After a prayer, some remarks and a protest song, about 70 people who gathered on the sidewalk outside the Catholic Charities administrative office turned toward the entrance of 741 Delaware Ave. and chanted:
"Resign! Resign! Resign!"
Their target was Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. He's on the board of directors at Catholic Charities, which in August announced it is ending its foster care and adoption program. The organization said New York State rules that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation conflict with church teachings.
"We pray today that you will bring the people down from their high places, that you will let them see the plight of the community, of the LGBTQ community ... because they are hurting and they need the services that Catholic Charities provide but they don't feel welcome," the Rev. Kirk Laubenstein, a United Church of Christ pastor, said in a prayer.
Laubenstein, executive director of Buffalo's Coalition for Economic Justice, called for Malone's resignation from the Catholic Charities board and as Buffalo bishop.
"This bishop, in the midst of the clergy sex scandal, decided that he would close the foster and adoption care program because an LGBTQ couple wanted to adopt," Laubenstein said. "So, today we're also calling on Bishop Malone to resign, resign from Catholic Charities board, resign from your post as bishop of the Catholic Diocese."
He also called upon Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and the county Legislature to "rethink the money that we as taxpayers invest in Catholic Charities."
"The truth is that we know approximately $18 million of our tax dollars go into this organization that says it provides care for everyone," Laubenstein said. "But the other truth that we know is that they put up a sign on their front yard that says if you're queer, you're not welcome here. We have come to hold them to account for that."
Brian Nowak, a Cheektowaga council member, spoke at the rally about how Cheektowaga reassessed its support of Catholic Charities after the adoption decision. Nowak said Cheektowaga reduced its annual contribution for a school intervention services program from $113,000 to $60,000 in the proposed 2019 budget.
"I'm asking myself now how this Catholic Charities program can serve families that Catholic Charities itself is suggesting, through its actions, should not even exist in the first place," Nowak said. "The actions of Catholic Charities suggest an environment where LGBTQ families are not held to the same standard as other families, and public money should not, unquestionably, fund organizations like that."
Malone and Catholic Charities did not respond to requests for comment.
In August, Catholic Charities announced "with deep sadness" it would end its foster care and adoption services.
"Catholic Charities cannot uphold the requirement that contracting agencies allow same-sex couples to foster and adopt children," according to an organization statement. "The teaching and position of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world recognizes marriage only as a union between a woman and a man."
In an op-ed published in The News on Sept. 18, Catholic Charities board members David Uba and Robert M. Bennett wrote that the organization "met with leaders of the LGBTQ community, emphasizing that Catholic Charities remains a strong, welcoming organization committed as always to nondiscrimination."
Speakers Tuesday included Barbara Turner of Rochester, who lauded Catholic Charities for assisting her as she overcame a cocaine addiction as a young adult, including helping find an adoptive home for her son.
"I am a black, queer, Catholic," Turner said. "Catholic Charities has an obligation to the community. We as Catholics have an obligation to humanity to take care of one another, to take care of these children and to place good, loving homes for them."
Ann Marie Szpakowska, president of DignityUSA's Buffalo chapter, ended her remarks with, "It's said that there's no good protest without a good protest song."
She then led the group in an amended version of Anne Feeney's protest song "Rich Man's House," singing, "I went down to the bishop's house, and took back what he stole from me."
Story topics: Ann Marie Szpakowska/ Anne Feeney/ Barbara Turner/ Bishop Malone/ Bishop Richard Malone/ Brian Nowak/ Catholic Charities/ Catholic Diocese of Buffalo/ cheektowaga/ clergy sex abuse/ Coalition for Economic Justice/ Diocese of Buffalo/ Gerard Williams Elder/ Kathy Aman/ Kirk Laubenstein/ United Church of Christ/ Unity Fellowship Church/ Zaw Win