Weather Updates

Progressive charities to help groups Catholics penalized over gay marriage: Brown

Cardinal Francis George  |  Sun-Times files

Cardinal Francis George | Sun-Times files

storyidforme: 55519448
tmspicid: 8641020
fileheaderid: 3893275

Updated: October 26, 2013 6:40AM

Those immigrant advocacy groups that lost funding from a Catholic charity in a tussle with Cardinal George and the Archdiocese of Chicago over gay marriage may get their money after all — but from somebody else.

A group of progressive charitable foundations — active in both the immigration reform and marriage equality movements — will step up Wednesday to announce creation of an emergency fund to replace the $300,000 stripped from member organizations of the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

I’m glad to see that somebody has got these folks’ back.

As you’ve read here previously, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, cut off funding to those organizations this summer after the coalition endorsed same-sex marriage legislation pending before the Illinois General Assembly.

The cutoff included funds to such worthwhile programs as Bikes N’ Roses, an initiative of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, which operates a free bike repair clinic that trains young people as bike mechanics. Punishing them was just plain senseless.

Now coming to their rescue will be the newly-formed Solidarity Fund, which will be operated through the Crossroads Fund of Chicago — with involvement from Fred Eychaner’s Alphawood Foundation, Chicago Foundation for Women, the Gill Foundation and the Pierce Family Foundation.

Jeanne Kracher, executive director of the Crossroads Fund, said the common denominator among the funding groups is that “we’re all interested in social justice issues.”

Eychaner and the Gill Foundation have been particularly active in leading the fight in favor of LGBT rights in general and marriage rights for gays and lesbians in particular.

Kracher said all the groups planning to donate to the emergency replacement fund are united in their belief that the community groups who lost funding — organizations such as United African Organization and Chicago Workers Collaborative — have been doing good work in the city for many years, as witnessed by their prior funding from the Catholic Church.

She said none of them deserve to be victims of “guilt by association” over gay marriage.

Cardinal George has blamed the funding cutoff on leaders of the immigration coalition, saying the church was left with no choice after the group got involved in the fight over gay marriage. The church staunchly opposes gay marriage, of course, just as it staunchly supports immigrant rights.

Some might consider the Church’s heavy-handed enforcement efforts in this situation exactly the sort of obsession with “small-minded rules” that Pope Francis recently suggested was interfering with the Church’s pastoral mission.

But, hey, I’m just a heathen, and I have to be more careful about interpreting the Pope, although I’m darn certain Cardinal George got it wrong again over the weekend when he tried to tell us that it was society’s obsession with certain hot-button issues, not Church leaders’ emphasis on enforcing its doctrines, to which the Pope was referring in his latest headline-grabbing interview.

“If the society is obsessed with those issues,” George said, “then the church will respond. If the society doesn’t bring them up, the church won’t respond.”

Instead of arguing the point, though, let’s just agree that gay marriage is one of those issues that some of us are going to keep bringing up.

I know that some people don’t see any connection between immigration and gay marriage, and indeed, the groups who are being punished here are not particularly active in LGBT issues at all. But I’m sure some of you realize there are many gay and lesbian immigrants who are in relationships that aren’t recognized under current U.S. immigration law. Same-sex married couples might at least have an argument to make in the future.

Jenny Arwade, executive director of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, said the organization is “very excited” about the prospect of new funding for the Bikes N’ Roses program, which is facing a “make it or break it period” at month’s end when a state grant expires.

After that, the group has been planning to operate a severely scaled-back program relying on donations that generous Sun-Times’ readers contributed after my previous column.

For most of its history, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has been a very progressive group that did not get bogged down in “small-minded rules.”

As the Solidarity Fund raises money for this year to fill the funding gap for CCHD’s longtime community partners, the question arises as to who will step up in the future.


Twitter: @MarkBrownCST

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.