In the wake of its controversial decision to withhold health benefits for spouses of all new employees, Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Washington took another step that will inevitably alienate potential hires. The Washington Post reports that
Shortly after imposing limits on spousal health benefits for employees, Catholic Charities of Washington has begun requiring new employees to promise they will not ‘violate the principles or tenets’ of the church. That language was added March 3 to a hiring letter that new employees are required to sign, according to spokesman Erik Salmi.
Salmi says that the new language has nothing to do with the same-sex marriage controversy, but the timing certainly raises questions. He said that it is simply part of a broader conversation that Catholic Charities is having about what it means to be a Catholic organization. This is a good discussion to have, for Catholic non-profit organizations, schools and universities, and hospitals. But if the language is intended to be used as a sort of litmus test of who is eligible to work for a Catholic organization, then it is more troubling. As with the Denver Catholic schools controversy (covered well on this blog by Fr. Jim Martin), certain questions remain.
Will Catholic Charities employ divorced and remarried individuals? Those who donate to political candidates whom the church hierarchy opposes? What about a person who has expressed some private skepticism about a church teaching or practice? Is this a way to silence critics? These are not light questions, and Catholic Charities would do well to take additional time to examine the possible consequences of such language.