The Manhattan Declaration and the Archdiocese of Washington

Today at noon, a group of prominent Christian clergy, ministry leaders and scholars will release the Manhattan Declaration, which addresses the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and religious liberty.

A press release this morning previewed several excerpts from the 4,700-word declaration. Among them:

“We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriage or the equivalent or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.”

The 125 Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian signers of the declaration also say, “We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right —  and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation — to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.”

For Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, one of the signers, the statement comes at a particularly relevant time. His archdiocese has been fighting a proposed same-sex “marriage” bill in the city of Washington, that, the Church fears, would force Catholic agencies to provide benefits to employees who are in immoral relationships. A vote is scheduled Dec. 1, and it looks likely to pass. Catholic Charities might also be forced to process adoptions for same-sex couples.

The Church in Washington has said it may have to end its contracts with the city.

Archbishop Wuerl finds himself in a situation similar to that of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston. With same-sex “marriage” permitted there, as a result of a court ruling, the state began requiring Catholic Charities adoption service to admit same-sex couples to its pool of prospective adoptive parents. Catholic Charities decided to stop doing adoptions.

In addition, some homosexual activists are threatening to “out” homosexual priests in the archdiocese if the Church does not stop protesting the measure. The new website says the site was created “to provide you with the opportunity to save LGBT youth from the hypocrisy of priests in the Archdiocese of Washington who are socially, romantically or sexually active gay men, yet stand silent while Archbishop Wuerl and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops increase their dogmatic war against gay families.” The site encourages visitors to share information they might have on priests in the archdiocese who are homosexual or having a heterosexual affair.

Well there’s an example of a “power ... cultural or political” that could “intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.”

Then there are the compromisers. Some members of the city council say the Archdiocese of San Francisco reached an agreement in 1997 that permits religious-based employers to allow “each employee to designate a legally domiciled member of the employee’s household as being eligible for spousal equivalent benefits.”

And Washington’s own Georgetown University “provides medical, dental and vision coverage to either a spouse or to a ‘legally domiciled adult’ ” who “has for at least 6 months lived in the same residence as the employee,” these councilmen wrote in a letter to Archbishop Wuerl.

For the Archdiocese of Washington to do so, it would seem, would be to turn a blind eye to the reality of what’s going on. It would be subsidizing employee benefits for same-sex couples (or cohabiting couples) and pretend that it was taking a stand against immorality.

We look forward to seeing how the archdiocese stands its ground.

And we look forward to reading the Manhattan Declaration.

—John Burger