"Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." --1 Corinthians 13:13, King James Bible
Catholic Charities in Rockford, Ill., have decided that rather than abide with the new civil unions law going into effect in Illinois on June 1, they'll end all the adoption and foster care services they provide. This move will displace around 350 children in foster care, terminate $7.5 million in state contracts with the "charity," and lead the organization to fire 58 of its employees who work with their state-funded adoption services.
Not sounding so charitable, are they?
Ellen Lynch, general counsel for the diocese, gave this "loving" excuse when they announced their decision following the failure of an amendment to the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act that would have allowed Catholic Charities use their public funds to discriminate as they see fit:
"It's the moral teaching of our faith that we believe in the natural order of marriage. In order to serve our children best, we believe that they be in that kind of a family."
This move isn't anything new from the Catholic Church. They have a history of simply shutting down services and punishing both those they serve and employees when they are forced to decide between taking millions in public dollars and continuing their faith-based discrimination against a class of people. Just last year, in March 2010, the Washington, D.C. Catholic Charities announced it will no longer offer spousal benefits to any employees to avoid offering benefits to same-sex partners of employees after D.C.'s marriage equality law went into effect.
The church certainly has the right as a private institution to believe what they want and to act accordingly. However, they simply do not have the right to bring that discrimination into the public sphere by taking tax dollars while not serving the entire community, only those they see fit and worthy.
But beyond the actual private belief versus public funding/services issue, the choice of the church to put "faith" (or, rather, faith-based discrimination) over actual charity is a good insight into the priorities of the institution. And this certainly is an institutional Church issue that doesn't represent how polls show the average Catholic feels about LGBT Americans and their relationships. Recent polling from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that Catholics overwhelmingly support marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples by some 74 percent. Yet the church chooses to hurt the hundreds of children in its care, the employees that work for them and the community it supposedly serves.
The Catholic Church is free to discriminate as they please. They can do things like back anti-gay marriage amendments, kick-out foster kids and fight condom use to prevent HIV/AIDS. But all they do is further isolate themselves from not only society as a whole, but from their own shrinking membership, as well as remove themselves and their services form the public sphere. Prioritizing discrimination of LGBT people and holding charity hostage has sadly become their top goal.
As the Bible once again says: "Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2, King James Bible).
Faith, hope and charity? Not so much from the Catholic Church.