Bishop Jenky’s Rallying Call: State of Illinois “At War” with Catholic Community Over Same-Sex Adoptions

The recent news that the state of Illinois will terminate its contracts to do adoption and foster care through Catholic Charities should not be taken lying down.

This happened as a direct result of the bad same-sex civil unions bill that went into law this June. A law that catholics (and other people) warned would result in, among other things, exactly this — Catholic Charities being forced out of the adoption business.

I called on catholics to oppose the bill before it was eventually passed, writing at the time (quoting the IL Catholic Conference) that the “Language in the bill offers little protection in the context of litigation that religious institutions and individuals will face if this bill is adopted.”

267 days later, here we are.

Furthermore, Catholic Charities being forced to shut down in yet another state was not an “unintended consequence” of the legislation. There are people who wanted this to happen and opposed efforts to improve the language to provide protection for religious groups and individuals. And right now they’re winning the fight to curtail religious freedom because catholics are not standing up for our rights.

Luckily, two bishops in Illinois (so far) are calling it like it is.

Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria, IL wrote (underlining mine):

“Catholic Charities is one of the lead providers of foster care services in the state. They have been valued partners for decades. Clearly the intent of the civil union law was not to force the state to end these contracts and force the transfer of thousands of children’s cases.” He continued by stating, “We continue to believe we can adhere to our religious principles and operate within Illinois law.”

The Bishop, his Priests and the faithful of the Diocese of Peoria, are simply astonished that the politicians of the state of Illinois seem to be unwilling to grant the same kind of religious accommodations that have been granted in the states of New York and Rhode Island regarding their establishment of civil unions. Bishop Jenky is sad to observe that important elements of the political establishment in the state of Illinois are now basically at war with the Catholic community and seem to be destroying their institutions. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria will be reviewing the judge’s written ruling to determine their next steps.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki joined him in saying:

The State of Illinois is actively taking steps to push Catholic Charities of the Dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria and Springfield out of foster care services, which would end a partnership that dates back to the mid-1960s with the creation of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The message from the state of Illinois is simple: Organizations that only place children in accord with their religious beliefs are barred from state contracts – Catholics need not apply.

Catholic Charities has been caring for vulnerable children for more than 100 years, leading to DCFS’ current success rate.

As we consider the next steps in our course of action, we pray for the children and for our dedicated employees who may be so adversely affected by this decision.

I quibble about only one thing: this decision “may” not adversely effect children and those who work for and with Catholic Charities. It will adversely effect them. Parents who foster kids placed with them by Catholic Charities are already signaling that they will be forced to cease doing so:

Casey Teckenbrock, of Herrin, said he and his wife expect any transition to delay the adoption of their foster daughter. But after that is complete, they likely will cease to be foster parents for Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois in the Diocese of Belleville.

“If the state doesn’t respect our morals, then we don’t want to do work for them,” Casey Teckenbrock said. “This will be a disaster for the 2,000 kids in foster care.”

And they aren’t alone:

“[Same-sex adoption is] a very small issue to shut an entire agency down that’s doing so much good in a community,” said Becky Wilhoit, an evangelical Christian who is not Catholic. “We specifically chose Catholic Charities as the agency we wanted to work with knowing they were religious and that they had resources to provide what we needed for our family. We know other agencies in the town can’t provide that for us. It becomes an issue for us to continue fostering.”

In other words, Catholic Charities does not represent simply “the Church” being forced to stop doing adoptions and foster care. It represents good men and women unable to help kids through Catholic Charities. It means kids not being helped by Catholic Charities. And why? David French explains it well:

Same-sex marriage advocates have long minimized its impact on religious liberty, but as this and other examples show, both religious liberty and child welfare are ultimately subordinate to sexual freedom.

In other words, political pressure exerted by gay rights groups and their political sympathizers in pursuit of establishing their right to absolute sexual freedom is squashing the right of the Church and fair-minded people to provide needy kids with a mom and dad — with care fitting the dignity of the babies and young people they serve, in other words.

And what do we do in response to this struggle between absolute sexual “freedom” and religious freedom? Which side are we on?

If we want to be on the side of the Church and supportive of the rights of Catholics and other Christians to serve vulnerable kids in the way our faith outlines there are several things we can concretely do:

1. If you live in Illinois, make a mental note to vote against every House (PDF) and Senate (PDF) member who voted for this bad civil unions bill. The Catholic Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn signed the bill. Vote him out too next time around.

2. If you live in Illinois, call your elected officials in the IL House and Senate and ask them to become a co-sponsor of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011 (which could help this situation some).

3. For the rest of us, follow and support the Thomas More Society (which is working on behalf of Catholic Charities in IL) to learn more about the lawsuits currently pending and to discover ways you can help.

4. Help nip these problems in the bud by supporting effective pro-marriage organizations like the National Organization for Marriage (who I work with). This post on the NOM blog explains 4 easy (and free) ways you can help their efforts to protect marriage and religious liberty nationwide.

5. As always, stay informed about current Catholic news and activism opportunities here at CatholicVote.



  • Fred

    Bishop Jenky and his brother bishops in Illinois are primarily at fault for failing to stand up and loudly proclaim the gospel. They stood by silently when the legislature passed the civil unions law and now they are paying the price. Bishop Jenky has failed to lead on many important issues in Illinois. He was also silent during the Obama/Notre Dame fiasco, Obamacare/abortion law and other issues too numerous to mention. I’m glad he is speaking up now but this is too little to late!

    There is literally an army of good Catholics waiting for the leadership of good Catholic bishops to step forward and make a difference. Until the generals lead, however, progress will be nearly impossible.


  • MichaelL

    We’re all in this together. So please watch the documentary “The Philippines: Preserving a Culture of Life” on Friday, August 26 at 9PM EST on EWTN. This high quality 30 minute program explains the international pressure that is being applied to the Catholic country of the Philippines to adopt a “Reproductive Health” law that makes it a crime to speak out against contraception, sterilization and sex education. Much of the pressure for this bill comes from US based organizations like Planned Parenthood along with US government groups like USAID. We can make a difference by electing pro-Life politicians to represent us. We need to be aware that this is an international battle. By fighting against anti-Life initiatives like “homosexual marriage” here in the US we are also fighting to keep this evil from spreading to other parts of the world. We need to see this in perspective. The Catholic Church is under a global attack precisely because it defends the dignity of all human life.



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