LANSING, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Michigan Catholic bishops are now providing health benefits for same-sex partners of Church employees.
Pro-LGBT advocates are praising the announcement because it enables benefits for same-sex partners. Although the document doesn't explicitly state the expansion applies to homosexual civil partnerships, it contends the MCC "adopted a modification to … benefits to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations."
Last week the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) sent a letter to Church employees announcing the extension of health, dental and vision benefits to legally domiciled adults (LDA). They must be at least 18 years old, living with the Church employee for at least six months, and sharing living expenses. An LDA can be any family member, a friend or anybody who meets the criteria.
The MCC further disclosed it won't be asking employees to reveal the relationship between themselves and their LDAs, and won't look into the sexual orientation or activities of recipients.
MCC spokesman Dave Maluchnik commented, "Going forward, relationship will not be an evaluative criterion for including another individual (LDA) as a recipient of MCC's health benefit."
Maluchnik maintains that "none of this changes Catholic teaching; it complies with federal law, as it is, in 2016. This is the world in which we now live."
Faithful Catholics, however, are outraged. Michael Hichborn, director of the Lepanto Institute comments,
To change the eligibility of benefits to include those living in grave moral sin is an absolute abandonment of the Church's mandate to call sinners away from their sins and out of darkness. Effectively, the bishops are saying to their employees, "as long as you hide your sinful lifestyles from us, we won't pry into your private affairs."
A letter sent out this week to pastors and employees of Catholic churches in the state of Michigan attempted to justify the MCC's actions. "The decision was made following an extensive analysis conducted by the National Catholic Bioethics Center and in consultation with attorneys responsible for the legality of the MCC health plan."
In the MCC's documentation, "spouse" still refers to a person of the opposite sex. Because of that, LGBT activists still see the bishops' move as incomplete.
Spouses and children of employees have always been covered by health benefits.The MCC maintains it's still keeping with Catholic teaching on marriage as being between a man and woman while accommodating same-sex unions as required by law. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right.
Recently there were three cases where men living active homosexual lifestyles contrary to Catholic teaching were fired from parish jobs. And as ChurchMilitant.com reported in an earlier story, two men filed human rights complaints agains the Chicago archdiocese because they were fired when it was discovered they were in same-sex civil marriages.
Supplying benefits to employees in same-sex relationships isn't new to Catholic institutions in the United States. In 1997, the archdiocese of San Francisco included LDA benefits for same-sex partners because the city threatened to stop the archdiocese's contracts for social services. Georgetown, Fordham and Loyola — all Jesuit-run universities — have been supplying benefits for same-sex partners since the mid-2000s.
Hichborn continues, "Bishops used to excommunicate unrepentant and notorious sinners, for their own good. Now, they're giving them health benefits."