Last week, the Chelsea Collaborative returned a $40,000 donation to the Catholic Church when the church apparently placed stipulations on the expenditure of the money which would preclude the Collaborative from using the fund to benefit gay men and women.
In a dramatic early morning press conference held last Thursday before a large crowd in the Collaborative’s Broadway offices, Collaborative Executive Director Gladys Vega told those assembled that the church was not about to direct who the Collaborative aids and who it should refuse to aid.
“We cannot under any circumstances accept money that would put us in the position of excluding any of our community – and this includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people,” Vega said.
Vega deplored the effort by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), who donated the money to the Collaborative, to order that the Collaborative grant restrictions on the use of its money that included a requirement that the Collaborative would not support work that goes against Catholic teachings. And this included doing work that supports gay lifestyles.
The Collaborative returned the $40,000 late in March. It has withdrawn, as well, its application for funding in 2013.
Vega spoke passionately about the action that was taken. Her voice breaking, she recalled the memory of her late brother, who was gay and related the ostracism and exclusion he faced trying to be a gay Hispanic man. John Vega died in 1996.
Nearly everyone in the room for the press conference was Catholic and greeted her words with powerful applause.
“This is not so much a protest against the church,” she said after making her initial remarks and answering questions. “It is about the rights of man and our duty to uphold the rights of man and to exclude no one – none of God’s children,” she said.
“We see all types of oppression. We never turn out backs on those who suffer,” she added.
She said the Collaborative would not accept a quid pro quo with the agency donating the money.
“Besides,” said one of three Hispanic people who spoke at the news conference, “the money the agency was donating came from us, from Catholics who contribute – not from the church that wishes to exclude some of those who are gay. We are the church.”
Father Edgar Gutierrez, the Episcopalian pastor of St. Luke’s Church told those assembled he was shocked at the church trying to exclude men and women because of their sexual persuasion.
“Christianity is not united on the matter of whether or not gay people are the children of God. But this I know,” he said eloquently, “We are all children of God.”
He received a hearty round of applause.