Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Note to My Catholic Colleagues: Updated

I have worked with Catholic Charities many times over the years, and have been consistently impressed by the compassionate service provided. Thus, I was dismayed to read of the archdiocese's threat to pull social services from the District in response to changes in its marriage laws. I am pretty certain that when Jesus said, "when I was hungry you fed me," or "feed my sheep," he did not say, "unless you oppose same-sex marriage." Jesus never attached strings to his compassion or threatened to use the poor as pawns in a political game. Whether or not one agrees with your stand on same-sex marriage, to harm the least of these in order to make your point is unworthy of your great tradition. I pray that you will reconsider.
UPDATE: Kojo Nnamdi had Ed Orzechowski, President & CEO of Catholic Charities of Washington, on this afternoon to talk about this issue. The most interesting part of the interview came when an attorney called in to press Mr. Orzechowski on the inconsistencies in Catholic Charities' positions with respect to their noncompliance with DC's human rights code. It's worth a listen, and it underscores my central concern here: the archdiocese is making the poor a pawn in the struggle over marriage equality. DC and the gay rights community have turned a blind eye to Catholic Charities noncompliance with the human rights code for years, and there is no reason to believe that would not have continued under the proposed law. Moreover, federal law prohibits a locality from forcing a private entity to comply with any regulations regarding insurance coverage (of, for example, domestic partners or same-sex spouses).


Anonymous said...

Let's say, Pastor, that your church was located someplace far away from Arlington, Virginia.

Let's say that in that far away place, your church assisted the government of the land by providing meals to hungry people.

Then let's say that the government of this far away land passed a law that said that your church could still assist the government in providing meals to hungry people, but that your church could only do so if it agreed not to serve hungry Jewish people.

Would you comply with the government's demand, even though the government was demanding that you not adhere to a basic tenet of your faith?

Or would you, independent of the government, continue to serve hungry people?

The government of the District of Columbia is coming awfully close to demanding the Catholic Church to do something that is contrary to Catholic teaching.

In the USA (last time I checked) the government has no business telling the church (any church) what it must believe. In the USA, the government has no business requiring a church to do something that goes against its own teachings.

You may disagree with what the Catholic church teaches, but it is frightful to see a Christian pastor suggesting that it is perfectly OK for a government to demand that a church do something that goes against the teachings of that church.

Jerry Maneker said...

In this case, "Catholic teaching," is diametrically opposed to Jesus' injunctions to all who would be His disciples to love and not judge others; care for "the least of these."

Denying social services to the poor and to needy children based on prejudice and discrimination (or on anything else, for that matter) has nothing to do with Christianity; is diametrically opposed to Jesus' teachings; is diametrically opposed to the Gospel of grace, and would strike any Christian worthy of the name as being nothing short of demonic.

Christian Wright said...

The DC government is not demanding that the Catholic church -- or any other church -- do anything. The DC government is (proposing) to recognize civil marriages from other jurisdictions. The church is not being asked to change or comply with anything; it is not being asked to bless anyone's marriage. It is not being asked to change its services or its clientele. Instead, the church is using the threat of denying the social services it has long extended to the poor of DC as a way of making its point. My objection here is not to the church's position on same sex marriage, although obviously I disagree with it. My objection is to using the poor -- gay, straight, married, single, whatever -- as a pawn in this issue.

Anonymous said...

I think that, even after the DC government decides to redefine the word "marriage", that the Catholic Church will continue to feed the hungry, care for the poor, and caring for the sick.

It just will not do it as a partner with the DC government.

The DC Government is saying to the Catholic Church, "If you wish to continue with the DC Government in providing services -- such as adoption services -- then you MUST accept the DC government's re-definition of "marriage".

The Catholic Church is saying, "No Thank You'.

The Catholic Church is NOT refusing to feed the hungry or care for the poor. Catholic Churches will continue to feed the hungry and care for the poor. They just will not do it as a partner with the DC Government.

Anonymous said...

Actually, what the DC government is saying to Catholic Charities is that if you want to accept money to run social services in our name, then we have a moral obligation to see that the employees are not subject to discrimination.

If the Catholic Charites want to provide social services on their own without DC money, I think everyone would be very happy with it, but that's not what they said.

Anonymous said...

The DC Government (and, apparently, Christian Wright) are in a lather because the DC Government relies very heavily on Catholic Charities (a ministry of the Catholic Church) to provide social services within the District of Columbia.

The DC Government could choose not to use Catholic Charities. The DC Government could provide its own social services to its clients. Or it could use the services of any Presbyterian Church located within DC. Or it could use HRC as a provider. But the DC Government has, instead, chosen to use Catholic Charities.

And now, the DC Government is saying to Catholic Charities, "If you want to continue to be our provider of social services, then you MUST do what WE say."

To which Catholic Charities has said, "We will continue to feed to hungry and care for the poor. You, however, will need to find someone else to provide the services that you wish to provide."

As the Washington Post correctly points out in its editorial today (11/15/09), The DC Government is asking Catholic Charities to violate a teaching of the Catholic Church.

NO Governemt should ever require a church, a mosque, or a synagogue to violate its own teachings.

cledster said...

CW: generous of you to share your space with a guest blogger

David Weintraub said...

Can one of the anonymi please explain how the Catholic Church would be required to "violate its own teachings" once the DC government enacts marriage for all? Clearly, no Catholic body would be required to perform any kind of marriage it didn't wish to perform - no change there. And currently, anyone doing business with the DC government is subject to the existing Human Rights ordinance - no change there, either.

As a member of a Holocaust survivor family, I'm especially curious to know what you believe is comparable in this situation to discrimination against hungry Jewish people.

Christian Wright said...

Cledster: I'm just that kind of guy!

Dar said...

I loved what Betty Bowers said about this: "Catholic Church tells DC: “If you don’t let us hate the people we want to hate, we’ll starve the homeless!” Goodness me, in the Discrimination Olympics, the Mary Worshipers really play for keeps! Glory!"

Anonymous said...

DAR (and Betty Bowers) doesn't have it quite correct.

The Catholic Church will continue to feed the homeless and the hungry. To say otherwise if just not correct.

What the Catholic Church will not do is bend to demands of the DC Government.

The DC Government is asking the Cahtolic Church to take money frm the DC Government, and demanding, as a condition for doing so, that it recognize same-sex "marriages".

The Catholic Church is saying to the DC Government, "If you demand that we recognize same-sex "marriages" as a condition for accepting your money, then we must refuse to accept your money.

The DC Government has said, by the way, "That's fine, we can fine some other agency [perhaps the National Capital Presbytery -- well known for the marvelous way IT provides social services to large numbers of needy people within the District of Columbia] to take our money and do our bidding.