By Patrick B. Craine
PORTLAND, Maine, March 25, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The U.S. Bishops' domestic anti-poverty arm, Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), has defunded a Maine homelessness advocacy group over its support for same-sex “marriage,” following reports last fall from members of the Reform CCHD Now coalition.
Homeless Voices for Justice (HVJ), an advocacy program run by Portland-based Preble Street, had received funding from the CCHD for 13 years. But Preble Street joined a “No on 1” coalition in the fall, which fought to uphold the state's recognition of same-sex “marriage.” Maine voters overturned the law on November 3, but Preble Street's support for it prompted the Portland diocese and Bishop Richard Malone to revoke their $2,400 grant in December.
"We regret the collaboration must end at this time," wrote Sandra Thompson of Catholic Charities Maine, according to Portland Press Herald. "Accountability to the Catholic community requires this."
CCHD national director Ralph McCloud then wrote to the group on January 27th, advising them they had disqualified themselves from CCHD grants and would not receive the remaining half of this year's $30,000 grant. McCloud also asked them to return any unspent funds from the first $15,000, though he was later informed that there weren't any.
Preble Street's participation in the “No on 1” campaign “is a violation of the grant agreement that was signed by your organization as the fiscal agent,” wrote McCloud, in a letter obtained by the Press Herald. “While Homeless Voices may not have participated in this coalition they did nothing to make us aware of any problem with the grant or their fiscal agent.”
In February letters to Bishop Malone and the national CCHD, Preble Street executive director Mark Swann called the withdrawal of funds “terribly disappointing” and claimed that the views of the Homeless Voices program are “independent” from those of Preble Street. “The positions of Preble Street do not represent those taken by Homeless Voices for Justice,” he wrote, noting that HVJ did not take a stand on same-sex “marriage” campaign, following consideration.
According to Swann, Preble Street backed the same-sex “marriage” campaign because “issues around sexual orientation are the single greatest cause of homelessness in youth .”
“Until we as a society fully accept gay people and endow them with the rights that all citizens are entitled to, Preble Street will continue to see these young, vulnerable people lining up at our homeless shelters seeking safety and warmth, but most of all seeking kindness, acceptance and unconditional support,” he wrote.
Randy Keesler, grants specialist with the national CCHD, told the Press Herald that CCHD learned of Preble Street's support for same-sex “marriage” after it was raised by CCHD critics as an example of CCHD's funding of groups advocating positions contrary to Church teaching.
"We liked Homeless Voices a great deal. I felt badly for having to cancel the grant," he said. "This was very difficult for us to do."
Rob Gasper of the Bellarmine Veritas Ministry, a member of the Reform CCHD Now coalition, had alerted (http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/nov/09110507.html) CCHD to the problems with Preble Street in a November report. He produced evidence indicating that the group was offering “family planning services” through a day shelter. He did not call for the group's defunding at the time, but argued that the evidence highlighted the need for further investigation from CCHD.
“Even knowing the backlash they faced from progressive and gay-rights media outlets, Bishop Malone and the CCHD did the right thing by defunding Preble Street,” Gasper told LifeSiteNews (LSN) on Thursday. “Preble Street brought this on themselves by openly supporting same-sex marriage and providing access to 'family planning' at their center.”
Michael Hichborn of American Life League, a member of the Reform CCHD Now coalition, told LSN that Preble Street's decision to back same-sex “marriage” highlights “the problem with funding 'progressive' organizations.”
“They will always place idealism above morality,” he commented. "Bishop Malone did exactly what needed to be done to protect the souls of his flock. We are encouraged by his decisive action, illustrating the problem with the CCHD's grants-writing process and grantee oversight."
Gasper also noted that the Bishop Malone has been subject to an “all-out assault” in the media from the dissident group Catholics for Marriage Equality (CME) and other “willing partners.” CME has accused Bishop Malone of “petty vindictiveness” and announced that they are leading an effort to recoup the $17,400 in lost funds.
“We're calling on all Catholics of good faith to rally to Bishop Malone's defense in support of his courageous action,” said Gasper.
LSN did not hear back from CCHD national director Ralph McCloud by press time.
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Call for Reform of U.S. Bishops' CCHD Bolstered by New Evidence
CCHD Responds to Reform Movement