IN PSYCHOLOGY, "projection" occurs when someone attributes to others his own unpleasant beliefs or motivations. It is projection, for instance, when a liar assumes that everyone he deals with is dishonest, or when a man tempted by adultery accuses his spouse of planning to deceive him. Projection occurs in the public arena as well, as when supporters of racial preferences label "racist" those who believe the law should be strictly colorblind.
A fresh example of projection arrived the other day by way of a news release from the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation's largest gay and lesbian political organizations.
On March 10, Catholic Charities of Boston had announced that it was being forced to shut down its highly regarded adoption services, since it could not in good conscience comply with the government's demand that it place children for adoption with homosexual couples. Caught between the rock of Catholic teaching, which regards such adoptions as "gravely immoral," and Massachusetts regulations, which bar adoption agencies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, the Boston Archdiocese had hoped to obtain a waiver on religious-freedom grounds. But when legislative leaders refused to consider the request, the archdiocese was left with no option but to end a ministry it had been performing for a century.
Whereupon the Human Rights Campaign issued its news release. It was headlined "Boston Catholic Charities Puts Ugly Political Agenda Before Child Welfare," and a more perfect illustration of psychological projection would be hard to imagine.
For the political agenda driving this affair is the one favored by the Human Rights Campaign and its many allies in the media and state government: the normalization of homosexual adoption. So important is that agenda to its supporters that they will allow nothing to stand in its way -- not even the well-being of children in dire need of safe and loving families. Catholic Charities excels at arranging adoptions for children in foster care, particularly those who are older or handicapped, or who bear the scars of abuse or addiction. Yet the Human Rights Campaign and its friends would rather see this invaluable work come to an end than allow Catholic Charities to decline gay adoptions.
Note well: Catholic Charities made no effort to block same-sex couples from adopting. It asked no one to endorse its belief that homosexual adoption is wrong. It wanted only to go on finding loving parents for troubled children, without having to place any of those children in homes it deemed unsuitable. Gay or lesbian couples seeking to adopt would have remained free to do so through any other agency. In at least one Massachusetts diocese, in fact, the standing Catholic Charities policy had been to refer same-sex couples to other adoption agencies.
The church's request for a conscience clause should have been unobjectionable, at least to anyone whose priority is rescuing kids from foster care. Those who spurned that request out of hand must believe that adoption is designed primarily for the benefit of adults, not children. The end of Catholic Charities' involvement in adoption may suit the Human Rights Campaign. But it can only hurt the interests of the damaged and vulnerable children for whom Catholic Charities has long been a source of hope.
Is this a sign of things to come? In the name of nondiscrimination, will more states force religious organizations to swallow their principles or go out of business? Same-sex adoption is becoming increasingly common, but it is still highly controversial. Millions of Americans would readily agree that gay and lesbian couples can make loving parents, yet insist nevertheless that kids are better off with loving parents of both sexes. That is neither a radical view nor an intolerant one, but if the kneecapping of Catholic Charities is any indication, it may soon be forbidden.
"As much as one may wish to live and let live," Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon wrote in 2004, during the same-sex marriage debate in Massachusetts, "the experience in other countries reveals that once these arrangements become law, there will be no live-and-let-live policy for those who differ. Gay-marriage proponents use the language of openness, tolerance, and diversity, yet one foreseeable effect of their success will be to usher in an era of intolerance and discrimination . . . Every person and every religion that disagrees will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don't go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles."
The ax fell on Catholic Charities just two years after those words were written. Where will it have fallen two years hence?