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When Massachusetts courts didn’t grant Catholic adoption agencies an exemption from anti-discriminatory legislation that would have required Catholics to participate in the adoption of children by gay couples, the Catholic adoption agencies closed. In 2009, the Colorado state legislation considered an anti-discriminatory law that, in the words of the-then Archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, “would have stripped the Church of any control over the people she hires.” How should the Church to respond to such threats?

Chaput details both the history of the threats and possible responses in “A Charitable Endeavor,” published in First Things (November, 2009). In their conversation about this essay on Spirit Catholic Radio, R. R. Reno and Chaput discussed militant secularism, the need for mediating institutions, and the historical collaboration between Church and state on issues of poverty.

Chaput wrote the article, he says, for two reasons. First, he wanted people to be aware of the legal challenges to Catholic institutions governing as they see fit. There are those, he says, “Who want to keep us from being who we are”—that is, Catholics in the public square. Second, in the face of these challenges to the Church’s institutional structures for charitable work, individual Catholics need to take up the necessary service to the poor. In places like England or Canada or Massachusetts, the Church played rearguard action as legislation undermined its ability to run its charities in accord with doctrine.

Catholics, Chaput thinks, need to fight for the freedom to serve and love the poor: “The state doesn’t love; it’s only individuals who love.”

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button below.