In New York State, protests have continued against a local Catholic Charities affiliate’s decision to end adoption and foster care services as a way to deny services to LGBT clients.
Activists gathered in late October outside Catholic Charities of Buffalo to criticize the decision and to ask local and state government officials for a reconsideration of the $18 million in public funds that the agency receives. The program was shuttered so Catholic Charities would not have to abide by state non-discrimination laws. WSKG reported on the action outside an agency board meeting:
“Participants in the protest included religious, community and public leaders. They say Catholic Charities announced its decision to cease its foster care and adoption services after a same-sex couple inquired about adopting a child. Reverend Kirk Laubenstein, director of the Coalition for Economic Justice, says when the institution made that decision, they made a decision to discriminate. . .
“‘In reality, they are perpetuating discrimination against LGBT people and using children as vulnerable pawns in a political struggle,’ said Annmarie Szpakowska, president of Disparity Buffalo, who identified herself as a lesbian Catholic. ‘This is shameful, sinful and wrong.’. . .
“Barbara Turner, a self-identifying ‘Black Queer Catholic,’ says Catholic Charities helped her amidst her battle with cocaine in the 1980s by helping her place her son in a safe, loving home. Now, she says, amidst an opioid epidemic many children are being orphaned and the institution needs to step up again but do so while making changes to end any discrimination.”
Joining the protests was Kathy Aman, an employee who resigned after working for 19 years in a separate division of Catholic Charities. Aman blamed Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone, who is under increasing pressure to resign over his mishandling of priests credibly accused of committing sexual abuse, for the decision:
“‘There was an effort in the agency to advocate for this program and for the LGBT community. . .But it became clear that the power lies with the bishop to make any decisions he chooses, no matter the diversity language in our policy and procedure manual.'”
Right after the decision was made in August, some 100 employees of Catholic Charities of Buffalo signed a letter to Malone expressing their concern about ending adoption and foster care services because the signatories believed LGBT clients could be served without violating church teaching. Thirty-four children in Catholic Charities’ custody were transferred to other social service agencies and the agency lost roughly $900,000 in program revenue. Nine employees were affected, including six who began working for other social service agencies to support the children already in their care. At least two board members are reported to have resigned.
But against these protests and the clear damage which the decision to end services is causing, the agency has continued to defend its decision. Dennis Walczyk, the CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, told WBFO that the situation of LGBT adoptive and foster parents was “very unique” and “difficult.” He claimed that the agency still welcomes clients of any sexual orientation, echoing a statement for the agency which said it was “equally committed to non-discrimination of clients in the provision of services and of our employees and volunteers – regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity. . .”
In a related matter, a local government official has claimed Catholic Charities significantly decreased its support for a student support program because of the lost revenue from ending adoption and foster care services. Walczyk denied this claim.
How can Walczyk claim the agency serves clients of all sexual orientations and gender identities when it has gone to such harmful lengths to discriminate? Why would any LGBT person seeking social services of any type feel safe and comfortable with Catholic Charities of Buffalo now? Outrage over the bishop’s role in closing the adoption/foster services is also tied to the mishandling of sexual abuse claims against Malone. Taken together, these incident are a clear example of church leaders inflicting wounds on not only others, but on themselves. Malone and all church officials should stop justifying discrimination when they could be focused on the problem of abusive ministers–and drop the bogus “threat” of LGBT parents providing a loving home for vulnerable children.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 6, 2018