Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tom Roberts on Illinois Catholic Charities Decision as Setback for Church: Critical Questions

Something I've been mulling over: I wonder if anyone besides me finds the headline that National Catholic Reporter editor Tom Roberts chose to give to this story more than a little troubling.  The story is about the recent ruling of Illinois judge John Schmidt that Catholic Charities has no right to a contract from the state of Illinois, when the organization wants to accept state funds while refusing to adhere to state non-discrimination laws.

Roberts entitles his article about this ruling, "Setback to Church in Adoption Fight."

And here are some of the questions I keep asking myself about that headline:

1. If large numbers of American Catholics (a sizable majority, in fact) oppose laws discriminating against LGBT people, is it correct to call Judge Schmidt's decision a setback to the church?

2. Is "the church" the hierarchy?  Or is it the people of God?

3. Do many or most American Catholics truly defend Catholic organizations when those organizations insist that they should have the right to accept state funding while refusing to follow state laws prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation?

4. If Schmidt's decision is a setback to "the church," then are gay folks somehow not "the church"?  

5. Is it really a case of the gays and their rights vs. the church and its rights, as this headline implies?  Or are there possibly some gays and lesbians within the church?  Are there possibly faithful Catholics who happen to be church every bit as much as are the heterosexual folks (traditionally, heterosexual men) who have long tended to dominate Catholic institutions including the Catholic media?

Just wondering.  It seems to me a more accurate and responsible headline for this story might read something like the following: "Setback to Catholic Officials in Adoption Fight." I can't imagine that, as an editor, Mr. Roberts chooses headlines cavalierly, or that he's unaware of what a headline communicates, as a lede for the article that follows.

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