Catholic Church Threatens to Leave Homeless Out in the Cold

If you weren’t convinced that the Catholic Church considers charity an expendable nuisance before, maybe this will do it.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington [D.C.] 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.

Important distinction here: This bill would affect religious organizations, not churches. So, for example, if the United Methodist Church wanted to keep LGBT people from being ordained or mopping the kitchen floor, they’re allowed to do that. A religious organization, or an organization that is managed or maintained by a church but that also receives funding from the government, has to abide by discrimination laws.

This isn’t a new law, by the way. This is the way it’s been for ages. It’s why a Methodist organization in Ocean Grove, New Jersey couldn’t refuse to allow a lesbian couple to use its pavilion in 2007. The boardwalk was run by a religious organization, but received property tax breaks in exchange for the property’s legal classification as public.

In short, if you’re receiving funding from the government, your business ceases to be a strictly religious business. Likewise, in some states if your commercial business provides services that are considered “public accommodation”, you aren’t allowed to discriminate just because you call yourself a Christian.

Okay, back to it:

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.”

Not at all. The city is saying that in order to receive government funding, you need to be secular. It’s that whole establishment of religion thing in the First Amendment. If you want to provide social services on the government’s (and therefore the people’s) dime, you have to follow the government’s rules like everybody else.

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.

So the Archdiocese of Washington is saying that they’re going to leave a third of the district’s homeless literally out in the cold because they might have to give a gay man’s spouse the same health insurance (for example) benefits as a straight person’s spouse would get.

I wonder: What is the the policy of Catholic charities toward people who cohabit outside marriage? Are they turned away from the bread line? Does the archdiocese regularly quiz social services employees about their sex lives? If a straight woman divorces and doesn’t seek a Catholic annulment, is she fired?

Or do they just get their vestments in a knot when they get to target The Homosexuals?

I know that many Catholics disagree with the Archdiocese of Washington’s threat. I personally know many Catholics who, like Mother Teresa, consider charity of utmost importance to the Church. If you’re one of those Catholics, this is your chance to make a difference.

Here are some important phone numbers for you to call and politely but firmly voice your disapproval.

ALL of these services will be closed if the archdiocese follows through with its threat:
James Cardinal Hickey Center general information: (202) 772-4300 or (202) 772-4308
Denise Capaci, Adult and Family Services: (202) 635-5900
Regine Clermont, Housing and Support Services: (202) 772-4300
Meha Desai, Children Services: (202) 526-4100
Daphne Pallozzi, Developmental Disabilities Services: (202) 281-2700
Fr. Mario Dorsonville, Immigrant and Refugee Services: (202) 939-2400
Scott Lewis, Catholic Charities Enterprises: (202) 635-5900
Erik Salmi, Communications Manager: (202) 772-4390

Archdiocese staff:
Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop: 301-853-4500
Rev. Adam Park, Secretary to the Archbishop: 301-853-4500
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington: 301-853-4500
Most Rev. Francisco Gonzalez, S.F., Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General: 301-853-4566
Most Rev. Martin D. Holley, Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General: 301-853-4563
Bishop Barry C. Knestout, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General, Moderator of the Curia: 301-853-4520
Jane G. Belford, Chancellor: 301-853-4520