The Catholic Charities organizations in the Rockford, Joliet, and Peoria dioceses have announced that they will stop certifying foster and adoptive parents because of a new Illinois law granting equal rights to gay and lesbian couples. Excellent!
The practice of giving not only public money but public authority to religious groups far pre-dates George W. Bush’s efforts to use your dollars to pay off his fundamentalist pastor friends though the “faith-based initiative” racket. Most of the people helped by the network of organizations known as “Catholic Charities” think their gratitude is due to the Catholic Church; in fact, two-thirds of the actual money comes from public funds.
That’s bad enough, given the openly partisan stance of the contemporary Catholic church and its ongoing campaign to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians. What’s worse is that Catholic Charities, and parallel organizations organized by other denominations, continue to dominate the business of adoption and foster care, wielding by delegation the state’s power to determine who may care for children whose parents can’t.
The practice is a hold-over from the days when children were considered the property of their parents’ denominations, so that the child of a Protestant couple was a “Protestant” child, and could therefore only be placed in a Protestant home. (Somehow this was never as controversial as the parallel claim that African-American children should be placed with parents of their own race.) Allowing the clergy to license adoptive couples means subjecting prospective adoptive parents to whatever narrow-mindedness the pastors wanted to enforce that week. Catholic Charities allows single parents, but not unmarried couples, to become foster and adoptive parents. That may be good church doctrine, but if there’s any actual evidence that single people outperform unmarried couples in raising children I’m not aware of it, and it seems to me that ought to be the decisive question. At one time Catholic couples practicing any method of birth control other than “Vatican roulette” were also barred, but I think – can’t find a source on it – that rule has been allowed to fall into disuse.
“In-sourcing” this bit of public power to actual public officials, accountable to actual elected legislators and elected chief executives, seems like a long-overdue reform.