Thje Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the anti-poverty organization of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, has cut off funding for an immigration rights’ group in Illinois because of their support for marriage equality.
Chicago.CBSLocal.com reports that a group of Catholic elected officials have protested the move to defund the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has defended the CCHD decision. The news article states:
“. . . the cardinal responded to an open letter signed by a group of Catholic elected officials and community leaders, urging the church to reverse that decision.
“ ‘You can’t play off the pastoral concern of the church for the poor against the church’s teaching,’ George said. ‘That’s exactly what was done, that’s a cynical move, and I’m sorry that it was done.’ ”
The Catholic elected officials had written an open letter in which they stated that church leaders were using “immigrants and those who seek to help them as pawns in a political battle.”
The letter’s signers were Chicago Aldermen Proco Joe Moreno, Danny Solis, Patrick O’Connor, and James Cappelman; Cook County Commissioners John Fritchey and Larry Suffredin; and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza.
One has to wonder why bishops continue to make marriage equality opposition a requirement for helping the poor. It is the same strategy that many bishops have taken in terms of adoption policy where they place opposition to gay and lesbian couples above the care of children.
Earlier this spring, when immigration reform was being debated in Congress, some bishops opposed the inclusion of rights for same-gender couples in the bill. The bishops, traditionally strong supporters of immigration rights, drew the line when it came to gay and lesbian couples Marilou Johanek, a columnist for The Toledo Blade in Ohio characterized such a stance this way:
“No one, no family, no population should be left behind — except gay and lesbian immigrants, bless their misguided souls. Leave them behind.”
Johanek goes on to quote a letter that Toledo’s Bishop Leonard Blair wrote to parishioners about the bill, in which he stated:
“ ‘Most Catholics support their Bishops’ call for the creation of an immigration system that respects basic human rights and dignity while ensuring the integrity of our borders,’ he said. Under the Senate immigration bill, he added, ‘more than 11 million undocumented persons could gain legal status in our country, and possibly citizenship.’
“The bishop instructed local parishes to publish educational material from the bishops’ conference ‘to explain why the Church is concerned about immigration from a religious, moral, and social perspective.’ So far so good.
“Then came the caveat: ‘As the legislative process moves forward, issues may emerge which could hinder USCCB support of an immigration reform bill. Chief among them would be the addition of provisions which would treat same-sex couples as if married in the conferral of immigration benefits,’ Bishop Blair wrote.
“The letter said the bishops’ conference ‘is working to ensure that these provisions are not included in any final legislation.’
In responding to Pope Francis’ positive comments about gay people last week, many bishops and dioceses expressed surprise that people did not know that the Catholic Catechism urged respect for the human dignity of lesbian and gay people. When bishops offer statements and examples such as the ones by Cardinal George and Bishop Blair above, is it any wonder that people don’t know about that aspect of the church’s teaching?
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry