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Catholic bishops and non-discrimination

Monday's column by Michael Sean Winters in the National Catholic Reporter addresses the day's decisions by the President to issue the Executive Order on Non-Discrimination based on sexual orientation by government contractors, while also keeping the Bush Executive Order allowing Churches to hire co-religionists without it being considered discrimination. You can and should read his column at and then read mine below.

As promised, President Obama extended employment non-discrimination to gay employees of federal contractors. This is a Church issue because it gets contracts and grants from the Catholic Hospital to Catholic Charities to Catholic parish schools - although the last are a vanishing breed except among economically elite parishes - with poor parishes often becoming charter schools. Also kept was the right of the Church to use religious membership in hiring decisions, although in hospitals and even Catholic Charities, it is not a right the Church often exercises. I am hoping that the Church does not resist that form of employee non-discrimination - indeed, I doubt many hospitals and charitable organizations actively discriminate against gays and lesbians so this will change nothing on the ground. Indeed, schools likely have their share of gay teachers and principles. Indeed, some of them are priests and sisters. It would be rather inconvient to reactively fire lay employees for a characteristic found among consecrated and ordained (they may even be dating). I know that those who are reacting to the Church's child protection problems might look to a gay scapegoat - but that is simply not so. Most abusers are, like most of the population, heterosexual. I am amazed that MSW does not bring up the topic - however I suspect some in USCCB might. That would be sad, because they have made clear for years that discrimination based on sexuality is wrong, from employment to housing (that would be the last frontier - but one the movement should work on harder). Its screed on gays being objectively disordered is hogwash, as was its teaching in the Council of Trent about concupescience (taking pleasure is sex). If straigth and gay priests could marry, you would see both teachings quickly withdrawn.

As for the President's motives here? I suspect this was written by the lawyers, who decided that repealing the Bush Order on religious hiring would be picking a fight. Does the President care about the Catholic bishops? Probably not so much, since he is not Catholic and because he has advisors from Catholic Charities, USA and Catholic Health Association whose members are much more directly impacted (the Bishops are titular heads of Catholic Charities - however these agenices are as much beholden for federal requirements and funds as they are to the Bishop - I for one would like to have the people in the pews demand that Charities organizations be indpendent - given how the bishops tend to mess up much of what they touch administratively). As for Obama on marriage - my bet is that he cares not at all what the Bishops think on this issue - constitutional law trumps that. When he ran originally, he did not want to be seen as some Chicago liberal with a gay agenda, which would hurt his support with the black churches. It was his Catholic Vice President who got him to publicly change his mind and it did not hurt that Mitt Romney was his opponent when it came time for black churches to turn out the flock for 2012. Since the black churches have few federal contract dollars, this should keep their enthusiasm going for 2014 - else Valerie Jarrett would not have let him do this. As for Obama replealing RFRA if the Democrats win the House? I doubt it, although some corrective legislation might be in order.

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