Lay Catholics use donations to fight back against their church's right-wing contingent

Catholics are pushing back against a decision by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to cut off funding to an immigrant advocacy group in Durango because it has ties to an LGBT advocacy group that supports the legalization of civil unions. The progressive national nonprofit Catholics United has started a website called WithCharityForAll.org, described as way for lay Catholics to donate to charities "threatened with defunding by right-wing pressure groups within the Catholic Church."

Durango's Companeros is an immigrant resource center that helps southwestern Colorado's immigrants navigate American systems. For the past three years, it has received a $30,000 annual grant from CCHD, which makes up over half of its annual operating budget. But in February, Companeros received a letter from CCHD that said Companeros's membership in the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition was unacceptable. Why? Because back in November, CIRC formed an alliance with One Colorado, an LGBT advocacy group that's backing a bill to legalize civil unions.

Companeros decided against severing ties with CIRC, deciding that its membership in the organization was more important than giving in to CCHD's demands. "Companeros has never taken a stand on civil unions. We don't have a position," board member Danny Quinlan told Westword. "It was kind of guilt by association."

But Companeros's decision to stand with CIRC means its budget is now in jeopardy. That's where Catholics United and WithCharityForAll.org hopes to help.

"There was a need for something that could demonstrate Catholic support for the mission of the church and the vital ministries that the church has, but not necessarily condone the politics of the bishops," says Washington, D.C.-based Catholics United executive director James Salt, who grew up partly in Colorado Springs. (His father was in the military.)

"There are many Catholics who love the mission of the Catholic church but cannot conscientiously subsidize the activities of some of the bishops," he added.

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Currently, 100 percent of the donations made at WithCharityForAll.org will go to Companeros. Catholics United has more than 40,000 members and in two days, the site raised an astonishing $5,000. Salt reports that a donor has stepped up and agreed to match each donation dollar-for-dollar, so the total is now $10,000.

"We fully expect to raise more money than they lost," he says of Companeros.

More from our Politics archive: "LGBT advocates fight Catholic Charities' threat to stop adoptions if civil unions are legalized."

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