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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Catholic Church and Pericles on virtue

I've seen mention by many today, from Fr. Martin to MadPriest, of the decisions made by the Archdiocese of Washington DC and Catholic Charities in the face of the DC law legalizing same-sex marriage (and enforcement of laws against discrimination). It's probably redundant of me to write about it since others have no doubt done a better job of it, but since I'd brought up the subject in a past post, I thought I'd go ahead, mentioning also the similar dust-up taking place in the UK.

Here's a bit from The Washington Post ....

Same-sex marriage leads Catholic Charities to adjust benefits

Employees at Catholic Charities were told Monday that the social services organization is changing its health coverage to avoid offering benefits to same-sex partners of its workers -- the latest fallout from a bitter debate between District officials trying to legalize same-sex marriage and the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. Starting Tuesday, Catholic Charities will not offer benefits to spouses of new employees or to spouses of current employees who are not already enrolled in the plan. A letter describing the change in health benefits was e-mailed to employees Monday, two days before same-sex marriage will become legal in the District ...

This solution, as one of the commentors to Fr. Martin's post pointed out, is negative ... It's kind of like in the old days when municipal swimming pools in the south were closed to avoid letting blacks swim in them. If nobody got to swim, then nobody was discriminated against. It's unclear why the Archdiocese of Washington DC wouldn't consider finessing the situation the way Cardinal Levada did in San Francisco in 1997 when he proposed allowing employees of Catholic institutions to designate anyone they wanted as a recipient of benefits on their health plans (What Did We Agree To? ARCHBISHOP LEVADA REPLIES TO CRISIS MAGAZINE ARTICLE).

It's not just in the area of employee health care benefits that the DC government and the Archdiocese are conflicting - as reported 2/19 ..... Catholic Charities, the charitable arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, announced this week that it has ended its city contract to provide foster care and adoption services for D.C. residents, saying it could not comply with rules requiring that it place children with same-sex couples.

Meanwhile in the UK, where the Catholic Church has lost recent battles to retain the right to discriminate against same-sex couples adopting, but has defeated (with B16's help) an amendment to the Equality Bill that would end discrimination in the hiring of gays/lesbians in non-religious church jobs, the Church is hoping to influence the coming elections .....

Roman Catholic bishops enter pre-election fray

The Roman Catholic Church will wade into the general election campaign next week with a controversial document [Choosing the Common Good] condemning the loss of virtue in public life .... In the document, discussed with the Pope when the bishops were in Rome for their ad limina visit earlier this year, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales warn that regulation has replaced virtue in public life .... Underpinning the document is the sense of anger in the Catholic Church at the battles they have fought over the place of religion in public life, in particular the lost battle over gay adoption ...

I would so like to believe that this problem between the church and the state over gays/lesbians had to do, on the church's part, with virtue, but I can't, and in fact if there's any virtue to be found in this conflict, I think it's in the stance of the government, which strives to give equal opportunities to all citizens. Recently I saw an article by Jonathan Saks, Chief Rabbi of the UK, bashing the virtue of the Ancient Greeks and extolling the virtue of the Christian/Jewish tradition instead - I think he was wrong and I'd like to quote a bit from the funeral oration of Pericles (I do so much like him :) that brings up the concept of equal justice under the law, because if the church doesn't eventually get this concept, or at least learn to respect it in government, then I don't think they can truly say they're in the service of virtue .....

Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. Our government does not copy our neighbors', but is an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while there exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty an obstacle, but a man may benefit his country whatever the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.


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