US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Defending the family by attacking it

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Be glad you don't work for Catholic Charities in Washington. DC, because the battle over same-sex marriage just hit you in the pocketbook.

The DC law recognizing same-sex marriages requires anyone who has contracts with the district to provide equal spousal benefits to employees, regardless of the gender of the spouse. Catholic Charities says it cannot do so because following the law would violate church teaching, so it eliminated spousal benefits for new employees and current employees who have not elected to cover their spouses, effective yesterday.

So, Catholic Charities, for the sake of defending the institution of marriage, has made it harder on their own employees who are married, though CNS reports that fewer than 100 of its 850ish employees cover their spouses. Catholic Charities has also taken the cheap way out: As it hires new employees with this reduced benefits package, it stands to improve its bottom line. I'm sure Catholic Charities will pass those savings on to employees to supplement their meager salaries. Or maybe not.

This is just a wrongheaded decision, as well as unjust to workers. Situations like this call for creativity, not retrenchment. Like the Archdiocese of San Franscisco, DC Catholic Charities could have expanded coverage by allowing employees to cover another adult member of their household--a sibling, parent, etc.--instead of making it harder for families to get by. And that was under Archbishop Levada--who is now the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome!

This situation isn't going to go away either. DC won't be the last government body to recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions. Is our Catholic response going to be always to retrench rather than reach out? DC Charities' decision is a bad sign of things to come. It may on the surface appear to be a principled defense of church teaching about marriage, but in the eyes of many, including its employees, it could just as easily appear both cheap and petty.