Catholic Adoption Service Ending After Nearly a Century Because NY Requires Them to Serve Same-Sex Couples

A nearly century-old adoption program is shutting down in New York after it received a same-sex couple’s application that would have required it to betray its beliefs about sexuality in order to maintain its contract with the government.

Catholic Charities of Buffalo said in a Thursday press release that it was phasing out its 95-year-old foster care and adoption services because it could not “simultaneously comply with state regulations and conform to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the nature of marriage.”

In a statement, Catholic Charities CEO, Dennis Walczyk, explained that the couple’s application put them in a difficult position given the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage.

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“That situation put us in a position where we were in conflict in doing so with the teachings of the Catholic Church as far as what the Church recognizes as a marriage,” he said.

The Catholic Catechism not only condemns homosexuality, it identifies marriage as the union between a man and a woman. 

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,'” the Catechism reads. It adds that “under no circumstances” can those acts be “approved.”

Sister Mary McCarrick, the diocesan director for Catholic Charities, cited the Church’s teaching when she explained the organization’s preference for serving heterosexual couples.

“It is important and to the advantage of a child to be placed in a home with a husband and wife family, a man and a woman, so that the child can experience both a father and a mother, and their love,” McCarrick said, according to The Buffalo News.

McCarrick, the Christian Post reported, said that the recent application created an insurmountable obstacle which the organization apparently never faced in the years after New York passed its anti-discrimination law in 2003.

“We were in a[n] incontrovertible controversy between what the state is expecting — that we would be without prejudice — foster and adopt with couples that are same sex, and the Catholic Church teaching this is not a marital couple,” she said when asked why the organization was just now ending its foster program.

New York’s office of Children and Family Services, which licenses Catholic Charities, made clear that the organization’s actions constituted a form of illicit discrimination under state law.

“Discrimination of any kind is illegal and in this case OCFS will vigorously enforce the laws designed to protect the rights of children and same sex couples,” spokeswoman, Monica Mahaffey, said.

Walczyk indicated that his adoption service would coordinate with state and local officials to to ensure a smooth transition for foster children and their foster parents.

“We are working with the state OCFS and Erie County DSS to support a smooth transition for children in foster care and foster parents, as well as those who have submitted applications to provide foster care or seek adoption,” he said.

Mark Poloncarz, the county’s executive, warned the agency’s closure could put foster children at risk.

“Unfortunately, presently there are not enough individuals to foster and adopt children in Erie County, and this decision could further harm our efforts to place children in caring, loving families,” Poloncarz said.

The episode provoked mixed reactions from advocates on both sides of the issue:

Buffalo’s was just the latest of many Catholic adoption agencies to shut down or face that prospect in light of anti-discrimination laws.

As IJR has previously noted, both Catholic Charities of Boston and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., shuttered their adoption services while facing similar situations as Catholic Charities of Buffalo.

When several states considered laws that would protect religious organizations from facilitating same-sex adoption, advocates like the Human Rights Campaign fiercely condemned their efforts:

Same-sex adoption advocates have argued that religious restrictions unnecessarily block foster children from finding suitable homes. 

Others, however, have argued that anti-discrimination policies allow the state to coerce religious individuals to compromise their conscience and force charitable organizations to shut down.

Earlier this year, the president of the nonpartisan National Council for Adoption warned that same-sex adoption requirements would ultimately leave foster children with fewer resources:

“To eliminate faith-based agencies from the field of service over ideology, to take away their licenses, which is happening in states, to prevent them from entering into contracts to provide these services for public entities …, it is going to end up with seeing fewer resources for children in foster care and children will go unadopted.”

While Chuck Johnson, the organization’s president, supported same-sex adoption, he wasn’t sure how pushing out faith-based agencies was “in anyone’s best interest.”