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Catholic battle at Social Ministry Gathering?


Megan Sweas

US Catholic


In recent debates about the Catholic Campaign for HumanDevelopment (CCHD), John Carr is trying to take the high road, tellingparticipants in the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering that it is essential tomaintain a civil discourse with various groups. 

Carr, executive director of the USCCB's Department of Justice,Peace and Human Development, responded to personal attacks from a group aimingto reform CCHD at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, D.C. thismorning. (I missed the speech, thanks to a winter blizzard and two canceledflights, but talked to him this evening.)

Some have attacked Carr personally, particularly RealCatholicTV and American Life League,while others have said that they aren't pointing to him in particular. Carr saidthat they are right that it's not about him. "This is about the priority forthe poor and whether we're going to act," he said.

"I would distinguish between those who have concern for the poorand wonder whether we're doing it the right way and those who simply disagreewith the priority and the methods of CCHD," Carr said. "And then there are somewho frankly have been attacking the bishops, the Conference, CCHD, and now me,and they've never found anything good to say about the church and its work."

"For people who know me, the idea that I'm a secret agent for the pro-choicemovement just doesn't fit," Carr said. Many, in fact, have come to Carr'sdefense, including Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. Throughout his careerleading the social justice initiatives of the bishops' conference, he's triedto bring the pro-life and justice camps together. He's attended the March forLife as long as he could remember, he said. The bishops' pro-life office hashad a notable presence at each Social Ministry Gathering that I have attended.

"The polarization in public life is now coming over to Catholiclife," Carr said. But while he would rather we "give each other the benefit ofthe doubt," what might be most telling about this story is how Carr's audiencethis morning responded.

"Unfortunately these days, if you're friends with everyone,somebody will condemn you," Louise Johnson of Modesto, California told me thisevening. "It's not all that unusual" to hear such attacks within parishes anddiocese, she continued. "Social justice ministers run into this frequentlybecause there's a lot of one-issue people who don't see the whole picture." 

Carr explained that bottom-up organizing can get complicated and mistakes can be made, but he ultimately wants people to assume the best in each other and see the good that can come from social justice work. "My wish is that people would see what actually happens to people's lives and communities as a result of this work," he said. 


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