Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Christian adoption: Catholics need not apply?

Steve Dillard, the animating spirit behind Southern Appeal, has a personal blog, on which he posted this item, regarding the Mississippi office of Bethany Christian Services, a faith-based adoption organization.

It seems that the Mississippi office (unlike the
national organization, which does not in principle object to helping Catholics, but lets each state affiliate make its own decisions) will not provide its services to Catholics because "[i]t has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith." Here’s the Statement of Faith. According to the Catholic couple that was turned away, their priest "told them it did not conflict with Catholic teaching."

I can imagine two possible points of doctrinal conflict--the assertion of the "final authority" of Scripture and the affirmation of "salvation by grace alone"--but I am no more than an armchair theologian who can imagine a number of ways of parsing what Bethany says it believes and how the Mississippi priest and his parishoners understand it.

For me, the larger issue has to do with how we regard affirmations of faith. How far do we go in investigating the bona fides of those who make a profession of faith when, say, they join a church? We take them at their word, do we not, assuming that only God can know what’s in their hearts. If the couple, and their priest, affirm Bethany’s statement, how can Bethany then say that it cannot be so?

I, by the way, do not object to Bethany’s demand that adoptive couples affirm its statement of faith. Even the fact that Bethany receives support from the proceeds of Mississippi’s Choose Life license plate program does not pose a legal problem. According to this article,

Though the fee passes through state coffers, it is considered a private donation, said Kathy Waterbury of the Mississippi Tax Commission.

"They aren’t public funds in that we are collecting money on behalf of the organization the tag represents," she said.

Of course, Bethany now has a massive public relations problem in Mississippi and across the country, as, for example,
this editorial indicates. The Knippenberg family has in the past supported Bethany, both directly and through our church. As we make further inquiries, we are reconsidering our support.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Well, the statement about Sola Scriptura in Bethany’s faith statement ought to be troubling to Catholics. But it is my understanding (as a Catholic) that the Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by grace, through faith and works. Even good works, in the Catholic understanding, are prompted by grace. I would have no qualms endorsing Bethany’s statement that we are saved by grace.

I digress. You’re right -- if the couple sought counsel from their priest, and he told them they could affirm Bethany’s faith statement, how can Bethany say they are unable to do so? I was irate about this when I first saw this story on the AP wire a few days ago. It still bothers me, because it reflects a trend within certain quarters of evangelical Protestantism to assume that unless a person holds a membership card in a certain denomination, that person is not truly Christian. How can we, mere humans, judge someone’s heart?

Another former Protestant now Catholic, I agree with the comments by Protestant-turned-Catholic concerning sola scriptura and grace.

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