Sunday, November 15, 2009

Catholic Charities? Not!

Thursday, my busiest day, I couldn't write a post on The Washington Post front page news that the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington threatened to discontinue the services to the poor provided under contract with the city if the Washington, D.C., City Council approves a gay marriage bill. I howled with laughter.

Funniest of all was listening on the radio to the spokesman of the local Catholic Charities talking about tenets (I swear it sounded like "tenants") in syntactically awkward statements that conveyed the distinct impression that he didn't know what the word "tenets" means -- let alone what the tenets of Catholicism are.

There is no tenet on which to hide behind in this case. No one is asking the Catholic Church to declare that a civil marriage between people of the same sex is sacramental, much less to host such a ceremony. In fact, archdiocesan officials are standing on the quicksand of hypotheticals (see their own Web site) that, precisely in the light of their own alleged faith, simply do not wash, as follows:
What if an employee wants medical benefits for his or her same-sex partner?

You mean the Catholic Church even hires gay people? (Indeed, yes; more secretly guarded that the pedophile files -- pedofiles? -- is the number of supposedly celibate priests who have died of AIDS.)

All right, let's keep a straight face here. Where is it forbidden to provide the insurance benefits as required by law, even if it is more than you think you should pay?

Even in the direst Catholic condemnations of homoeroticism, of which there are many, the teachings are consistent in calling for charity (that is, loving kindness), always well beyond one's minimal duty. It's not like the Church has ever confronted massive and uncontrolled altruism and had to stop the excess of kindness.

What if a gay couple wants to adopt a child?

So? Do Catholic charity groups only promote adoptions and foster parents among people who subscribe to the entire code of Catholic Canon Law?

No Muslims, Jews or Protestants, whose standards of marriage and coupling, and a host of other moral and doctrinal ideas differ radically from those of Catholicism, may ever adopt or become foster parents through a Catholic agency?

What if same-sex couples want to use a church hall for for non-wedding events

You mean, like the Knights of Columbus in Silver Spring, Md., and several Catholic churches, a stone throw from the bishop's residence, rent their halls for dances for divorced people who obviously have the intention of coupling?

These three hypotheticals come from their Web site.

Allow me at this point to interject that I was once a board member of precisely the D.C. area Catholic Charities, during the tenure of Archbishop Hickey. I knew then and know now that these charities are only nominally "Catholic." Nationally, Catholic Charities USA estimates that between 45 and 55 percent f their funds come from the Catholic Church; and much the same is true locally.

The contracts with the District of Columbia are a way to raise revenue. Much the way most nonprofits actually make handsome amounts of money that results in the occasional scandal when some official gets too greedy, Catholic Charities, like the Catholic Church, is, in strict financial terms, a business.

Pace, Catholics! The same is true of every other religious organization or church. Some are more baldly money making, other less so.

Now if the Archdiocese of Washington wants to demonstrate its purity of belief in the evangelical counsels (feed the hungry, give to drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit those who are sick, etc.), let it do so without government contracts. Let it give out of its community's generosity, not that of the rest of us.

Let's go one step further: let the Archdiocese of Washington renounce the exemption that allows it to sit prime land and buildings for which it pays not a penny in real estate taxes. The church exemption diminishes the funds available for services to the poor -- and D.C. is a leader in generosity to the unemployed and poor.

Now those are policies and principles directly traceable to the words attributed to a Galilean woodworker of two millenia ago. Archbishop Wuerl may have heard of the man, he was known as Jesus of Nazareth.
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