On November 10th, the Belleville Diocese announced that Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois would no longer be providing adoption services, relying on a private organization to take over its caseload. The organization, which had previously referred unmarried people to other agencies, would no longer be allowed to do so in the case of homosexual couples, and was forced to close. The case parallels similar instances in Massachusetts and other diocese and could be the precedent for a similar closing of services in New York State.
The issue was complicated by the fact that about 85% of the $13.1 million annual operating budget came from the state of Illinois. Such a partnership, while in theory an embodiment of the Catholic social teaching of subsidiarity, only created further difficulties under the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.
Upon appeal, the Illinois circuit court ultimately agreed with the state ruling, claiming that the church does not have a legal right to any given contract, and that the state could legally cancel its contract. Attorney Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society in representing the dioceses involved agreed that one cannot claim a right to a contract but also said that, “the state cannot refuse a contract for illegal reasons.” Breen maintained that the state terminated the contract based on the Catholic agency’s legitimate exercise of religion.
Prior to the ruling, the agency had a policy that only placed children in the families of married couples. Consequently, since homosexual couples are not recognized as being within the sacrament of marriage, they were referred, along with other
The situation presented by this case is not a question of whether or not to allow equal treatment for homosexuals. They enjoy the same rights and privileges under government law that any other human being enjoys. That issue has been decided. The issue has become, whether or not it is permissible for a government at any level to compel a religious organization to support and affirm that union, contrary its own teaching. To put it another way, this is a case of a government dictating to a religious organization what it can and cannot believe.
The Church, through statements made by the Vatican, and reaffirmed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been consistent in teaching that persons with homosexual inclinations “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” In a firm commitment to charity, the Church expresses profound sympathy while also acknowledging that witnessing to the truth is among the highest charities. Thus, the official teaching on homosexual actions remains unwavering: sodomy is objectively wrong. To say anything less unravels the entire Catholic understanding of human sexuality. The acknowledgement of this reality, however, does not alter the fact that every single human being is made in the image and likeness of God, and is entitled to dignity and respect as a direct result of that fact, regardless of the morality of his actions.
The difficulty is that, at least in Illinois, it is now legally impossible to hold those two teachings in tension. With the recent legislation in New York, Catholic adoption services could be facing a similar situation.
“The support and status that marriage entails is not a societal bonus for falling in love and agreeing to make a relationship lasting. That is not, of course, to say that love and romance are not an important part of marriage. But they are not the reason it has special status. If romance were the reason for supporting marriage, there would be no grounds for differentiating which relationships should be included and which should not. But that is not and never has been the nature of marriage.
Marriage is vital as a framework within which children can be brought up by a man and woman. Not all marriages, of course, involve child-raising. And there are also, for that matter, same-sex couples already raising children. But the reality is that marriages tend towards child-raising and same-sex partnerships do not. A wealth of research demonstrates the marriage of a man and a woman provides children with the best life outcomes, that children raised in marriages that stay together do best across a whole range of measures. This is certainly not to cast aspersions on other families, but it does underscore the importance of marriage as an institution.”
 Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care 2006