The Laity’s Pocketbook Expresses Solidarity with LGBT and Immigrant Rights

June 2, 2012

The power of the laity’s pocketbook to respond positively when the hierarchy reacts negatively was front and center this week in Colorado.

Regular readers of this blog may remember that back in April, Bondings 2.0 reported that Compañeros, an immigrant social service agency in Durango, Colorado, was denied $30,000 of funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development by the Diocese of Pueblo because they participate in a social justice coalition which includes a gay-rights advocacy group.

In response, lay people and foundations have raised more than $60,000–more than double the original amount–to support Compañeros.  The Denver Post reports:

” ‘A lady from Florida sent us $3. A man in England donated $1,000, and we’ve had everything in between,” [Compañeros' Executive Director Nicole] Mosher said. ‘It was totally unexpected and amazing.’

‘The Gill Foundation, one of the largest funders of civil-rights activism for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, told Compañeros it would provide a matching grant of $30,000 if it could raise the first $30,000. Both have occurred.”

Equally significant is that money was raised by WithCharityforAll.org, a fund established with the help of the social justice group Catholics United.  (Bondings 2.0 encouraged readers to support WithChairtyforAll.org’s campaign).  The Denver Post reports:

“This morning, in front of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, a group called With Charity For All gave Mosher $7,000 collected from Catholics across the country to help sustain Compañeros’ work.

“More than 2,000 people signed have signed a petition asking Pueblo Bishop Fernando Isern to fully restore Compañeros’ church funding.

” ‘Many Catholics love the charitable mission of the Catholic Church but are increasingly alienated by the conservative politics of the Catholic bishops,’ George Burns, Portland, Maine-based founder of With Charity For All, said in a statement released today.”

The Diocese of Pueblo has not responded to this news, and a Catholics United spokesperson had strong criticism of the hierarchy’s actions:

James Salt, executive director of Catholics United Education Fund, one of the key groups affiliated WithCharityForAll.org, delivered the $7,000 check to Mosher this morning before traveling to Pueblo to deliver the petition to the diocese.

Salt said he was told the bishop won’t meet with his group.

” ‘It’s bad enough that the bishops are pushing an extreme political agenda that is driving a wedge between them and the Catholic faithful,’ Salt said, ‘but this decision (on Compañeros’ funding) is particularly disturbing because they’re showing that they’ll even throw immigrants under the bus as part of that agenda.’ “

Clearly, the faithful are expressing their support both for immigrant rights and LGBT rights by this immense outpouring of support.  This story shows the power not only of organization, but of the pocketbook, to express the sensus fidelium–“the sense of the faithful”–on controversial matters.  It shows that lay people are willing to use their financial contributions to let the hierarchy know what they think the church’s priorities should be.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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