Tuesday, November 08, 2005

From our bulging "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same!" File

One of the most common themes in the history of the Church is the struggle for temporal power between Ecclesial and Lay authorities. That theme continues to be an issue for the Church today.

The Florida Catholic explains here why conscience clauses matter.

The short story is this: All must celebrate the free pursuit of the One Thing that Matters. Dissenters to this marvelous doctrine must pay the price for their audacity.

Catholic Charities of Massachussets faces a difficult decision imposed by Reasonable proponents of the latest thang: Adoption rights of Gay "married" couples in the commonwealth. Behold:

Massachusetts wants to grant licenses only to adoption agencies that will not discriminate in the adoption process against couples based on their sexual orientation. The commonwealth is the only U.S. state that has legalized same-sex marriage, and it apparently wants to ensure that same-sex couples have equal access in adoption.

This will create problems for Catholic Charities agencies in Massachusetts, whose bishops have agreed to form a committee that will review whether the adoption practices of Catholic institutions in the Bay State are in compliance with church teaching.

Catholic News Service said the action comes after media outlets reported that Catholic Charities of the Boston Archdiocese had arranged for the adoption of 13 children by same-sex couples over the last 20 years. Two years ago the Vatican said allowing such adoptions is "gravely immoral."

One committee member said that the committee will study the church's directives on adoption by same-sex couples and the requirements of Massachusetts state law.

Father J. Bryan Hehir, who heads Catholic Charities of Boston and who will also be a member of the committee, notes the 13 adoptions represent 1.8 percent of the adoptions handled by the agency since 1987, when the agency began contracting with the state to place children in adoptions and foster care.

He noted that even without the state contracts, Catholic Charities still cannot participate in adoptions without a license. "I would solve the money problem tomorrow by going out and raising money. It doesn't make any difference. If I don't get licensed, I cannot make adoptions," he said in the CNS report.

Father Hehir emphasized the importance of this ministry of Catholic Charities that has touched the lives of hundreds of orphaned children.

"We wouldn't be in this business unless we had kids in very severe need," he said.

In other words, Catholic Charities faces the following: either defy Catholic teaching or defy Catholic teaching. They can either stand for the truth regarding the immorality of homosexual activity--and placing children within active homosexuals' households. Or they can stand for the truth regarding the care of the orphan. Massachussets will not allow them to do both. Thus, CC can, at best, materially cooperate with grave evil if the organization sees proportionately greater harm in not offering adoptions to gay couples then doing so.

This is where the importance of a conscience clause comes in:

A conscience clause, which would exempt all religious organizations from providing services in opposition to teachings of their faith, would be beneficial in these cases, and other such cases that are sure to come.

Legislatures are going to increasingly try to force their agendas on faith-based service agencies, and those agendas will include contraceptive coverage, same-sex benefits and perhaps other unacceptable conditions. But the faith-based agencies bring a huge contribution to the table. The Catholic Church — especially in social services, education and health care — has been one of the longest-serving entities in every part of the country, often serving those whom no one else can or will. In emergency services, Catholic Charities remains long after first responders have done their duty and moved on. The St. Vincent de Paul Society provides food to those in need. Catholic hospitals are often the best, or only, critical-care facilities in many communities and provide millions upon millions of dollars in services to the poor throughout the nation.

What if all those services were to go away for a day, a week, or a month? Could our local communities, our states or the federal government pick up the slack? Who would provide the care that these Catholic agencies now provide?

A conscience exemption for Massachusetts Catholic adoption agencies or California Catholic Charities health plans is no trivial thing. Their mission as Catholic agencies comes from the Gospel; that drives their service. Our Catholic teaching comes from the same cloth. We are a whole unit. To separate the teaching from the mission threatens to tear at the fabric of our beliefs and our communities.

Massachusets current law represents the latest attempt of lay authority to usurp the priorities of the Church in contributing to the social order. Early Lay authorities wanted to appoint Bishops to the Church's hierarchy, often for political reasons. These rulers counted on such appointments to increase their influence over the Church , giving them the edge when their interests and the Church's coincided.

Today, Reasonable elites seek the same result. They pursuit through coercive legislation that refuses to recognize the conscience of the Catholic Church and her charitable arm in the USA: Catholic Charities. The cost to them for doing so? Catholic Charities could cease to offer adoption services. That could cause a backlash against these elites from their core political constituency, the poor. However, the benefits far outweigh such costs. With the loss of CC as a provider of adoptions, the State moves one step closer to becoming the Commonwealth's exclusive provider of adoption services. At the very least, the remaining providers will tow the Reasonable line on the pursuit of the One Thing that Matters. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in MA loses an opportunity to preach the gospel in action; she'll be open to charges of medievalism and irrelevance without having charitable action to demonstrate her good faith. Overall, the scenario becomes a great coup de tete for the Reasonable Gay collective.

They have spoken. The Agenda moves forward. There's no need to honor the conscience of Fools. Only the consciences of Reasonable folk matter.