Will the “Peoria Solution” Play? Why We Must Fight Against the Systematic Dismantling of Catholic Social Services

They have a saying in advertising which you may have heard, “Will it play in Peoria?”

That question now confronts the Diocese of Peoria and Catholics everywhere when it was announced that Catholic Charities of Peoria, starting February 1st, will transfer most of its staff and all of its caseload of 330 children to a newly-created non-profit called “The Center For Youth and Family Solutions” (CFYFS) which has no affiliation with the Catholic Church. CFYFS will place children with same-sex couples who have contracted a civil union through the state of Illinois.

Just today we’re finding out the legal efforts of three other Illinois dioceses (Springfield, Belleville, and Joliet) have come to naught. The Diocese of Belleville has chosen to morph its foster and adoption care services over to a new entity “Christian Social Services of Illinois” — you will notice they’ve dropped the name Catholic, but Catholics will still presumably work there, placing children with same-sex couples.

What we are witnessing here, I will argue, is the systematic dismantling of Catholic social services in this country. Back in 2006 Maggie Gallagher (whom I work for at the National Organization for Marriage) wrote “Banned in Boston“, an analysis of the shutdown of Catholic adoption agencies in that archdiocese. At the time she asked, “Is the fate of Catholic Charities of Boston an aberration or a sign of things to come?”

Sadly, five years later, we know that Boston was a sign of things to come:

Later in that same year of 2006, San Francisco catholic adoptions ceased and three staff members was transfered to work with the “gay friendly” California Kids Connection.

In February of 2012, The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. was forced by D.C.’s new same-sex marriage bill to transfer seven staff, 43 children and 35 foster families over to the National Center for Children and Families.

… and now in Peoria and Belleville, Illinois.

Already gay activists are talking about that the “Peoria Solution” as the means to their goal: pushing Catholics (and their view of sexuality and family) out of the American public square:

“…if a diocese can make the serious and sober decision that it needs to reconfigure itself out from under Catholic orthodoxy in order to best serve children in need, then at least some well-​meaning Catholics understand the competing demands of doctrine and reality, and that the reality is this: Kids’ best interest can be served when they’re raised by same-​sex parents.”

That’s their view. That’s their hope and strategy.

When it comes to Catholic teaching, Cardinal Ratzinger when he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made the Church’s position on same-sex adoption clear in 2003 (in response to the San Francisco adoption fight — emphasis mine):

As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these [same-sex] unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons [i.e. through adoptions].

They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.

This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.

You can’t get more clear that that. So how do Catholic dioceses condone delivering children placed in the care of Catholic Charities over to non-Catholic entities that will have Catholics placing children with same-sex couples? I don’t know.

As Dr. Jeff Mirus points out, the Catholic employees of Catholic Charities and whatever agency they are transferred to have a moral responsibility to follow the Church’s teaching about what constitutes the welfare of children.

In other words, there is not just an institutional question here about what Catholic dioceses, Catholic Charities and other Catholic adoption agencies can do, the question is what individual Catholics may do, as Mirus writes:

[The Church] is required to vacate this role [of facilitating same-sex adoptions] because it is immoral for any person to place adoptive and foster care children with gay couples. Not only does it place such children at increased risk, but it directly participates in the mythology of gay marriage, which is based on a deep denial of reality with serious and inescapable moral consequences. […] it is not morally permissible for any adoption/foster care worker to place children with gay couples.

So, saying it is moral to place children with same-sex couples is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, it’s not the practice of Catholic Charities, and so for those same reasons it is ought not be the practice of individual Catholics. Kids deserve a mom and a dad, it’s as simple as that. Especially when there are so many married couples hoping to adopt, and especially when (as in this case) Catholic adoption and foster care programs have consistently received the highest evaluation marks for their services. (I should add that many couples in Illinois have already discerned themselves that they will be forced to no longer provide foster care to kids once the state contacts with Catholic charities expire — watch their stories here).

Phil Lawler adds a more pointed critique of what two dioceses in Illinois have decided to do, by comparing the choice of Catholic agencies that buckle on their principles to the choice that confronted the Maccabbees in the Old Testament:

The Maccabees fought valiantly, and suffered tremendously, to preserve the integrity of their faith. That’s one way to handle a conflict between government regulations and religious precepts. Now here’s another…

State law came into conflict with God’s law, so the leaders of this group [Christian Social Services of Illinois, formerly Catholic Social Services of Belleville] decided that God’s law would have to go. Something about having no god but Caesar, perhaps.

… The legal ties with the Belleville diocese are only now being broken, but it seems likely this agency stopped thinking with the Catholic Church some time ago.

Now Christian Social Services will enjoy the benefit of government grants that are denied to the adoption agencies that have retained their Catholic identities.

I think this last line helps explain why the “Peoria Solution” is so dangerous and why this isn’t just about Illinois adoptions. Let me explain further.

Think about the vast network of Catholic adoption agencies which provide a loving alternative to young women considering abortion. What’s to stop these organizations from being shut down over the same pretense? What, in other words, is to stop the “Peoria Solution” from becoming the national model?

(If you think such examples are outside the realm of possibility, just look to Britain, where the last Catholic adoption agency is closing over similar anti-discrimination laws being enforced. Some of these adoption agencies have been functioning continuously for over 100 years. No more.)

Think about the vast network of Catholic hospitals. What’s to stop them for pulling a bait-and-switch like what happened in Peoria and Belleville and re-opening as ex-Catholic organizations that perform abortions, sterilizations and, eventually, euthanasia? In fact, this process is already happening at Catholic hospitals, for instance, in the HHS denial of a key grant to the US Bishops over their position on abortion.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference, sums up well what is happening:

What “you’re seeing at the state level in Illinois, what you’re seeing at the national level in Washington, D.C., is a consistent promulgation of policies and laws that are making it very difficult for faith-based agencies that believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Gilligan said.

I would expand this to include Catholic agencies who hold fast to the Church’s teaching against abortion, contraception, and a host of other related moral issues.

It’s time for us to awaken to the fact that we must fight for Catholic identity at our universities and hospitals — it’s time to fight seriously for our Catholic social services to retain their full identity and freedom.

So what do we do?

Let me propose some simple principles (and I welcome other creative ones from you):

1. Catholic institutions have the right to administer their own affairs and to live out the full expression of their faith without wrongful government intrusion.

2. Catholic institutions have the right to compete for social service contracts in the public square like everyone else, and to have their religious convictions respected when they do so.

3. Politicians who fail to vote for and support religious liberty exemptions in laws pertaining to social services (such as adoption and foster care) and any other matters that impact Catholic institutions ought to be firmly warned by Catholics not to do so and voted out the next time they are up for reelection. Voting against religious liberty for Catholics is an anti-Catholic vote, pure and simple.

4. Catholics must conscientiously and actively support the Church and our Catholic institutions. We must focus our charitable giving towards Catholic institutions that retain and proudly promote their Catholic identity. They have the first right to our time, talent and treasure.

5. Catholics must be fully involved in the political process and be aware of events and movements which could threaten Catholic autonomy and identity at a personal and institutional level.

If Catholics follow these five simple principles, the “Peoria Solution” won’t play in Peoria, or anywhere else.



  • Kevin

    This whole thing is a canard, and so cynically motivated. Catholic adoption agencies have been facilitating adoptions for all sorts of “sinful” situations. For instance, is any divorced and remarried Catholic denied adoption? No. That person is living in sin.

    • Thomas Peters

      Kevin, that’s not the Church’s teaching. Try again.

  • Doc Kimble

    The only thing that affects the outcome of anything in this secularized version of America any more is it’s god, namely money. Here’s an idea: Boycott businesses at Christmas that refuse to return your cheery ” Merry Christmas.” Simply leave your purchases at the check-out line and walk away from the transaction. No offense. Better still, donate to a Crisis Pregnancy Center or a Pro Life organization like Priests for Life instead, and notify your relatives and friends you have done so in the name of Christ, for them, reminding them of the blessing all children are to everyone. Just like the first Christmas.



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