Catholic Church adoption policy seriously confused, says Christian group

By staff writers
25 Jan 2007

There are serious confusions and contradictions in the position being put forward by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster over his claim that Catholic adoption agencies will be forced to close if the Equalities Act, due to come into force in April 2007, prohibits them from refusing homosexual couples.

This is the core of a submission, made to the government on Tuesday by the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement, over the current sexual orientation regulations row.

LGCM’s letter, signed by CEO the Rev Richard Kirker, points out that Catholic adoption agencies are already placing children with “a single adoptive parent”, and that they “welcome adoptive applicants from any or no religious background”.

Mr Kirker comments: “In practice, to our knowledge this includes single homosexual adopters, and even those who, while legally single, are living within a same-sex partnership. In addition, some of those individuals are Catholics.”

On Sky TV last night (24 January 2007), Jonathan Bartley of the UK religious think tank Ekklesia also pointed out that Catholic adoption agencies allow cohabiting heterosexual couples and divorcees to adopt, even though both these things are against official church teaching – indicating that its stance towards gay people is inconsistent.

The LGCM letter further says that the agencies concerned receive considerable financial and other support given by members of the Catholic Church, adding that “[w]e do not see why, in view of this, it should be necessary to close these services down if any of them chose to do without public money and its accompanying nation-wide conditions. On the contrary, that would be a grave insult those of the faith who felt ready to make good any shortfall arising from the absence of public contracts.”

The LGCM letter, in full, reads as follows:

LGCM has read Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s letter of 22 January about this to the Prime Minister and his colleagues with astonishment.

First, the Cardinal rightly draws attention to the considerable financial and other support given by members of the Catholic Church to their network of adoption agencies. We do not see why, in view of this, it should be necessary to close these services down if any of them chose to do without public money and its accompanying nation-wide conditions. On the contrary, that would be a grave insult those of the Faith who felt ready to make good any shortfall arising from the absence of public contracts. There are many charities which indeed value the independence of action that comes from not seeking or taking public funds, and rely instead wholly upon their supporters. It is certainly not true that the proposed regulations, if in the same form as those now obtaining in Northern Ireland, would “force the closure” of any agency.

Second, we note from the Cardinal’s letter that the Catholic adoption agencies are already placing children with “a single adoptive parent”, and that they “welcome adoptive applicants from any or no religious background”. In practice, to our knowledge this includes single homosexual adopters, and even those who, while legally single, are living within a same-sex partnership. In addition, some of those individuals are Catholics. What it appears that the Catholic Church cannot accept is the recent legalisation of civil partnership - a measure widely welcomed by all political leaders and a large majority of, for instance, those Anglican Bishops who voted for the Act. But they are ready to favour individuals whose own beliefs, or lack of them, and whose single status, might be seen by some believers to be more dangerous to the welfare of the child placed.

It is plain, on the briefest reflection, that a couple who are linked by parallel obligations, commitments and promises to each other, same-sex or not, are going to be more likely to provide a stable and loving home for an adopted or fostered child than those in a more tenuous relationship, or no relationship at all. We can see no argument in logic, therefore, for the Cardinal’s position, especially since the “significant” emphasis placed on marriage, which he quotes, does not logically or in practice exclude other parallel relationships that may not, in his view, share all the characteristics of marriage, but nevertheless create a warm and welcoming home - and sometimes even a Catholic one - for a disadvantaged child or children.

Finally, we remind Ministers that the over-riding principle in all family law, including adoption and fostering, is “what is in the best interests of the child”; that the European Court has recently disallowed a judgment by Portugal’s Court of Appeal about custody which had rested on the grounds that the father now lived with a male partner; and that , in our own country, it is the Court, not the agency, which gives the order for adoption. We therefore call for the Cardinal’s plea to be rejected, and for one, non-discriminatory set of rules to be approved which - as in Northern Ireland - assure equality to suitable gay or lesbian couples seeking to adopt children, where this is in the child’s best interests.

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