It isn’t everyday in this city or in cities across this land when an organization like the Chelsea Collaborative, which relies entirely for its budget on donations, returns a $40,000 donation because it refused to follow stipulations attached to it.
In this instance, the Collaborative returned $40,000 to the Catholic Church, specifically to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) who donated the money to the Collaborative which used the funding to organize its various campaigns for people from a wide spectrum of life who live in Chelsea.
The problem occurred when officials from CCHD told the Collaborative’s Executive Director Gladys Vega that none of the funds should be used for anything having to do with gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
In addition, they didn’t want the Collaborative to use the funding for organizational purposes which go against church teachings – which would include abortion, birth control, and a wide variety of social issues which finds the Catholic Church of today a bit at odds with its membership.
According to Vega, nearly 100 percent of the people the Collaborative serves are Catholic.
Her firm belief is that the Collaborative would not bow to pressure from the CCHD to hold on to the money by selling out those the church does not agree with.
Vega said she and her organization stand for the rights of man – and this means all men and women no matter what their sexual persuasion is.
For a small but sturdy Chelsea social organization dedicated to organizing mostly poor and disempowered people, the return of the $40,000 marked a seminal moment in its long history here.
Standing against the Catholic Church remains a difficult task.
The Collaborative has shown great strength of character and purpose in standing up for the rights of gay men and women, bisexuals and transgender people.
Ms. Vega conducted herself with dignity last week.
She refused to accept the exclusion of people who are different.
She made an expensive decision but it was the right one.
It isn’t the Collaborative that needs to change its mission.
It is the Catholic Church that needs to come into the mainstream of life as it is in the 21st Century.
As long as the church continues its efforts to exclude gays and refuses to embrace birth control and a host of our modern social issues by changing with the times, it will remain exclusionary and hopelessly behind the times.
The Collaborative has shown us exactly where it stands.
It is against exclusion of any kind – and this friends – is what being bold and being right is all about.