The National Catholic Review

In the wake of its controversial decision to withhold health benefits for spouses of all new employees, Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Washington took another step that will inevitably alienate potential hires. The Washington Post reports that

Shortly after imposing limits on spousal health benefits for employees, Catholic Charities of Washington has begun requiring new employees to promise they will not ‘violate the principles or tenets’ of the church. That language was added March 3 to a hiring letter that new employees are required to sign, according to spokesman Erik Salmi.

Salmi says that the new language has nothing to do with the same-sex marriage controversy, but the timing certainly raises questions. He said that it is simply part of a broader conversation that Catholic Charities is having about what it means to be a Catholic organization. This is a good discussion to have, for Catholic non-profit organizations, schools and universities, and hospitals. But if the language is intended to be used as a sort of litmus test of who is eligible to work for a Catholic organization, then it is more troubling. As with the Denver Catholic schools controversy (covered well on this blog by Fr. Jim Martin), certain questions remain.

Will Catholic Charities employ divorced and remarried individuals? Those who donate to political candidates whom the church hierarchy opposes? What about a person who has expressed some private skepticism about a church teaching or practice? Is this a way to silence critics? These are not light questions, and Catholic Charities would do well to take additional time to examine the possible consequences of such language.

Michael O'Loughlin

Comments

Michael Bindner | 3/16/2010 - 2:38pm
In the prior comment, I meant Shore, not Nickol. Peter Nickol played the Biscuit on Ali McBeal.

There is an update reported on the NCR web page. Apparently this really has nothing to do with the gay marriage issue. This relates to the incident in the Richmond Diocese when a young immigrant girl was taken by Charities staff to get an abortion, which Charities paid for.

I can kind of see their point and apologize for intimating that this was about the AB's desire for a red hat (although there probably are some watching him like a hawk - probably someone named Rigali).
Michael Bindner | 3/16/2010 - 1:23pm
I agree with Peter (Nickol not Lake) about this being a step backward, although it is backward to the days of Pius X, who encouraged networks of informers to keep the Church doctrinally pure.

I expect this all to blow over when AB Wuerl gets his red hat. I suspect he is currently under a microscope.
David Nickol | 3/16/2010 - 12:26pm
On its web site, the Archdiocese of Washington posts the notice: ''We are an equal opportunity employer.'' If religious organizations are allowed to discriminate in their hiring practices, why doesn't Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington just take down the notice and institute religious tests for potential employees? Why sit on the fence? If they want to maintain their ''Catholic character,'' why don't they hire only Catholics (and, of course, Catholics in good standing)?  It would seem to me to be setting the clock back 50 or 100 years, but many Catholics feel the last 50 to 100 years have been downhill, so why make concessions to contemporary ideas and practices such as equal opportunity employment?
Pearce Shea | 3/16/2010 - 9:59am
Oh now this is getting to be hystrionics. Do some research. A vast number of Catholic dioceses as well as institutions employ similar language. DC, to my mind, was remarkable in that it _did not_ do so. It's an infrequently employed clause where it appears. It's used to discourage people who actively participate in activities intrinsically opposite to Catholic teaching, be it having a same-sex "spouse," or actively lobbying against the repeal of the death penalty. It's not used to axe someone for the reasons snarkily suggested in the original post or in Brendan McGrath's post. To suggest otherwise is, as I said, to quickly let the situation devolve into hystrionics.
Marc Monmouth | 3/15/2010 - 8:53pm
Michael, how do you suggest that Catholic Charities ensure its Catholic identity? It is easy to criticize, but much more difficult to offer concrete advice and remedies.
Brendan McGrath | 3/15/2010 - 7:11pm
Isn't it funny the way many Catholic leaders or commentators focus so much on the hot-button moral issues, but in effect throw the rich tradition of dogmatic theology out the window?  Why can't we have culture wars over a revived De Auxiliis controversy?   
New employees must promise that they will not "violate the principles or tenets" of the Church - well, if we're really going to go for it, let's go for it: don't hire anyone who sees justification as merely an imputation of Christ's righteousness rather than a real, habitual, infused righteousness that brings about an ontological change in the soul.  And it's time to give the axe to any Catholic Charities employee who doesn't uphold Catholic teaching on the nature and grace disputes: listen, buddy, take your Baianism somewhere else; we here believe in the possibility of a state of pure nature and affirm the total gratuity of the supernatural order!  And look out anyone who thinks that they can perform a salutary act without actual grace, or who thinks that it is not only physically but also morally possible for us to keep all of God's law all of the time without actual grace!  And you over there, I've heard that you've tried to assert that Christ is the natural son of God according to His divinity but not according to His humanity, you 8th-century Adoptionist you!  Get your child out of our Catholic school system! 
Peter Lakeonovich | 3/15/2010 - 6:00pm
This is great news. Surely, the Holy Spirit is inspiring the hearts of our Catholic leaders, nothwithstanding the persecutions in the media and unpopularity that are sure to follow. But that is exactly what Jesus said would happen. It is what St. Paul told Timothy to persevere against. It is the pruning that is necessary before we can bear any fruit. That these things are happening in the wake of additional heart-breaking stories about abuses that have occurred in the Church worldwide is a sign to this observer that the Church is in healing mode by returning to fundamental values and principles grounded in the Truth. A sign that the Church which had fallen asleep has been awakened and renewed. AMDG.