Barrett posed a hypothetical scenario of a city overseeing its health care system, and a Catholic hospital being required to provide abortions to contract with the city. She asked if the situation was a licensing or a contracting scenario, given that the hospital could not participate in health care without abiding by the requirement.
Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh both had strong language for the city's attempts to impose compliance on Catholic Social Services, with Kavanaugh referring to the city's position as "absolutist and extreme."
The case, Alito said, is not about the city ensuring opportunities to be foster parents but rather shows its disdain for beliefs in traditional marriage. He said "the city can't stand the message" of Catholic Social Services "continuing to adhere to the old-fashioned view about marriage."
Kavanaugh said that it "seems like" Philadelphia was "looking for a fight" in requiring the ministry to contradict its religious beliefs on marriage even though it had not denied a same-sex couple the opportunity to be foster parents.
"I fully appreciate the stigmatic harm" of same-sex couples denied opportunities to adopt, he said, adding that "we need to find a balance that also respects religious beliefs."
"This is a system that has worked effectively and worked well for many years," he said of Catholic Social Services.
New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan also weighed in on the successful history of social service to wider American society.
Writing in USA Today on Nov. 4, Dolan noted the long history of Catholic agencies and individuals in America working to alleviate suffering and need, especially in times of crisis like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"Most of the Church's ministry was established in the face of crises and epidemics, much like what we are experiencing today," said Dolan. "And yet our charitable work seemingly never escapes the ageless adage that "no good deed goes unpunished."
Noting the more than 8,000 faith-based adoption agencies working with government bodies across the U.S., "not to mention the countless thousands of Catholic soup kitchens, homeless shelters, prison ministries, immigration legal services, and other social services supported by the Catholic Church."
"The Church serves these children without discriminating on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, religion, or race."
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"Indeed," Dolan said, "the only discrimination to be found is that of Philadelphia officials who target our ministries because they disagree with what the Church believes."
"Our nation has slowly but surely rooted out such bigotry. It should finish the job."