A small Durango-based nonprofit helping immigrants in southwestern Colorado recently lost more than half its revenue after the Catholic Campaign for Human Development said it would stop giving Compañeros $30,000 a year because of its ties to a gay-rights group.
The Catholic Campaign, an arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, provides about $8 million a year to more than 200 groups across the country.
The Diocese of Pueblo told Compañeros to choose between the money and its membership in the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, which church officials say holds positions contrary to Catholic teachings.
Diocese officials didn't return a call from The Denver Post.
While CIRC's stated focus is advocacy for the rights of all immigrants and refugees, one of its affiliates is One Colorado, which supports civil unions for gays.
Another of CIRC's stated goals is to strengthen collaboration with other groups subject to discrimination and marginalization from the broader community.
Yet nobody is claiming that Compañeros engages in any advocacy for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The controversy points to a continuing painful divide in the Catholic Church - with hierarchy and conservatives on one side and social liberals on the other.
The Compañeros board, after much discussion, recently voted to remain a member of CIRC despite the threat of defunding.
"It was a big decision for us," Compañeros spokesman Danny Quinlan said. Compañeros decided to stay with CIRC, Quinlan said, because access to a statewide network is "way more important to what we're doing than money - we are very cut off from the rest of the state down here."
In an ironic twist, the Catholic Campaign's dropping of Compañeros probably will result in more money for the nonprofit. In response to Compañeros' decision to cut ties to church funds, the Gill Foundation, one of the nation's largest funders of LGBT civil-rights activism, said it would give the resource center a matching grant up to $30,000.
"We've already raised $12,000 or $13,000," Quinlan said. Most of that money, however, is not coming from other gay-rights advocacy groups, but from individual Catholics.
"A lot of it is from Catholics who say they think what we're doing to help poor immigrants is important," Quinlan said, "and they think the Catholic Campaign made the wrong decision."
Thousands of dollars are being raised for Compañeros through a group called With Charity for All, described as an alternative for "conscientious Catholics who are concerned that the Catholic Church's charitable activities are being threatened by the increasingly reactionary right-wing politics of the Catholic bishops."
James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, which helped launch With Charity for All, told The Post: "We love the ministry and mission of the Catholic Campaign in serving the poor, sick and forgotten, but we can't subsidize the right-wing agenda."
The Catholic Campaign has been under increasing pressure from a conservative Catholic movement called Reform CCHD Nowto stop funding any groups that break its rules not to engage in activities or coalitions in opposition to Church doctrine.
"It's guilt by affiliation," said Michael Hichborn, spokesman for the American Life League, which reports annually on groups that receive Catholic Campaign money while operating outside campaign guidelines.
"Compañeros knew the guidelines in advance and agreed that they would not be part of a coalition that advocates against Church teaching," Hichborn said. "(CIRC) is promoting same-sex marriage. ... Same-sex marriage is an obstacle to the salvation of souls."
Yet Hichborn said his group didn't inform the campaign about Compañeros. The push to defund came from within the local diocese.
Nationwide, since 2009, the Catholic Campaign has stopped financing 10 groupssupposedly in conflict with Catholic doctrine.
"It's painful. But the rules have always been in place," said the campaign's director, Ralph McCloud. "Those who receive funds sign grant agreements. It's very sad for us when we have to enforce rules this way. Compañeros does tremendous work. There's no doubt about that. It's all regrettable."
Both conservative and liberal Catholics are upset about the situation, McCloud said. "I've been getting angry mail from everybody."
Electa Draper: 303-954-1276 or email@example.com