[Sawyer] Catholics Need Not Apply | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Sawyer] Catholics Need Not Apply

Imagine for a moment you're a middle schooler. You know, the kind of young girl or guy with a slight self-confidence problem, maybe some acne on that indomitable T zone, a little stuttering here or there. That was me 10 years ago; maybe it was most of us. During those years, I began to have some serious questions posed to me about my Catholic faith. What's normal is what's local, and in my town, being Catholic was anything but normal.

Following this interrogation from friends, I decided to find a Catholic study Bible that could serve as my "physical proof" that Catholics were in fact the right ones, and those Baptists were all believing a fraud. At a "Christian" bookstore, I asked the associate where I could find a devotional Bible. I explained that I was Catholic and looking for a Catholic Bible. She laughed a little and said, "This is a Christian bookstore. We don't carry Catholic Bibles."

Needless to say, I left crushed, angered and saddened. This must be the actual form of prejudice, I assumed (maybe it was high time for a white boy from a well-to-do family to experience this, you think?). This must have been—in some minute way—what the African Americans felt during segregation and what the Irish Catholics felt during their immigration to the United States. I was being told, by a well-meaning young woman, that we Catholics no longer belonged.

I went to another bookstore run by a Catholic, my people, and found the needed text. It remains with me today as a badge of honor. "Hah," I snickered to myself. "We are Christians. That poor ignorant woman has obviously been misled."

I went on with my Catholic life, continued to live as a dedicated young man of the faith and am nearing my entrance day to the Jesuit order.

I recount this small experience not as a final cathartic release from years of pent-up aggression. Rest easy, I am not planning a mass protest based on a little past prejudice. Rather, I am on the verge of outrage as I am reading a news story that was initially covered by The Clarion Ledger and picked up by other major media outlets.

CNN reported, "A Christian adoption agency that receives money from Choose Life license plate fees said it does not place children with Roman Catholic couples because their religion conflicts with the agency's 'Statement of Faith.' Bethany Christian Services stated the policy in a letter to a Jackson couple this month, and another Mississippi couple said they were rejected for the same reason last year. 'It has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith,' Bethany's state director Karen Stewart wrote. 'Our practice to not accept applications from Catholics was an effort to be good stewards of an adoptive applicant's time, money and emotional energy.'"

If you are gasping for air, let me give you minute to catch your breath. A non-profit agency that receives tax-payer funds through the "Choose Life" license plate campaign has decided to discriminate against Catholic couples because Catholicism does not agree with their Statement of Faith. Many good and loving Catholic families who cannot conceive their own children or who would like to give an orphaned child a stable home have been refused simply because of their faith. As a result, young people and babies are remaining in orphanages or in foster care while Bethany Christian Services attempts to place them in homes that neatly fit only with their agenda. Moreover, they have the gall to take tax money from pro-life license plates—much of whom are bought by those pesky Catholics who don't agree with their statement of faith!

Bethany Christian Services' maintains a Web site — http://www.bethany.org — with that Statement of Faith so "contradictory" to Roman Catholicism. I have read it, and I am sure that others will agree that nothing in the "statement" is incongruous with Catholic doctrine.

Write Bethany. Ask them to change this wholly discriminatory policy. Many children are waiting for a loving home, and I don't think they're too picky—Catholic or Presbyterian. They simply desire what we all as children desire — unconditional love. This is a message we should all live by.

*Note: please see http://www.catholiccharitiesjackson.org to help a local charity that does deal with adoptive issues in a non-biased and open setting.

John Sawyer is a recent graduate of Millsaps College with a degree in political science. He is entering the Jesuits this fall to become a Catholic priest.

Previous Comments

ID
70345
Comment

This headline made me chuckle a little when I first saw it in the lamestream... First, I should state I'm adopted; I understand how important adoption is and fully support it in every manner. I also think EVERY child should have a home as long as there is at least one head of household that can provide the necessities for that child (most importantly love and supervision). What made me chuckle was that Catholics were complaining about a group not allowing them to adopt because their religious position differed from that of the organization placing the children... OK... I still haven't explained why I chuckled. I chuckled because the Catholic church has gone out of their way to ostracize entire communities from their programs because those communities are not in compliance with their own faith position. Of all the churches/faiths (and I'm not bashing the Catholic church this time --- moreso calling the irony of it all) to complain about being rejected because of a different spiritual position, the Catholic church? Have you heard the new Pope's speeches??? C'mon, you have to admit there's a dose of humor in there. Now, I totally disagree with Bethany's position. AND, I totally disagree with the Catholic's position when it comes to selecting adoptive parents. I think they're less concerned with the child's well-being and moreso about promoting their ideology/theology. Regardless, if Bethany is going to get funds from the state through tagged on fees on particular tags, they should serve the entire statewide community. That includes Catholics, Buddhists, LGBTs, and anyone else they might especially disagree with... But, really, it's still kind of laughable for the Catholic church to get up in arms about discrimination based on spiritual stance... Really! "Doncha think?"

Author
kaust
Date
2005-07-20T16:23:09-06:00
ID
70346
Comment

Knol Thanks for your post and your support of ending anti Catholic behavior. Let me respond to some of what you've alluded to: 1. "AND, I totally disagree with the Catholic's position when it comes to selecting adoptive parents. I think they're less concerned with the child's well-being and moreso about promoting their ideology/theology." Resp. The main Catholic adoptive agency is through Catholic Charities USA - the largest Non Profit provider of charitable services - and they do not discriminate at all regarding religion/race, etc. That statement you put forth is false. 2. " I chuckled because the Catholic church has gone out of their way to ostracize entire communities from their programs because those communities are not in compliance with their own faith position. " RESP. Knol, I need to know the program and the context of the discrimination. I do not think its helpful to blanket a statement like "the Catholic chruch ostracizes entire communities from their programs" without specifics. Now, I will say that diocesan wide service programs are NOT contingent on being a Catholic and I would bet if you spoke to most in the Faith Based Initiatives you would probably see a better record of NOT propelling Catholic doctrine than you would from PCAs, SBCs, and other groups. Also, many archdioceses even allow for "partner" benefits and have many gay friendly and socially progressive messages. So, to batter the Church from the Cathedral might be helpful in displaying Catholic discrimination, but if you look on the parish level, it does not work out that way. 3. "Of, all churches to complain...the Catholic Chuch" RESP. Knol, the Catholic Church, in spite of its inadequecies to many on the left, theologically speaking, does more for the poor, oppressed, and socially needy than entire nations. There is a difference in NOT ordaining women, and NOT marrying gays, and REFUSING social servcies based on religion. I think you would be hard pressed to find a person who was denied help because they weren't Catholic. Thanks again for the dialogue, John

Author
John Sawyer
Date
2005-07-20T17:38:57-06:00
ID
70347
Comment

John, while I was moreso speaking to the church and a majority of its followers (that I've experienced), I don't mind talking about Catholic Charities. See, here's the thing. You've painted them as saints... You fail to mention that this group has challenged many laws in many states that require them to provide services -- adoption, DP benefits, etc. Your post makes it sound like this charity embraces the diversity of this planet, as Christ did, and opens its arms to just about any couple or individual interested in adopting a child or seeking benefits as employees. It's just not true. The organization challenged Portland, Maine and lost... To receive grants, they were required by the local government to supply domestic partnership benefits. This organization took their Christ-love all the way to the US District Court in 2004 claiming they were victims of discrimination because the church's position on homosexuality differed from that of a city ordinance that required DP benefits to receive city grants. To summarize, they would not offer DP benefits if the government didn't require it. The California Supreme Court also forced Catholic Charities -- by rejecting an appeal -- to provide contraceptive coverage as part of its health package. Keyword forced due to a trial initiated by Catholic Charities. To summarize, they would not offer contraceptives if the government did not require it. As for same-sex couples adopting... The same is true though I'm not sure if a trial/case ever happened. Basically, when MA made marriage legal, they had no possible path but to allow GLBTs to adopt or receive no government funding. As recently as 2003, this organization was re-reviewing its policies regarding homosexuals and adoptiong based on statements from the Vatican. A quick Google farms lists and lists of bishops and members of the church in disagreement with most of their liberal practices. I'd suspect many of those people are directly involved. So, while they may have liberal practices, it is solely because they want the government funds that force more secular approaches. Further, I'd argue that many of the organizations positions stem solely from lost cases that have gone as far as state Supreme Courts (meaning it wasn't a rash decision but a calculated position). Now, I won't argue that Catholic Charities is in the business of evil. I happen to know a few people that have been helped by Catholic charities or the Church itself... I will argue that if the government didn't require faith-based organizations feeding on tax-payers to practice fairly secular behavior, Catholic Charities would not have the liberal policies it has now. I would even argue those policies are strictly a result of lost cases or existing government ordinances/laws. And, I will further argue that if it's OK for Catholic Charities to seek methods in which to discriminate based on their own faith (they have and probably will in the future -- and there's nothing wrong with that per se), Bethany should be able to do the same... Ultimately, I disagree with both approaching it from these angles since that's not in the best interest of the children they are supposedly helping. The last thing a child needs is to be caught in the midst of adults arguing ideologies and matters of faith and politics.

Author
kaust
Date
2005-07-20T19:02:48-06:00
ID
70348
Comment

Knol, I am sorry you have that opinion of Catholic Charities - I think that most poor people helped by Catholic Charities would have a much different perspective than you have. Though, I understand where your perspective comes from and appreciate your insight. I think its hurtful to many when they experience discrimination of any kind. But, you have painted two images that are not correct: a. Catholic Charities' policies reflect the rigidity of Bethany et al - You are confusing a. what Catholics cannot do based on binding doctrine that makes us Catholic versus helping people who are different than our particular religion. Catholic agencies cannot 1. hand out birth control 2. condone abortions 3. support same sex couple adoptions. This contravenes the very doctrine that makes Catholic Charities, "Catholic." What also makes Catholic Charities "Catholic is helping "all" people. But, when that help calls for Catholic social agencies to go against their core set of beliefs, then obviously Catholics do not think they are helping, but instead sinning and causing another to sin. THIS IS quite different from looking at someone - as Bethany did - and saying, no, we won't place a child with you because you are Catholic. That does nothing to contravene their faith in the Presbyterian Church. So, basically Bethany was inventing an excuse to keep kids from being placed with Catholic families for some reason. 2. Catholic Charities just wants the government funds and that's where their progressive, social action is derived - Knol, that is wholly unfair to the thousands of Nuns, Priests, and lay people who work for next to nothing helping out millions of people. Catholic Charities exists to help people, but it cannot exist without the support of its member Bishops and still call itself Catholic. This is where Catholic Social agencies navigate that line between "Catholic" and "not Catholic." Federal agencies have not forced Catholic social workers to be more liberal, RATHER they have allowed most Catholic social agencies to do what they have wanted to do and NOT be burdened by rigid ordinaries or private funders who would not allow them to do so. So, while you chalk up their progressivism to federal mandates, I would be inclined to believe that most involved in Catholic Social work are probably not upset at all by these more "liberal" government mandates. Also, my Provincial (Superior) in the Jesuits was the former President of Catholic Charities USA, I will forward him your comments and see if he can answer them accordingly. I do not want you to think that I am not acknowledging your complaint. peace, brother, john

Author
John Sawyer
Date
2005-07-20T19:44:13-06:00
ID
70349
Comment

"A non-profit agency that receives tax-payer funds through the ìChoose Lifeî license plate campaign has decided to discriminate against Catholic couples because Catholicism does not agree with their Statement of Faith." - Jhn John, I have found another non-profit agency that receives taxpayer funds that has decieded to discrimanate against "non-catholic" couples. They are called South Carolina Catholic Charities- part of the actual establishment. They require an applicant to be Catholic! So, we shouldnt be remiss to mention that the sword cuts both ways- just as the age old Catholic-Protestant debate always has. I'm not justifying Bethanys practices, but we need to recognize that both parties are guilty of discrimation based on faith.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-07-20T19:45:58-06:00
ID
70350
Comment

http://www.catholic-doc.org/catholiccharities/Adoption.html See "Qualifications" John. They clearly say that one of the parents must be catholic to be eligible to adopt.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-07-20T19:49:32-06:00
ID
70351
Comment

blue dog that isn't a universal catholic charities policy and i think that south carolina catholic charities should also revise its policy. unfortunately, i am not a south carolinian and cannot make headway there.

Author
John Sawyer
Date
2005-07-20T20:16:39-06:00
ID
70352
Comment

blue dog also, this might be due to the fact that adoption services are free through Catholic Charities and since adopting is not an immediate service (like giving out clothing, health care, food, educational training), they might be thinking "well, one should be a praticing, giving member of the faith community." also, you see that they do not require the "family" to be catholic, just one member of that family. this doesn't ensure the kid to be "Catholic" and thus doesn't become as discriminatory as Bethany Services. though, i still belive they should revise the policy

Author
John Sawyer
Date
2005-07-20T20:28:57-06:00
ID
70353
Comment

John, you've completely misinterpreted this entire situation because you did not read the Statement of Faith of Bethany Christian Services closely enough. There are numerous things in that Statement which are shown to not be views held by the Catholic Church, or shown to be areas in which the Catholic Church is clearly deficient. Examples include the clarification that their belief is that "I believe that in all matters of faith and life, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the final authority." This is not affirmed in the Catholic emphasis on tradition and the dogma of the Church--in fact, it's very much against that and needs to be distinguished from it. Also, the belief that "I believe that sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sought to be independent of Him. As a result of this Fall, all people are estranged from God and live in a world permeated by sin" seems to defy most ideas of the Catholic Church about the creation story; this is a very Calvinistic interpretation. You may not agree with the decision to exclude Roman Catholic families from adoption, but don't think that it's because the thoughts of Bethany Christian Services, or the PCA which supports them, are that Catholics are somehow "not Christians" or "not Christian enough": what is being put forth is that they do not en masse subscribe to the explicitly defined Statement of Faith, and thus would not, en masse, reflect the goals of the agency which wrote, operates by, and focuses on, that Statement.

Author
Kevin J. Maguire
Date
2005-07-20T21:20:55-06:00
ID
70354
Comment

Well John, i said that the organization is discriminating against non-catholic couples, which is a truism- if my wife and I went to adopt we'd be turned away because we aren't catholic. The fact that only one member must be Catholic doesn't change the nature of discrimination- thats like saying you can belong to a country club so long as one member of your family is white. Also, if Catholics are such equal opportunity providers, why hasnt the national organization established a policy to prevent state organizations from requiring adopting parents to be Catholic? I'm troubled that you can reason with "maybe why" the SC division of Catholic Charities would adopt such a practice, but you are extremely critical of Bethany because they do not allow adoptions by those that they have judged don't share their statement of faith.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-07-20T21:36:24-06:00
ID
70355
Comment

"this doesn't ensure the kid to be "Catholic" and thus doesn't become as discriminatory as Bethany Services. though, i still belive they should revise the policy" - John Catholics do try to to ensure kids to be "Catholic", as Cannon law says taht those that enter into mixed marriages should promise to raise the children in the Catholic faith. That practice is just as discriminatory a practice as Bethany.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-07-20T21:45:24-06:00
ID
70356
Comment

Also, one last thing on this- from looking around on the net im not sure that the SC policy is at odds with the national organization- and also I think you'll find that adoption services through Catholic Charities are not free at all- they have set up a nice rigid predetermined sliding fee scale for adopting parents. So, that "maybe why argument" is no good. Adoption services are only free for the bio parent- whom they do not discriminate against based on faith- (might I add, nor would Bethany.)

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-07-20T21:57:52-06:00
ID
70357
Comment

John, I cannot tell you how much the Roman Catholic Church has disappointed me. I say this even though I was raised Southern Baptist in Mississippi. The disappointment stems from a remarkable PSA that was broadcast on television in the 1970s when I was a kid. It ended with a quotation from Isaiah 58:9-10 and a few more words: If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, if you give your bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness, and your shadows become like noon. If you want peace -- work for justice. Campaign for Human Development, United States Catholic Conference. This commercial struck a chord in me that still resonates. I'm weeping as I write this, because of the beauty and power of this message. And while it didn't exactly convert me (my parents would have had a heart attack), it did leave me with a lasting impression of the Catholic Church as a force for good in this world. Sadly, I see the Catholic Church working a great INjustice against me and my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. It would be one thing if the Church were content to proclaim its message and act accordingly on its own turf, but the Church actively works to oppress gays and lesbians by supporting laws that discriminate against us in employment, housing and other areas, and by opposing laws that would prohibit such discrimination. By doing so, and through its words as well, the Church promotes hatred and violence against gays and lesbians. The Vatican even gave us this gem: "People should not be surprised when a morally offensive lifestyle is physically attacked." I simply do not see how the Church can claim, in any honesty, that it is ministering to gays and lesbians with these words and deeds. This is hatred and oppression of the most naked kind. So like Knol, I find a grim satisfaction in hearing that Catholics are up in arms about this discrimination. I would direct their attention to Matthew 7:3-5. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-07-21T04:51:49-06:00
ID
70358
Comment

Tim You are right it is a travesty. I am opposed to anti gay/lesbian actions the world over. john Kevin - Bethany just decided that their Statement of Faith doesn't disagree with Roman Catholic couples -

Author
John Sawyer
Date
2005-07-21T08:41:27-06:00
ID
70359
Comment

Hi John, I'm glad to hear that, especially since I have admired the compassion you have shown in many of your other writings here. I'm also glad, in spite of what I wrote above, to hear that Bethany has changed its mind. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-07-21T09:32:51-06:00
ID
70360
Comment

Tim Thanks for your words and your appreciation. --john

Author
John Sawyer
Date
2005-07-21T10:29:37-06:00
ID
70361
Comment

--BETHANY CHANGES POLICY Sadly, the problems here will be greater than this quick fix. I agree that Catholics are often great parents. But non-Christians can be great parents if the only criterion is the physical upbringing of the child. Bottom line: it's up to them. They met and decided that their Statement of Faith is inclusive to Catholics, and not exclusive to Protestants. I think that this decision is open to interpretation if one takes a close reading of their Statement of Faith. A greater issue that concerns me is the schism about just what marriage is for Catholics and Protestants, and how that might affect differing parenting styles. For the Catholic, the general purpose of marriage is to reproduce. For the Protestant, marriage is more designed for companionship. This dichotomy goes back to Augustine, who was very much against the idea of marriage as companionship. Now, how can this broad difference not affect the fruits of the marriage, whether those fruits are adopted or not? If the parents see the adopted child merely as the bearer of their name, someone in whom they can see their own ideas and thoughts 'reproduced' in some kind of all-expansive Platonic sense, then isn't that going to be a different sort of child-parent relationship from one that involves two people parenting who have been designated by God as being One in Him, for His glory and for our enjoyment, not because He somehow wants us to increase the population, or because it's "what everyone else does" or something? I just see the two different attitudes as different--one could be entirely absent God's love as something viewed just as worldly and generative, and the other really can't be, as He is driving the generation.

Author
Kevin J. Maguire
Date
2005-07-21T12:13:26-06:00
ID
70362
Comment

Kevin Good to hear from you - I trust your transition to the MA/PhD in Philosophy program is going well. Thanks for your comments. I must say that the notion of Catholic families as "baby machines" and "producing more little Catholics" is very old and Pre Vatican II. If you look at the new Catholic Catechism - its says that marriage is for the mutual bond of a man and woman - SEX, on ther other hand is principally for the unity of spouses and ALSO for reproductive purposes. So, to say that Catholic families just have kids to have kids is harmful. Rather, they love family life, love children, and want to raise good young people. I do want you to know that the preconception of Catholics as reproductive machines isn't totally out of bounds - there are families that shouldn't have as many kids, but for the most part LARGE Catholic families are very wonderful vibrant situations

Author
John Sawyer
Date
2005-07-21T19:01:37-06:00
ID
70363
Comment

Thanks for your comments, John. MA program begins soon. I want to know how things are going for you, as well. [email][email protected][/email] Well, I didn't exactly say that I thought that Catholics have been, or are, 'baby machines'. They certainly have a higher rate of reproduction than many of the other world religions or denominations of Christianity. That's not a bad thing: a huge family can be (isn't necessarily) a gift from God. If theologically it is very, as you put it, "Pre Vatican II", I would submit that the reality of the situation is still showing the stereotype to at least have a marginal amount of truth, outside of any theological determination. What I was referencing more than this was people who just have children because it seems to be taught to be not only a necessary condition for a good marriage, but also a sufficient condition for a good marriage. The idea: not only do you have to have it in a marriage, but in it, somehow the child will produce and unite the love between the two people that already existed so that that love, before any existing love that already was enough, is enough to stay the two participants. Well, I do not agree with either contention, and it is evidenced by huge divorce rates spreading the nation--people think that a child, or sex, or a fuzzy bunny, will bridge the gulf of their discontent. Only God can do that; and He can renew His love through many media, but it is Him doing that, making that, above yet for the participants. I am well aware that the Catholic Catechism can change; but it's hard to know what to make of these changes. I really just have the history to look at. I can't afford the 220 page or so book (that is about its length, no?). Maybe it's available on the Internet somewhere. I hate to suggest that perhaps many Catholics don't pay attention to their own Catechism, but then I'd be suggesting perhaps falsely that other religions have a majority of congregants who pay ENORMOUS attention to their catechisms, as well as ignoring the fact that there very well may be many Catholics who don't even know what a Catechism is--those things underneath Rome!!!

Author
Kevin J. Maguire
Date
2005-07-21T22:28:50-06:00
ID
70364
Comment

I am both Catholic, work for Catholic Charities, and come from one of those "large vibrant" Italian Catholic families. My mother has 6 brothers and sisters. I feel the Catholic Church Cannon is severely outdated, and the church is going to lose lots and lots of young people if they don't rectify that. But, what I REALLY wanted to say, was this... I work at Catholic Charities...as an employee we have to follow state and federal regulations of nondiscrimination. The ONLY thing that we are not allowed to do is hand out birth control, condone abortion or the death penalty, and there's one other I can't seem to remember because I do all of them anyway. KIDDING. I have provided services to lesbian couples with children (quite a few actually) and to gay male couples with children (not so many of them, but enough) Now, I do NOT work in adoptions, but know that this agency provides services whereever, whenever, and to whomever needs it. I've seem the State Of Mississippi refer to Catholic Charities time and time again because they don't want to be bothered with certain "hard luck" cases, and I've seen the people that work here put their heart and soul into those cases. Sister Donna is an employee of Catholic Charities that is so well known for her advocation of human rights, ANY HUMAN'S RIGHTS, that many very large state representatives RUN from this tiny little nun when they see her at the capital. She's filled ROWS with people from her staff at court hearings of immigrant workers in south Mississippi who weren't being afforded their rights. THAT doesn't have anything to do with her religion. And those services weren't provided based upon their religion. I know in THIS area, the general philosophy that rules our office is that we are the underdog. We fight harder, we work longer, and we're willing to go further than many other nonprofit social service agencies in this area, Please, if you want to dissect their political leanings, that is fine. But, I would like for you to understand that has nothing to do with our practice of daily social work at Catholic Charities, even in Mississippi. Because, even when asked around the office, I very LOUDLY proclaim that I am "a recovering Catholic" who's grandmother says novenas for her EVERY morning at 5 o'clock mass....and they still give ME a paycheck. Bless their little Catholic Hearts. (Yes, I love my job. Yes, I love where I work. Hate me)

Author
aimeelori
Date
2005-07-27T11:35:36-06:00
ID
70365
Comment

aimee - who is this sister donna? we should try to feature her as a jacksonian some time!

Author
casey
Date
2005-07-27T13:39:40-06:00

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