Christian Non-Profit Houses Cohabiting Couples

by David Nussman  •  •  April 17, 2018   

Habitat for Humanity has policies that could cause conscience dilemmas for Catholics

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DETROIT ( - A Christian non-profit is supporting cohabitation. Habitat for Humanity is an international charity organization that builds homes for those in need. Founded as a Christian organization, Habitat for Humanity has a policy against proselytizing and considers itself ecumenical.

A Catholic, who used to be a board member in a regional branch of Habitat for Humanity, told Church Militant, "I resigned as a board member of my local Habitat for Humanity when I discovered they were putting unmarried people into homes."

The source continued, "In fact, it is the national office policy that any local affiliate will be cut off if they refuse to consider unmarried [couples] for the homes constructed. But that seems wrong and opposed to Catholic morality."

"Unmarrieds have received help locally," he continued. "I know that for sure. It was the reason I left my position as a board member."

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Church Militant reached out to Habitat for Humanity International requesting comment. A spokesperson from Public and Media Relations issued the following statement:

Habitat for Humanity's homeowner selection is managed at the local level through our locations across the U.S. and around the world. Each local Habitat follows fair housing laws including a nondiscrimination policy for family selection. Habitat homeowners are selected based on their need for affordable housing, their ability to repay a low-cost mortgage and their willingness to partner by helping to build their home and the homes of others in the program. Habitat builds with people in need of decent housing, regardless of their race or religion. You can learn more about Habitat's mission, vision and principles here.

In the United States, living together before marriage has become common in recent years. Also known as cohabitation, this behavior is frowned upon among Catholics, partly because it presents a near occasion of sin by facilitating premarital sex. Even if there is no sexual activity, living together before marriage can still be a cause of public scandal. Another argument against cohabitation is that it cheapens marriage by blurring the distinction between single life and married life.

Earlier this year, Oregon-based paper Catholic Sentinel published a story about a cohabiting couple given an affordable home through Catholic Charities' Family Success Center. The duo, April Ehrlich and Walter Fonseca, "were handed the keys to their fixer-upper — purchased with hard work and the aid of a Catholic Charities-run program."

Readers of Catholic Sentinel pushed back in the comments. One person wrote, "This is helping mortal sin."

Another commenter said, "Catholic Charities could you at least convince the 'partners' to get married? Aiding fornicators to persist in their sin is neither Catholic nor charity."

Aiding fornicators to persist in their sin is neither Catholic nor charity.

It is common in the United States for Catholic parishes, schools and organizations to be affiliated with Habitat for Humanity. Catholics throughout the country from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Los Angeles, California, have allied with Habitat for Humanity in efforts to build homes for the less fortunate.

In 2012, Catholic Charities U.S.A. awarded Habitat for Humanity with a medal, celebrating its work to build and refurbish houses for the disadvantaged. Then-president of Catholic Charities U.S.A. Fr. Larry Snyder said, "Habitat for Humanity is the long-respected leader in making affordable housing available for all, and we salute them for their incredible work and commitment nationwide."

In some cases, Catholics have worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a house for Christians fleeing persecution. That is what happened in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2015. Several families of Coptic Christians, who had recently immigrated from Muslim-majority Egypt, moved into new houses built by Habitat for Humanity. Local Catholics were involved in building the houses, as part of an initiative created in honor of Pope Francis.


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