(CNSNews.com) -- The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has ended its 80-year tenure as a public foster care provider because of a same-sex marriage bill in the nation’s capital that allows children to be adopted by homosexual couples.
On Feb. 16, Catholic Charities announced that it had transferred, as of Feb. 1, its foster care and public adoption programs in D.C. to the National Center for Children Families (NCCF), a private, non-profit organization that has been serving the less fortunate for 95 years.
The move by Catholic Charities and Archbishop Donald Wuerl came in the wake of the D.C. Council approving a same-sex marriage bill on Dec. 16 by an 11-to-2 vote. The bill, among other things, would require foster care groups under contract with the District to allow and facilitate adoption of foster-care children by homosexual couples.
This policy violates the moral teaching of the Catholic Church, which says that only a man and a woman can be united in marriage and that together with their children they form a family. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2201-2203.)
Erik Salmi, a spokesman for Catholic Charities, the social-service arm of the archdiocese, told CNSNews.com:
“The foster care transition took place because we would be required by the city, because of the new law, to place children with same-sex married couples, which is something that as a Catholic organization we cant’ do, so that’s why we transferred the program.”
Although the bill does not require that faith-based organizations participate in marrying same-sex partners, it provides gay couples residing in D.C. with all the rights afforded to heterosexual married couples under the law, including the choice to adopt children.
Under the new initiative, homosexual couples from anywhere in the United States will be permitted to be married in D.C. As the law stands now, it recognizes homosexual marriages consummated in states that permit them, which include Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. By the beginning of next year, New Hampshire will be added to that list.
Salmi said that the transition of its foster care services to the NCCF was accomplished smoothly without any disruption of services for the children involved, adding that Catholic Charities, which runs over 20 social-service programs in the District, is only one of 16 contractors certified to license foster care parents.
“We were happy to be able to do it in a way that kept the relationships between the kids and the staff and the foster families all intact,” Salmi told CNSnews.com.
Catholic Charities, which also runs programs in the District and Maryland’s Montgomery County for homeless families and victims of domestic violence, worked alongside the District’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) during the transition process.
“We worked very closely with CFSA to identify a provider who matched what we felt was a standard for focusing on finding the kids a permanent home quickly,” Salmi told CNSNews.com.
The transition of programs to the NCCF involved moving seven staff workers, 43 children and their biological families, in addition to 35 foster families.
Although regretful that Catholic Charities was unable to maintain its D.C. public foster care program, Ed Orzechowski, president and CEO of the District’s archdiocese charity arm, in a Feb. 16 statement, indicated that he is optimistic about the changeover to the NCFF.
“I am confident that NCCF will serve the children and families well,” said Orzechowski.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue supports the archdiocese’s move to transfer its foster care programs to the private sector, blaming lawmakers for leaving the Catholic Church with no choice.
“Archbishop Donald Wuerl (who presides over D.C.’s archdiocese) is a man of principle and prudence: He did not want to end the foster-care program, but he was left with no realistic option,” said Donohue in a Feb. 17 statement. “District lawmakers could have granted the kind of religious exemptions that would have ensured a continuation of services, but instead they sought to create a Catch-22 situation for the archdiocese.”
Donohue added, “The real losers are the children who were served by the Catholic Church.”
If the same-sex initiative clears the 30-day congressional review period, which is expected given the Democrat majority in Congress, the legislation will become law in the next couple of weeks.
While the bill is expected to become law, congressional Republicans and some conservative Democrats have indicated they will try annul the legislation by getting Congress or a court to block it.
A spokesman for openly gay D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), the main sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill and chairman of the Health Committee, declined to comment on the archdiocese’s decision.
Another key sponsor of the bill, Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), did not respond to inquiries by CNSNews.com before this story was posted.
According to its Web site, “Catholic Charities serves nearly 80,000 people annually at 28 different sites in Washington, suburban and southern Maryland. Providing a full-range of services for families and individuals, Catholic Charities offers housing, education, health and legal services, refugee and immigration, childcare, emergency assistance, food programs, foster care, pregnancy and adoption services, and more.”
Catholic Charities still operates 82 other social-service programs in the District of Columbia.
While the Catholic Church has been fighting against the bill, other religious groups have shown support for it.
On Nov. 16, the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, announced his support for legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.