Marianne Duddy-Burke tears up and her voice still cracks with emotion almost two decades later when she thinks about how the same church that nurtures her faith turned her away from adopting children. The phone call that early spring day from Catholic Charities in Boston felt like a punch to the stomach.
"The social worker called from her car during her lunch break and told me the reason we were not getting our calls returned about fostering a child was because we left our names and they knew we were a female couple," Duddy-Burke said. "It was horrendous. I was shaken to the core. Nobody even bothered to talk to us as people or as a couple."
As LGBTQ Catholics are still reeling from a recent Vatican statement that denied people in same-sex unions the opportunity to receive a church blessing, the U.S. Supreme Court is now deliberating over a case that Duddy-Burke and other gay couples are closely watching.
Fulton v. City of Philadelphia spotlights an increasingly familiar national debate that pits religious liberty claims against LGBTQ rights. The city of Philadelphia contends that Catholic Social Services should be prohibited from continuing to receive city funding while refusing to place foster children with same-sex couples, which the city argues is a violation of Philadelphia's non-discrimination policies. Two Catholic foster parents and Catholic Social Services claim in the suit that the city's policy is religious discrimination.
- Read an explainer on why Pope Francis approved the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decree that says priests can't bless same-sex couples.
Today, sisters all over the United States work with immigrants, teaching them English, advocating for humane treatment of workers who toil in factories and fields, defending the rights of undocumented families at the U.S. border fleeing hardship in Central America and elsewhere. In those roles, they attract relatively little notice. After all, isn't this what sisters are expected to do?
But it wasn't always this way. Once, nuns, now well integrated into the fabric of American life, were seen as foreign invaders.
In the 19th century, immigrant nuns were viewed with profound hostility by members of the Protestant establishment. Ironically, that included a few famed abolitionists, such as Presbyterian pastor and American Temperance Society co-founder Lyman Beecher. At best, suggested some, the women were dupes of a clever group of priests and bishops determined to set up alternative (and competitive) systems of education and faith. At worst, they were suspected of owing allegiance to a foreign power headed by the covert figure of the pope.
The story of Catholic sisters was that of the rise of American Catholicism writ large: immigrants confronted with suspicion and resentment who ultimately succeeded in not only integrating themselves into American culture but leaving an indelible mark on it.
- Also at Global Sisters Report, read about how in 1920s Oregon, the religious community of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary took the state to court over a Ku Klux Klan-backed law that required parents to send their children to public schools.
- NCR political columnist Michael Sean Winters responds
to an op-ed by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin explaining his reasons
for refusing to vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.
- At EarthBeat, read a Q&A with Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic, leader of the Council of Ki'che' Peoples which helps preserve indigenous lands against corporate exploitation in Guatemala. She willl be receiving the University of Dayton's Oscar Romero award, presented to an individual or organization promoting the dignity of all human beings and alleviating human suffering.