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A Catholic split over how to handle new state law

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* Last Thursday, Catholic Social Services of Illinois split with its diocese over the state’s requirement that it include couples joined in civil unions in its foster care and adoption services

The Catholic Diocese of Belleville and Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois said Thursday that they would part ways in the wake of a new state law that granted same-sex couples the right to seek civil unions and disrupted the work of Catholic agencies working in foster care and adoption. […]

A statement from the Belleville Diocese said Catholic Social Services of Illinois “chose to disassociate from the Diocese,” because it was “unable to remain faithful to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church” while adhering to the new law. The statement said the agency, which directs foster parents over more than 600 children, would “no longer be connected to or sponsored by the Diocese.”

The agency, which incorporated in 1947 as Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Belleville and will now be called Christian Social Services of Illinois, said in its statement that it was separating from the Belleville Diocese so it could adhere to the new law. The agency has offices in Belleville, Carbondale, Mount Carmel, Mount Vernon and Olney. Its 630 foster care cases account for much of its $13 million budget.

In a statement, the agency’s executive director Gary Huelsmann said that the separation “is best for the children by providing for their continuity of care and allowing for the retention of the caring, dedicated and professional staff employed by the agency.”

That’s pretty big news, but it was mostly overlooked outside the Metro East. It’s even more important when you realize how conservative the area is

Christian Social Services of Illinois has offices in five communities in Southern Illinois: Belleville, Carbondale, Mt. Carmel, Mt. Vernon and Olney, and there currently are 187 employees serving approximately 2,000 clients each year.

“As Christian Social Services begins, its leadership requests prayers and support from the entire Southern Illinois community in responding to the many needs of the individuals and families located in some of the most economically depressed regions of the State of Illinois. Christian Social Services hopes that people of all backgrounds and faiths will assist it in providing services to the most vulnerable in our society” said Huelsmann.

* Bishop Edward Braxton of the Diocese of Belleville talked about the separation

Once the state required all foster care and adoption agencies to allow same-sex couples and those in civil unions to adopt and serve as foster parents, Bishop Braxton stressed that “every diocese in Illinois that provided these services looked for solutions and sought to challenge this law.”

“But while the Dioceses of Joliet and Springfield did not depend so heavily on state funds, Belleville is poor,” he explained. “We have a large geographic area with a relatively small population. There are a high number of prisons in the diocese as well and many foster children.”

Bishop Braxton expressed anguish as he described the search for options. He noted that the agency staff is primarily Catholic and did not want to separate from the diocese, but they feared that the state would be unable to manage the sudden increase in foster-care cases: “The state programs are not as strong as our program.” He acknowledged that the staff was also concerned about holding on to their jobs.

When the agency staff determined that the only way to maintain the services was to spin off the program, they sought his approval. “But I told them that while I understood their problem, I could not approve or have anything to do with this new entity. They wanted to call it ‘Christian,’ but I told them that they would have no long-term control over what that agency might become, once it was cut off from the diocese.” (See diocese’s statement on the diocese’s website.)

Bishop Braxton has concluded that it’s time for U.S. Church leaders to reassess their dependence on government funds: “While many Catholics still advocate for government-funded vouchers to cover tuition at parochial schools, I am wondering if this even remains an option, when government funds comes with strings attached.”

* And yesterday, the rest of the state’s bishops decided to throw in the towel as well and stop dealing with those “government strings”

Thomas More Society announces that it will file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Illinois’ Catholic Charities against the State of Illinois, as the actions of the State have prevented the Charities from being able to obtain relief from the Illinois court system. Because the State of Illinois has put an expedited process in place to transition to other agencies the foster children under the Charities’ care, any relief ordered by the Appellate Court would come too late to save the Charities’ foster care ministry. Both the Circuit and Appellate Courts denied the Charities’ emergency motions to prevent the transition.

* Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield tried to look at the bright side

“The silver lining of this decision is that our Catholic charities going forward will be able to focus on being more Catholic and more charitable, while less dependent on government financing and less encumbered by intrusive state policies.”

* Dennis Byrne, however, chose to look at the down side

This is a bow to the worst kind of political correctness, the kind that required a highly regarded child service agency to close its doors. A big thank you goes to the administration of Gov. Pat Quinn, a Catholic who has shown more loyalty to a special-interest group than to the state’s neediest children.

posted by Rich Miller
Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 10:06 am


  1. The people who work on these cases put the children first. Their high quality services to the children will continue. Kudos to them.

    In contrast, Dennis Byrne is mostly concerned with the “political correctness” of the Catholic hierarchy.

    Comment by walkinfool Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 10:17 am

  2. Paprocki - “The silver lining of this decision is that our Catholic charities going forward will be able to focus on being more Catholic and more charitable, while less dependent on government financing and less encumbered by intrusive state policies.”

    Does Paprocki consider limiting a woman’s ability to make decisions about her body an intrusive state policy?

    I doubt it

    Comment by Lincoln's Penny Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 10:41 am

  3. If these agencies want to provide services to all citizens, I don’t see why they think they can impose their beliefs on all citizens. I don’t really understand their problem with the state law as long as Catholics that receive their services follow Catholic teachings. Catholics should be tolerant of those with different beliefs, otherwise are they really “Christians”?

    Comment by RetiredStateEmployee Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 10:43 am

  4. Another Pyrrhic victory for the political progressives.

    Comment by Esquire Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 10:48 am

  5. REALLY? Saturday Night Live has a segment on the news portion of their broadcast, in which particular and unbelievable news stories are discussed. The anchors ending tag line is always, “REALLY?”.

    It’s called to mind as the state decides that more than 50 years of offering exceptional foster care services is thrown away. The state used to handle a larger number of foster care cases, but realized that their unionized (bloated payroll) staff didn’t do as good of job and were endangering the kids. Catholic Charities stepped up. Their reward? With the flick of a pen, Catholic Charities is prohibitted from serving these children simply because they wanted to place cases with heterosexual couples. The HORROR!

    Even the senators that voted for the civil unions bill didn’t want Catholic Charities to stop providing foster care services. But John Cullerton put up a road block, when the Senators tried to undo the injustice.

    A 50 year record of incredible service thrown out the window because an organization wouldn’t worship at the altar of homosexual marriage. Never in the debate did I hear Quinn or his ilk talk about the interests of the children.


    Comment by Downstate Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 10:50 am

  6. Seriously, I don’t get the Catholic Church’s position: they believe Hindus, for example, are unsaved souls who are going to burn for eternity. People who work on Sunday violate the 10 Commandments with no remorse or repentance. The church has no problem with them, yet violating one of the myriad instructions in Leviticus warrants entirely different treatment? They are arguably committing the worst sin of all: anointing themselves the holy editors of Scripture.

    Comment by lake county democrat Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 10:53 am

  7. Yeah, it’s the worst kind of political correctness to do what’s necessary to continue to provide service for these children. Right, Byrne. Keep telling yourself how oppressed the Catholic Church is in Illinois, not being allowed to discriminate.

    Comment by Cheryl44 Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 10:55 am

  8. Here’s to Christian Social Services, their good work and clear vision.

    Comment by wordslinger Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 11:12 am

  9. Downstate, you don’t understand that you have to abide by state law to get state money? Really?

    This bishops are starting to get it, at least, or say they are.

    Comment by wordslinger Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 11:16 am

  10. “….worship at the altar of homosexual marriage…” yeah, no one is asking anyone to do that.

    Comment by amalia Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 11:29 am

  11. This isn’t “the worst kind of political correctness”, it’s just sad. If civil unions hadn’t passed how long would it take the state of Illinois to even address the fact that it was providing taxpayer money to an organization that only works with certain groups of people, certain individuals, and certain types of families?

    Shame on us (in 2011!) for knowing better and still helping to disenfranchise the less politically powerful group of people.

    Comment by Liberal Lady Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 11:38 am

  12. Wordslinger:
    “you have to abide by state law to get state money”

    So we will require all surgeons to perform abortions? They get state money and abortions are legal.

    We require tougher and tougher rules on every business operating in the state, while holding less and less accountability on people who are merely TAKING from our government.

    Want to have a recreational drug habit while the state pays for your housing, food and health care? Sure no problem!
    But Catholic Charities are horrors because they simply wish to refer foster childern to traditional homes.


    Comment by Downstate Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 11:55 am

  13. ===So we will require all surgeons to perform abortions? They get state money and abortions are legal.===

    Red herring alert.

    Comment by Rich Miller Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 12:07 pm

  14. @Downstate:

    I think what you really meant to say is that the state would not bend to the interests of the religious teachings of the Church. The issue of “putting the children first” can be laid entirely at the feet of the Catholic Church. They could have continued providing state supported services. They chose not to because they chose religion over “putting the children first.” I’m not sure in which world the Bishops and other Catholics lived in when they thought that government money didn’t come with strings attached, but I’m glad they have finally awakened to the fact that you have to abide by the rules if you want government money. It’s a shame that they didn’t choose the children in this case.

    Comment by Demoralized Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 12:10 pm

  15. Dennis Byrne is absolutely right.

    Penn State is the real victim here.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 12:22 pm

  16. I love that Bible story where Jesus taught which people it’s ok to discriminate against. Oh, wait a minute.

    The Catholic Church needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, or it will cease to exist in time. Simple as that.

    Comment by TwoFeetThick Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 12:27 pm

  17. “The Catholic Church needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, or it will cease to exist in time. Simple as that.”

    Umm, the law was only passed in June. Not sure what that says for the state senators that voted for the civil unions bill but weren’t allowed to vote for the amendment. Were they “dragged” as well?

    At the end of the day, do you think this is what a majority of Illinois citzens want? Probably not.

    Comment by Downstate Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 1:46 pm

  18. Terrible decisionmaking by Quinn and the two Madigans. I wish that the Catholic Church leaders had put heavier pressure on them to back the Church’s social service entities in this case.

    Comment by Cindy Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 2:26 pm

  19. I sat across from Mike Madigan’s spokesman in WLS Studios while he explained to the late Tom Roeser that nothing like a State shutdown of Catholic adoption services could ever happen. Impossible, he said, because Civil Unions are different that Marriage.

    No one believed him that night either.


    Comment by JP Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 4:03 pm

  20. @jp - Steve Brown was correct. Civil Unions are different than marriages and foster care is different than adoption.

    So fear not, Catholic Charities can still refuse to assist adoptions for gay couples, provided they also refuse taxpayer assistance for those services.

    They just can’t take a contract with the state to provide foster care services and refuse to place a child with a gay aunt just because she’s gay.

    Its kinda like getting a permit to be a taxi driver. They slap that burdensome “you cant refuse to pick up passengers just becuase they are black” rule on ya.

    I know its not fair, but as my mom told me when I was five: “lifes not fair. Get used to it.”

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 5:03 pm

  21. It’s very tempting to say “Fine. If the state is going to ignore our views, then we’ll just drop out of the adoption and foster care businesses. They are a drain on our time and resources, and not central to our mission.” But the children and families are the ones who suffer — since faith-based groups deliver better services than public ones.

    Comment by Anon Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 6:52 pm

  22. To my knowledge, there isn’t a single appropriation that doesn’t come with strings. To say you are shocked that a 12 million dollar contract would, is diengenois at best. This is hardly about the kids. Almost as hypocritical as downstate republicans arguing to cut Human Service funds from the GF, yet protesting cuts to mental health services in their district.

    It seems as if it is never about those who need the service just those who need the job. I for one am glad my tax dollars are not going to discrimination ok’d under the cloak of religion.

    Still wish the media would spend half of this attention on the inefficient child welfare system we have.

    Comment by Kyle Hillman Tuesday, Nov 15, 11 @ 7:12 pm

  23. Folks are abandoning the bigots one by one.

    Comment by wishbone Wednesday, Nov 16, 11 @ 12:18 am

  24. don’t the adoptions from Catholic Services come with a string that the kid must be raised Roman Catholic?

    Comment by amalia Wednesday, Nov 16, 11 @ 8:58 am

  25. @amalia -

    Most of the Catholic Charities in Illinois have scrubbed their websites of any blatantly discriminatory policies, and in fact added statements that they don’t discriminate based on faith in response to this public relations and legal fiasco.

    I say “most” because the Peoria arch-diocese website still includes this qualification for adoptive parents:

    3. Be grounded in faith and demonstrate a commitment to the mission and core values of Catholic Charities.

    That is de facto religious discrimination in my book.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Wednesday, Nov 16, 11 @ 9:34 am

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