Catholic giving might be up, but many Catholics are still wary of one special collection — the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The collection takes place each year on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Since 1969, the campaign has raised money in parishes across the country to fund groups that help the poor develop economic strength and political power.

But, over the years, some critics have said they don't help the poor enough, while others say they distribute money to groups that lean too much to the political left.

“What's wrong with funding inner-city Catholic schools that are doing a terrific job?” asks one critic, Terrence Scanlon, president of the Capital Research Center, a nonprofit philanthropy watchdog group.

Father Robert Vitillo, Catholic Campaign for Human Development's executive director, counters by saying: “Some of the concern that's been raised by people is more because they don't understand the whole idea of the Church supporting groups that are trying to bring about change in society. Also, there's a misunderstanding by some people who say, ‘But you're not giving charity.’”

Father Vitillo said the Catholic Campaign for Human Development was “never established to give charity out. It was never established to set up shelters or to set up soup kitchens. … It was set up to support justice work in the Church.”

On the list of 318 local projects in 45 states that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development will fund with $8.74 million in grants in the coming year, one organization stands out for critics: the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

It's the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families. The association's style of organizing, along with other groups funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development throughout the years, is inspired by the vision of labor activist Saul Alinsky.

In his 1971 book, Rules for Radicals, Alinsky acknowledges Lucifer as “the very first radical… known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom.”

One of Alinsky's rules of ethics says that “the ends justifies almost any means” — which is directly contrary to Church teaching.

Funding Alinsky-style community-organizing groups concerns Stephanie Block, a writer and researcher who has written about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, mainly “because Catholic thought about social justice is rooted in respect for individual human dignity, interpersonal cooperation and the natural moral law,” she said. “Any 'system’ that feeds class hostility or that that teaches moral relativism, for example, is inherently unjust.”

Father Vitillo said he “didn't know very much” about Alinsky.

“Certainly Saul Alinsky is not my motivation for being involved in CCHD,” he said. “A much stronger motivation for CCHD to be supporting this kind of work comes from our Catholic social teaching. It comes from a long tradition in supporting the efforts of poor and low-income people to make changes in society so that we can have a better society.”

John Hogan, an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, wrote about six Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded projects in a recently published book called Credible Signs of Christ Alive.

“What do you do when you call a government agency and you run into a bureaucratic brick wall?” Hogan said. “You got to do something about it. You got to take a stance, and deep down we usually admire that. These groups, they might have to be confrontational, but every one of them was ready to move to negotiations and reconciliation in a very Christian way, very quickly. I was impressed by that.

That was good Alinsky and organizational development.”

Carlos Briceno