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Gay Marriage Leads D.C. Archbishop to End Foster Care Program


Feb 22 2010
Catholic Charities has given its caseload of 43 children, 35 foster families, and 7 staff members to a Maryland-based family-care agency so as not to disrupt client care.

The other shoe has dropped here in Washington, D.C., in a long conflict between the local Catholic diocese and the District of Columbia.

After warning for months that the District's pending same-sex marriage law—slated to go into effect March 2—put its 80-year-old foster care program in jeopardy, the Archdiocese of Washington formally ended its program February 1.

It is the third Catholic diocese in the country to do so. The archdioceses of San Francisco and Boston stopped their adoption programs in 2006 after their respective states legalized gay marriage (California has since repealed its law) and made it clear that local Catholic Charities affiliates would have to work with homosexual couples.

The District's law would obligate all outside contractors working with the city to recognize gay couples by giving spousal benefits to such couples and allowing them to adopt available children. The Archdiocese of Washington refused to do this. Its Catholic Charities affiliate has turned over its caseload of 43 children with 35 foster families—along with 7 staff members—to Bethesda, Maryland-based National Center for Children and Families so as not to disrupt client care.

The foster care and adoption programs were among the 63 social service programs that the District paid Catholic Charities about $22.5 million to run. Of that amount, $2 million went to the foster care program. Because of the large amounts of money involved, it is highly unlikely that Catholic parishioners could raise enough funds to make up the difference.

When Donald Wuerl became the archbishop of Washington in 2006, many of us thought his main battle would be dealing with pro-choice Catholic politicians. Instead, his Rubicon has proved to be the D.C. marriage issue, a battle I am guessing he did not anticipate. He is now caught between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea. The Vatican is adamant against allowing gay couples to adopt. As for the District, one of the most liberal areas in the country, it is not surprising that, with a Democrat in the White House, local gay activists began pushing for the right to legally marry.

When the D.C. city council passed a bill allowing gay marriage in fall 2009, the archdiocese served notice that the bill did not contain a meaningful religious exemption for contractors who believe marriage is solely between a man and a woman. A storm of invective ensued, mostly from politicians and activists who blamed Catholics for manipulating the political process. Two hundred local clergy, including the local Episcopal bishop, banned together to denounce the archdiocese. Most of the local media trashed Archbishop Wuerl for his stand.

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