Will the Catholic Church be hurt by the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage?

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Hats off to everyone who was surprised by today’s Supreme Court ruling that states cannot constitutionally ban gay marriage. Hats off for your optimism and your faith in the judicial branch!

Those of us with a more jaded view knew that this ruling was inevitable, and that the seeds for this decision were sown decades ago, when contraception and no fault divorce became the norm.  If marriage is just a financial and emotional arrangement to make adults happy, why not gay marriage? If marriage is just an official pronouncement that some people love each other, then why not? Gay people can love each other.

 

Of course, Catholics don’t believe that marriage is just an official pronouncement that some people love each other. And of course our job remains what it has always been: to faithfully, doggedly, charitably continue to explain that a sacramental marriage is between one man and one woman for the benefit of their children, for the benefit of society, and for the benefit of each other. It’s not that we will not accept gay  marriage, it’s that we cannot.

If we Catholics are clear on what marriage is, how much will it affect us when the rest of the country is all mixed up? I don’t believe that priests and ministers will be prosecuted – jailed, fined, or strung up in the public square – for refusing to officiate at gay marriages. But I do believe that churches are in immediate danger of losing their tax exempt status if they are found to discriminate against people in gay (and other non monogamous, non hetero) unions.

If you read the bottom of Huffington Post or any typical American combox, you’ll get the impression that churches are exempt from paying taxes because, in the bad old days, religion was in control and the poor taxpayers didn’t know any better than to fork over their hard earned dollars to a bunch of corrupt prelates who spent it on fancy robes, wine, and cages in which to imprison women and the occasional altar boy (and if we’re talking about Los Angeles, this was more or less true. It’s getting better!).

But now we know better, says the bottom of the internet, So tax ‘em, but good! Seem fair, especially if you’ve been taught that religion is mainly a giant oppression machine.

But the truth is, churches are tax exempt because they are good for the community. They serve the people, and the revenue they take in shouldn’t be taxed by the government because it’s used to do the work that government isn’t able to do on its own. Even if you think there is no God, you have to admit that churches do good for the community even while teaching and believing things that the community isn’t always happy to hear. This has always been the case.

In my state of New Hampshire, nearly every charitable organization is run by Catholic Charities. Food, shelter, counselling, services for homeless people, abused women, and immigrants — Catholic Charities does it all. They run under names like “NH Food Bank,” but it’s all Catholic Charities; and Catholic Charities is, of course, inseparable from the Catholic Church.

So what would happen if churches lost their tax exemption? Poof goes Catholic Charities (and all the fine organizations manned and funded by non-Catholic churches, as well! The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world, but it is by no means the only one). Poof goes their ability to serve the poor, the widow, the orphan, the homeless, the nuts, etc. etc. Poof go the vulnerable.

Goodness knows we’ve already seen how this works. When Catholic organizations declined to place children with gay couples for adoption and foster care, they lost their contract with many states. They were unable to comply with a law that violated their faith, and so they were forced to shut down. This secular media portrayed this as “evil Catholics would rather abandon helpless children than make a loving couple’s dream come true” rather than “society would rather see children go without parents if it means that gay couples won’t be able to work with every agency in the state.” So we know that the Tolerance Inc. has no qualms about sacrificing the helpless if they think they can make Christians hurt; and we know that these injuries will be portrayed as self-inflicted.

What to do about it? I have no idea. It makes some sense to get churches altogether out of the business of offering civil marriages. If the state wants to define marriage, let the state performs all those marriages, and let people pursue sacramental marriages in the churches as a separate thing. I suspect that even then, if sacramental and civil marriage are decoupled, churches will face discrimination lawsuits, just like bakers and inn owners faced lawsuits for refusing to facilitate gay couple’s weddings. They’ll win some and lose some. There is no legal coherence in this country anymore.

People have no idea how much our nation depends on the Church. Well, they’re about to find out.

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A little fish can go a long way!

ICTHUS

He had to rethink his strategy. A good idea is only a good idea if people will actually use it. So instead of distributing the iron in formless lumps, he tried shaping the iron into a fish — specifically, one local to the communities he hoped to help.

Read the rest at the Register. 

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Love in Action: Shoes that Grow

shoe that grows

But what if you can’t buy a new pair of shoes for your growing child? What if your child must go barefoot, or cut the toes out of shoes that are too small? And what if your child walks miles every day to get to school, and what if he is constantly picking up diseases and parasites through the inevitable cuts and scrapes on his feet?

Read the rest at the Register. 

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At the Register: A chat with Mary’s Shelter founder Kathleen Wilson

SF:That seems like the hallmark of how your run Mary’s Shelter: you don’t only care about the babies and the kids, but you respect the parents. Is this a deliberate decision, to approach your ministry this way?

KW: Absolutely. We don’t just save the life of the baby. We’re out to save the life of the mother, and the father, if he’s in the picture. We crack up when we hear a pro-choicer saying, “You pro-lifers only care about the white baby in your belly.” That’s the biggest lie out there.

If the woman is abortion-minded, we’ll give her a place to live, if that’s what’s holding her back. If a woman walks in and she’s in a domestic violence situation, we get her counseling.  We don’t even kick them out if they’re drinking or doing drugs; we give them an opportunity to do a program and stay with us.

We give women up to two years with us; and women who are “rock stars” – the ones who are really looking to move on and get a nursing degree or something like that — she can stay up to three years while she does school and work and gets everything together. That’s all about the woman. That’s for her.

Read the rest of my interview about this amazing organization at the Register.

And don’t forget, I’ll be the keynote speaker at their upcoming Summer Soiree August 23! Free to attend, and a great opportunity to learn more about the amazing work they are doing.

In Catholic Digest: 12 Questions to Ask before Giving Money to Charity

Many thanks to Kiernan O’Connor of the Donor Motivation Program of Houston for a great interview.  It incorporates advice that will be equally useful for large investors and for widow’s mite types, and also includes some investing tips.

I don’t think the article is available online yet at Catholic Digest, but I did want to highlight a few of the charities that I recommended in the article:

Save a Family Plan
A top notch international NGO run by Catholics, serving poor Indian families of every caste and religion, and fully in allegiance with the Church.  Donors partner with needy families or communities and help them invest so they can become self-sufficient.

Reece’s Rainbow
An adoption ministry with many programs to help families fund the very expensive adoption of children with special needs, many of whom are barely surviving substandard care in orphanages.

Save the Storks 
Deploys vans equipped with sonogram equipment to abortion clinics, where they do not protest, but gently offer to show pregnant women an ultrasound of their babies.  Many of these women choose life after seeing the child they are carrying.

L’Arche USA
Fosters mutually beneficial relationships between people with and without developmental disabilities.  Called by John Paul II a “providential seed of the civilization of love.”

Goods of Conscience (founded by Kiernan O’Connor’s brother, Fr. Andrew O’Connor)
Employs Mayan Indian weavers in Guatemala and underemployed sewers in the Bronx to produce a line of chic, upscale clothing that is environmentally sustainable and preserves a traditional form of weaving.

Chemo Angels 
Simply organizes volunteers to commit to sending cards, letters, and the occasional small gift to support and encourage patients going through chemotherapy.

And Then There Were None
Abby Johnson’s ministry to provide financial, emotional, spiritual and legal support to anyone wishing to leave the abortion industry.