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Peoria, Joliet Dioceses Follow Rockford Lead, Cease Adoption, Foster Care Over Civil Unions

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 4, 2011 3:00PM

catholic_charities_joliet.jpg Catholic Charities of Peoria and Joliet have followed the lead of Rockford Catholic Charities and informed the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that they will no longer license families for foster care and adoptions over the state's civil unions law.

In separate letters to DCFS, Catholic Charities of Joliet executive director Glenn Van Cura and Catholic Charities of Peoria chief executive officer Tricia C. Fox each wrote that it was not the policy of Catholic Charities to place children with unmarried cohabiting couples, whether straight or gay. Fox also wrote that Peoria Catholic Charities is temporary if the state can add language to the law that would allow Catholic Charities to refer couples to any of the other 45 adoption agencies in Illinois so that they don't face litigation for refusing adoptions of foster care due to their moral code.

DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe acknowledged the requests by the three diocesan Catholic Charities present legal and logistic issues that are being reviewed. "Short term, we will explore every option to prevent further disruption in these children's lives. This isn't a viable long-term solution. Eventually these agencies would attrit their way out of foster care simply because they'd run out of foster homes."

The moves by the two dioceses affects a combined 963 foster homes in Peoria and Joliet. Catholic Conference of Illiniois executive director Robert Gilligan has stated that he believes the children are best served in families where the head of the household is a married, straight couple. "This isn't a radical notion," Gilligan said.

No, only an antiquated notion. In a guest editorial in the Rockford Register-Star, ACLU of Illinois associate legal director Benjamin Wolf and ACLU of Illinois LGBT Rights Project John Knight wrote:

(Catholic Charities stance) is misleading and disingenuous. Catholic Charities already refused to place children with lesbians and gays, and their refusal to place children with couples in civil unions is a continuation of that harmful policy.

Before the General Assembly passed the civil union law, Illinois child welfare officials, Gov. Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan had launched investigations into the practice of Catholic Charities (and other organizations) of excluding prospective adoptive gay parents.

The reason for this investigation is straightforward: These agencies elected to accept state money to carry out a government function — the licensing of foster and adoptive parents. Having chosen to voluntarily act in the state’s capacity, these agencies are expected to perform using the same standards as any other agency. Illinois law already required placements of children in state custody to be based on child welfare considerations, as opposed to the views of the agencies. Thus, denying foster or adoptive parents licenses based on their sexual orientation (or race and religion), already is prohibited by law.

Catholic Charities is free to practice in accordance with its religious teachings. But if it chooses to accept tax dollars to perform the state’s job of finding families for children in state custody, it may not use religious criteria — as opposed to child welfare criteria — in choosing families for them.

Knight and Wolf are particularly appalled at Catholic Charities' trying to spin this to where the church is the victim, a narrative being picked up elsewhere. Meanwhile, the children Catholic Charities purports to serve are the real victims here.