The USCCB collection to support the Catholic Campaign for Human Development will be taken up in parishes nationwide on the weekend of November 22-23. Please give generously.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development plays an important part in the Church’s mission to address poverty. One dimension of this work that may go unnoticed is the contribution CCHD makes to the life of the body politic. CCHD supports organizations working locally to get people involved in the issues that affect them. These groups bring people together to take responsibility for the wellbeing of their cities and neighborhoods. By supporting these groups, CCHD makes an invaluable contribution to the common good.
When we think politics, we often think about government and the state. We think of judges and elected officials who develop, enforce and interpret laws. But a healthy body politic requires more than good governance by state officials. A healthy society requires institutions and associations that make up civil society. In fact, this is the basic meaning of subsidiarity. In order to take responsibility for the social issues they face at the local level, communities need strong institutions. The state, as well as large or multi-national corporations, develops an oversized and unhealthy place in society when local institutions diminish and community voices go unheard.
The human person is social. She needs opportunities to work with others at a human level. Certainly, the first institution in which persons learn to work with others is the family. Other small-scale institutions – such as unions, small associations, community organizations, and even recreational clubs – provide venues for people to work with their neighbors on common projects. They serve as places for citizens to encounter one another and to cooperate on particular tasks, such as beautifying the neighborhood, raising money for charitable works, or providing forums to talk about issues of common concern. The whole community benefits from the vitality of these groups.
CCHD supports these kinds of institutions. For example, Western Colorado Congress works with rural residents, farmers and ranchers in Colorado. Many of these women and men have contended with the abuse of eminent domain, as well as pollution of their water supplies. These people should be able to speak up in defense of their land. WCC has helped to organize local stakeholders, so that large companies cannot simply impose their will on people in the rural areas. A functioning democracy requires engaged citizens who seek the common good. A CCHD-funded group like WCC provides the institutional structure necessary to help citizens become engaged.
The prevalence of poverty in the wealthiest nation in history is a scandal. It is certainly imperative that we who are Christians confront this scandal. The work of CCHD breaks the cycle of poverty by building up the local-level institutions required by a healthy society. CCHD contributes to the body politic. Through this ministry, the Church is a leaven in the world, promoting subsidiarity and serving the common good.
Aaron Matthew Weldon is a staff assistant in the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. He is a former intern for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and a PhD candidate in systematic theology at The Catholic University of America.