Thursday, June 4, 2009

9th Circuit Upholds Anti-Catholic Resolution - Same-sex Adoption Backgrounder

Early March 2006, Boston Catholic Charities' decided to end its adoption program rather than comply with a state law requiring them to place children with same-sex couples.

Catholic Charities Boston said they, "cannot reconcile the teaching of the church, which guides our work, and the statutes and regulations of the commonwealth," and so bowed out of service as one of the nation's oldest adoption agencies.

But Catholic Charities Boston had already reconciled itself to state law, placing 13 children over the years in same-sex homes. The events leading to their eventual reconciliation with Church law came about only when these adoptions were made public.

In the midst of this debate, The Boston Globe revealed that Catholic Charities of San Francisco had also placed children in same-sex homes while the Archdiocese was under the direction of then-Archbishop William J. Levada.

This was deemed significant because by this time Levada was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the same congregation that had issued the decree opposing same-sex adoptions in 2003 under then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The implication was - perhaps the Church's teaching on this was not so clear.

Cardinal Levada issued a statement from Rome explaining that he was told by Catholic Charities San Francisco CEO Brian Cahill about the adoptions after the fact and it was his continued position that Catholic agencies "should not place children for adoption in homosexual households."

Almost immediately, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the following resolution condemning Levada's words and urging his successor in San Francisco, Archbishop George H. Niederauer, to defy the Vatican:
Resolution No. 168-06

Resolution urging Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.

WHEREAS, It is an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great City’s existing and established customs and traditions such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need; and

WHEREAS, The statement of Cardinal Levada and the Vatican that “Catholic agencies should not place children for adoption in homosexual households,” and “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children” are absolutely unacceptable to the citizenry of San Francisco; and

WHEREAS, Such hateful and discriminatory rhetoric is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors; and

WHEREAS, Same-sex couples are just as qualified to be parents as are heterosexual couples; and

WHEREAS, Cardinal Levada is a decidedly unqualified representative of his former home city, and of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Supervisors urges Archbishop Niederauer and the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors urges Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith [sic] at the Vatican (formerly known as Holy Office of the Inquisition), to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.

The Board of Supervisors had no direct leverage here because The City did not fund Catholic Charities' adoption program and there was no state law, as in Massachusetts, requiring non-discrimination against same-sex couples in adoption placement.

The City did however fund other programs of Catholic Charities and during debate on the resolution, Supervisors made it clear that non-compliance with the City's demands would place those other programs in jeopardy.

Independent of the Archdiocese, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties filed suit on behalf of Catholic San Franciscans alleging that Resolution 168-06 violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and requesting that the court enjoin the City from criticizing and attacking religion and religious beliefs.

A federal court through that out and it was appealed to the 9th Circuit which yesterday upheld the lower court. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
San Francisco didn't cross into constitutionally forbidden territory of government hostility to religion when the Board of Supervisors denounced a Vatican order to Catholic Charities not to place adoptive children with same-sex couples, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. . .

It said the supervisors had acted for a legal secular purpose - to protect gay and lesbian couples from discrimination - and not to express the city's disapproval of Catholicism.

Go read that resolution again. Continued:
"The board's focus was on same-sex couples, not Catholics," Judge Richard Paez said in the 3-0 ruling. Promoting equal treatment for those couples in adoptions isn't anti-religious, he said, "regardless of whether the Catholic Church may be opposed to it as a religious tenet."

Judge Marsha Berzon, in a separate opinion, said the resolution was close to the constitutional boundary and might have been invalid if it contained binding regulations or was part of a "pervasive public campaign" against the Catholic Church.

Binding regulation or not, the message from the City was clear and Catholic Charities of San Francisco (after a quirky interim compromise) is no longer in the adoption business.

Here's something the mostly carpet-bagging Board of Supervisors may not know or care about - The agency, now the largest non-profit provider of social services in San Francisco, was founded in 1907 to care for orphans of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

My comment - "This great City’s existing and established customs and traditions," well preceded anybody even imagining a "right of same-sex couples to adopt."