If you were a child who, through some tragic circumstance, needed to be placed in a foster home, do you think it would be better for you to be placed with a married mother and father who had a documented history of compassionately caring for children or with two men living together in a homosexual relationship?
The government of the City of Philadelphia has manifestly concluded that being parented by two homosexuals is as good as having a mom and dad.
The Catholic Church disagrees.
"St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in New York City two years before the American Revolution," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops noted in an amicus brief filed in the case of Fulton vs. the City of Philadelphia, which the Supreme Court will hear this week.
"After her husband died of tuberculosis in 1803, she entered the religious life and founded the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity," said the bishops' brief.
"In 1814, Mother Seton dispatched sisters from their motherhouse in Emmitsburg, Maryland to Philadelphia, where they established St. Joseph's Asylum, one of the first Catholic orphanages in the United States," said the brief.
Until 2018, the Catholic Church in Philadelphia continued caring for orphaned and abandoned children by having Catholic Social Services place them in foster homes.
Then the City of Philadelphia stopped them.
The Catholic Catechism takes an unambiguous stand on homosexual behavior.
"Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered," says the Catechism.
"They are contrary to the natural law," it says.
"Under no circumstances can they be approved," it says.
On March 13, 2018, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Catholic Social Services would not put children into the foster care of people in same-sex unions.
"Catholic Social Services is, at its core, an institution founded on faith-based principles," a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia told the Inquirer. "The Catholic Church does not endorse same-sex unions, based on deeply held religious beliefs and principles. As such, CSS would not be able to consider foster care placement within the context of a same-sex union."
On one level, there was no conflict here because Catholic Social Services had never been approached by a same-sex couple seeking to foster care a child, and, if they had been, they would have simply referred them to one of the 28 other organizations in the city that would work with them to foster a child.
"The organization has no objection to referring same-sex couples and unmarried opposite-sex couples to other foster agencies in the city," Solicitor General Noel Francisco said in a brief that the U.S. Justice Department filed with the court supporting Catholic Social Services.
"As far as the government is aware," said the solicitor general's brief, "there is no evidence in the record that any same-sex couple has ever approached Catholic Social Services for its help with foster certification, and no such couple has ever filed a complaint against the agency for refusing service."
Three days after the Inquirer reported on the policy of Catholic Social Services not to put foster children into the care of same-sex couples, Philadelphia's Department of Human Services Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa met with Catholic Social Services officials to instruct them on her understanding of Catholic teachings.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty described what happened when, representing Catholic Social Services and two of its foster parents, it asked the Supreme Court to take up the case.
"She urged them," said the Becket Fund brief, "to follow 'the teachings of Pope Francis,' (as interpreted by the Commissioner) and told them that 'times have changed.' 'attitudes have changed,' and CSS should change its policy because it is 'not 100 years ago.'"
Immediately after this lecture delivered by a municipal bureaucrat, Philadelphia terminated the ability of Catholic Social Services to place foster children.
"Minutes after this meeting, CSS learned that DHS had frozen referrals to CSS, meaning that no new children would be placed with any CSS foster parents," says the Becket Fund brief.
Catholic Social Services and two of their foster parents sued, arguing their First Amendment Rights had been violated.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit stood with the City of Philadelphia against Catholic Social Services.
Now, five justices on the Supreme Court will decide.
Can Philadelphia force the church of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to either hand over children to homosexual couples or give up helping foster children at all?
(Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSNews.com.)