Friday, November 13, 2009

Why Is It Only Some Government Programs Are Subject To The Political Effects Of Abortion And Sexual Politics?

Saving some devout Catholic baker from having to put two men on a wedding cake is worth tossing out thousand of homeless from Catholic shelters in DC. It's all about freedom for religious expression.

Catholic Church gives D.C. ultimatum
Same-sex marriage bill, as written, called a threat to social service contracts
By Tim Craig and Michelle Boorstein -Thursday, November 12, 2009-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.

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city.

"If the city requires this, we can't do it," Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday. "The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."

Several D.C. Council members said the Catholic Church is trying to erode the city's long-standing laws protecting gay men and lesbians from discrimination.

The clash escalates the dispute over the same-sex marriage proposal between the council and the archdiocese, which has generally stayed out of city politics.

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. City leaders said the church is not the dominant provider of any particular social service, but the church pointed out that it supplements funding for city programs with $10 million from its own coffers.

"All of those services will be adversely impacted if the exemption language remains so narrow," Jane G. Belford, chancellor of the Washington Archdiocese, wrote to the council this week.

The church's influence seems limited. In separate interviews Wednesday, council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) referred to the church as "somewhat childish." Another council member, David A. Catania (I-At Large), said he would rather end the city's relationship with the church than give in to its demands.

"They don't represent, in my mind, an indispensable component of our social services infrastructure," said Catania, the sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill and the chairman of the Health Committee.

The standoff appears to be among the harshest between a government and a faith-based group over the rights of same-sex couples. Advocates for same-sex couples said they could not immediately think of other places where a same-sex marriage law had set off a break with a major faith-based provider of social services. (Well actually, the Archdiocese of Boston closed Catholic Charities adoption serivces to prevent gay couples from adopting. There is precedent.)

The council is expected to pass the same-sex marriage bill next month, but the measure continues to face strong opposition from a number of groups that are pushing for a referendum on the issue.

The archdiocese's statement follows a vote Tuesday by the council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary to reject an amendment that would have allowed individuals, based on their religious beliefs, to decline to provide services for same-sex weddings.

"Lets say an individual caterer is a staunch Christian and someone wants him to do a cake with two grooms on top," said council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 6), the sponsor of the amendment. "Why can't they say, based on their religious beliefs, 'I can't do something like that'?" (I have a solution, just don't ask, or better yet, bake the cake and let the couple put their own statues on top.)

After the vote, the archdiocese sent out a statement accusing the council of ignoring the right of religious freedom. Gibbs said Wednesday that without Alexander's amendment and other proposed changes, the measure has too narrow an exemption. She said religious groups that receive city funds would be required to give same-sex couples medical benefits, open adoptions to same-sex couples and rent a church hall to a support group for lesbian couples. (But not passing this bill denies other churches their desire to be state licensed civil witnesses for same sex couples.)

Peter Rosenstein of the Campaign for All D.C. Families accused the church of trying to "blackmail the city."
"The issue here is they are using public funds, and to allow people to discriminate with public money is unacceptable," Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein and other gay rights activists have strong support on the council. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the judiciary committee, said the council "will not legislate based on threats." (Good for you, because threats appear to be the coinage of choice in the House of Representatives.)

"The problem with the individual exemption is anybody could discriminate based on their assertion of religious principle," Mendelson said. "There were many people back in the 1950s and '60s, during the civil rights era, that said separation of the races was ordained by God. (Of course the next groups desciminated against on religious grounds will be Moslems and immigrants.)

Catania, who said he has been the biggest supporter of Catholic Charities on the council, said he is baffled by the church's stance. From 2006 through 2008, Catania said, Catholic Charities received about $8.2 million in city contracts, as well as several hundred thousand dollars' worth this year through his committee.

"If they find living under our laws so oppressive that they can no longer take city resources, the city will have to find an alternative partner to step in to fill the shoes," Catania said. He also said Catholic Charities was involved in only six of the 102 city-sponsored adoptions last year.

Terry Lynch, head of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said he did not know of any other group in the city that was making such a threat. (Why is this not surprising.)

"I've not seen any spillover into programming. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen if [the bill] passes," he said.

Cheh said she hopes the Catholic Church will reconsider its stance.

"Are they really going to harm people because they have a philosophical disagreement with us on one issue?" Cheh asked. "I hope, in the silver light of day, when this passes, because it will pass, they will not really act on this threat."

I wish I could say I was surprised by this threat from the Archdiocese of DC, but unfortunately I'm not. The official line, just as it was in Massachusetts, is that they don't want to do this, but the city is forcing them to close their services. Which in turn will be loudly spun by the right wing nuts as the direct result of 'the relentless gay agenda'. The poor then become victims of those godless selfish homosexuals rather than the refusal of a religious entity to consider any kind of compromise with a secular government.

I'm getting so tired of the uninsured, the poor, the homeless, the sick, women, the marginalized of any kind, constantly being used as pawns in political (not spiritual) battles between Catholic bishops and party politicians. I'm tired of both sides claiming to be victims of some other agenda when they lose political fights. I'm tired of two parties fighting over budget scraps when the real meat--the military industrial complex-is never brought up for real scrutiny.

Here's an interesting line from Deal Hudson's latest article dealing with how the Stupak amendment may change politics as it's done in America:

"For the first time in a long time, the pro-life issue is setting the agenda for the national debate on a major piece of legislation."

I hate to disabuse Deal, but the pro life cause is not setting the agenda for the national debate as far as Catholicism is concerned. Only Abortion is setting the agenda, and only in health care. It's such a powerful moral issue that the thought of even a teensy weensy portion of the health care budget potentially being used for abortions is enough to kill the bill for the rest of United States.

War causes abortions too, lots of them, and it kills mothers and children, and it kills men, and far and a way it kills more innocent non combatants than enemies. Why don't we ever protest funding for these abortions, and these deaths, and this innocent slaughter? Why isn't the USCCB threatening our politicians with excommunication for voting for this attack on life, fostering this culture of death? Apparently protecting the unborn is important enough to let an estimated 40,000 American citizens die per year because they don't have insurance, so why aren't the unborn killed in our wars important enough to even raise a small peep about the pentagon's budget?

If the gay marriage law in DC is of sufficient moral weight to end services to the poor and marginalized, why doesn't the rampant rape and sexual exploitation of children and women in war carry the same sufficient moral weight to end the bishops compliance with the secular military? The Vatican itself declared these wars unjustified and yet the USCCB ignores this in favor of what, concern about a couple male statues on a wedding cake?

Give me a break.


  1. "I'm getting so tired of the uninsured, the poor, the homeless, the sick, women, the marginalized of any kind, constantly being used as pawns in political (not spiritual) battles between Catholic bishops and party politicians. I'm tired of both sides claiming to be victims of some other agenda when they lose political fights. I'm tired of two parties fighting over budget scraps when the real meat--the military industrial complex-is never brought up for real scrutiny."

    I am pretty damn tired of it too Colleen. They are "fighting over scraps" as you say, so they can gloat in self-satisfaction and boast in their next election cycle how they did some scrappy thing that doesn't amount to a hill of beans. The Bishops are looking for a promotion in the Vatican.

    The pile of money, and dead bodies, they don't want to dare look at is the military budget for wars, and the amount of soldier's coming home after several tours of duty in their wars and committing suicide. I believe the current count for that is 133 suicides since January 2009. At least 16 of those in the past few weeks. Where is the Pro-Life Movement? Who is the real enemy here? Will they look at this? But they are missing the needed scrutiny of the military budget and its industrial complex and the longer they take to look at it, only the worse it will get.

  2. And.... Bishops and politicians - do we need 8000 nukes in our arsenal of weapons? Where is the Pro-Life movement?

    Bishops and politicians - What exactly is your foreign policy? Is it Christian? What is your domestic policy? Is it Christian? Is it Godly?

    Or is it just arrogance, pride, , fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness, and a weakening of the hand of the poor and needy.

    "And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good." Ezekiel 16:49-50

  3. So what is going on with Archbishop Donald Wuerl? I found this quote on Richard Sipe’s site. It is the best I could find that names Donald Wuerl as homosexually orientated. It is in the section called “Dialogues.” It is confusing who writes this. This Dialogue appears to be a collection of statements about seminary training. “Sufficiently credibly observations have been reported to list Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Bishop Donald Wuerl (formerly of Pittsburg & currently of Washington DC) and Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles among the homosexually oriented hierarchy.”

    Years ago when I was a member of Dignity Chicago when bishops were tossing Dignity off Catholic Church property, the word in the street was that if Donald Wuerl threw Dignity off church property in Pittsburgh, there were people who would out him. Maybe the time has come.

  4. "If the city requires this, we can't do it," Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday. "The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem."

    Ms Gibbs is way off beam here. You do not need to be "secular" to provide social services. But if you want to take secular money to provide those services, you need to provide them on a non-discriminatory basis, in accordance with the policies that are laid down by the secular authorities coughing up the dosh.

    If the church is so anxious to provide services in a non-secular manner, they are at liberty to do so with their own money. Perhaps they could divert some from the political campaigns against gay marriage?

  5. one more point Colleen: Thank you for pointing out the fundamental distinction between "pro-life" and anti-abortion. The two are clearly no the same, and far too many of the people who claim to be the latter are demonstrably not the former.

  6. And one more, for Wild Hair:

    As I reported at Queering the Church,
    Mike Ference at the Pittsburgh Independent Examiner has made a fair stab at outing Wuerl, under the headline "Wuerl: The Lavender Don is at it again", including these extracts:

    "Donald Wuerl, like so many other Catholic clerics, is an alleged homosexual. Was he celibate as a cleric? This writer would be willing to bet the farm and my first-born that Wuerl was about as celibate as the growing number of rabbits that invade my vegetable garden every new season."


    "While being known as Donna Wuerl by the Pittsburgh gay community, administrators at a prominent Pittsburgh hospital openly discussed in a private venue Wuerl’s homosexuality, pointing out the inherent need to cover it up. This revelation only suggests, very strongly, that Wuerl must have been practicing the gay lifestyle while he was bishop of Pittsburgh. That revelation is based on a highly credible source."

  7. So much intelligence and logic in these entries and comments but I can't help thinking we are all "preaching to the choir". How do we get the Bishops' attention? How do we put them publicly on the spot to refute our arguments or attempt to offer a laughable defense of their words, actions and inherent contradictions?

  8. On another note, with money still being the focus;

  9. To FdeF:

    Sure we are preaching to the choir, but to start with at least, that is a useful exercise. The idea of an all-powerful body of men with absolute power is so deeply ingrained in the church, that too often we simply believe that if we disagree, we must necessarily be wrong.

    Writing and reading for each other, here and elsewhere, may not reach the bishops and their rightwing claques, but it can at least give us greater confidence in our own thinking.

    That can lead in time to more vocal and visible resistance, on more mainstream Catholic sites, in our own congregations, in faith sharing or study groups, and one to one with our priests.

    Written notes in collection plates instead of cash may also be effective, although one has to consider then the impact on the Church's other work.

    Small steps do eventually add up. The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

  10. FDeF:

    "How do we get the Bishops' attention? How do we put them publicly on the spot to refute our arguments or attempt to offer a laughable defense of their words, actions and inherent contradictions?"

    The bishops are the not the ones we should be focusing on. The vast majority of them were chosen not because they are good leaders, but because they are obedient followers.

    Arguing with them, and the people who agree with them (and support their heavy-handed approach), is largely a waste of time. (What's that expression about teaching a pig to sing?)

    Bishops tend not to be the kind of people who change their minds, and the ones who do tend not to speak their minds. There are exceptions, of course. But the scarcity of exceptions only proves the rule.

  11. FdeF you have asked the question I often ask myself. I keep going partly because of what Terence has written, and partly because this blog is being read by a consistent readership in Rome and will get the occasional hit from Vatican City.

    I keep thinking some day there will be another conclave and we hear very little from the vast majority of other Cardinals, mostly we only hear from the ones who follow Benedict's thinking. Getting out a different point of view is important, even though it does appear to be preaching to the choir.

    It isn't only preaching to the choir because there are more liturgically conservative members who do read this blog and occasionally make comments, some of them highly though provoking. Those comments tend not to come on the articles shown on the first page, but on past articles.

    I know that lately it seems futile, but the one central message which must be kept in the forefront is how pathological the whole clerical system is and has been. Especially now that the major clinical symptom of the pathology is the attempt to spin away the abuse crisis in anti Catholic attacks and gay bashing, the gay marriage crusade, and the call for a childish obedience by narcissitic members of the hierarchy.