Bryan Cones is livid that the organization Compañeros may lose a $30,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) for refusing to give up membership in the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, which promotes same-sex civil unions. (Brian Cones, “The watchdogs bite again: Another agency in danger of losing CCHD funding,” US Catholic, 4-10-12).
CCHD guidelines, which the CCHD hasn’t followed very well so far, prohibit giving money to organizations that themselves support or that operate in coalition with others who support activities that directly violate Catholic teaching. So, any group belonging to the racist Ku Klux Klan couldn’t receive CCHD money…nor could a CCHD recipient belong to a coalition that supported the Ku Klux Klan. Catholic teaching upholds the dignity of all people, regardless of their skin color. Similarly, either promoting or belonging to a coalition that supports same-sex marriage disbars a group from receiving CCHD money. Catholic teaching affirms marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman.
“Get that?” Cones writes indignantly. “Compañeros can't have anything to do with CIRC because it supports civil unions…. these kinds of guilt-by-association accusations are counterproductive and are doing serious damage both to our Catholic outreach to the poor.” Cones can’t understand why an organization should be held accountable for supporting problematic positions.
“By the same logic,” argues Cones, “since the Holy See is a member of the United Nations, and many of its member nations have same-sex marriage, the Holy See should withdraw from the U.N.” Of course, the Holy See isn’t giving any money to the UN. In fact, its presence in the UN is one of the few counter-balances to the UN’s more egregious positions. This “logic” isn’t the same at all.
Cones also seems to think that, since 71 percent of U.S. Roman Catholics support civil unions, Companeros deserves to be cut some slack. (These are Cones’ figures, by the way. For the sake of argument, we’ll accept them at face value though similar polls have been creditably challenged: Joan Frawley Desmond, “Polls: Do the Numbers Lie? Survey claims that more American Catholics are breaking with Rome over same-sex relationships,” National Catholic Register, 4-5-11). Using this sort of reasoning, I suppose that if 71 percent of U.S. Roman Catholics supported the Ku Klux Klan, no one could complain about Catholic money going to an organization in its fellowship.
Putting aside the silliness of such “reasoning,” one must point out that Church teaching – unlike Marxist praxis – doesn’t hang on public consensus. In fact, if it were true that nearly two-thirds of Catholics disagree with Church teaching, it would be essential for the Church to redouble her educational efforts, not slacken them. If a majority of fourth-graders don’t know that 6+4=10, a school system has to work harder to help them learn the fundamentals.
My favorite bit in the Cones’ article, however, is his canard that “these witch hunts” – complaints about CCHD misappropriations of Catholic money to groups that support un-Catholic positions – are all about…sex! Who would have imagined! “More and more it appears that Catholics in general are so obsessed with issues of sexuality that we can't even feed the poor or shelter immigrants anymore.”
This crack has been thrown at pro-lifers for decades and says a great deal about the speaker (or writer). Abortion, of course, isn’t an “issue of sexuality” – it’s an issue of personhood and civil rights. Same-sex marriage isn’t an “issue of sexuality,” either – it’s an issue of covenantal partnership for ends that can’t be achieved in same-sex relationships. To reduce these issues to “sexuality” betrays that not only does the writer not understand Catholic teaching but that he is himself trapped in a Freudian construct that understands everything in sexual terms. What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than it does about Paul.
It’s interesting to contrast the Cones’ article, which was carried on the April 11, 2012 Faith in Public Life news feed, with another article on the feed from the Faith in Public Life blog, Bold Faith Type. Faith in Public Life is a sophisticated media outlet committed to promoting progressive positions in religious bodies. The Cones article and the Faith in Public Life blog article were included in the news feed because they argue for progressive interests.
However, the blog article, written by Nick Sementelli (“Robert George’s Moral Cowardice on Islamophobia,” 4-11-12), completely agrees that guilty associations must be held accountable. Robert George, it explains, is a Princeton professor who sits on the board of a foundation that, according to Sementelli, “funds some of the worst anti-Islam extremists.” This may or may not be true and it may or may not be a problem. This discussion isn’t about the merits of the accusation but about what Sementelli concludes based on them.
You see, Professor George hasn’t himself made anti-Islamist statements or engaged in anti-Islamist activity. It is his funding foundation that stands accused of giving money to anti-Islam organizations…much as CCHD is accused of giving money to pro-abortion and other groups with anti-Catholic positions.
Now, I would presume, as Sementelli presumes, that Professor George is philosophically comfortable with the groups being funded by the foundation on whose board he sits. …in much the same way that I think one can presume that an organization in coalition with groups supporting same-sex marriage is itself philosophically comfortable with same-sex marriage and in much the same way that one presumes that there are elements in the CCHD bureaucracy that are also comfortable with this position.
To those opposed to what they believe are anti-Islamic positions, holding Professor George accountable for his contribution to that position makes a lot of sense. Similarly, it makes sense to hold Catholics disbursing CCHD grants accountable for assuring that no money is used for anti-Catholic purposes.
Professor George “and his allies,” Sementelli warns, “shouldn’t be surprised if others determine that his association with anti-Muslim groups disqualifies him from such an important and prestigious role” as his recent appointment to U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. So, why are CCHD grantees surprised that others determine their association with anti-Catholic positions disqualifies them from receiving Catholic money?
The problem isn’t that “watchdogs” want CCHD to operate in a manner consistent with Catholic social teaching; it’s that Catholic progressives are that percentage within the Church who don’t accept those teachings.
Spero columnist Stephanie Block edits the New Mexico based newspaper Los Pequenos and is a founder of the Catholic Media Coalition.