The Catholic Diocese of Rockford once provided adoption and foster care services to about 2,300 of the 15,000 children in Illinois’ foster-care system. With civil unions beginning in the state on June 1st, the Diocese asked the legislature to exempt them from having to adopt to gay and unmarried couples. For years, the Diocese referred such couples to other agencies. But the legislature added no such exemption to the civil unions bill and now the Diocese has shut their doors and laid off 58 agency workers. Who wins? Nobody.
If the Dioceses stayed open after June 1st, their policies could have resulted in lawsuits and diminished funding for defying state law. Illinois state legislators could have added an amendment in the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Unions Act to help protect the Diocese as well as the children, agencies, and family homes they’ve worked with for years. But they didn’t and you’ve got to wonder why.
Here’s the thing: this agency doesn’t sound like Satan’s pedophilia ring (ie. The Vatican). According to the Seattle PI, “Leaders of the Catholic groups have said they aren’t trying to keep gay couples from adopting or taking in foster children — just that it’s a matter of having those couples work with other groups.”
Assuming that’s an honest characterization of their work, some will still say, “Separation of church and state! If they’re accepting state taxpayer funds, they should have to adopt to gay couples and just stop being anti-gay bigots.” But the Diocese will have to eat a shit sandwich on this one, no matter how they proceed.
For one, all adoption agencies accept state funds by virtue of working directly with the state’s child care system. To handle adoptions as an agency in any state means accepting some manner of taxpayer financing. Accepting those funds means they have to adhere to state law; without those funds, they probably wouldn’t have enough to stay in operation.
But if the state forced the Diocese to start adopting to gay couples, the Diocese could get censured and punished by the Catholic hierarchy. Sure, the Diocese could go all Martin Luther/King Henry the 8th on their leaders’ asses and defiantly do whatever they want, but the church might still force the Diocese to close, then denounce its workers by forbidding any Catholic congregation to accept them. Harsh? Yes. Realistic? Yes. Should the Diocese still do it? Ask them.
Forcing a church to violate its own principles harms freedom of religion. It would be somewhat like a state-funded Jewish Orthodox homeless shelter being forced to serve ham because of its superior nutritional value. I know I’ll get lashed in the comments section for that comparison, but still. The state can’t and shouldn’t violate a church’s constitutional right to practice religion within legal bounds.
I realize that the Spanish Inquisition (which no one suspected) was once considered “within legal bounds.” And the Catholic church has historically required governmental intervention to keep its practices from harming society. But that just brings up the real culprit in this entire shitty affair—the church itself
If Papa Ratzi would just stop damning unmarried and gay couples, Catholic agencies like the Diocese could allow continue helping adults care for needy orphans and allow their workers to continue supporting the countless families, children, and state care services in their network. But that’s not gonna happen because, y’know… we’re an abomination and all.
Or if the church really wanted the Diocese to stand their ground, they could sell some of their Vatican treasures (maybe rent out the Sistine Chapel as a timeshare) and make up whatever the agency loses in state funds for defying the law. But the Vatican ain’t gonna do that and the local Catholic churches probably can’t afford to finance the Diocese either.
llinois Department of Children and Family Services spokesman Kendall Marlowe said that many of the Diocese workers and children will be able to find a new place in the state’s 45 other adoption agencies, but that’s not the point. All the relationships the Diocese built over the years have been cut and there’s no way to proceed.
If the Catholic leadership really cared for children or humanity as much as it claims to, it would update church doctrine to embrace LGBT citizens—a lot of us care about kids and humanity too.