Sunday, August 7, 2011

Catholic Charities, foster care a ‘thorny problem’

Robert McClory
Chicago Catholic News

(POSTED: 6/15/11) What’s happening to Catholic Charities? This had always been one service of the Church that merited gratitude and praise from every sector of society.

While Catholicism has been taking a beating because of priest sex abuse, birth control, the ban on women’s ordination and a dozen other neuralgic issues, Catholic Charities was quietly reaching out to the poor, the homeless and especially children — with no strings attached. This was the gospel in action. But now Catholic Charities is under fire in Illinois and other states, as it stops its traditional management of foster care and adoptions. The stumbling block here is the Church’s official opposition to same-sex unions and the state’s refusal to fund organizations that discriminate in their services on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation. Here are some basic facts you need to consider while deciding where you stand on this thorny problem.

First, the need for Catholic Charities involvement in child and parent care is great. During the past decade approximately 250,000 children a year were placed in foster care in the U.S., and more than 13,000 a year were adopted, thanks to the work of public and private agencies, of which Catholic Charities was an acknowledged leader.

Second, many gay and lesbian couples seek to enrich their families through adoption, foster care or both. One study estimated that 14 million children are presently in the care of same-sex parents in the U.S. Studies also assert that such children are as well adjusted as any in traditional families and are not affected negatively by their placement.

Third, the government provides approximately two thirds of the funds Catholic Charities receives in the U.S. Where same-sex unions are legal (as they are in Illinois as of June 1), funding will no longer be available to any organizations that bar same-sex couples from its services. Without those funds, Catholic Charities’ reach-out to children is virtually dead in the water. Chicago Catholic Charities ceased its foster care and adoption service in 2007 after it lost its insurance coverage, Rockford Catholic Charities is now closing down its program, and the dioceses of Springfield, Peoria and Joliet are suing the state, seeking to continue state support while continuing to turn away same-sex clients.

Fourth, the Catholic Church contends that gay unions are morally unacceptable and homosexual actions of any kind are intrinsically evil. In other words, these couples, regardless of their intentions and regardless of their qualifications for parenting, are objectively sinners and therefore ineligible to benefit needy children. (The Church also refuses to aid cohabiting straight couples who want to adopt or accept a foster child.)

Fifth, according to a very recent poll, some 74 percent of U.S. Catholics favor legislation that legalizes gay and lesbian civil unions or marriages (the largest percentage of any denomination the country). Presumably then, this great majority of Catholic believers would favor child services to qualified couples, regardless of their orientation.

Sixth, the Bible has much to say about the obligation of believers to come to the aid of the suffering, the bereaved and above all to widows and orphans. And in recent years, church leaders have emphasized over and over that the most basic principle of Catholic Social Teaching is “the Preferential Option for the Poor.” There’s nobody poorer than a kid without a home. Then of course there’s Jesus who seemed to prefer the company of sinners and outcasts, loved children, crossed borders and broke the laws of his church on a fairly regular basis.

If it were possible to put all these facts in a blender, let them whir for a few minutes, then see which float to the top and which sink to the bottom, the decision might be easier. Should the Church stick to a principle and drop a service that has benefited hundreds of thousands or should it take a less absolutist stance and open its arms even to “sinners” who seek to love a child?

Let your pastor and bishop know what you think. And let me know too –

Robert McClory is an associate professor emeritus at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, a longtime writer with the National Catholic Reporter and the author of seven books, including Faithful Dissenters: Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church.

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