Anti-abortion organization opposes annual Catholic fund-raising effort Critics say donations finance groups hostile to church's teachings

November 30, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A militant anti-abortion group in Northeast Baltimore is trying to undermine a nationwide effort by the Roman Catholic Church to raise money for the poor.

Rescue America, headed by anti-abortion activist Donald Treshman, contends that the church's annual Campaign for Human Development funds groups that support abortion rights, gay rights and other views that violate church teachings.

Early this month, the Baltimore Archdiocese sent out "an urgent request for clarity" to its pastors, alerting them to an attack on the church charity by the group of conservative Catholics.

What prompted the notice to pastors, in particular, was an article published Nov. 15 on the front page of the Rooster, a community newspaper that circulates in Northeast Baltimore.

The article, written by a supporter of Treshman's group, complains that the Campaign for Human Development -- which has given $200 million to fight poverty in the past 26 years -- has supported groups with ties to Planned Parenthood, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Organization for Women and other organizations.

The article cited several organizations that receive money from the Catholic Church for anti-poverty programs, including JEDI Women, a group in Salt Lake City, 9 to 5 Working Women and the National Health Care Campaign.

The article stated that these groups are sympathetic to abortion and gay rights organizations.

"If you have a group working for ordination of women or that supports lesbians but does 5 percent of their work for the poor, it's misleading," Treshman said in an interview.

But the church told area pastors in a memo that the Campaign for Human Development "has never and will never fund a project not in accord with Catholic moral teachings."

The Rev. William F. Burke, the pastor in charge of the campaign for the Baltimore area, confirmed that the church has given money to the groups named by the Rooster, but he said the grants are strictly for their anti-poverty work.

The causes those organizations support in addition to their anti-poverty work are ones "we have no control over," he said.

Burke said the church won't know whether the Rooster article had any impact on the annual collection until next month when the money is counted.

Rescue America that has invaded medical offices and blockaded abortion clinics. A year ago, Treshman moved his operation to Northeast Baltimore.

Last week, he sent out a news release under the name "Catholics Concerned," touting the group's "first nationally-coordinated public repudiation" of the annual Thanksgiving-time collection in Catholic churches for the Campaign for Human Development.

The news release claimed that activists in 19 states and two U.S. territories would form "truth teams" to "expose" the faults of the Campaign for Human Development by passing out leaflets at churches.

Treshman said he did not know how many volunteers had passed out leaflets nationwide during the past two weekends.

In Maryland, he said, 12 to 15 people passed out notices opposing the campaign at a handful of churches Nov. 17.

The Rooster article was written by Carey J. Winters, a free-lance writer who works with Treshman's group.

She said she wrote it in the hope that Catholics would refuse to give to the fund.

"I am concerned about the direction the church has taken in recent years. There are things about Campaign for Human Development I find terribly dishonest," she said.

Gerald F. Frey Jr., publisher of the Rooster, said he printed the article because he supported its view.

"I didn't think people realized that the Campaign for Human Development was indirectly funding all these groups," he said, adding that he didn't think it was necessary to publish a defense by the Catholic church or the groups the article attacks.

Pub Date: 11/30/96

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