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The Poor, the Preschoolers and the Pope

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With the Cross of Jesus, Marching on Before.

Onward Christian Soldiers
, A Hymn

They figured out how to do it compassionately and that comes as a great relief to the poor being served by Catholic Charities of Washington D.C.

In December 2009, the D.C. Council voted 11-2 in favor of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The District of Columbia requires that married same-sex couples receive the same employment benefits as are given heterosexual couples by their employers. Catholic Charities said that would force it to recognize same-sex marriage, a violation of church dogma. It said with the passage of the ordinance it would have to reconsider its role in the District. That threatened to severely impact the underprivileged since, according to Catholic on Line, Catholic Charities "serves 68,000 people . . . through a range of services, including shelter, nutrition, counseling, employment and job training services, legal and health care assistance, immigration assistance and more." Catholic Charities has now responded and its response was not as draconian as it had suggested it might be. Although it gave up its foster care program because of the possibility children would end up in the homes of gay couples who were legally married, it has not abandoned all the other good things it does nor taken out its disapproval of the new ordinance on the poor and the destitute. Instead it has taken it out on new employees.

On March 1 all Catholic Charities employees received a message telling them that health care benefits that had theretofore been give all employees and their spouses would not be given for new hires after March 1. Although partners of new employees will not receive benefits, there's a bright side to the picture. While gay and heterosexual couples employed by the Church are struggling to pay for health insurance for their partners, the Church will continue to help the poor.

Meanwhile, half a continent away, the Church was demonstrating that the East coast did not have a monopoly on sacrificing good works on dogma's altar. Its messenger was Charley Chaput. Charley is the Archbishop of Denver and can be recognized by the pointy hat he wears and the crazy things he says. During the 2004 election year he said that anyone who voted for John Kerry had committed a sin that had to be confessed before the voter/supplicant would be permitted to receive communion. Charley has now come up with a new proscription that falls within the category of visiting the sins of the fathers/mothers on their children. It deals with families where there are two fathers or two mothers.

The Preschool run by the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in Boulder, Colorado, has notified staff that one of the students currently enrolled at the school will not be returning in the fall since the child's parents are a same-sex lesbian couple. As Charley's spokesperson explains: "Homosexual couples living together as a couple are expected to follow the Catholic Church's beliefs." The statement goes on to say: "No person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school's philosophy and agree to abide by the educational policies and regulations of the school and Archdiocese."

It seems obvious that at this point the school is going to have to send out a questionnaire to all parents since same-sex marriages are probably not the only proscriptions of the faith indulged in by parents of preschoolers. Votes for president in 2004 should be checked into. It makes little sense to say that a parent who voted for John Kerry cannot take communion but can send a child to Sacred Heart of Jesus preschool.

The questionnaire should inquire into the sexual practices of heterosexual parents. Some parents may view sex as having purposes beyond procreation and may even find those purposes amusing in a way that would greatly offend Charley. In furtherance of such practices it is possible they may take advantage of the marketplace's offerings to insure that no children are conceived as a result of those activities. It is not enough for Charley to decree such conduct to be reprehensible in its own right and to promise its practitioners untoward consequences in the hereafter. There must also be immediate consequences. Burning at the stake is not an option but expulsion from preschool of the children of the sexually frivolous is. And, of course, the questionnaire should be sent not only to parents of preschoolers but to parents of all students. The results will probably enhance the quality of education afforded by Sacred Heart of Jesus school since it will almost certainly result in smaller class sizes, a clear benefit for the students permitted to remain enrolled following tabulation of the results of the questionnaire.

Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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