The Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to anything remotely positive concerning LGBT issues is starting to affect charities which depend on funding from church sources.

A recent New York Times article examines the case of a Colorado non-profit, Compañeros, which helps immigrants receive social services and adjust to American life.   The article explains:

“. . .[I]n February, the group was informed by a representative from the Diocese of Pueblo that its financing from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development [CCHD], an arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops devoted to ending poverty, was in danger.

“The problem, the diocesan liaison explained, was Compañeros’s membership in an immigrant rights coalition that had joined forces with a statewide gay and lesbian advocacy group, recounted Nicole Mosher, Compañeros’s executive director.

“The Catholic Campaign, which doles out $8 million annually to about 250 groups nationwide, has been under increasing pressure from conservative Catholic groups to ensure that it is not unwittingly aiding organizations that run afoul of church positions on issues like birth control and marriage.”

Ralph McCloud, CCHD director, explains the rationale for denying funds:

“We can’t in any way have groups who are collaborating with other groups whose main focus is objectionable or contrary to Catholic teachings. . . .We’re upfront with that.”

I can’t help but wonder two things: 1) Will the CCHD de-fund programs with ties to groups that support right-wing causes or who flaunt church teaching in regard to war, the death penalty, and greed;  2) Doesn’t the CCHD’s rationale sound remarkably similar to Jesus’ critics in the gospel who denigrated him for unseemly associations with certain groups and people?

The Times article, which is worth a full read, offers hope in that one national Catholic group is working to raise money for an alternative fund to the increasigly conservative-controlled CCHD:

Catholics United, a social justice group based in Washington, has vowed to counter the pressure from conservative Catholics. James Salt, the group’s executive director, said it planned fund-raising efforts this year so groups would not have to lean so heavily on money controlled by bishops.

“ ‘What is apparent is that these conservative groups are succeeding in subverting the mission of C.C.H.D., which is probably the most important antipoverty foundation in America,’ he said.”

Catholics United’s website has an announcement of the new fund, WithCharityForAll.org, which it describes as

“an alternative donation website that allows lay Catholics and people of faith to donate to worthy charities threatened with defunding by right-wing pressure groups within the Catholic Church. . . “

In an excellent and insightful National Catholic Reporter column, Jamie Manson puts the CCHD funding controversy in the broader context of the U.S. bishops’ increasingly politicized approach to the marriage equality debate.   She points out the heart of the matter on this issue:

“The hierarchy is letting the ideology of extreme social conservatives, not the teachings of the Gospel, determine where and how the poor will receive aid.

“How many social evils will the Catholic hierarchy ignore? How many injustices will they overlook in order to fulfill its zealous mission against equality for members of the LGBT community?

“Apparently, quite a few.”

The bishops have yet to recognize what everyone else already knows:  Catholics support LGBT justice issues, including marriage equality.  Catholics United’s WithCharityForAll.org alternative shows that Catholic lay people will find a way to fund programs and projects that express their faith commitment  to equality and justice for all.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry