When will the Roman Church wake up to the fact that it exists, in this country at least, in a pluralistic society where, while it is free to teach whatever it chooses anywhere and everywhere, it is not free in the public sector to infringe the rights of others, and to the extent it enters that public sphere has certain responsibilities to the whole public? Henry IV at the gates of Canossa in 1077 was a long while ago — and expecting civil society to toe your line borders on the fantastic, and it isn't going to get any better. Meaner and leaner seems to be the forecast.
Thus the Archdiocese of Washington whines that due to what they regard as insufficient "protection" for religious institutions in the DC gay-marriage law:
...[R]eligious organizations and individuals are at risk of legal action for refusing to promote and support same-sex marriages in a host of settings where it would compromise their religious beliefs. This includes employee benefits, adoption services and even the use of a church hall for non-wedding events for same-sex married couples. Religious organizations such as Catholic Charities could be denied licenses or certification by the government, denied the right to offer adoption and foster care services, or no longer be able to partner with the city to provide social services for the needy.
The idea that employee benefits required by law represent the "promotion" of anything other than simple justice is ludicrous. Employees are, as the church teaches, all sinners in one way or another, and paying them a fair wage with benefits need not be seen as the promotion of their sins, whatever they may be. I'm not aware that the Romans require their secular employees to be Roman Catholic, or even Christian, let alone to be free from sin, or regularly to be shriven prior to payday — though I know in some cases (religious school teachers) they don't want them to be gay or divorced, and I believe may well continue to maintain such restrictions.
As to adoption, the Romans are already on record that they'd rather have children go unadopted than go to gay or lesbian parents, so there's nothing new there. How this squares with "true religion" as James described it is another matter.
As to renting the hall ("even"!) — well, yes, if you rent your hall as a public facility for secular use you might well be in trouble with the law if you refuse to rent to someone in violation of anti-discrimination laws. Still, renting the hall is hardly promotion of anything that takes place in the hall, or the beliefs of the renters, is it? The fact is that if you wish to dabble in the secular realm (as a landlord taking people's money for the use of your hall) you will have to get real and be welcome to the civil society. You are, of course, entirely free to reserve your church hall for religious uses — which the law fully protects.
Finally, the veiled threat to find itself unable any longer to reach out to the needy in collaboration with the secular realm is a particularly low ethical posture. Whatever happened to not letting your left hand know what the right is doing? Is there something immoral with feeding the hungry or clothing the naked if they are gay or lesbian?
The Roman Archdiocese seems to suggest so. Frankly, this tired and manipulative ploy is well past its sell-by date, when Rome used to be able to call the shots for the secular society. The leadership of the Roman Church continues to show itself not only to be behind the times, but to be morally and ethically disordered. Objectively disordered, at that, for it is one thing just to be unethical or immoral, but for a church to be so, as in this case, is at odds with its "object."
Let me add that I have considerable respect for many individual Roman Catholics, including some in the leadership, but the recent antics many of the leaders, in many spheres, leads me to wonder how much longer this will go on. (I'm told that the Prophecy of Malachy provides for only one more pope after Benedict XVI, before the final fall of Rome.) I'd hate to see the lights go out with lean and mean as the watchwords — somehow just doesn't sound like what Jesus wants, does it?
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG