After threatening to end its adoption and homeless services programs in Washington D.C. if the City Council approved gay marriage there, the Catholic Church’s charities unit is indeed dismantling its foster care program — even after the Church said it would back off its own promise to do so.
Claiming it cannot operate its 80-year-old foster-care program if the city somehow “forces” the Church to officiate gay unions and recognize same-sex partners of employees, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is getting out of the foster care business before the M-word comes to the nation’s capital. The church’s Catholic Charities unit, which receives $20 million annually from the city (read: taxpayers), on Feb. 1 transferred its 43 children, 35 families and seven staff members to the National Center for Children and Families, another foster care provider, reports the Washington Post.
“Now we’re in a position where we need to scrutinize everything,” says Catholic Charities chief Edward Orzechowski. “From our point of view, it’s important that we don’t in any way compromise our religious teaching.” It’s unclear whether Catholic Charities will also dismantle its homeless services program.
This is all silly. D.C.’s gay marriage law includes, however narrow, exemptions for religious institutions. Catholic priests do not have to oversee same-sex ceremonies if they claim religious beliefs preclude them from doing so. (Depending on who you ask, the marriage law will require any employer to recognize same-sex partners if benefits are provided to staffers’ spouses.) All of which sends this message: It’s less important for the Catholic Church, led by Archbishop Donald Wuerl (pictured), to be directly involved in the well-being of parent-less children than it is for them to acknowledge gay men and women should have equal marriage rights.
However, maybe this has turned out for the best. The children, their families, and even the program’s semployees have found a new home — at the National Center for Children and Families, which as far as we can tell, is not affiliated with any religious institution. Which means these children will still have the services they very much need, without the intervention of a church that abandoned them to uphold discrimination.