In DC, the Catholic Church has suspended its foster-care program, making good on its ealier threats to pull out over marraige equality legislation. In doing so, it claims it is acting in terms of conscience, insisting that it has the right to disciminate agasinst those who do not follow Church teaching. But in its employment practices, it is ignoring the right of its own members to exercise that same right to dissent in conscience from church teaching.
From the Washington Times:
Catholics end D.C. foster-care program
The Archdiocese of Washington’s decision to drop its foster care program is the first casualty of the District of Columbia’s pending same-sex marriage law that will obligate all outside contractors dealing with the city to recognize gay couples.
Its decision, posted late Tuesday on the archdiocese’s Web site, announced that the archdiocese had ended its 80-year-old program Feb. 1, the day the city’s contract expired with Catholic Charities, the church’s social services arm.
“We regret that our efforts to avoid this outcome were not successful,” Catholic Charities Chief Executive Officer Ed Orzechowski said in a statement. “Foster care has been an important ministry for us for many decades. We worked very hard to be able to continue to provide these services in the District.”
Catholic Charities’ caseload of 43 children and 35 foster families was transferred, along with seven staffers, to the Bethesda, Md.-based National Center for Children and Families so as not to disrupt client care.
The transfer of services also means Catholic Charities will discontinue offering public adoption services. The agency processed 12 such adoptions throughout 2009 and including into this year.
“It was a very high-quality program, so this was really hard,” archdiocesan spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said of the foster care/adoption service. “We said last fall that we could not continue this program if the bill was passed as written. Well, this has come to pass.”
The Vatican has long opposed any church role in aiding homosexuals to adopt. In 2003, it said that placing children into same-sex households was “gravely immoral.”
As ever, its own continued control over the minds and behaviour of its members, and continued defence of its own teaching, is more important to the Vatican than any other consideration, outranking even the welfare of the children. It calaims that placing young children in same sex households is “immoral”: but academic research has consistently shown that chidlren placed in stable same sex househlods do every bit as well as those oaced with opposite sex couples – and may even do better. They most certainly do better than many of those who were left in the Church’s own orphanages, in Ireland or elsewhere.
At Religion Dispatches, Theologian Mary Hunt comments:
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, DC, recently stopped handling foster care and adoption in the District of Columbia because it refuses to abide by the law which, when same-sex marriage is implemented, will require it to consider same-sex couples as potential parents. The seven staff members, 43 children and their families, and the 35 foster families involved were transferred to the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) for future administration. This is not a routine matter.
Given its theo-politics and the general track record of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide on child abuse, maybe it is better that way. I wouldn’t want any child exposed to such bigotry especially when it’s couched in religious language. Nonetheless, I want to clarify from a theological perspective what is at hand and condemn from a moral standpoint the Archdiocese’s actions.
Same-sex marriage is here to stay, whether the Catholic Church likes it or not. No state will force the Church to perform or recognize such ceremonies. But any agency that receives money from the government must conform to certain rules based on the common good. That is how a democracy works.
Catholic Charities is not above the law. When same-sex couples present themselves for parenthood with all the requirements met there is no justification for refusing them unless, as some Catholic authorities reason, they are not fit parents because of their sexuality. This is heterosexism raised (better, lowered) to the level of policy. It has no place in public life even if it is introduced under religious cover.