Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ye Reap What Ye Sow

(the following was cross-posted at New England Republican):

In a public announcement that the Boston Globe described as a "stunning turn of events," the Boston Archdioses and Catholic Charities of Boston said that they would get out of the adoption business rather than comply with the state's anti-discrimination laws that would force them to place children with gay couples.

While some might find it stunning, I don't find it surprising at all. As a related article points out:

...a conflict between the Catholic bishops of Massachusetts and Beacon Hill has been evolving for several decades, as state policy makers have adopted an increasingly expansive view of gay rights, starting with a nondiscrimination measure in 1989 and culminating in 2004, when Massachusetts became the only state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

At the same time, the Vatican, often guided by the theologian who is now Pope Benedict XVI, became increasingly alarmed at the growing tolerance of homosexuality in the West, and in 2003 Benedict issued a doctrinal statement opposing same-sex unions and declaring that ''allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development."

While some lay Catholics express disagreement with the decision (the same Catholics who depart from church teachings on gay marriage, abortion and other progressive social issues), Bishop O'Malley made the point unambiguously:

"Sadly, we have come to a moment when Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston must withdraw from the work of adoptions, in order to exercise the religious freedom that was the prompting for having begun adoptions many years ago."

Bishop O'Malley was referring to the Church's initial involvement in adoptions in the early 20th century in order to ensure that orphaned Catholic children were not placed by the state with Protestant families. By this time, Catholics had been subjected to vile hatred and discrimination at all levels of government at the hands of the majority "Know Nothing Party." Catholics were then fighting for their very survival.

And one can say the same today.

But what is "survival?" Is it acceding to the prevailing political tide (and some members of the flock) and abandoning core principles of the Faith? Such might garner mathematic survival, but in doing so, the bedrock of the Church's beliefs become diluted, compromised, eventually meaningless. What is the value of such survival?

Religious freedom is a funny thing. We all have the freedom to worship as we choose. We can join a church, we can leave a church. That is a function of our Democracy.

But the establishment of Church doctrine is a decidedly un-democratic process. It is not subject to review and debate by a committee of members. And whether people of the faith (or not of the faith) agree or disagree, the strength of a Church depends on the strength of its doctrine. As a result, the Catholic Church may end up becoming smaller, but it will certainly be stronger.

The political establishment in Massachusetts now sees the impact of its antipathy to the Church's position on this important social issue. And even as the Governor and others begin the process of seeking a religious exemption to the anti-discrimination law so that Catholic Charities (and other religious institutions) can make valuable contributions to society without abandoning their religious principles, Democratic leaders in the legislature express their firm resolve, guaranteeing that their progressive political goals are more important than religious freedom, more important than child welfare.

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