There’s a huge political fight going on in Massachusetts right now, pitting two great forces against each other. And I find myself taking a side I didn’t foresee ever sympathizing with.
Massachusetts is not just a “blue state.” It’s quite possibly the bluest of the blue states. It gave us Michael Dukakis, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, gay marriage, two openly-gay members of Congress (Barney Frank and Gerry Studds), Susan Estrich, Harvard, the People’s Republic of Cambridge, and a host of other bastions of liberalism. It is the ideal of enlightenment, of tolerance, of acceptance, of diversity, and woe unto any who disagree. There is very little tolerance for those found guilty of intolerance.
One aspect of this is Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination laws. No agency that does business with the state, especially those that act as agents of the state. They may not discriminate on the basis of age, race, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, or a host of other factors.
And last week, that policy erupted into a major conflict, as one major charitable organization found itself in conflict with one of those tenets.
Catholic Charities does a host of good works in Massachusetts. One of their major works is in handling adoptions, and last year they placed 41 children with new parents, making them one of the five top agencies in the state. But they follow tradtional Catholic teachings — and that includes a non-acceptance of homosexuality.
Over the last 20 years, Catholic Charities has placed 720 children with adoptive families, and 13 of those families were gay couples. But recently the Archdiocese of Boston informed the Charities that from now on, they will abide by Church teachings and principles, and will NOT place children with gay couples.
The directors of the charity argued, but to no use. All 42 directors unanimously appealed Archbishop Sean O’Malley’s directive, but he was unswayed. Eight of them resigned in protest, but finally the board accepted the Archbishop’s ruling.
The state, however, didn’t. They are saying that if Catholic Charities wishes to continue in the adoption business, they’ll have to consider gay couples.
Governor Romney says he’ll file legislation permitting Catholic Charities to abide by Church policies and remain providing adoption services. Until that time, though, Catholic Charities is out of the adoption business.
Now, I have no great fondness for the Catholic Church as a whole, and the Boston archdiocese in particular. I think a great many of their teachigns are wrong, and their own conduct during the pedophile priest scandal was nothing short of reprehensible. In fact, the decades-long coverup by Church officials, involving quiet payoffs to victims and shuffling pedophile priests on to new, unsuspecting parishes where they could — and did — prey anew on children worthy of investigation under the RICO statutes. The Church’s conduct in that matter left, to me, a huge, indelible stain on their moral credibility.
But in this case, I think the state is going too far in their fight with the church. While I agree in principle with the state’s position, the simple fact is that Catholic Charities does NOT hold a monopoly on adoption placement in Massachusetts. There are numerous other agencies and means of adoption available, and I don’t believe that Catholic Charities should be forced to violate its own tenets.
I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state. I don’t want any church holding sway over government, and I don’t want government to control any church. But there are areas where these two will necessarily come into contact, and in those cases the matter must be settled in a reasonable, sensible manner. In this particular case, the harm caused by the church’s conflict with existing law is negligible, and the greater good is not being served. Massachusetts should not change its laws, but it should carve out an exception for this case — and others like it.