The irony here is that American Jews and Catholics share long, estimable histories of caring for children in highly institutionalized same-sex environments. From the 1880s, American Jews — in accordance with the idea of kehillah, Hebrew for community — set up a complex system of mostly same-sex child-care institutions such as orphanages, Hebrew schools, and camps to address the increasingly urgent needs of impoverished immigrant children. From the 1830s, the American Catholic Church engaged in similar social work and community building — principally parish- and diocese-based; Catholic Charities of Boston, founded in 1907, is a particularly vibrant outgrowth of that work — again relying on an essentially same-sex model. In these institutions, both Catholic and Jewish, the line between homo-social and homosexual often grew fuzzy — that much was widely understood, if implicit — but it didn’t really matter, as long as they were doing God’s work.
Today, Conservative Judaism is continuing to work in that tradition — one that blesses human sexuality, recognizes the variety of places in which it takes root, and keeps it in theological perspective. It is the Catholic Church that, with its current distorting obsession with sexuality, is making a huge departure from its own past — one that hurts not only gay people but children as well.
: This Just In
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