CHICAGO, IL, July 31, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – After a group of eight Catholic Democrats published an open letter in the Chicago Tribune Monday criticizing Cardinal Francis George for threatening to withhold charitable funding from an immigrant group that recently came out in favor of same-sex “marriage,” the cardinal fired back in a statement, calling the letter’s signers cynical and “intellectually and morally dishonest.”

The Chicago diocese’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) had been contributing between $25,000 and $30,000 each year to several member groups of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) to aid humanitarian efforts in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. But since CCHD funding agreements are contingent on recipients not supporting agendas contrary to the Catholic faith, Cardinal George recently notified member groups that CCHD will be unable to provide any more funding unless the groups sever ties with the ICIRR and publicly renounce support for gay nuptials. 

In their letter, the Catholic Democrats had accused Cardinal George of using poor immigrants as “pawns in a political battle.”

On Wednesday, Cardinal George responded via a statement posted to the Diocesan website, explaining that ICIRR left the Catholic Church no choice but to withdraw funding after violating the terms of their contract.

“Donors to the CCHD give to this anti-poverty organization with the understanding that their money will be passed on to organizations that respect the teachings of the Catholic faith,” wrote the cardinal. “Organizations that apply for funds do so agreeing to this condition.”

“On May 23,” continued the cardinal, “the ICIRR board broke faith with its member organizations when it publicly supported so called ‘same-sex marriage.’ For its own political advantage, it introduced a matter extraneous to its own purpose and betrayed its own members, who were not consulted.”

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Added Cardinal George, “The CCHD had no choice but to respect the unilateral decision of the ICIRR board that effectively cut off funding from groups that remain affiliated with ICIRR.”

The cardinal had harsh words for the Catholic Democrats who signed the open letter, writing, “It is intellectually and morally dishonest to use the witness of the Church’s concern for the poor as an excuse to attack the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage.”

Added George, “Those who signed the open letter in the Tribune proclaimed their adherence to the Catholic faith even as they cynically called upon others to reject the Church’s bishops. The Church is no one’s private club; she is the Body of Christ, who tells us he is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ Because the signers of the letters are Catholic, they know that in a few years, like each of us, they will stand before this same Christ to give an account of their stewardship. Jesus is merciful, but he is not stupid; he knows the difference between right and wrong. Manipulating both immigrants and the Church for political advantage is wrong.”

He reminded the letter signers of Catholic teaching on marriage, quoting Pope Francis, who wrote last month, “…marriage should be a stable union of man and woman…this union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgement and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh and are enabled to give birth to a new life.”

“In other words,” wrote Cardinal George, “when it comes to marriage and family life, men and women are not interchangeable. The whole civilized world knows that.”

The cardinal said the Church is not turning her back on Chicago’s immigrant poor, and will continue to serve them through organizations that do not oppose the Catholic faith on matters of morals and doctrine, including Priests for Justice for Immigrants, Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, and the Archdiocesan Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League praised Cardinal George for taking a principled stand.

“Everyone knows that the Catholic Church has a long and proud history of immigrant outreach,” Donohue wrote in a statement. “Everyone knows that the Catholic Church, like virtually every religion in the history of the world, believes marriage should be confined to one man and one woman. It should come as no surprise, then, that Catholics who financially support pro-immigrant organizations expect that their contribution will not fund entities that reject Church teachings on marriage.”
 
Donohue dismissed the “angst” of the handful of Democratic Catholic politicians who penned the open letter, calling it “contrived.”

“As Cardinal George said … organizations that apply for CCHD funding do so knowing that they are expected to respect Church teachings,” Donohue wrote. “No one forces them to apply; they are free to secure funds elsewhere. But when they violate their agreement, and are called out for doing so, they should not pretend to be victims.”
  
Added Donohue, “If Cardinal George denied funding to a pro-immigrant organization that was aligned with racist or anti-Semitic causes, he would be heralded as a champion of human rights. But because the issue is gay marriage, he is condemned. The politics are so transparent that it’s making a joke of those promoting it.”

Cook County Commissioners John Fritchey and Larry Suffredin; Chicago aldermen James Cappleman, Patrick O’Connor, Proco “Joe” Moreno, and Danny Solis; City Clerk Susana Mendoza; and retired Cook County Judge Maureen Durkin Roy, all Catholic Democrats, had signed the letter.