We reported a few weeks back about the Illinois’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) de-funding of Immigrants’ rights groups because of their support for the state’s marriage equality law. There was hope that they would be able to raise money from individuals to re-coup the $300,000 of Catholic money that supported their immigration work.
The Chicago Tribune indicates that these groups have started to cut their programs and services because they have been unable to match the cut funds. Only $91,000 has been raised. The news report notes that the leaders of these organizations are very disappointed, but still stand by their decision to support marriage equality on the principle of justice. Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights stated:
“We knew there would be some push-back, but we didn’t really fully understand the extent at which this could play out. Our only regret was the process by which we made the decision. Since then … we’ve come to the same conclusion. As an organization dedicated to justice, fairness and equality, we saw this issue as consistent with those principles.”
The CCHD’s decision to take back funding has, however, left many of these immigration leaders bewildered about the Catholic church’s support of immigration rights:
” ‘The groups they’ve chosen to defund are working on a variety of issues in their communities,’ said Jeanne Kracher, executive director of the Crossroads Fund of Chicago, the foundation administering the emergency money. ‘None of them have dropped what they’re doing and exclusively started working on gay marriage. It just seemed odd to say: “Last week we thought you were great but this week, we don’t. ” ‘ “
And Benito, quoted above, said:
“We wouldn’t be where we are today in the fight for immigration reform without the support and partnership of the Catholic Church both locally and nationally. We have consistent values in terms of immigration reform.”
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago defended the CCHD with the following statement:
“Jesus is merciful, but he is not stupid. He knows the difference between right and wrong. Manipulating both immigrants and the church for political advantage is wrong.”
Not only is his bluntness inelegant, but it also illustrates a trend that another Illinois Catholic official said is operating among the hierarchy around immigration reform and marriage equality. The Chicago Tribune reported this bit concerning a national immigration reform bill and its effect on the hierarchy’s position:
“Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed amending the immigration reform bill to include foreign-born, same-sex spouses. Leahy eventually withheld the amendment, but church leaders already felt betrayed.
“Anthony Suarez-Abraham, head of the Chicago Archdiocese’s office for peace and justice, said that after Leahy’s action, U.S. bishops put everyone on high alert for attempts to combine gay rights and immigration reform elsewhere. So when the state’s immigrant rights coalition endorsed gay marriage, it struck a nerve.”
Cardinal George’s blunt tone is uncharitable, at best. In my opinion, it is statements such as his that Pope Francis may have been referring to when he said that some church leaders were obsessed with gay marriage. Such crass bluntness is unbecoming of a church leader, and it seems to indicate some over-investment in the topic. Regardless of how much someone may differ from his point of view, no one deserves to be spoken to so arrogantly. His comments disregard his interlocutor, reflect poorly on himself, and do a great disservice to Jesus and the entire church.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry