In Adoption Controversy, Put the Children First

December 29, 2011

Of the numerous negative interventions that Catholic bishops have made in social issues that address LGBT rights over the years, truly the saddest and most damaging has to be the closing down adoption services in Catholic Charities agencies rather than allow legally married or civilly united lesbian/gay couples to adopt children.  Everyone gets hurt by these decisions:  children, lesbian/gay couples, social service agencies, the entire church, and the common good of the greater civil society.

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times has written an in-depth article which examines the decisions by bishops to close these adoption and foster care services.  (Mere coincidence that it was published on the Feast of the Holy Innocents?) What makes this situation even more tragic is that the bishops are claiming that they are the victims and their religious freedom is at stake.  Goodstein quotes one of the bishops at the center of this struggle:

” ‘In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,’ said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.”

What is really at issue here is not principle, but money.  The agencies are closing because if they discriminated against lesbian/gay couples, they would no longer be eligible for state funding.  It’s not religious liberty which is at stake, but whether state dollars will be used to fund discriminatory agencies.  Goodstein writes:

“The Illinois experience indicates that the bishops face formidable opponents who also claim to have justice and the Constitution on their side. They include not only gay rights advocates, but also many religious believers and churches that support gay equality (some Catholic legislators among them). They frame the issue as a matter of civil rights, saying that Catholic Charities was using taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples.

“Tim Kee, a teacher in Marion, Ill., who was turned away by Catholic Charities three years ago when he and his longtime partner, Rick Wade, tried to adopt a child, said: ‘We’re both Catholic, we love our church, but Catholic Charities closed the door to us. To add insult to injury, my tax dollars went to provide discrimination against me.”

In Matthew 25’s Final Judgement scene, we learn that we will be judged by how we care for the poor, defenseless, and needy in our world.  There is no mention of sexuality  or any mention of strictly interpreting or applying church teaching.

While the bishops may claim that they are the victims, they are ignoring the wide array of victims that their decisions have created–particularly the most defenseless: children.  It is a sad and tragic spectacle for bishops to say that their supposedly threatened religious liberty is more important than the welfare of children.  Let us pray that the bishops’ hearts be opened to the needs of children, and that they put those needs above any other agenda.

Catholics need to write to their bishops and tell them that we want legally married and civilly united lesbian/gay couples to be able to adopt children, just as heterosexual married couples are able to do.  We need to tell the bishops that we do not want to see adoption services closed simply because it is legal for lesbian/gay couples to adopt.  Catholics need to let the bishops know what our priorities and values are, and they do not include discrimination, and worse, sacrificing children’s welfare to uphold a discriminatory principle.  If our faith means anything to us, it means that we should put children first whenever a question of morality or principle arises.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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