenary meetings, some have told The Pillar they expect also to discuss the organization’s grant-making process.

The program provides grants to fund community development and economic development initiatives which, “empower low-income people to gain the ability to convene, identify barriers, research issues, brainstorm solutions, and take action to change problematic structures and systems in their communities,” or which help poor and low-income people develop new businesses, create new jobs and develop assets that are owned by families and communities.”

“CCHD focuses on the underlying structures that trap people in a cycle of poverty, by empowering those who are living in poverty to change unjust systems, policies, and situations that perpetuate poverty in neighborhoods and communities across the United States,” the program says.  

CCHD has long faced criticism that some grants extended by the program go to organizations which do not support the teachings of the Church, especially regarding the sanctity of life and the issue of gender identity.

The bishops’ conference has pushed back on that criticism, with CCHD subcommittee chairman Bishop Timothy Senior telling bishops last year that “Catholics can be confident that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development does not fund organizations that violate the moral or social teaching of the Church.” 

“CCHD takes every allegation that a group is working against Catholic values, very seriously. Catholics can be assured that any group that engages in activity contrary to Church teaching, such as promoting abortion or same-sex marriage is ineligible for CCHD funding because this is a clear violation of the CCHD funding criteria and guidelines. Together with the local diocese, each allegation is rigorously reviewed,” the organization says.

The USCCB will vote on its comprehensive 2025 budget during its fall plenary assembly. While budgets are ordinarily shaped at the conference by a broad strategic planning document, the conference last year shifted its approach to long-term planning. A new approach to planning and priorities is likely to include broad discussions about CCHD.

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