Friday, November 13, 2009

D.C. Council, Catholic Archdiocese at Odds over Funds for Charity

From the Living Church-

In a conflict between the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Council of the District of Columbia, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has sided with the council.

The conflict involves a proposed law that would legalize marriage between same-sex couples, and how that law would affect entities, including churches, that accept city funds for charitable work. The council rejected an amendment to exempt churches from “the promotion of marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs.”

The council is due to vote on the legislation in December. The district has longstanding laws that bar discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The archdiocese, which accepts city funds for Catholic Charities, has expressed concern that the proposed law will hinder its religious freedom and freedom of speech.

“It is our concern that the committee’s narrowing of the religious exemption language will cause the government to discontinue our long partnership with them and open up the agency to litigation and the use of resources to defend our religious beliefs rather than serve the poor,” said Edward Orzechowski, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, in a statement released by the archdiocese.

Catholic Charities serves 68,000 people in the city each year, and the city’s 40 Catholic parishes operate another 93 social-service programs, the statement added.

The Rt. Rev. John Chane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, sees the question as one of civil rights for gay and lesbian couples.

“The Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church have significant theological differences on the issue of same-sex relationships, so perhaps it is not surprising that the social service organizations affiliated with the two Churches have reached different conclusions regarding the effect of the legislation to legalize same-sex marriage currently under consideration in the District of Columbia,” Bishop Chane said in a statement issued on Nov. 12.

“Our partners in ministry have expressed no reservations about the legislation,” Bishop Chane added. “Episcopalians understand that none of us has the right to violate the human rights of another individual. That’s the law of the District of Columbia. More important, it’s at the core of the Gospel. I hope that the least among us will not be victimized by the struggle over this legislation, and I pray that people of faith will come forward to provide food and shelter if the need arises.”

The Most Rev. Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, has written before about why the Catholic archdiocese opposes the proposed law.

“Our support of marriage is not meant to discriminate against any individual or family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church upholds the human dignity of every person and condemns any form of unjust discrimination (2358),” the archbishop wrote on Oct. 6 in a “Pastoral Message for Homosexual Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Archbishop Wuerl added: “The complementarity of man and woman is the foundation of marriage as created by God. The Church and, indeed, cultures throughout time have recognized that marriage is the faithful union of man and woman, joined in a permanent relationship of self-giving love and an openness to creating new life.”

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