March 07, 2010
Catholic Charities had another choice
Posted by: Chris
Many of us were already disgusted that Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., chose to axe health coverage for all spouses rather than include same-sex spouses, who as of this week can enter into civil marriage in the nation's capital. The move was gratuitous for any number of reasons, since the Catholic agency had no trouble covering the spouses of divorced and remarried employees, despite that flagrant violation of church teaching.
What's more, the D.C. chapter could have followed the example of the San Francisco archdiocese and replaced spousal coverage with an option for domestic partners, defined to include spouses or any other family member or significant other with whom the employee shared a residence.
Now comes word that there was an even easier option, one that wouldn't have required Catholic Charities to change current coverage at all. All the archdiocese had to do was "opt into ERISA," the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which allows private employers like Catholic Charities who self-insure to define "spouse" any why they want:
Catholic Charities of Maine Inc. opted into ERISA in July 2003 in response to a 2002 city of Portland ordinance requiring all employers that accept housing and community development funds from the county to provide domestic partner benefits.
The trade journal Business Insurance asked Catholic Charities of Washington, whose self-insured plan is administered by Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield, why it didn't opt into ERISA instead of discontinuing all future spousal coverage, regardless of gender. They declined to answer.
I'll answer for them: Because that administerial change wouldn't have carried the same political bang for the buck, and Catholic Charities of Washington is part of a growing rightward trend by the Roman Catholic Church to influence public policy in a way that is hostile to gay rights, abortion rights.
How bitterly ironic, then, that as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops claims to support universal health care, the archdiocese of Washington has prioritized scoring political points over the health care of the families of its own employees.(Photo of Archbishop Donald Wuerl (left) via Life Magazine)
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