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Posted at 4:05 PM ET, 11/18/2009

A publicly funded charity should serve the public

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Mark Levine
Washington

The Catholic Church’s complaint rings hollow. No charity should take millions of dollars from taxpayers and then treat as second-class citizens the very taxpayers who fund it. Gay men and lesbians pay taxes, too.

Catholic Charities argues it should not provide benefits to the secular married spouses of its employees who are married in violation of Catholic doctrine. But it has done so for decades without complaint. Because federal law requires nondiscrimination with taxpayer funds on the basis of religion, Catholic Charities already provides benefits to Jewish, Muslim and atheist spouses, as well as those Roman Catholics who have divorced and remarried in severe violation of Catholic doctrine. Are the marriages of gay people somehow less “Catholic” than those of thrice-remarried ex-Catholic atheists? Or a married ex-Catholic priest? Is the Catholic Church “promoting” these un-Catholic marriages when its publicly funded charity provides spousal benefits to all its legally married employees? I think not. Otherwise, why does it do it?

Just as federal law protects taxpayers against religious discrimination with federal funds, D.C. law forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with District funds. If Catholic Charities is refusing to allow gay and lesbian citizens to participate in its publicly funded adoption programs (as the Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl seems to be suggesting), then it is already in violation of District law. That’s neither “equal dignity” nor “equality under the law.” In fact, why promote adoption at all if, as the archbishop suggests, the only purpose of marriage is the “essential connection with the creation of children”? Why then does the Catholic Church currently marry and promote adoption to infertile heterosexual couples?

A simple compromise would protect the archdiocese from being “forced to choose” between serving the public and upholding the tenets of its faith. Catholic Charities could allow each of its employees to designate one individual (spouse or non-spouse) whom the employee chooses to receive benefits and therefore not discriminate on the basis of marital status, sex or sexual orientation. Such a policy would make clear that the church is not sanctioning or approving of anyone’s marriage. If the church truly cared more about sheltering the homeless or feeding the hungry than punishing gay people, it could easily do this, with less harm to its religious principles than its current policy of providing benefits to non-Catholic spouses.

Or it could get off the public dole. What it cannot do is take public funds and then refuse to serve the public. No taxpayer should be asked to finance his or her own discrimination.

Would the church support taxes going to a charity that refused to provide certain services to Catholics and discriminated against its Catholic employees?

The writer is counsel for the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | November 18, 2009; 4:05 PM ET
 
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Comments

Mr. Levin hits the mark here.

I am embarrassed by the despicable stance the Catholic Church has taken on this issue.

I suspect that this is motivated, at least in part, by Donald Weurl's desire to win himself a promotion to Cardinal.

Well, the Archbishop falls well short of the example of love, caring, and political savvy, set by his predecessor Theodore Cardinal MacCarrick.

I've been a big donor in the past, but this Catholic won't contribute a dime to any of Weurl's annual appeals. Indeed, I will vote with the very same dollars the Archbishop has callously chosen to use as political leverage.

Posted by: IHeartDC | November 18, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Levine lays bare the laughable selectivity in the Archbishop's hissyfit. There's no irresolvable conflict here. The Archbishop is manufacturing a conflict because he wants to stomp and wail and scream about gay people...because he's a pitiful bigot.

Posted by: uh_huhh | November 18, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Bullseye Mr. Levine!

And I would also add that any representative of an organization that protected pedophiles at the expense of children and families is in no position to judge the morals of others.

Posted by: JohnVisser | November 18, 2009 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Well put. The Catholic archdiocese is behaving very badly and their religious beliefs have nothing to do with it.

Posted by: seller11 | November 19, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Just as John Cardinal O'Connor said Catholic affiliated hospitals in New York City would close before they aborted children or referred for abortion, so Catholic Charities will stop taking DC money if taking the money means that they have to support a public policy which is directly counter to its teaching. Those teachings, both the parts of the chattering classes approve and those which they do not, form the foundation for why Catholic Charities does the work it does and it would make no sense - and worse a betrayal - if the Catholic Church were to choose its social work over its spiritual mission.

I trust the District of Columbia government will be able to muster its well documented public efficiency and accountability to step into where the Church may be have withdraw as a result of this policy.

Posted by: DCMorrison1 | November 19, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

DCMorrison1 wrote: "...it would make no sense - and worse a betrayal - if the Catholic Church were to choose its social work over its spiritual mission."


which is exactly Levine's point. The Catholic charities don't discriminate against a LOT of things that 'betray' their spiritual mission (i.e. - church dogma), so why now? Why this time?

They don't demand a right to discriminate against the divorced (adulterers). They don't whine about not getting to discriminate against the atheist (blasphemers), the fornicators, the drunkards, the liars, or the (hetero)sodomites.

It might be one thing if the Church was consistant in ensuring that their charities conformed to accepted church teachings, by providing for and serving ONLY those who the Church found worthy. But they aren't.

The fact is that the only ones they want to discriminate against are the gays. And they're willing to abandon the divorced, the atheist, the sodomite, the drug user, and all the rest to preserve their 'religious right' to hate.

Posted by: WilyArmadilla | November 20, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Looks like the DC Council is considering something akin to Mr. Levine's compromise idea of requiring the Church to at least give benefits to a "designated adult member of the household."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/19/AR2009111904001.html

But if they do, it's only fair that they do it equally, i.e. deny benefits to married couples who live apart.

Posted by: GreekPar | November 20, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Was it intentional or just ironic? On the front page of the metro section was a piece about the Manhattan Declaration which calls for civil disobedience on the part of Christians to protest the same sex marriage proposal in DC. On the following page was an article in which Catholic hierarchy chastise Catholics that don’t follow church doctrine to the letter are “less than fully Catholic”. It seems that, in the eyes of the Catholic leadership – particularly Archbishop Wuerl - dissention is noble in regard to issues that they oppose but contemptible when it varies from the Catholic doctrine that they expound.
The hypocrisy is obvious and a good example of why the Catholic Church is losing membership and influence.

Posted by: rsb21 | November 21, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I find it odd that the week that the Catholic Church asks courts in Connecticut to allow it to continue to pay the salaries of priests that have sodomized children and that are facing removal (or have been removed), it would now declare it impossible to work with Washington, DC should it approve same-sex marriage.

I, as a Catholic, will no longer give anything to the Bishop's annual appeal. I thought the church's mission was not to judge but to serve. It was to do as Jesus commanded: love. It was to take care of those in prison, without clothes, sick, elderly. Hmmm...even the prostitutes, tax collectors and marginalized (including women) had a standing with Jesus the Christ. Today's church seems more interested in appearance than action. Maybe it needs to reflect.....

Posted by: execdir | November 21, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

The District of Columbia Government should SUE the Catholic Church , on the grounds that they are being bias against Gay people but not the rest of the so called laws of thier church, They will serve people at their will, they are now picking and choosing , take away their tax breaks, and again for picking and choosing on who they want to serve, SUE the Catholic Church.

Posted by: onesugar | November 21, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Homosexual behaviour is a disorder. No person or institution should be forced to enable it. DC's "sexual orientation" discrimination law perverts justice for those who otherwise need help.

Posted by: MCMasotti | November 22, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

Who reads the Washington Post:
Mr. Levine lays bare the laughable selectivity in the Archbishop's hissyfit. There's no irresolvable conflict here. The Archbishop is manufacturing a conflict because he wants to stomp and wail and scream about gay people...because he's a pitiful bigot.
Posted by: uh_huhh | November 18, 2009 9:53 PM
Bullseye Mr. Levine!
And I would also add that any representative of an organization that protected pedophiles at the expense of children and families is in no position to judge the morals of others.
Posted by: JohnVisser | November 18, 2009 11:47 PM
I find it odd that the week that the Catholic Church asks courts in Connecticut to allow it to continue to pay the salaries of priests that have sodomized children and that are facing removal (or have been removed), it would now declare it impossible to work with Washington, DC should it approve same-sex marriage.
Posted by: execdir | November 21, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: PaulLeddy | November 22, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Beautifully-worded, Mr. Levine.

I do like the idea of a compromise where the Church agrees to pay for benefits for a chosen "household partner" without discriminating on the basis of marriage or gender (i.e., it could be a spouse, sibling, domestic partner, etc.) . . . that is a fair an equitable way of dealing with the issue.

I still find it reprehensible that the Church is willing to hold DC's most vulnerable hostage to its bias against gays.

Posted by: seven_jaguar | November 22, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Shameful behavior, as per usual, by this dark ages cult known as the catholic church.

Best decision I ever made in my life was to tell catholicism to take a dump about 15 years ago.

Posted by: GlenviewGuy | November 24, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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