Monday, November 16, 2009

Catholic Guilt

It was quite a while after I moved into my condo in DC that I started to notice them. I was so used to seeing them on the streets of Capitol Hill that, for many months, I simply drove past. It doesn't put me in a very complimentary light, I know, but after 20 years in L.A. (where they would pounce on you at the bottom of every freeway off-ramp) and 4 years living in a basement apt off Pennsylvania Avenue (where they would actually trot down the stairs and knock on the front door), I was pretty much immune to the sight of those poor souls, the homeless.

Once I moved to the condo, I started passing a group of homeless folks gathered across the street from the 3rd Street tunnel, where I would escape the Hill for points south. Well, "gathered" isn't the right word; these people were in line. During the day, there may be only a handful, but late in the afternoon, the line would usually stretch all the way down the block and around the corner. It was on one of those days when I suddenly realized that all of the homeless people in this line were women.

They were waiting for 7 PM, when the doors would open at the John Young Homeless Shelter, which provides a bed for the night to homeless, single women. No men or children allowed. During the colder winter months, not everyone gets in, but for the lucky ladies who do, they have a safe bed in which to sleep. 12 hours later, at 7 AM, they are ejected from the building and the door is locked. Most of the women wander off for the day, to return to the line that afternoon, but there are always a handful who simply get back in line and start the 12 hour wait until the building opens again at 7 PM.

The John Young Homeless Shelter is one of several in DC run by the Catholic Church.

You know the Catholic Church, right? Those are the paragons of morality who perpetrated decades of child molestation by simply moving their pedophilic priests from parish to parish. They are also the gargantuan organization which owns acres of property in DC, and conducts all their business, and owns all their property, tax-free:

These virtuous souls have once again ignored the constitutional separation of church and state, and have taken issue with the upcoming vote to legalize same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia. The DC council will be voting shortly, and the measure looks likely to pass, which has the Catholics all hot, bothered, and ready to crusade.

The Church, you see, provides many social services for the city, like the homeless shelter in my neighborhood. For a fee. They receive, under contract, close to 20 million dollars a year to provide these services. They have announced they will no longer do so, if they are forced to offer marriage benefits to any gays on their staff. No, they will not be forced to perform marriages, or even be forced to provide space for marriages to take place. But they will be required, by law, to offer the same marriage benefits to all their secular employees. The janitor who sweeps the cathedral and the secretary who works in the office might be gay, and if so, their spouses must receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

The Church has issued, in effect, an ultimatum to the city government, in an attempt to derail the bill. Don't you love it when Organized Religion dabbles in Politics? Their claim that their beliefs will not allow them to offer gay couples the rights granted to them by law, rings a bit false, considering the Catholic Church continues to offer such services in Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts, even after those states have begun allowing gay marriage. They have discontinued certain adoption programs in those states due to the new laws, but have not cut off other services.

It seems that in DC, they are attempting to affect political policy by extortion. The council plans a meeting with the Church to try to work out a compromise, though there seems little hope of one. Either the law is the law, or it isn't; certain organizations, whether religious or not, cannot be exempted simply because they disagree with it.

The contracts to provide these social services, as I stated, are worth millions and millions of dollars, and council members seem confident that other organizations would welcome the opportunity to get them. I bet they're right. And nobody has been able to explain why this guy should be allowed to influence the laws governing our country's capital city:
Meanwhile, those ladies who line up at the John Young Homeless Shelter, to get a safe bed for the night, are being used as pawns by the Catholic Church to further its religious agenda, an agenda which has no place in the city councilroom.