The Diocese of Rockford says Illinois' new civil union law has forced Catholic Charities to end an adoption partnership once ranked as the second-best in the state.

“This action is solely the result of the passage of the 'Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act,'” explained diocesan general counsel Ellen B. Lynch, in a June 1 editorial co-authored with diocesan spokeswoman Penny Wiegert.

Their essay, published by the Rockford Register Star, explained how the new law put an end to Catholic Charities' state-funded adoption work.

The civil unions act, which took effect on June 1, does not allow child welfare agencies to restrict their adoption and foster care work to married heterosexual couples, even in cases where these agencies partner with religious groups.

“The state of Illinois has stated its intention to require agencies with which it contracts, to accept unmarried cohabitating couples for state-funded adoption and foster-care licenses once the civil unions law takes effect,” they explained.

In keeping with Church teaching on marriage and the family, Catholic Charities opposes adoption and fostering by unmarried heterosexual couples as well as same-sex partners.

“Being a party to a contract with the state of Illinois would require Catholic Charities to accept couples other than a married man and woman as adoptive and foster parents,” Lynch and Wiegert noted. “This would violate the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

That is why Catholic Charities “discontinued its current contracts with the state of Illinois,” and why it “cannot enter into contracts” with the state to provide such services in the future.

The change in state law will force Catholic Charities to lay off 42 caseworkers and 24 other employees, who have been overseeing 350 foster care and adoption cases. All of Catholic Charities' non-state funded services, including private adoptions, will continue after the transition.

More in US

Catholic Charities had previously sought a compromise which would have allowed its caseworkers to refer homosexual partners and unmarried heterosexual couples to other adoption agencies, while continuing their state-funded work in cases that did not violate Catholic principles.

But Lynch and Wiegert noted in their editorial that this kind of compromise still “would not have resolved the question of whether the civil unions law applies to religious entities providing state-funded services.”

“Nor would such an offer have prevented an aggrieved couple from filing suit against Catholic Charities when referred to another agency,” they pointed out.

In the end, they said, “Catholic Charities decided not to accept any state money, and to not enter into a contract with the state, because Catholic Charities will not compromise its moral teachings.”

It was ironic, they noted, for a Church ministry to be forced to discontinue its adoption partnership, for refusing to compromise the same faith that had brought the partnership into being.

The “very values for which we are being condemned,” they said, are those principles of faith by which “we are compelled to serve children and all those in need.”

“It is also because of these values,” they stated, “that we seek to put the interests of all those we serve above the whims of secular popularity.”

(Story continues below)

Illinois' other five dioceses are still weighing their options, to determine whether the same law will force them to sever government ties in the areas of adoption and foster care.

Other local laws establishing civil unions and homosexual “marriage” have forced Church agencies to restrict or discontinue adoption and foster care work in Boston and the District of Columbia. The Catholic Church in the United Kingdom no longer participates in adoption or foster care due to requirements in that country's same-sex “civil partnership” law.