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A little more than 100 miles south of Berlin, Germany lies the small town of Lomnitz. In the early 20th century, when millions of Europeans emigrated to the United States in search of a better life, a small group of immigrants from Lomnitz was processed through Ellis Island. The U.S. federal government assigned the last name "Lomnitzer" to these immigrants.
I am not a Lomnitzer by blood. When my paternal grandfather was born, he was left by his biological mother at the doorstep of a Catholic convent. The loving nuns found a home for the baby, and he was adopted as an infant. He received the name Charles Lomnitzer and became a beloved member of the Lomnitzer family. It is through the generosity of the Lomnitzers, who opened their family to my grandfather, that I am a Lomnitzer.
The Lomnitzers recognized the dignity of each and every human person. Although Charles' biological mother was unable to care for him, the Lomnitzers saw Charles as a gift and blessing to their family. Just as America provided a beacon of hope and the promise of a better life to the Lomnitzers, so too did the Lomnitzers provide a beacon of hope to my grandfather.
The power of my family's story touched me in a new way last year at the annual Vigil Mass for Life, which takes place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC the night before the March for Life. Thousands of Catholics from all over the country packed into the Basilica to pray with Cardinal Dolan for the legal protection of the unborn, and for an increase in the recognition of the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. In that time of prayer, I recognized in those worshippers the same commitment to life of the nuns who found a home for my grandfather, and the same commitment to life of the Lomnitzers who welcomed into their home a little boy who needed parents.
Just like the nuns that cared for my grandfather and placed him with a loving family, many Catholic foster care and adoption services still do the same heroic work today. However, state and local governments have been infringing upon the rights of Catholic agencies to do so. Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have forced local Catholic Charities agencies out of adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, ending government contracts, or both—because they declined to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried, cohabiting opposite-sex couples.
This is a travesty. It was the complementary love of my grandfather's adoptive parents – as husband and wife, father and mother – that created an environment for him to flourish. He went on to become a marine, a veteran of World War II, and a revered history teacher for many decades. Children need a married mom and a dad, and the government has no right to force children to be placed in other arrangements.
The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (CWPIA) protects the freedom of child welfare service providers, including adoption and foster care agencies, to serve vulnerable children in need of loving homes. The Act would prohibit the federal government and any state that receives certain federal funding from discriminating against child welfare service providers on the basis that they decline to provide a child welfare service that conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions. Please take action at www.bit.ly/CWPIA to support the freedom of faith-based adoption services to serve children and families according to their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions. Without the existence of Catholic adoption service providers all those years ago, I might not be here today. Let's make sure Catholic and other faith-based agencies can continue to serve children in need.
This article was originally published on www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/generosity-of-the-lomnitzers.cfm and has been reprinted with permission. Tyler Lomnitzer is Executive Assistant to the Office of the General Counsel, and serves the Committee for Religious Liberty.
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