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Washingon Archdiocese: Forget We Said All That

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2009

Remember when the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington threatened to shut down its homeless shelters, food services and other community services if the D.C. city council approved same-sex marriage? Well now they’re saying “never mind.” In a statement issued Tuesday, the Archdiocese said:

Religious organizations have long been eligible to provide social services in our nation’s capital and have not been excluded simply because of their religious character. This is because the choice of provider has focused on the ability to deliver services effectively and efficiently. We are committed to serving the needs of the poor and look forward to working in partnership with the District of Columbia consistent with the mission of the Catholic Church.

This is the opposite of what they said before the same-sex marriage bill passed. At that time, they said they would be “unable” to continue those services if same-sex marriage became legal.

Here is the complete statement from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington:

Legalization of Same Sex Marriage in the Nation’s Capital
Archdiocese Remains Committed to Serving Poor

December 15, 2009

Today the District of Columbia joined a handful of states where legislatures or courts have redefined marriage to include persons of the same sex. Since this legislation was first introduced in October, the Archdiocese of Washington opposed the redefinition of marriage based on the core teaching of the Catholic Church that the complementarity of man and woman is intrinsic to the definition of marriage. However, understanding the City Council was committed to legalizing same sex marriages, the archdiocese advocated for a bill that would balance the Council’s interest in redefining marriage with the need to protect religious freedom. Regrettably, the bill did not strike that balance.

The Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities are deeply committed to serving those in need, regardless of race, creed, gender, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. This commitment is integral to our Catholic faith and will remain unchanged into the future.

Religious organizations have long been eligible to provide social services in our nation’s capital and have not been excluded simply because of their religious character. This is because the choice of provider has focused on the ability to deliver services effectively and efficiently. We are committed to serving the needs of the poor and look forward to working in partnership with the District of Columbia consistent with the mission of the Catholic Church.

Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications



December 17th, 2009 | LINK

So this means what, exactly? Does Catholic Charities plan to honor the marriages and provide benefits to same-sex spouses of their employees???

B John
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

I am pointing out at every opportunity the one phrase in this statement that seems to bring home the entire problem with the Catholic Church (and some other religions as well). The answer is right here where the spokesperson writes, “the core teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Notice, no where in this statement does it say anything about the teachings of Jesus. What were those teaching…something along the lines of feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the poor? And as we all know, despite the emphasis placed on the topic of homosexuality by conservative Christians, Jesus never seemed to think it important enough to give even the slightest mention.

They can’t even say “Biblical Teaching” because they’d have go back to the Levitical passages, and then Papa Ratzi looks a bit hypocritical the next time he has a nice shrimp cocktail. So, if you can’t use the Old Testament, and the New Testament doesn’t cover it, you just make it up.

And therein lies the whole issue…rather than being concerned about the teachings of Jesus, they’re concerned about the core teachings of the Church.

Richard W. Fitch
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

@B John – How very true! Over the past several years I have been drawn to the writing of Bishop John Shelby Spong. In a nutshell his assertion is that we have manufactured a religion about Jesus at the expense of the religion of Jesus. The ‘core teachings of the RC church’ and many other ‘christian’ organizations bear only faint echoes of the Jewish rabbi’s first century lessons. To quote another of my favorites, Karen Armstrong, we have placed orthodoxy above orthopraxy – purity of dogma above purposefulness of doing!

December 17th, 2009 | LINK

Magnificent comments, thank you all. This statement is the most Christian thing the Washington Archdiocese has said on this entire issue in that it reaffirms their commitment to the poor.

Yes, Jesus was silent on homosexuality, but not, of course, on sexual sins in general, which he easily forgives. he is MUCH tougher on hypocrasy and ‘whited sepulchres’ of the Pharisees and lawmakers. He would have ample opportunity to speak out about homosexuality insofar as it must have seemed incredibly weird to see 13 men roaming the countryside without any wives in tow. Were NO eyebrows ever raised? And what’s that stuff about the ‘beloved’ disciple? Or David and Jonathan in the Old Testament—a story which Jesus no doubt knew? I like the shrimp cocktail joke–it’s insightful. For those who don’t get it: the same Hebrew word Leviticus uses to condemn homosexuality is used to forbid the eating of shellfish.

December 17th, 2009 | LINK

Regarding Catholic “core teachings,” same-sex marriage is not mentioned in any part of the Bible. I’m willing to be a lot of money it was never mentioned by a single Christian until the past 150 years except in relation to non-Western cultures. The concept of same-sex behavior in the Bible only about idolatry and lust and has nothing to do with marriage and romance. That is, the Bible says nothing directly about homosexuality.

I always thought this was a bluff. Did they stop serving people in Spain or other countries?

Timothy (TRiG)
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

Karen Armstrong is an able and intelligent writer. She’s also an atheist who doesn’t realise she’s an atheist, which leads her to say some rather odd things at times. I’m not sure how much I trust her, really.


Timothy Kincaid
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

B John and Richard,

I’ve long thought that some Christians would like Jesus more if he’d just kept his mouth shut.

December 17th, 2009 | LINK

It would seem the loud hunger of poor people starving silenced the tired egotistical sexually manipulative church on this one issue. For now anyway.

walt slocombd
December 17th, 2009 | LINK

A serious question — for information, not argument: Has the Catholic Church refused to give spousal benefits to straight couples in which either of the parties is a divorced Catholic? Those marriages are also not valid under Catholic doctrine, as I understand it.

December 18th, 2009 | LINK

Follow the money…

December 18th, 2009 | LINK

“Religious organizations have long been eligible to provide social services in our nation’s capital and have not been excluded simply because of their religious character.”

True, but it is a relatively recent development the government would PAY the church to provide these services, and making the church in the government employ. Kudos to DC for not being intimidated by a church that wants to employee and employer at the same time.

Keep It Easy
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

Ephilei, Actually homosexuality is mentioned directly in the Bible, in Leviticus, Isaiah, Romans and Corinthians.

My point isn’t to condemn, rather it is to say that the Church’s teachings are its own. There are a lot of “church teachings” that bear further reading. Before we know it, we’re all judging one another needlessly. If you believe in God, then He has the ultimate judgement in all this. If you do not, then a Biblical argument is moot on the personal level.

I wish more Christians remembered this: judge not lest ye be judged, for the judgment ye mete out, ye shall be judged.

Jason D
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

“Ephilei, Actually homosexuality is mentioned directly in the Bible, in Leviticus, Isaiah, Romans and Corinthians.”

Actually, that’s not entirely true. The jury is still out on that. What we do know is that the word “homosexual” didn’t exist at this time, and the words being translated to mean “homosexual” in modern printings of the Bible are mistranslations.

I find it odd that God can say something specific like “thou shalt not kill” but for gay people, we get vague, ambiguous rules delivered by people other than God or Jesus, that in context aren’t about gay people at all. Rather difficult to accept or follow a rule that can’t be plainly put.

December 18th, 2009 | LINK

This story is based on a falsehood. The Church never threatened to shut down homeless shelters or food services. This is sloppy journalism. I am a gay Catholic and I listen carefully to both sides. I believe what the Church in Washington said is widely misrepresented, and I feel many journalists fail to read the facts and are comfortable accepting soundbytes. Please be more responsible.

Ben in Oakland
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

Amen, Jason.

Keept It Easy: here’s another POV.

A growing number of religionists– not a majority, but a sizable minority– are coming to the conclusion that the traditional “beliefs” about G’s will and homosexuality are yet another in a long sad line of mistaken ideas that have been attributed to G and not to the religionists who have forever remolded G in their own image. “Good” Christians used to burn witches with exactly the same moral certainty (and assumption of superiority) that they understood and did G’s will with which they now attack gay people. How many people were tortured and murdered for that slight mis-apprehension of G’s will? 2000 years of G-sanctioned anti-Semitism (both Jew and Arab) led to the murder of 6 million people, and the mess that is the middle east today. Slavery and segregation have certainly been church-and-bible supported, but only an unashamed racist would admit it today.

Don’t tell me that this is different. It’s not. You just have no historical lens to look at your current position with. You’ve inherited it, very much like racial segregationists inherited their rock-solid certainty about G’s will. Yet another thing that turned out not to be true, though some will cling to it fiercely until they die.

But the whole idea that being gay and living a gay life is somehow a sin, especially as it is portrayed as the WORST sin, especially displeasing to G, is yet another matter of opinion. So many people are willing to state “The Bible says THIS about homosexuality.” with no biblical or even extra-biblical justification for it. This is because they look at the “relevant” (they are not) biblical passages only through the filters of “these are about homosexuality”, “these are about homosexuality as we understand it today”, “these are clear condemnations”, “we have always been told that these passages refer to homosexuality and therefore it must be true”, and worst of all, “we claim expertise and authority in this matter because we speak for G.”

Funny about that, because if you don’t make those assumptions, if you apply a little bit of logic and perception, and especially, look at what is there is terms of scholarship, a vastly different picture appears. The bible may or may not condemn some aspects of gay sex. As jason notes, it is amazing to me how unclear G manages to be on the subject, when he is so clear on so many other subjects. So coy: “sleep the sleep of a woman” (literally from Leviticus– do you know what it means? I don’t, and neither does anyone else.) to “abusers of themselves with mankind” (KJV on words we don’t know the meaning of. Luther thought it had to do with masturbation, but what did he know?)

If it were as important to G as it is to you, he would have said: “two men or two women together shall not have sex in and way, shape, or form. They will not be naked together and touching each others’ skin. They certainly will not be bumping nasties. Penis into vagina, that’s it. And you shouldn’t enjoy it too much.”

Now, that is clarity befitting the Creator of the Universe. “Sleep the sleep of a woman”? Your guess is as good as mine. G managed to be pretty clear about governing heterosexual behavior. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” That’s clear, but the opposition to adultery is usually limited to “Tsk Tsk”, not “let’s pass constitutional amendments to make sure your family isn’t recognized as one and your kids don’t get health insurance.”

Perhaps G was just embarrassed to talk about homosexuality, so he couldn’t be clear on it.

December 18th, 2009 | LINK

“Religious organizations have long been eligible to provide social services in our nation’s capital and have not been excluded simply because of their religious character.”

Notice how they attempt to turn the situation around and imply that DC was trying to exclude them!

And, Brian, as for whether the press “misrepresented” the Church’s position over the last few months, I wonder why the archdiocese didn’t just clarify its position…

They threatened to take their toys and go home and now they won’t. The nuns who taught me would have called that “lying”.

December 18th, 2009 | LINK

Bob et al., Here is the official statement of the Archidiocese of Washington. Read for yourself.

Jason D
December 18th, 2009 | LINK

Brian, the Washington Post article here is from Thursday, November 12th. In that article they state that on Wednesday, November 11th that the The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said “that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn’t change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care. ”

The statement you linked to(which is the SAME statement quoted in the post we’re all commenting on, by the way) is from December 15th. That’s almost a month afterwards.

Seriously, they decided to respond to shoddy journalism almost a month later? They were perfectly okay with taking several weeks to bother to respond to such alleged misrepresentation? Really? You honestly believe an organization with that much to lose by bad press would take that long to craft a response?

It’s interesting that NOWHERE in the statement you linked to do they make ANY charge of misrepresentation, falsehood, lies, etc.

So let’s review.
-Over a month ago they said “something” which was allegedly misquoted and distorted by the media at large.

-They waited until just a few days ago to issue a “clarification.”

-Nowhere in that “clarification” do they mention being misrepresented, slandered, or misquoted by the media.

And that story, that chain of events sounds reasonable to you?

Can you get me the number of your dealer?

December 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Jason. I refer to your original headline about the Church stopping services to the homeless and serving food. There was never a risk of that. You can contact Catholic Chartities of Washington DC and get the low-down. Those of us who attend weekly Mass (in response to the media blitz) were told this, but I guess you did not, say, actually attend a Catholic Mass as part of your research? You know what you’re talking about because, say, The Washington Post said so? A team of 10-20 members of my parish serve the homelless every Monday morning (even holidays) and to suggest we would stop is harmful not only to us but to the people we serve. When next you come to Washington, you and your freinds can join us: dcbrunodc@gmail. com You can write a report about what you experienced and let your readers know, okay? You will be interested to know I have invited Post reporters to come in the past, but they have never shown up, even though it’s only two or three blocks around the corner. I will leave it to youo to figure out whay that is the case. You let me know when we can expect you.

December 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Dear Jason: The following was issued by the Archdiocese of Washington on November 17, 2009 and was issued to those of us working in/volunteering in work with the homeless. This was issued in direct response to headlines such as yours:

DC Same Sex Marriage Bill & Social Services November 17, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Recent news reports have mistakenly claimed that the Archdiocese of Washington and its social services arm, Catholic Charities, are threatening to cease providing social services in the District of Columbia if the proposed bill to legalize same sex marriage is passed.

Catholic Charities is not threatening to end its services if a same sex marriage bill passes. Catholic Charities is vowing to continue its services even if a same sex marriage bill passes. However, the bill, as it now reads, will diminish the resources we have to do so. Why is that so? Because without a meaningful religious exemption in the bill, Catholic Charities and other similar religious providers will become ineligible for contracts, grants and licenses to continue those services.

What we have said to the Council is this: While we are opposed to redefining marriage in the District of Columbia, if the Council moves forward to do so, we respectfully request that religious individuals and organizations be afforded protection from restrictions on their deeply held religious beliefs and that the Council preserve the ability of Catholic Charities and other providers to continue to serve the growing and unmet needs of the poor and most vulnerable residents of the District of Columbia.

Attached is a fact sheet [editor’s insert: click here for fact sheet] with further information that we hope may assist you in understanding the issues. Please share this with your colleagues, friends, and others. Additional information, including testimony, press releases and other material, is available at

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout
Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia

Archdiocese of Washington
The Department of Charity and Justice
P.O. Box 29260
Washington, DC 20017

Mary C. McGinnity, 301-853-5339
Executive Director

Anthony Bosnick, 301-853-5340
Coordinator for Parish Social Ministry

We are here to serve you.

December 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Also, when it comes to closing homeless shelters, the D.C. government does that very well on its own. There’s a story to go after! You can start here

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