GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has reinstated the collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in his diocese and established a new diocesan commission that will be in charge of teaching about and implementing Catholic social teaching.
In a 2,100-word statement announcing the developments Feb. 16, Bishop Ricken said he was "confident that we have the necessary checks in place" to ensure that CCHD funding would not be used in ways that conflict with Catholic teaching.
He had suspended the CCHD collection in his diocese last year but said it would resume the weekend of April 2 as part of the "collection for the world's poor" in parishes of the Green Bay Diocese.
Bishop Ricken acknowledged in his statement that "for some time in this country there has been significant disagreement among people of good will" about the collection for CCHD, the U.S. bishops' domestic anti-poverty program, which funds self-help projects in low-income communities around the country.
In October, CCHD officials nationally announced a "road map for renewal" that includes a series of steps to guide how grants are awarded to poverty-fighting groups and to strengthen oversight of how funds are spent.
"The new application process for grants ... will be much more thorough and will give increased consideration to Catholic social justice entities," Bishop Ricken said.
He said the establishment of the new diocesan Commission on Living Justice arose from "a genuine need for a greater understanding of the social doctrine of the church" and the realization that "the diocese needs to be more involved in implementing this teaching in our own way and coming from our own theological and ecclesial foundation."
The commission will be charged with "taking a leading role in the catechesis, planning and implementation of Catholic social teaching in the Diocese of Green Bay" and with helping the diocese and its parishes "live out the Gospel message of justice and charity as outlined in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, and in the social doctrine of the church."
Bishop Ricken also addressed concerns about two congregation-based community organizing groups in the diocese and directed the 15 Catholic parishes and two Catholic organization that belong to the organizations to sever those ties by July 1.
The two groups, which have received CCHD funds in the past, are JOSHUA, or Justice Organization Sharing Hope & United for Action, and ESTHER, which stands for Empowerment Solidarity Truth Hope Equality Reform.
"I want to make it abundantly clear that I am very proud of many of the works that JOSHUA and ESTHER are doing here in Green Bay and in the Fox Valley," the bishop said. "The living out of the Gospel values of Matthew 25 in mutual projects is truly commendable, an example of living out the call of charity and justice in our day."
But Bishop Ricken said he remained concerned that some of the national and regional affiliations of JOSHUA and ESTHER could result in conflicts or confusion about church teaching. He cited as an example an announcement from "a pro-abortion coalition" that appeared on the ESTHER website during the last election campaign.
"An undesirable result of dual affiliations could be that a conflict could place our parishioners in a very difficult position of having to choose between their Catholic Church authority and another parallel organization," he said.
The bishop said individual Catholics remained free to have "personal membership" in the organizations and that parish groups could work with JOSHUA and ESTHER "on specific projects consistent with Catholic social teaching." But "our parishes will no longer be corporate members in a parallel organization of this type," he said.
Bishop Ricken said the concerns about JOSHUA and ESTHER had "prompted the Diocese of Green Bay to look into all our corporate relationships and to begin to review the status of all relationships through the same lens for the same or similar reasons."
"The same structural and institutional principles on which I am basing my decision regarding parish membership in JOSHUA and ESTHER will apply to all relationships that the diocese and parishes have with other organizations," he added.