The recent debate on whether or not to seat Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme…
It’s a good day for organized religion
Be prepared. The U.S. Supreme Court, all nine justices concurring, including so-called “liberals,” Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor, and including two Jews and an Episcopalian, ruled that a Philadelphia Catholic agency may continue its policy of placing children eligible for adoption only in households occupied by a man and a woman, united in marriage.
Three justices questioned the particulars behind the decision, but not the decision itself.
Couples of the same gender — two men, or two women — had challenged the policy for trespassing upon their rights.
Instantly after the Court rendered its decision, most reports set the ruling in the context of the “rights” of LGBT Americans (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). To be prepared to respond to this focus, look at what the Court said, at the American constitution and at the rights of people running organizations such as this agency.
Start with the purpose behind the Catholic office’s policy. It has nothing to do with upholding or denying anybody’s rights or their standing under the law or privileges accorded them by the law. It has nothing to do with promoting the strength of the Catholic Church in the community.
Instead — and this is critical — it is about the freedom of every citizen, and about the agency’s personnel’s right to think, to decide and to act in the children’s interests.
A very respectable social and psychological theory, once universally accepted but hardly abandoned today, is that children mature best when they see, hear and relate to both a male parent and female parent. Circumstances may prevent this context from pertaining in the life of every child.
Millions of single parents are remarkable in the upbringing of their children. Other persons can have a mighty influence: grandparents, teachers, friends, indeed public figures, etc. But the ideal — and forget religion as the only source — is that children grow in adulthood, prepared to meet the realities and responsibilities best, when they grow in a close relationship with a father and a mother.
It is one reason behind the Church’s teaching about marriage, one man and one woman. The Catholic Church says that fundamental to marriage is the procreation and, also, the careful rearing of children.
Decision-makers in this Catholic organization obviously hold this opinion, not because they are mouthpieces of any institutional religious body, such as the Catholic Church, but because, in the view of the court, they are Americans who have formed their own opinions that just happen in their cases to correspond with the stated beliefs of the Catholic Church.
It is their privilege as Americans. They can think as they wish. They can act prompted by their conclusions, unless they step on the rights of others.
American law certainly recognizes the rights of persons of same gender sexual attraction, but in this decision it precisely noted the Catholic agency is hardly the only place in Philadelphia responsible for the adoption of children. No one is compelled, in any way whatsoever, to seek the services provided by the Catholic facility.
Go elsewhere. Philadelphia is a big town, one of the most resourced communities on the planet. There, and across the country, adoption agencies with no such prohibitions abound. No one totally is unable to adopt a child.
Hooray for the Supreme Court’s insistence upon the fundamental notion of personal freedom to think, choose and act as the people in this agency see what is best for the child who is to be adopted.
All commentators, in analyzing this Supreme Court action, see more than the functioning of a Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia. In the way American jurisprudence works, it may well have an impact on future cases as it may reveal the overall outlook of these justices.
Organized religion has been having less than a good day. Some have worried that night is about to fall. Maybe, instead, the sun is beginning to shine.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.