The Roman Catholic Church is cutting off thousands of dollars in aid to a small nonprofit organization providing access to health care and other basic services in protest of its “membership in an immigrant rights coalition that had joined forces with a statewide gay and lesbian advocacy group.” The organization, Compañeros, operates in rural southwestern Colorado, focusing “on economic empowerment and encourag[ing] immigrant community members to establish their own businesses.”
The connection between Compañeros and the LGBT equality organization One Colorado is tenuous. Compañeros is affiliated with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), which began a partnership with One Colorado, an organization that opposes discrimination against LGBT people. As Theresa M. Trujillo, the vice president of the immigrant coalition’s board, put it: “The Catholic Church is punishing Compañeros for having a relationship with an organization that has a relationship with an organization whose mission it is to have equality for L.G.B.T. folks.”
But the Church’s decision is part of a growing effort by conservative forces to separate its finances from any organization that is remotely affiliated with causes that they see as undermining religious doctrine, a push that is at times detrimental to the Church’s main mission of helping the poor:
Since 2010, nine groups from across the country have lost financing from the campaign because of conflicts with Catholic principles, according to the campaign’s director, Ralph McCloud. Others have simply chosen not to apply — or reapply — for funds. Mr. McCloud said the Compañeros case was being reviewed and no final decision had been made.
Compañeros was told that unless it withdrew from the coalition, Ms. Mosher said, the group would lose money it got each year.
“I was shocked that our money was all of a sudden in jeopardy, and confused about why,” Ms. Mosher said. “We have no reason to believe that we are in any way going against Catholic teachings. If they are willing to defund our program based on an affiliation, it sends a clear message of divisiveness.”
Some bishops are pushing back against the campaign, noting that the Church’s opposition to gay and lesbian rights should not trump its efforts to fight poverty. “What is apparent is that these conservative groups are succeeding in subverting the mission of…the most important antipoverty foundation in America,” James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, told the New York Times. Several leaders on the Catholic Bishop’s antipoverty and domestic justice and human development campaigns have also sent a memo to the Church noting, “We rely on the judgment of the local bishop and diocese, not the repeated accusations of those with clear ideological and ecclesial agendas.”
Compañeros’ website states, “Compañeros has not taken a position on marriage equality and is being denied half its funding simply for being associated with CIRC.”