Gays' good deeds not enough for church
By Susan Greene
Denver Post Columnist
Posted: 10/04/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT Updated: 10/04/2009 01:04:05 AM MDT
Jesus hung out with a crowd of day laborers.
That's why the Catholic Church long has fed them, helped find them jobs and homes, and fought for their rights.
But solidarity met its limits last week when the Archdiocese of Denver broke trust with a group of day labor advocates for accepting funding from gays and lesbians. The church can't bring itself to contain its homophobia, even for an hour, to lease a banquet room to El Centro Humanitario.
El Centro is the pre-eminent group fighting for the rights of thousands of poor and vulnerable migrant workers in Denver whom the church claims to care about — and who happen overwhelmingly to be Catholic. The nonprofit group left a deposit and signed a contract with the archdiocese to rent space in its Hispanic ministry building for El Centro's hour-long anniversary luncheon this Friday.
But the Church wigged out when realizing that benefactors include the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado.
The archdiocese singled out the Gay and Lesbian Fund among the luncheon's 10 sponsors, forbidding El Centro even from uttering the fund's name on church property. El Centro wouldn't be allowed to thank the fund for its $3,000 donation or hang a banner or pass out a program acknowledging its sponsorship, the church insisted.
"We need to be very cautious about which organizations or company we partner with and allow . . . to host events at our facility," wrote Abraham Morales of the archdiocese's Hispanic Ministry. "I need to express our concern about us being associated with the sponsor of your event."
The archdiocese argues that speaking or writing about the fund on church property could be construed as "support for organizations that advocate for a homosexual lifestyle."
The more subtle implication seems to be that perfectly straight Catholics might become queer merely by eating burritos funded partially by lesbians, sitting in chairs gay men helped rent or wiping their mouths with napkins that God-knows-which-perverts pitched in for.
The fund's money is apparently too dirty, even if "the Catholic Church understands the need to reach out to and love homosexual persons," archdiocese spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo argues. Whatever that means.
The Gay and Lesbian Fund isn't feeling the love.
"Most of us live our lives believing, maybe hoping, that discrimination no longer exists," says spokesman Fred Sainz, a gay man who identifies as Catholic. "The sad reality is that it takes events such as this one to jolt you back and acknowledge that we still have a long road ahead of us."
The archdiocese's intransigence put El Centro in a bind.
The group long has collaborated with the church on the common cause of helping day laborers, many of whom are regular communion takers and support the church despite their meager earnings. Meantime, El Centro has lost 30 percent of its budget in the economic downturn and is relying more than ever on donations and attendance at its annual fundraiser.
Days before Friday's event, the group made the inconvenient call of moving the luncheon to a community center that doesn't require intolerance as the price of admission.
"We're not going to participate in singling out and discriminating against our gay and lesbian allies," says El Centro director Minsun Ji. "It's a pretty simple matter of principle."
Susan Greene writes Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Reach her at 303-954-1989 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When the Episcopal Church held its triennial General Convention in Denver in the summer of 2000, I shared space in the press room with a reporter from the Denver *Post*. I was struck by her willingness to ask questions when some odd bit of the Church's way of operating didn't seem to make sense. Susan Greene's piece confirms my judgment that the *Post* was -- and remains -- committed to "getting it right."
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