Denver bishop says Catholic grants can't undermine Church teaching

Bishop James D Conley in Rome Italy May 4 2012 2 CNA Vatican Catholic News 5 4 12 Bishop James D. Conley.

Countering critics who include former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Bishop James D. Conley of Denver has defended the end of Catholic grants to the Compañeros immigrant resource center, saying that the Church cannot oppose "same-sex marriage" while funding those who advocate it.

"This is not the consequence of conservative pressure being put on the church or some kind of an internecine culture war," said Bishop Conley, the Archdiocese of Denver's apostolic administrator, in the Denver Post June 14. "This is the consequence of the basic integrity of Catholic doctrine: We can't claim to work for our beliefs and at the same time work against them."

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development ended a $30,000 annual grant to the Pueblo, Colo.-based Compañeros immigrant center. The grant made up half of its annual budget.

The organization is a founding member of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and has representation on the board of directors.

Bishop Conley said the organization has done "very good work" to help immigrants, but has also been involved in organizations which "actively flaunt" Catholic beliefs about human sexuality, the family and justice.

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is an active supporter of homosexual advocacy and is a backer of a contentious civil unions bill that would grant same-sex couples the same rights as married couples in Colorado. The coalition has sponsored a community organizing retreat with the Gay and Lesbian Fund and has said that One Colorado, an LGBT advocacy group, is a "sister coalition."

Catholic Campaign for Human Development rules bar grants to organizations in coalitions with organizations whose positions are contrary to Catholic teaching.

Bishop Conley said it is "natural" for the Catholic Church to support work it believes in, like helping immigrants.

"But Compañeros chose to partner with organizations that pursue a decidedly non-Catholic agenda and, logically, the Catholic Church chose to stop footing the bill," he explained.

The bishop said Compañeros administrators help direct the immigrant coalition and "have aided its promotion of a political agenda that runs counter to foundational principles of Catholic doctrine."

Former Gov. Bill Ritter, a pro-life Catholic Democrat, in a May 1 opinion piece for the Denver Post contended that the bishops' anti-poverty efforts are "being compromised in pursuit of a divisive, conservative political agenda."

He suggested that children would go to bed hungry or an immigrant mother would be denied prenatal care because an organization "does not meet a conservative litmus test." He said the end of the grant seemed to him to be "a drastic departure" from how American Catholics try to practice their faith. He said it is hard for him to believe how the Catholic hierarchy thinks the move is "a winning proposition."

Bishop Conley said in his June 14 response that while he has "great respect" for Ritter, the former governor "seems to expect the Catholic Church to abandon its beliefs in the face of public opinion."

The bishop said marriage is "an institution written into our very being" and its redefinition is an "impossibility." He also emphasized that all people have the dignity of being made in God's image "regardless of sexual inclination."

Opponents of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development's decision not to renew the grant said they have raised over $60,000 for Compañeros.

The Democrat-leaning Catholics United Education Fund collected $7,000 in partnership with the organization's Maine-based founder, attorney George Burns, was an opponent of the successful Maine ballot initiative Question 1, which in 2009 restored the definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman after the state legislature voted to recognize same-sex "marriage."

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The Gill Foundation donated $30,000 to Compañeros as a matching grant. The Gill Foundation was founded by the Colorado homosexual activist and multi-millionaire Tim Gill, who has used his wealth to target political leaders who do not support homosexual political causes.

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