February 18, 2010
The coming Catholic 'cleansing'
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: At the end of the post.
My favorite exchange of yesterday's Cato Institute forum on gay conservatives came in response to columnist Maggie Gallagher's claim that permitting same-sex couples to marry would invariably leads somehow to government intrusion into religion of the sort that all conservatives should abhor. In support, Gallagher, who is Roman Catholic, cited the requirement that Catholic Charities, for example, place children into households led by gay couples, despite their genuine faith-based belief this is against the child's best interest.
Let's leave aside for the moment the irony of conservatives resorting to the politics of victimization, previously the P.C. province of liberals, even as she claimed that 50-60% of Americans are on her side. Poor majority conservatives, oppressed by the 3-5% of us who are gay.
Let's even forgive Gallagher the obvious straw man here, as if a line can't be drawn in the law between opening up marriage to same-sex couples and requiring that religious institutions recognize those marriage in the provision of social services. Her example, as it turns out, comes straight out of the headlines, as the D.C. archdiocese just announced yesterday that it was shuttering its 80-year-old foster parent program for precisely this reason.
Gay Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan, his forehead marked from Ash Wednesday services that morning, drew a crucial distinction between laws that over-reach, prohibiting independently funded religious groups from discriminating in hiring or in the provision of services, and less troublesome regulation requiring those faith-based orgs that "suck at the teat of government," as he put it, to treat us taxpayers equally.
Catholic Charities receives some $20 million annually from the District of Columbia, so any "interference" in their pristine religious function occurred at the time the Catholics showed up with their hands held out, asking for our money.
Even more devastating was Sullivan's pointing out that the rest of us can be forgiven for suspecting "some animus" behind complaints of the type Gallagher raises when Catholic Charities has for years placed foster and adopted children into the homes of remarried couples, despite the church's very clear prohibition on divorce. Seen in that light, the Catholic threat to suspend its social services looks more like a cynical attempt to bully gay couples out of the civil marriage pulpit.
The Washington Post story on the archdiocese decision suggest as much, reporting without explaining that despite yesterday's decision on foster parenting, Catholic Charities "is optimistic that it will find a way to structure its benefits packages in other social service programs so that it can remain in partnership with the city without recognizing same-sex marriage."
Most telling of all, however, was Gallagher's final reply to Sullivan, acknowledging the church's inconsistent treatment of gay and remarried couples and cheerfully, if ominously, warning that the bishops would soon be "cleansing" that process further, likely meaning that remarried couples would find themselves out of favor as well.
There, my friends, is the slippery slope. Marriage equality between gay and straight couples does not necessarily lead to forcing faith based groups to act contrary to their beliefs in the provision of services, but the coming cleansing will prove very instructive to millions of heterosexuals Americans who would never imagine that their households could be refused foster and adoption placements funded by their government.
UPDATE: Video of the forum is now available here or view it after the jump to this post.
Video of the Cato Institute policy forum on whether there's a place for gays in the conservative movement, featuring David Boaz of Cato, Tory MP Nick Herbert, gay blogger Andrew Sullivan of Atlantic Monthly, and conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage:
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