Former Catholic Charities Head Denounces Bishops’ Defense of Adoption Discrimination

Brian Cahill

A former Catholic Charities head has denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2021 ruling that allows religious adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ client. The head also chastised the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) support of such discrimination.

In an op-ed for The National Catholic Reporter, Brian Cahill, former executive director of Catholic Charities of San Francisco, examines the decision in Fulton v. Philadelphia, and points out the problems it causes:

“The ruling was unanimous, but narrow in scope. But it still raises the possibility that Catholic Charities agencies all over the country can get back into foster care and adoption work, be allowed to discriminate against gay and lesbian foster and adoptive parents, and get reimbursed with taxpayer dollars to do so.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed an amicus brief in the Philadelphia case, making it clear that they wholeheartedly supported this kind of discrimination and ignoring the reality that in different parts of the country, the largest cohort of potential adoptive parents for many children are gay and lesbian couples who want to form family.”

Cahill points out that the USCCB uses religious liberty conveniently to enforce their beliefs, though many Catholics and fellow bishops do not agree with their positions regarding the LGBTQ community. Cahill names several such bishops, including Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.

Commenting on the Vatican’s 2003 updated teaching on marriage equality that upholds an ideal of children raised by a mother and father, Cahill argues:

“But there are hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. foster care system, a quarter of them waiting to be adopted. Many of these children have been victimized by the inability, neglect or abuse of their heterosexual parents, who are living proof that sexual orientation is not a reliable indicator of good parenting.”

“Based on a poorly conceived, disrespectful and harshly written Roman policy, Catholic Charities agencies, including San Francisco, Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington and other dioceses were forced to abandon a 100-year tradition and thousands of poor and needy children.”

Cahill also notes that in addition to supporting the Fulton decision, many bishops also support the national Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act which “prohibits the federal government, states, tribal nations, or localities from discriminating against a welfare provider that declines to provide services due to the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” If this passes, the federal Department of Health and Human Services would be permitted to withhold funding from, according to Cahill, “any governmental entity that discriminates against the religious beliefs of child welfare providers.”

Cahill concludes by pointing out a contradiction in the USCCB’s rhetoric:

“These same bishops often declare that gays and lesbians must be respected. But in mouthing those words they gloss over the infuriating, insulting, wounding and chasm-like dichotomy between expressing respect for gays and lesbians while also actively advocating for and promoting policies that harm the LGBTQ+ community. Even if somehow their words are not hypocritical or disingenuous, their approach is so separated from Jesus’ message of love and inclusiveness that it is hollow and meaningless.”

“Given the insular superiority and tone-deafness of some of these bishops, I used to think it was difficult to distinguish between cluelessness and homophobia. Now I think it doesn’t matter.

“Clueless or homophobic, these guys are doing a lot of damage and causing a lot of pain.”

Once again, Cahill is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ people. In 2019, he wrote a piece for Bondings 2.0 about being the Catholic father of a gay son and making a plea for church leaders to stop the harm they cause to LGBTQ people. He previously criticized the bishops’ position on adoption by LGBTQ parents, and has challenged the leadership of San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who has a highly LGBTQ-negative record. Indeed, Cahill’s concerns are so severe he has said the church will become a “shrinking cult” if it continues opposing equality.

Robert Shine, associate director of New Ways Ministry, commented:

“As both a parent of a gay child and an experienced leader in Catholic social services, Cahill is a voice to which the U.S. bishops should listen attentively. He is completely right that, at this point, it does not matter if church leaders are ‘clueless or homophobic,’ they simply need to stop doing harm.”

Beth Mueller Stewart, New Ways Ministry, September 8, 2021

3 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Mr. Cahill’s point is well taken and will be another voice of reason ignored. The laity vs Clergy positions widen nearly weekly. It is both reassuring to see the list of bishops who choose to ‘ do no harm’ , and alarming that there are so few.

  2. nancy k nally, canonical hermit
    nancy k nally, canonical hermit says:

    Having grown up in the era where”fairies” suffered ridicule and negativity, I am grateful for our present open and tolerant ( for many) attitude and acceptance of those whose orientation has allowed them to travel on a different parallel path to salvation. I continue to pray that certain of our Catholic clergy and religious will look at others with the clarity of Christ’s vision and allow the Paraclete to work wonders in us.

  3. Duane Sherry
    Duane Sherry says:

    The RC Church continues to claim religious exemption for federal laws that provide discrimination protection, while remaining a non-taxed entity.

    Maybe its time to tax the Church. If bishops’ retirement funds dwindle, they may change course, and gay priests may finally come out of the closet.


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