Nonprofit Newswire | Catholic Charities Removes Benefits for Spouses

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March 2, 2010; The Washington Post | Is there a way to convey some sense of outrage about the decision of Catholic Charities to deny spousal benefits to new employees in order to avoid having to offer benefits to same-sex spouses (as required by DC government law, if Catholic Charities wants to continue receiving the $22 million it gets from the District)? The president of Catholic Charities, who has been the Archdiocese’s public face opposing the District’s same-sex marriage law is a key player in the metropolitan Washington nonprofit community. In order to avoid having to deal with same-sex couples, Catholic Charities already turned its foster care program over to another provider. Some people are defending, or at least explaining the Catholic Charities policy as inconsequential because few if any “new” employees will be affected. Archbishop Donald Wuerl’s  explanation in another Post article was characteristic: “Employers have the right to frame compensation packages. . . . At the end of the day, Catholic Charities is here serving the needy, after the law has passed, in complete conformity with the law.” That’s the kind of slickly crafted statement that James Mason playing the high-priced lawyer representing the Boston Archdiocese in “The Verdict” (1982) (remember Paul Newman as the everyman lawyer doing battle with him?) would have penned for Bishop Brophy. The policy is a twofold slap—at same-sex marriages and at the democratic process in Washington, DC which created the law that now applies.  Catholic Charities may continue to offer services under its DC government appropriations, but this should lower Catholic Charities’ standing in the DC nonprofit community.—Rick Cohen