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Diocese halts funding of charity over director’s views on abortion and gay marriage

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The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento no longer will fund programs at Francis House, a nonprofit agency that serves homeless people, because of its new director’s views supporting abortion rights and gay marriage.

In a letter last month, the diocese’s director of social services said the Rev. Faith Whitmore’s public statements on the issues clash with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Therefore, said the Rev. Michael Kiernan, the social services director, it is “impossible for the diocese to continue funding Francis House” as part of its annual Catholic Appeal.

Each morning, dozens of poor people line up at Francis House, in Sacramento’s homeless services epicenter on C and 14th streets, for help with basic services such as housing and transportation. Now in its 42nd year, the organization is one of the largest homeless services agencies in the Sacramento region, serving upward of 25,000 people. It has an annual budget of about $500,000.

For at least two decades, Francis House has received annual donations from the diocese ranging from $7,500 to $10,000, said Michael Miiller, a member of the agency’s corporate advisory board.

The diocese’s letter made it clear that it was shifting policy and removing Francis House from its fundraising campaign because of Whitmore’s affiliation with the organization.

Whitmore, a United Methodist minister, took over leadership of Francis House in April after the sudden death of longtime executive director Gregory Bunker.

Within her own denomination, she has been a strong advocate of same-sex marriage. In 2008, during a short period in which gay marriage was legal in California, Whitmore openly defied church law by marrying same-sex couples. She has said publicly that she supports a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.

In an interview Wednesday, she called the diocese’s decision to discontinue its support “surprising and disappointing.”

“I have never represented any of those positions on behalf of Francis House,” said Whitmore, formerly the senior pastor at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. “I was speaking as an individual. So for me, this came out of the blue.”

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