Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
A reader writes:
A few other converts to the Catholic faith and I read and discuss your blogs frequently, and I was hoping you could write yet another. Could you answer the question as to whether or not it is right for the state to pull funding from the Catholic Charities in Illinois based on the fact that the Catholic Bishops do not allow homosexual couples to adopt the children they protect? The article can be found here. In other words, is the state violating the First Amendment when it pulls funding for a religious group based on said group’s convictions? Also, how would you answer the objection that the First Amendment has not been violated by the state in regards to the Illinois Bishops since a religious conviction is not enough to justify one’s acts? For example, the state does not protect religious entities that believe horrific things like the subjugation of blacks or the murdering of sinners.
When the Church does a work of mercy such as feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, or facilitating adoptions for children who need parents, she is doing something that is in accord with the natural law. The proper role of a healthy state is, of course, to help facilitate good works in accord with natural law to help serve the common good, whoever is doing them. However, we do not live in a healthy state, but in an extremely and increasingly diseased one. Consequently, parenthood is no longer conceived of in terms of the natural need of children for a mother and father, but in terms of the demands of homosexual narcissists who require children to accessorize their demand to be perceived as “married”. Ultimately, the purpose of gay “marriage” is not to establish the ontological impossibility of marriage between two people of the same gender, but to create a legal basis to punish the Church and other religious traditions who fail to pretend that homosex is the source and summit of all that it noble, true, good, and beautiful. One early manifestation of this program is the decision of the state to refuse funding to Catholic organizations who recognize the right of children to a father and mother and who refuse to subject them to the immoral experiment of placing them in a home with gay parents. The Church has a perfect right to refuse to do this, but does not have a right to expect the state to fund them, since the first amendment does not guarantee a right to state funding of works of mercy. Caesar has the right to withhold his moolah if he likes (though he is wrong to do so). The Church will alas, just have to muddle on without the cooperation of Caesar and keep doing works of mercy as best she can. The big losers, of course, will be the poor whom the works of mercy are to serve. But narcissists bent on punishing the Church are not interested in that.
Meanwhile, Caesar does not, however, have the right to fund something that is immoral. Nor does he have the right to compel the Church to do what is immoral. He does, however, have the power to do whatever wicked thing he likes as long as he can get away with it, which is basically what is happening now, as the state moves from withholding funds from the Church as passive punishment for non-PC ungoodthink and moves toward actively attempting to compel her to underwrite grave evils like abortion and sterilization or face draconian fines. That must be actively resisted.
The Church’s power to serve the common good is, of course, harmed by the state withholding funds to help her do works of mercy and that is bad, but the Church is not *owed* state support and—as the clash over gay adoption illustrates—a Church that comes to be dependent on state largesse for its works of mercy is a Church that is increasingly at the mercy of that state. When Caesar passes from passively punishing the Church for failing to permit gay adoptions and moves to actively compelling the Church to do things it considers gravely contrary to the moral law, a line is crossed though. Comparison of resistance to gay adoption to subjugation of blacks or murdering of sinners is a non-starter for the simple reason that both of these acts are contrary to the natural law. Refusing to pretend there is such a thing as gay “marriage” or that children are best served by subjection to social experimentation instead of adoption by a father and mother is not contrary to natural law. Similarly, it is simply not the case that refusal to underwrite contraception, sterilization and abortion is contrary to natural law since all of these are contrary to nature given that pregnancy is not a disease, babies are not tumors, and abortion is not helping to serve human life, but to destroy it.