Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Mixed Morality in the Peoria Adoption Solution

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 07, 2011

Yesterday Catholic World News reported that the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois would let Catholic Charities there turn over its staff and adoption/foster care caseload to a new organization. The new group will comply with a State law requiring equal treatment for gay couples. There is good news and bad news here.

The good news is that Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky is aware of his responsibility “to assure that Catholic Charities operates consistently with the teachings and values of the Church.” Thus Catholic Charities will divest itself of its State adoption/foster care contracts. Indeed, the Chicago Tribune reports that Catholic Charities will gradually give up all State contracts, which now total some $23 million, and will soon rely exclusively on private funding. That is a highly moral stance, and it also takes at least one diocesan Catholic Charities system in a direction from which it should never have deviated in the first place.

But the bad news is truly troubling. While Bishop Jenky recognizes his responsibility for the moral character of Catholic Charities, nothing has been reported to indicate that he is equally aware of his responsibility for the moral conduct of the persons who make up the staff of Catholic Charities.

The Church is not required to vacate her adoption and foster care role in Peoria because she has some peculiar disciplinary requirement concerning her formal institutional role. Rather, she is required to vacate this role because it is immoral for any person to place adoptive and foster care children with gay couples. Not only does it place such children at increased risk, but it directly participates in the mythology of gay marriage, which is based on a deep denial of reality with serious and inescapable moral consequences.

One wonders, then, how this deal was done. Could it be that all Catholic Charities staff members do not personally adhere to Catholic principles? According to the Tribune,  the new organization, Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley, will have no allegiance to the Church and will serve couples in civil unions. This assurance is attributed to Mike Drymiller, identified as a “Catholic financial advisor and one of the founding board members” of the new entity.

We may presume, I hope, that the word “allegiance” was ill-chosen, but it is not morally permissible for any Catholic to ignore the teachings of the Church in his or her “private capacity”. And it is not morally permissible for any adoption/foster care worker to place children with gay couples.

Contrary to what is apparently a widespread belief, moral behavior is not required of us only when we happen to work for official Catholic agencies which are actively seeking (as is not always the case) to maintain a specifically Catholic reputation. Moral behavior is required of all of us all of the time.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the discussions which led to this creative plan to keep adoption and foster care services going in the face of the State’s insistence that these services be provided in an immoral way (an insistence which is still being challenged in court by serveral other dioceses). But even if I was not there, God was. God knows who said what, and who approved what, to convince everyone that this strategy avoided an ugly moral dilemma. Our Lord took note of who assumed, and with what justification, that all staff would be morally stunted enough to agree. And if the entire staff does believe this solution ends a moral dilemma, God also knows how they came to be hired in the first place. I’m here to remind everyone involved in this sorry affair and others like it: God knows.

We should be happy, I suppose, that all of this is not being done “under the Catholic name”, as it has been in some other places, along with many other grave evils, such as those perpetrated in many officially Catholic hospitals, universities and colleges. Certainly I am very glad that this is not the case here. But make no mistake: We have a long, long way to go as Catholic people if we think that dropping the Catholic name makes black white, or evil good.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: charles.pullin6847 - Mar. 25, 2017 9:32 AM ET USA

    We formed our daughters in a similar family faith weaving catechesis program at our parish for 10 years. These programs, when run well, bring the life of the church and life of the family together. I offer one practical suggestion: rather than bringing only the parents together once/month and forcing them to find babysitters, have a program for the kids that night as well. We split the 2 hour session into 1 hour with adults and kids separate, and 1 hour together. Same theme for both.

  • Posted by: velazquez37031 - Mar. 24, 2017 11:23 PM ET USA

    A beautiful, appealing, and much-needed program, but not a new concept. I've been involved in a family catechesis program in my parish for 12 years. The difficulty I see is that parents and parishes are so rooted in the "school" model of religious education, and there is so little understanding of how multi-age learning works, that these programs cannot succeed until there is a break with the grade-level mentality, and trust that parents can and will be the most effective teachers of our faith.

  • Posted by: Travelling - Mar. 24, 2017 9:48 PM ET USA

    This sounds fantastic. May i also draw attention to the programme of virtue education that the Dominican Sisters in Nashville have formulated. This is along similar lines and can be used in home and school. It is a free internet resource. As a home educator, I wouldn't be too worried about a very specific monthly timescale for using this programme, it could be adapted to fit otherwise schedules and programme timetables. But this is a very good piece of news.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Oct. 10, 2011 10:06 PM ET USA

    The Catholic Church has committed adultery with our Federal Government for some time accepting any amount of money for "charitable efforts..." Hence, in many cases the Federal Government feels it has the right to dictate. Get out of the bed, go to confession, and then serve God.

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Oct. 09, 2011 9:36 PM ET USA

    Lack of commitment of the laity to Catholic moral teaching, lack of willingness to suffer for it, is a problem in the battle over conscience rights. Talking to local leaders of one such Catholic org, they were already having to make so many moral compromises in the course of doing their charity work, and so did other peer orgs, that they seemed to have decided it didn't really matter and sexual morality just isnt their issue. They were upset and disturbed when I observed that is moral relatvism.