Monday, December 14, 2009

Washington Post paints Catholic Church as Anti-Gay

Willful misrepresentation of another's position is a standard of politics, not news coverage.

However, the Washington Post has gone a step further in their war on the Archdiocese of Washington: consistent willful misrepresentation of facts.

The basic post portrayal is - Catholic institution threatens to cancel social services in protest of new law.

The fact is - new law goes farther than other gay marriage laws to force recognition of gay marriage onto an organization fundamentally opposed to the "institution."  No exemptions are given.

But don't let the facts get in the way of the Post's advocacy of allowing the state to force gay marriage down the church's throat. More on that later.

But first, Metro Columnist Robert McCarthy gets the prize for ignoring much of his own logic within his anti-church rant.
The council is open to a concession on one issue, adoptions. It's reportedly willing to amend the bill to allow Catholic Charities to handle privately funded adoptions even if the church refuses to place children with same-sex couples. The church would have to give up involvement in city-funded adoptions, but there is a relatively low number of those.
So ... the city is interested in extending its influence to fully-private legal transactions?

How benevolent.

The Post's Editorial Page put it another way, "If Catholic Charities wants to exclude gay and lesbian couples from its adoption services, then it should do so without receiving taxpayer money."

But if the city is also considering regulating all adoptions ... .  I guess we'll know the answer tomorrow.

McCarthy continues:
On the issue where the most is at stake, the archdiocese wants a religious exemption so it can enter into city contracts without having to certify that it grants spousal benefits to employees' same-sex spouses. Catholic Charities has city contracts worth $18 million to $20 million a year to operate nine homeless shelters and a health clinic, and provide other welfare services.
Earlier McCarthy suggested the church wants to shed this income because the services provided are too costly.

Never took Latin, and I forgot the name of this little logical fallacy, but just because something isn't happening in practice doesn't mean the Archdiocese wouldn't be wide open and vulnerable to abuse:
The benefits issue is about principle rather than practice. Few if any of Catholic Charities' employees are likely to be same-sex spouses. No such spouse has applied for benefits, the archdiocese said, and it doesn't ask the sexual orientation of its workforce.
If logic fails, caricature the opposing viewpoint to ensure no squelch any exchange of ideas:

"George Weigel, a prominent conservative Catholic thinker at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, sniffed that Georgetown" – which McCarthy notes already recognizes benefits for "legally domiciled adults" – "was a Catholic university 'at the very best . . . in a vestigial sense'."

So, did you hear that sniff?  Was it uttered?  Or was that a convenient way to downplay and make ridiculous the Catholic thinker's argument that the Church is not willing to compromise its principles in the way Church-affiliated institutions were?

Back to the church-state thing
I have no principled argument against same-sex unions, and one of my dear friends and the best supervisor I ever worked for is so wed. But I also recognize the Church's stand - that marriage is a God-ordained institution - "Male and female he created them ... "  and that secular institutions have no grounds to impose redefinitions of religious sacraments on the church.

We wouldn't require a Muslim or Jewish soup kitchen to handle or serve pork - though I recognize that's a sour comparison to the human lives involved in this issue.

The bigger problem is the broadening social and legal ostracization of religious people and organizations that is helping radicalize the religious right in this country.

Tim Craig and Hamil R. Harris pointed this out in an insightful November article titled Church's influence on politics shifting: D.C.'s same-sex marriage debate pushes some clergy further to the sidelines.
It wasn't that long ago that "there was no such thing as putting a pastor on hold" when the leader of a D.C. church called city hall, said the Rev. Patrick J. Walker of the New Macedonia Baptist Church in Southeast.

"This city certainly is no longer church-friendly," Walker said.
Post columnist and American University Law professor Nancy D. Polikoff argues that the church can simply opt in to federal ERISA protection and be exempt from the city law.

"Federal law does not require employers to recognize same-sex domestic partners or spouses, and therefore private employers cannot be compelled to treat same-sex and different-sex couples equally," she posits.  (I like "posits" – especially for use in paragraphs about lawyers' arguments)

She uses the Portland Maine Catholic Charities lawsuit as an example, but later hints that ERISA can be "enlightened" to "fix" the federal failing.

"That’s a problem with the federal law, and it has nothing to do with religion," she writes.

Unless, of course, the Federal law is changed to mandate recognition of same-sex marriages. Then of course, it would have a lot to do with religion.

Even if there is a federal loophole big enough to squeeze a homeless shelter through, why did San Francisco religious charities need to resort to the "legally domiciled adult" provision to avoid recognizing potential gay marriages in it's benefits language. (Georgetown University - a Jesuit-run school apparently already uses this language - see the Weigel "sniff" above.

The Tick

"Gravity is a harsh mistress!"