On Friday, a second former official of Catholic Charities in Washington wrote a letter denouncing the agency’s decision to stop offering insurance policies that cover its employees’ spouses. Last week, meanwhile, over on In All Things, James Martin served up a link to then-Archbishop of San Francisco William Levada’s letter justifying his 1997 policy that succeeded in 1) keeping spousal coverage; conforming to San Francisco’s then new law requiring agencies doing business with the city to extend the same benefits to domestic partners as it did to spouses; and avoiding church approval of same-sex partnerships. The letter came in response to criticism from Michael Uhlmann of the Ethics and Public Policy Institute, and is must reading for anyone interested in the latest chapter in this saga.
Here’s the crux of Levada’s argument for extending health benefits to one other adult legally domiciled with a Catholic Charities employee:
Uhlmann appears to think that no benefits should be offered to live-in
lovers. But surely he needs to rethink such a position. Is it really a
matter for an employer to exclude a person from benefits on the basis
of activities that are sinful? Even prostitutes, alcoholics, embezzlers
— I won’t rehearse the whole catalogue — need health insurance. The
problem arises when we are asked to single out and recognize a category
based on such activity as part of our employee benefits. This is what
our agreement with the city of San Francisco has changed, and in a way
that broadens the scope of health benefits for uninsured children,
elderly persons, and so many others whose lack of health insurance is
genuinely a national scandal.
I understand that in Washington, Archbishop Wuerl has claimed that the stakes are higher now than they were then in San Francisco, that no one then was talking about same-sex marriage. But in fact Levada does mention same-sex marriage in his letter; it was then on the table in Hawaii.
Levada is hardly a nobody. He now serves as prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith–which, like, oversees all church doctrine. Does he continue to uphold the policy he promulgated in San Francisco? Is any other bishop prepared to stand up for it? This looks like one more example of how much weaker the advocates of comprehensive health care have become within the hierarchy.