April 5, 2012; Source: New York Times

Conservative Catholic groups have been pressuring the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), a traditional funder of groups working to end poverty and injustice, to stop funding groups allying themselves with organizations that do not pass muster with a contingent of Catholic social conservatives. CCHD was established in 1969 as the “National Catholic Crusade Against Poverty” by the Catholic bishops in the United States and its mission is “to address the root causes of poverty in America through promotion and support of community-controlled self-help organizations and through transformative social justice, education, and solidarity between poor and non-poor.” Indeed, it has been a critical funding source for some very marginalized groups for more than 40 years.

Still, apparently those feelings of solidarity do not extend to gays and lesbians. These days, CCHD funds about 250 groups nationwide for a total of around $8 million and, though the grants are not large, they mean a lot to some of those largely grassroots groups. This article says that nine groups from across the country have been defunded by the Campaign in the last three years because of conflicts with Catholic principles, according to the campaign’s director, Ralph McCloud. Companeros, an organization working with Hispanic immigrants in Colorado, was told that unless it withdrew from a coalition that included a gay and lesbian group, it would lose its funding.

The nine groups that already lost funding are the Rebecca Project for Human Rights in Washington; the Chinese Progressive Association of San Francisco; Young Workers United, also of San Francisco; the Washington Community Action Network in Seattle; Preble Street in Portland, Maine.; the Latino Farmers Cooperative of Louisiana; the Los Angeles Community Action Network; RecycleForce of Indianapolis; and Centro Campesino of Owatonna, Minn.

Nicole Mosher of Companeros 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.” In recent years, socially conservative Catholics have been working hard online to track the activities of CCHD groups and target them for defunding if they offend, even hosting a website dedicated to the purpose.

NPQ is saddened by this turn of events, having known and been involved with many groups funded by CCHD and working with the poorest of the poor. We would love to hear from you on this. –Ruth McCambridge