Friday, March 26, 2010

The Homeless lose their funding.

I came across this article on the forums. Basically, a homeless shelter in Maine is being denied funding by the Diocese because the group that runs the shelter has supported a ballot issue that would overturn a ban on gay marriage. My question is this: when did politics become more important than charity?

Yes, the political issue in question deals directly with one of the big stickers of Catholic moral theology, that of fornication vs. procreation (all homoeroticism is by definition fornication and sinful according to Catholic theology). And yes it's a hot-button issue, especially as California, Massachusetts, and D.C. celebrate gay marriages all over the place while Ohio, Maine, and several other states interdict bans on gay marriage into their state constitutions. So a charity receiving funding from the Church takes a stance that is opposed to official Catholic teaching. What does the Diocese do? There are two choices, ignore it and continue funding the charitable works of the organization, or penalize the organization and all the people they serve to prove a point.

I'm leaning in the direction that petty politics should not be the vehicle of getting the Church's point across. The responses to this article at go back and forth between "supporting sin is sin. The Church cannot do this." to "charity comes before politics." There's never any resolution because everyone in cyberspace is a bully, but it shows how thorny this issue really is.

From a theological standpoint, every Catholic is charged to be charitable to all. "Embrace the sinner, not the sin" and all that. Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, etc. These are all noble ends that, I feel, few of us in the United States and Europe pay much mind to. I'll be honest in that I am incredibly jaded to the people asking for money near my campus. I have yet to give any of them money over the past couple of years. I am obviously failing to live up to the expectations given me by Christ when he charged his Church with her mission on earth. But, is the Church also failing in her obligations when she puts a political stance before her mission to help the homeless?

This group is not a Catholic group. The Church is not obligated in any way to continue funding it or to have funded it at all. But the group is obviously doing good work. The Church doesn't fund groups that are going around killing babies in their spare time. The Church obviously felt that this work was important enough to support. Until the leadership of the group said "let's support gay marriage." Whether a charity group focused on the homeless should be making such a stance is a completely different discussion, though I personally feel they shouldn't have been making political statements to begin with, but the Church's obligation is first and foremost service of the lowliest of men. By denying funding to this charity, what is really being accomplished? The Church is once again affirming her position against marriage outside the model established by Adam and Eve. Kudos. The Church also reaffirmed her position dozens of times against witchcraft (FYI, the Italian Inquisition has never been dissolved. It's now called the Office of the Defense of the Doctrine of the Faith[sic]). The Church still does not support witchcraft or in any way condones it, but they weren't pulling funding left and right or making a big hullaballoo when Gardner and his Wiccans pushed for recognition as a religion in the United States and Europe. So what is going on with this particular issue? The answer is the USCCB--the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The USCCB and the Catholic League have for a long time been very politically vocal. They were lampooned in Southpark with the leader of the Catholic League assassinating the Pope in his attempt to squash the Hair Club for Men and the "real" successor of St. Peter (a rabbit. The Easter Bunny to be precise). For whatever reason, the temporal rule of the Papal States did not die with the occupation of Rome. It simply moved to a politically-charged religious atmosphere in the United States. Religion has often been used as a political weapon in the US despite our beloved separation of church and state, and it's seeing a major resurgence with such figures as Glenn Beck and the Tea Party in addition to the Catholic League and the USCCB. While I am in support of the devoutly religious function of the USCCB, when a Bishop in a Maine Diocese puts politics before charity, I have to raise my eyebrows as to how far we've come since the heady days of the Reformation and the Counterreformation. Is political power and influence so important that the Church has to sacrifice its mission of charitable works to maintain a position of moral superiority? Or would moral superiority and majesty be maintained by chastising the political opposition but continuing to support the needy? I'm leaning in favor of the latter. I'm not quite ready to doubt the wisdom and grace of the Church as one poster on stated, but I am going to question the wisdom and grace of this particular Bishop as much as we all had to question the wisdom and grace of Cardinal Law in Massachusetts.

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