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Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 13, 2009

From yesterday’s Washington Post:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

Similar to the Archdiocese of Boston, who ended its adoption division within Catholic Charities after Massachusetts became the first state to allow for same-sex marriage, the Washington Archdiocese is threatening to cut some social services programs because they are fearful they may have to provide benefits to same-sex couples.

The Catholic Church is a major provider of social services in the Washington, D.C., area:

Catholic Charities, the church's social services arm, is one of dozens of nonprofit organizations that partner with the District. It serves 68,000 people in the city, including the one-third of Washington's homeless people who go to city-owned shelters managed by the church.

The church seems to be gambling with the lives of those it serves in Washington, threatening to suspend the truly noble care it offers to the least among us in order to resist a change in civil law. Christ’s call to serve the poor and marginalized is taken quite seriously by church leaders, and often the many acts of mercy and charity performed by church employees and volunteers serve as powerful witness to the Christ’s commandment to love our neighbors. How disheartening it would be for the church to disrupt this work because of a change in civil law.

Michael O'Loughlin


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Pearce Shea
12 years 7 months ago
This was pretty offensive, to be honest. The Church is being bullied by a council with an agenda who, if you have read or watched any of the testimony, was urged to not pass this bill as it is in violation of both the Civil Rights Act and the Religious Freedom Act (the ACLU's own attorneys admit this). The Episcopate has to follow its own rules, including the ones about being a witness to the entirety of the faith. It shows an incredible lack of charity to suggest that the Church or its local representatives are being callous or cynical. To put it another way: we applaud all the good work the Church did and does in countries were people and religions are oppressed. They stuck to their guns and were sometimes martyred for it. I'm not sure how this, in principle, is different.
It's not clear if the ADW/Catholic Charities will have to shutter all services. It will probably have to stop providing adoption services. It can probably still provide shelters and assistance, but on its own dime (as I understand it, the ADW/Catholic Charities already pay for more than half of the care they provide). The diminishing or disruption of these services _is_ disheartening, but oughtn't we be laying blame at the feet of the city council in question?
And poor Archbishop Wuerl. He can't win with the trads because he won't kick pro-abortion politicians out of the communion line, and now he can't win with the progressives because he won't act in contradiction to the Code of Canon Law.
Chris Duckworth
12 years 7 months ago
Like PS, above, I'm surprised to read this here. 
This situation with the DC City Council is less about civil rights or care for the poor than it is about the distinct roles of church and state in society.  Church and state can enter into contractual relationships to provide services when their respective missions overlap, but if one party to the agreement asks too much of the other, then its time to sever the agreement.  So in this case, if the DC City Council is asking the Church's agencies to conduct its business in a manner not in keeping with Church teaching, then it is appropriate for the Church agency to withdraw from the contract and allow the City Council to find another contractor to provide the service.
Let's not get all emotional about this.  Nobody is requiring the Church to enter into a contract with the District, and the District doesn't have to grant contracts to the Church's social service agencies.  It's a business decision that took place when the terms of the contract were amenable to both parties.  Now that the terms are changing, it might be time for the contract to end.
It is precisely situations such as this that get me worried about overly-close ties between church and state.  Caesar and the Church are not one in the same.
matt hoban
12 years 7 months ago
LOL i just realized what i posted made zero sense and has no factual basis.  Sorry.
Michael Fitzgerald
12 years 7 months ago
The Church can serve the poor without government involvement or interference.  It is time for the Church to bypass state agencies and provide directly to those in need.  Especially now that we can see the government is willing to bully partners into promoting their social policies.  
12 years 7 months ago
I am both naive and ill informed about the DC/Catholic Charities issue(s).  But, I wonder whether or not the Archbishop Levada (when he was S.F's. ordinary) solution to the board of supervisors "ordinance" which in draft form, at least, required all agencies to furnish health, etc. benefits to partners of the same sex. -  might not be a practical and politically useful solution.  As I recall, he said why not redraft the ordinance to state simply that the employee could designate any member of his/her household as a beneficiary, thus negating the issue of benefits specifically to recornized partners of those in homosexual relationships.  It seems to me that there might be a way for both parties to have essentially what they want.
Frank S.
Pearce Shea
12 years 7 months ago
I think a large part of the issue is that the council has rebuffed the Archdiocese repeatedly on this issue. It's at least in part clear from the Washington Post article above. If anyone else here follows DC politics, maybe they can post some choice quotes from council members in the past in respect to the Church. There is a lot (and I mean a lot) of animosity on the council when it comes to the Archdiocese.
Michael B. - the issue here is that, after publicly and privately trying to broker a compromise, not a single jot of language has been changed. Indeed, the original bill put before the council _had_ language which created an exemption for religious institutions. The council voted to take it out. The problem here is that the Council or a significant number of the council seem to have some chip on its shoulder about the Archbishop. I am even told, and this is absolutely a rumor, that the Archbishop did, in fact, suggest Levada-like language. The council rejected it. It certainly seems like they are making an ideological statement here.
And again, if you look at what the Archdiocese has said, including Aux. Bp. Knestout's recent letter, the Church isn't shutter all it's shelters, only pointing out to the council that it simply cannot follow that law and so it can no longer take gov't money for charitable work.
Jim McCrea
12 years 7 months ago
The RCC in DC is playing "Blackmail for Jaysusssssssss."
They will lose, and justifiably so.
Pearce Shea
12 years 7 months ago
Jim McCrea, was that "Jaysusssss" bit a dig at the large number of black ministers also opposed to this bill or not? If so, that's pretty tacky (and maybe racist?), if not, I don't get it. Are you suggesting Wuerl (WUERL OF ALL PEOPLE!) is some bible thumper? Any evidence for that?
Think Catholic
12 years 7 months ago
Michael O'Loughlin thinks the Church is abandoning poor people "because of a change in civil law."  In reality, the government is telling the Church it MUST NOT participate in government programs to help the needy because it refuses to affirm gay marriage.  How ironic, that the victim of religious discrimination, the Church, would be portrayed as the oppressor, by the oppressor. 
James Lindsay
12 years 7 months ago
If the Archbishop does not rethink this, I may be forced to reconsider contributions to this organization. He should be able to challenge in court those provisions that are clearly unconstitutional without closing up shop.
Think Catholic
12 years 7 months ago
Cute, #4.  Some blogs have maturity standards, I see.  But as usual when this "agree with me or else" issue comes up, the ends justify all means. 
samantha Calhoun
12 years 7 months ago
I love that people are actually defending the DC diocese's use of its social service programs as collateral damage in a civil rights argument. No one is saying the Church has to approve of gay marriage, but is it really worth sacrificing vitally needed programs, services and personnel to make a point? I think the Church has made the poor of Washington a sacrificial lamb on the alter of party politics. 
Jim McCrea
12 years 7 months ago
PS:  that was a nice attempt at sidetracking into a slight ad hominem approach (when did you stop beating your wife?), but no go.
In case you haven't noticed/heard, fundies and pentecostals of any size, shape, color or stripe tend to get carried away with shouting"Jaysusssss."  In fact, you COULD have accused me of being anti-Irish .... Jaysus is a close approximation of colloquial Irish for Jesus.  However, we all know that Irish clergy are not fundies, right?
I wouldn't dare accuse a Prince of Holy Mother The Church of being a bible thumper.  Most of them don't know enough about holy scriptures to thump it one way or the other.  They are catechism thumpers, not bible thumpers.
“Catechisms sometimes take "doctrine" in a narrow and rigid sense.  They aim at a propositional exactness, with a superficial likeness to logic or the empirical sciences; "starving down each term", as Newman said, "till it becomes a ghost of itself".  This stripped-down and bloodless way of speaking faith - along with the fact that these propositions easily lend themselves to parrot learning - has earned catechisms a bad image ...  (A catechism) is necessary because when those who have the task of teaching the faith in schools and parishes begin (mistakenly but inevitably) to perceive its content as no longer the "firm smack of doctrine" but rather as a hermeneutic circle shimmering with subtleties, they begin to abandon it.”
Kevin Nichols (former national advisor to the bishops of England and Wales on religious education), A Necessary Task (article), The Tablet, 6-23-90.
Let’s talk ecclesiastical realities: many of these Good Old Boys ARE theological fundies who are more than happy to parrot whatever line will get them their next Great Job, preferably at the Vatican, of course.

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