A petulant Washington Post columnist -- who two months ago insisted "Reality Makes Gay Marriage Debate Obsolete" -- took to her computer yesterday to hack out a screed against the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, painting the Church as "uncharitable and cruel" reactionaries, playing "political hardball with the District" and literally throwing the homeless out into the cold November rain.
Petula Dvorak's November 13 column preached that "Catholic officials shouldn't forsake D.C.'s poor in gay marriage fight," painting the Church as the heavy for standing on conscience in reaction to new legislation that could force its charitable outreaches to hire gays and extend employee benefits to same-sex partners:
In the gray rain -- where the only burst of color comes from the flash of an ambulance scooping up someone who is cold, sick and wet -- threatening to shut a door is the cruelest answer.
"They want to stop helping us?" asked the woman tucked completely inside her wet jacket.
She is staying at the nearby John Young women's shelter run by Catholic Charities on First Street NW. She'd heard that the Church is threatening to stop taking millions of dollars of the District's money for services such as this shelter, adoption and medical care unless the D.C. Council changes the same-sex marriage bill it is preparing to pass next month.
By trying to play political hardball with the District, no matter how carefully they word their objection to the bill, officials at the Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities are telling our city's most vulnerable people -- homeless families, sick children, low-income mothers -- that they are willing to throw them on the table as a bargaining chip.
What the Church is doing is an uncharitable and cruel maneuver.
Yet at no point in her article did Dvorak consider that perhaps it's the liberal Democratic city council that may be too inflexible by failing to carve out sufficient exemption for religious entitities to stay true to their convictions while partnering with the city for social services for the poor.
What's more, since these social services are the city's obligation and the Catholic Church is but a helpful contractor, shouldn't the District government plan accordingly to ramp up its handling of social services, seeing as their dedication to liberal policies will necessarily drive conservative religious institutions out of business with the District on conscience grounds?
Dvorak failed to consider this argument, nor did she muse as to whether liberal churches that pride themselves on being "gay-affirming" can mobilize effectively to run homeless shelters and other charitable operations on behalf of the District.
Instead, Dvorak, a lapsed Catholic, went on to paint the Church as having forsaken its sense of compassion seeming to suggest matters of doctrinal witness and conscience are secondary to "tolerance":
I am not much of a churchgoer these days. But I will always hold dear the lessons I learned from the Church I attended in my younger days.
When Father Joe went bicycling and skiing with us, he taught us to love and respect the Earth. Father Grace, with his white hair and an Irish accent so hard the younger kids in catechism called him "The Big Leprechaun," was stern enough to make me think twice before sweating through another confession where I had to admit all the terrible things I had done to my little brother the week before.
But he was gentle in reminding us of the simple rules of forgiveness, love, tolerance and charity.
When I was about to snark about the folks coming for help at the church food bank, the priests told me not to judge, only to help. When I smugly pointed out the inappropriate wrap shorts someone wore to Mass one summer day, someone told me, "She is here at church; judge her no further."
Dvorak's message is clear: she didn't leave the Catholic Church, it left her, and is in turn threatening to leave behind the city's poorest folks over what amounts to a political squabble.