Catholic Charities

  • Religion
  • 1910

The president of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., invited Catholic clergy and laity to gather on his campus in 1910 to launch Catholic Charities. Local parishes had been doing charitable work right from their beginnings—there were more than 800 Catholic social services organizations nationwide around the turn of the twentieth century. Some Catholics, however, felt there needed to be a more centralized anti-poverty effort.

Today about 170 social service efforts across the U.S. are supported by Catholic Charities, serving several million people each year. The 501(c)(3) coordinating body, Catholic Charities USA, raised $24 million in contributions and grants in 2013. Linked to its origins in the nation’s capital, and its continued headquartering there, Catholic Charities has also involved itself extensively in political debates right from its beginning. It organized letter-writing campaigns on behalf of New Deal legislation, for instance, and led pushes for various forms of public housing. In the 1960s, the group tilted further toward advocacy of government activism. Today, about two thirds of Catholic Charities’ annual spending comes from government sources (more than half a billion dollars of federal grants alone).