Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington announced today that it is shutting down its foster care and public adoption program. The District of Columbia said the charity would be ineligible for service because of the new law recognizing same-sex “marriage.”
“Although Catholic Charities has an 80-year legacy of high quality service to the vulnerable in our nation’s capital, the D.C. Government informed Catholic Charities that the agency would be ineligible to serve as a foster care provider due to the impending D.C. same-sex marriage law,” the organization said in a statement.
The Catholic Charities affiliate transitioned its foster and adoption program to the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) on Feb. 1. The transition includes seven staff, 43 children and their biological families, and 35 foster families. The transition was scheduled to coincide with the expiration of the current contract between Catholic Charities and D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).
“Foster care has been an important ministry for us for many decades. We worked very hard to be able to continue to provide these services in the District,” said Ed Orzechowski, president and CEO of Catholic Charities D.C.
“We regret that our efforts to avoid this outcome were not successful.”
Orzechowski expressed gratitude to the staff and foster families involved in the program.
The D.C. City Council’s law recognizing same-sex “marriage” required religious entities which serve the general public to provide services to homosexual couples, even if doing so violated their religious beliefs. Exemptions were allowed only for performing marriages or for those entities which do not serve the public.
The archdiocese and legal experts criticized the exemptions for being too narrow.
D.C. law also now requires partners with the city to provide benefits for same-sex couples. This also poses a problem for Catholic Charities, though the Washington Post reports that the organization is optimistic it can structure benefits in a way that would allow it to remain in partnerships with the city.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, slammed the District’s actions.
“Archbishop Donald Wuerl is a man of principle and prudence: he did not want to end the foster-care program, but he was left with no realistic option,” Donohue said Wednesday. “District lawmakers could have granted the kind of religious exemptions that would have ensured a continuation of services, but instead they sought to create a Catch-22 situation for the archdiocese.
“Surely they knew that Archbishop Wuerl was not going to negotiate Catholic Church teachings on marriage, yet that hardly mattered to them. The real losers are the children who were served by the Catholic Church.”
Those who characterized the Catholic Church’s actions on the issue as neglectful of the children, Donohue claimed, were “phonies.”
“Archbishop Wuerl isn't about to allow the state to run roughshod over Catholic doctrine, and that is why he is being forced to drop the foster-care program.”
CNA sought comment from Archbishop of Louisville Joseph E. Kurtz, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage. He was unavailable for an interview.
Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to close its adoption services in 2006 because it would no longer place children with homosexual couples, as required by state law. Laws have also forced Catholic adoption societies in Britain either to close or to disaffiliate from the Church.