On the nature of charity

Washington, DC is on the verge of passing a law permitting gay marriage, with all the usual exemptions stating that churches are not required to perform them in contravention of their doctrine, or even rent event space for them.

Sadly, this isn’t enough for the local archdiocese, which is threatening to shut down their charity services in the city if it passes.

So, if the city extends civil rights to their citizens, the diocese’s response will be to punish needy people who have nothing to do with the dispute.

A statement from the chancellor of the archdiocese says that this has to be seen in the context of balancing “the interest of the homosexual community to be able to marry freely and the interests of the religious community to be able to practice religion freely.”

I fail to see any way in which the simple right to marry impacts anyone else’s right to the freedom of their own conscience. Nothing in the pending legislation requires a church, Catholic or otherwise, to officiate over same-sex marriages, and even exempts them from renting space for hosting the reception for a same-sex wedding. The church remains free to make their own determination as to whether or not they will sanctify such unions. The practice of one’s religion is not impacted one whit.

However, the church is attempting to force exactly the opposite. I am not a Catholic. Why should I be bound by the church’s rules on marriage, then? One would not apply the rules by which Jewish or Islamic marriages are made to a Catholic couple. It is therefore inappropriate for the church to expect the right to apply its rules to non-adherents.

As for myself, the only ‘rules’ I can think of for a couple to get married are: they are both of the age of majority and legally able to enter into contracts for themselves, and they love each other.

That the Catholic Church has additional requirements for a church service is entirely their business and emphatically not mine. But the any church’s rules for a wedding by necessity stop at the church door. That’s the fundamental basis of a civil society that honors freedom of conscience. One church may not tell another church what rules they must operate under, and neither may one dictate rules to non-adherents.

Fortunately, the city is not going to allow themselves to be bullied, but I can’t help but think of the thousands who will be directly hurt by the diocese’s action.

A better place to ask WWJD? I cannot think of.


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