The U.S. bishops' anti-poverty program won support for defunding a Colorado immigrant aid organization over its intricate involvement with a coalition that violates Church teaching.
“Despite its claims to the contrary,” the southwestern Colorado nonprofit Compañeros played a major role in a statewide coalition promoting homosexual behavior, said Michael Hichborn, spokesman for a Catholic watchdog group.
Hichborn told CNA on April 27 that the bishops' program made the right call in axing funds to Compañeros, a founding member – with representation on the board of directors – of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, which actively supports gay unions.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which serves as the U.S. bishops’ program to fight domestic poverty, made national headlines when it recently decided to cut funding of Compañeros, an immigrant rights organization in Pueblo, Colorado.
Like other groups across the country that receive funding from the Catholic Campaign, Compañeros had signed a pledge agreeing that it would not publicly stand for anything that violates Church teaching.
But Hichborn said that Compañeros is “intimately linked” with the Colorado Immigrant's Rights Coalition, to the point that “there is no way to distinguish the actions” of one from the other.
He pointed to numerous recent examples of efforts by the coalition to advocate same-sex unions.
Multiple officials from the coalition have publicly criticized the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the U.S.
The coalition has participated in a 2010 gay pride parade in Denver and has praised the efforts of gay activist groups towards greater recognition of same-sex couples.
The group also voiced support for “transgender rights” in a public statement and sponsored a community organizing retreat with the Gay and Lesbian Fund.
In its 2011 legislative report, the coalition said that it was “proud to actively support the 2011 civil unions bill” in the state and looks forward to doing so again in the future.
It also applauded the work of “our sister coalition for LGBT justice, One Colorado,” an organization dedicated to promoting “gay rights” within the state.
Katherine Chrisman, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Pueblo, confirmed that the decision to defund Compañeros was due to its formal connection with the Colorado Immigrant's Rights Coalition.
She explained that the organization’s leaders were “offered repeated and extended opportunities to change their mind” but instead chose to remain a member of the coalition.
Compañeros’ executive director Nicole Mosher told the New York Times that she was “shocked” and “confused” by the decision.
“We have no reason to believe that we are in any way going against Catholic teachings,” she said.
The decision to defund the organization also upset Catholics United, a left-leaning social justice group, which responded to news by leading efforts to raise money for Compañeros through private donations.
The D.C.-based organization helped to create With Charity For All, an “alternative donation site” for organizations that lose funding from the Church because they violate Catholic teaching.
The With Charity for All website criticizes the recent funding decision, calling it “tragic” and accusing the U.S. bishops of promoting a “right-wing political agenda.”
Hichborn, however, believes the Catholic Campaign for Human Development was right to withdraw funding from a group whose actions contradict “immutable Catholic moral teaching.”
He explained that Catholics have an obligation “to avoid even the appearance of scandal.”
“When a Catholic-run agency gives money to an organization that is intimately involved with groups promoting abortion or homosexuality, it gives the appearance of scandal,” he said.