.- An Illinois judge's July 12 order will allow Catholic Charities to continue its foster care work in three dioceses, despite an attempt by state officials and the governor to end the partnership.
“This is a great win for the 2,000 children under the care of Catholic Charities, protecting these kids from the grave disruption that the state's reckless decision to terminate would have caused,” said Peter Breen, Executive Director and Legal Counsel at the Thomas More Society.
Breen said that Catholic Charities, with the legal assistance of his organization, “will continue this fight” to continue “the high-quality foster and adoption care that the Catholic Church has provided for over a century to Illinois children.”
Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, one of the dioceses that sought the injunction, said he was “encouraged by the judge's recognition today of the grave harm that would result” from forcing Catholic Charities out of foster care.
“We continue to believe we can adhere to our religious principles and operate within Illinois law,” Bishop Jenky said. “Our focus has always been on living the Gospel mission by serving and protecting vulnerable children throughout our communities, and we will continue our faithful mission building a future filled with hope.”
Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services had stated in a July 8 letter that it was ending its relationship with Catholic Charities in three dioceses, over the Church ministries' alleged refusal to comply with the recently-passed Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.
The three branches of Catholic Charities have maintained they are following the law, even as they continue their practice of placing foster children only with married couples and non-cohabiting single persons.
Breen told CNA on July 11 that the state was dropping Catholic Charities on illegitimate grounds, and attempting an “end-run” around Catholic Charities' lawsuit against the state over the same issue.
At Tuesday's afternoon hearing, Judge John Schmidt expressed a similar sentiment, saying the Department of Children and Family Services' termination letter had the “appearance of gamesmanship.”
Schmidt also rejected Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's attempt to have Catholic Charities' complaint dismissed on the grounds of “mootness.” Madigan attempted to argue that the present position of both parties would make any judicial decision in the matter irrelevant.
The judge, however, disagreed, and will decide on the merits of the case in a hearing on August 17.