PRESS RELEASE: Lay Catholics Create Alternative Fund to Support Charities Defunded by Right-Wing Pressure

Posted April 11, 2012

WithCharityForAll.org, an alternative giving website, allows lay Catholics to support organizations without subsidizing the political activity of bishops

WASHINGTON – Catholics United, in partnership with local Catholic leaders from across the country, announced the launch of WithCharityForAll.org, an alternative donation website that allows lay Catholics and people of faith to donate to worthy charities threatened with defunding by right-wing pressure groups within the Catholic Church, as reported in an April 6 front page New York Times article.

The most recent example was a decision by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, long considered a crucial tool for eradicating poverty in the United States, choosing to defund Compañeros, a small nonprofit organization in rural southwestern Colorado. Compañeros has received thousands of dollars from CCHD to help poor Hispanic immigrants with basic needs, including access to food, health care and shelter. CCHD made the decision to defund Compañeros because of its association with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, which by its own partnerships has made a principled stand to end discrimination against gay people.

“Many Catholics love the charitable mission of the Catholic Church but are increasingly alienated by the conservative politics of the Catholic bishops,” said George Burns, a Portland, Maine, attorney and founder of WithCharityForAll.org. “WithCharityForAll.org will be a resource for Catholics who want to support the charitable mission of the Church but who cannot conscientiously subsidize the political activity of certain bishops. One hundred percent of donations will go to the groups we support, like Compañeros.”

Catholics United Executive Director James Salt, a Colorado native, said the importance of a tool like WithCharityForAll.org is greater now than any time he can remember.

“The case of Compañeros represents a new high in the politicization of Catholic charitable organizations by the bishops,” said Salt. “If an organization can be defunded simply because of who they hang out with, it makes you wonder just how far the bishops will go in service of this right-wing witch hunt.”

The right-wing politics of the Catholic hierarchy also appears to be driving many Catholics away from the Church. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the single largest demographic shift of all religious adherents came from Catholics born into the faith who have left the Church. The only significant offset to the loss of Catholics who have migrated away from the Church has been an influx of Catholics from the immigrant community.

“It’s bad enough that that bishops are pushing an extreme political agenda that is driving a wedge between them and the Catholic faithful,” said Salt. “But this decision is particularly disturbing because they’re showing that they’ll even throw immigrants under the bus as part of that agenda, and everyone knows how important immigrants have been to the Church in recent years. Catholics everywhere are pushing back, and one way we can do that is to make sure groups like Compañeros can continue to do great work serving those most at risk in our communities.”

The purpose and function of WithCharityForAll.org is simple: if lay Catholics and people of faith are interested in giving to worthy groups regardless of whether the Catholic far-right approves, they may do so online. After the secure contribution is made, 100 percent of donations will be reallocated to groups like Compañeros. Since WithCharityForAll.org has been rolled out, Compañeros plans on continuing work with CIRC and other partners in southwest Colorado.

“Companeros is interested in defending the rights of all immigrants,” said Compañeros spokesman Danny Quinlan. “As the only immigrant resource center in southwest Colorado, our relationship to CIRC's statewide organization is essential to helping all immigrant families in our region. To cut our funding as a result of our continuous statewide affiliation puts hundreds of local families at risk of losing the valuable resources we provide.”

In just two days, WithCharityForAll.org was able to bring in more than $5,000 from CU members, exceeding even the best projections.

“We and our friends at Compañeros are fortunate we could act quickly to bring this together,” said Salt. “If there’s a silver lining, it’s that we can now bring these intimidation tactics to light and allow the public to push back.”

Founded in 2004, Catholics United is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting the message of justice and the common good found at the heart of the Catholic Social Tradition. For more information about Catholics United, follow us on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CatholicsUnited) or on our blog at www.OurDailyThread.org