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Catholic Charities in Buffalo to phase out foster, adoption services over same-sex adoption rules

State News
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Catholic Charities announced Thursday evening they will phase out foster care and adoption services after their contract with the Erie County Department of Social Services expires in March of next year.

The organization states they cannot uphold the requirement that agencies allow same-sex couples to foster and adopt children. 

In a release, Catholic Charities says they can’t conform to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the nature of marriage and, at the same time, comply with state’s regulation.

Dennis C. Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities had this to say regarding the news:  

 “It is with deep sadness we acknowledge that the legacy of the high quality, exceptional services which our staff provides to children and families through foster care and adoption will be lost,”

“We are working with the state OCFS and Erie County DSS to support a smooth transition for children in foster care and foster parents, as well as those who have submitted applications to provide foster care or seek adoption.”

Adoption was one of several services that Catholic Charities was built on 95 years go.

Currently, its program includes 55 foster homes, with 34 children in care in 24 homes. They average five adoptions per year, a majority of which are children released from foster care for adoption. 

Peter Anderson, press secretary for the Erie County Executive’s office, released a statement to News 4, saying the Department of Social Services “is aware of the decision reached by Catholic Charities and will work with them to make the transition as smooth as possible as they phase out foster care and adoption services. Catholic Charities is a strong community partner and Social Services will continue working with them in other areas in the future.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz released a statement on Friday afternoon:

“I am very disappointed with the decision of Catholic Charities to end its provision of foster care and adoption services due to the application of a same-sex couple to be adoptive foster parents. Contrary to public statements from Catholic Charities chief executive officer Dennis Walczyk, the Erie County Department of Social Services was not given any prior notice of the decision, and we did not learn about the decision until asked yesterday to comment on the decision by a local reporter.

What disappoints me greatly about this decision is it contravenes past teachings from Pope Francis regarding how Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning individuals should be welcomed by the Church. In his 2016 book “The Name of God is Mercy,” Pope Francis offered this explanation about his famous “Who am I to judge?” statement where he responded to a question about gay priests:

‘On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person? I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized.

“I am glad that we are talking about ‘homosexual people’ because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity. And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love.”

“I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together. You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it.’

There can be no greater love for a child than the love by his or her parents. But what if a child has no parent? Does not that child deserve to be loved as well? Unfortunately, presently there are not enough individuals to foster and adopt children in Erie County, and this decision could further harm our efforts to place children in caring, loving families.

If ‘God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love’ how can we deny such love to a child by a couple who is being defined by their sexual orientation as a couple unworthy of adopting or fostering that child?

Furthermore, how can a homosexual ‘stay close to the Lord’ when the charitable arm of the Church declares that a homosexual couple is unworthy of offering their love and compassion to a needy child as a foster or adoptive parent?

The Erie County Department of Social Services cannot provide all services required in our community to ensure the health and well-being of our citizens. We need willing partners to help us in this endeavor, partners that by law cannot act in a discriminatory manner. Catholic Charities has been a good and necessary partner to the Erie County Department of Social Services for decades. From providing emergency shelter to those in need, to assisting in providing the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), to the welcoming and placement of immigrants and refugees into our community, and in so many other ways Catholic Charities of Buffalo has been a leader in ensuring the health and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens.

I was taught by Monsignor Murphy and the parish priests at Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna that God loves all regardless of who we are and that each of us has a responsibility to be there and care for our neighbors in their time of need. Thus it is very disappointing to see Catholic Charities choose to end its participation in a service that means so much to the most vulnerable members of our community: providing at-risk children with loving parents or guardians at a time in their life when they need it the most.

As such I call on Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo to reverse this decision and follow the lead of Pope Francis by not defining a person by their sexual orientation but by the love and compassion they contain in their heart for others. If a loving LGBTQ couple is willing to open up their home to a child and offer that child the love the child so desperately deserves, who are we to judge?”

In a statement to News 8, the Rochester-based Catholic Family Center said: “Catholic Family Center does provide adoption and foster care services. We are aware of the decision by Diocese of Buffalo Catholic Charities. We are studying that decision and our own policies.”

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