Bishops impose conditions

American Catholic bishops have a long tradition of advocating for and helping immigrants. Nevertheless, it seems like this support is conditioned upon being against homosexuality, since they reject any sort of association with organizations that do not agree with them on this issue.

The bishop’s antipoverty program, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), has stopped its financial contributions to pro-immigrant organization VOZ of Portland, Oregon, because it is associated to the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). The bishops dislike the fact that the NCLR includes gay people in its civil rights advocacy agenda.

This new demand for VOZ to give up its membership in the NCLR as a condition to obtaining funding is unusual. VOZ refused to do so, because the NCLR is a diverse organization with broad reach that brings it more financial and social benefits that the now-restricted agenda of the CCHD.

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George at one point justified this type of action, saying about the manipulation of immigrants and the church for political purposes that Jesus “is not stupid.”

We do not dare say what Jesus is or is not. What is known, according to the New Testament, is that when it came to raising Lazarus from the dead, healing the sick and helping the stranger, Jesus did not ask about affiliation and did not require people to believe in a specific tenant of his faith.

The CCHD, which distributes $14 million per year, changed the language for its grants in 2010 as a result of pressure from Catholic groups, whose priority is fighting same-sex marriage. The groups imposed this condition in order to give money to the CCHD.

The change reflects the growing inflexibility of the American Catholic church and its tendency to become one of many organizations that focus on a single issue and measure their actions according to that limited agenda.

The day laborers who make up VOZ will lose $75,000, a very significant amount for their work to help immigrants get ahead. Gay marriage, like many other issues that conservatives and liberals debate under the NCLR umbrella, is probably not a priority in its agenda.

The CCHD is not a charitable organization. As it describes itself, it intends “to break the cycle of poverty by helping low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, families and communities.” Now we must add, as long as they do not join people with different opinions on the gay issue.