By Hilary White

  BIRMINGHAM/ EDINBURGH, January 29, 2007 ( – While loudly blasting the Blair government for forcing secularist ideology on Catholic social agencies, Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols of Birmingham admitted that his own adoption agencies were already adopting children to homosexual singles.

  Nichols told the BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday that his agencies were happy to place children with single gay people, just not couples. Catholic agencies are equally happy to place children with unmarried but cohabiting couples, despite clear and even more widely understood Catholic teaching on the sinfulness of such arrangements.

  The announcement has frustrated those defending the rights of Christians to their conscience who are complaining that the laxity of their bishops has caused the argument to unravel.

  One popular clerical Catholic blogger, Fr. Tim Finigan, a seminary professor and founder of a pro-life organisation for priests, wrote that while it might be possible for a Catholic adoption official to allow a child to be adopted by a person with homosexual temptations, it is impossible for a Catholic to agree to adoption to those who adhere to the “gay” philosophical and political outlook.

“I cannot see how it would be possible for a Catholic agency to place a child with someone who defined themselves publicly as ‘gay’, was regularly part of the gay ‘scene’, was involved in sexually active gay relationships, or opposed the teaching of the Church.”

  Mary Ann Sieghart, in an Opinion piece in the Times, writes, “The widespread view was that [Nichols] couldn’t have it both ways: either homosexuality was wrong or it wasn’t …As one Cabinet minister put it: ‘If there was a religious principle at stake here, they sold the pass several years ago.’”

  Another Catholic priest-blogger, Fr. Ray Blake, writes that a fundamental misunderstanding is at work in the controversy. “Catholic adoption agencies do not pick up children off the streets but from people who want their children brought up in the Catholic faith… The fact this seems to place homosexual civil unions on the same level as marriage, it seems to be part of an agenda to force an acceptance of same sex relationships.”

  Fr. Blake, writes, “I do not feel it fair for a child who often has enough painful baggage of its own to carry that it should also have to deal with his/her parents’ sexuality as well.”

  In related news, the response of the Catholic Church in Scotland, was significantly different from that of Cardinal Murphy O’Connor. At first Church officials in Scotland said they also would shut down adoption agencies but then announced a change of tactics.

  Catholic leaders are vowing to create “gay rights martyrs”. Scotland’s Catholic adoption agencies, they said, would stay open and continue as usual, awaiting an opportunity to force a court challenge, by refusing to obey the law.

  A spokesman said, “We believe there is an opportunity for a judicial review on the grounds that compelling people to act against their religious beliefs contravenes Article 9.”  Article 9 of the Human Rights Act affirms the right of freedom of religious expression.

  Scotland on Sunday reports that Scotland has two Catholic adoption agencies, which place about 200 children and offer aftercare to 2,000 more.

  Scottish Church leaders warned Labour that a decision against an exemption would prompt them to campaign against Labour in May’s Scottish elections. The Telegraph reports that in the 2005 election, polls showed that Catholic voter support gave Blair’s Labour the edge over opponents.

  The most recent polls show, with three months before the next Scottish and Welsh elections, Labour trailing Tories 31% to 38%.