Illinois Catholic charity to split from diocese, offer same-sex adoptions

By Marianne Medlin

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Robert Gilligan of the Illinois Catholic Conference

Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois announced that will it separate from the Belleville diocese and offer adoptions and foster-care services to same-sex couples.

“What you're seeing at the state level in Illinois, what you're seeing at the national level in Washington, D.C., is a consistent promulgation of policies and laws that are making it very difficult for faith-based agencies that believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference, told EWTN News on Nov. 11.

The Catholic Social Services agency, which had been operating at the Belleville diocese since 1947, announced on Nov. 11 that it will now be called Christian Social Services of Illinois.

Gary Huelsmann, the agency’s executive director, called the move a “solution” that will be “best for the children” as it ensures “their continuity of care.”

The Diocese of Belleville said in a Nov. 11 statement that the agency was unable “to remain faithful to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church” while adhering to the state's civil union law enacted in June.

“The message in Illinois from the state government—and increasingly from the national government—is that you (religious groups) cannot interact with the state” and receive public funds from it to assist “the most poor and vulnerable among us,” Gilligan said.

“That's a tragedy because our country has a long history of interaction with faith-based organizations
for social services.”

The Catholic Social Services of Bellville had previously joined Catholic Charities branches from the dioceses of Springfield, Peoria, and Joliet in a lawsuit against the Illinois Attorney General's Office and the state’s Department of Children and Family Services to prevent them from ending state contracts for foster care and adoption programs with the charities.

The department told the agencies that it was ending their contracts over their alleged refusal to obey the 2011 Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, which established legal privileges for same-sex and opposite-sex couples in civil unions.

Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Peoria announced in October that it will withdraw from all state contracts and transfer its staff  to a new nonprofit organization with no affiliation to the Catholic Church.

The new organization, titled the Center for Youth and Family Solutions, will take on the caseload of foster children from Peoria Catholic Charities starting Feb. 1.

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