By Hilary White

  LANCASTER, UK, June 2, 2008 ( – The Catholic bishop of Lancaster has offered his adoption agency a solution to the threat of the Sexual Orientation Regulations that are forcing it to close. Bishop Patrick O’Donohue has penned a letter suggesting that Catholic Caring Services in the Diocese of Lancaster adopt a totally Catholic ethos in order to maintain the integrity of its services, especially in the adopting of needy children.

  Changing the constitution of Catholic Caring Services to ensure that children will not be adopted out to either homosexual partners or to single people and unmarried couples, will provide a safeguard against prosecution under the new law.

  The Equality Act, of which the Sexual Orientation Regulations are a part, also prevents public authorities “discriminating on the grounds of religion or belief”. As such, Catholic Caring Services can continue to operate, the bishop said, if the constitutions of Catholic Caring Services “make it crystal clear that it will operate in accordance with the religious and moral principles of the Catholic Faith”.

  Bishop O’Donoghue, has written to his flock explaining that Catholic doctrine holds natural marriage as the only situation into which children may be given for adoption. As an agency of the Catholic Church, Catholic Caring Services can continue to operate if its constitutions are altered to bring it completely in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and family life.

  The government, with its passage last year of the Sexual Orientation Regulations, has decreed that Catholic adoption agencies must give children to homosexual partners.  Several Catholic adoption agencies have chosen to cease operation in response. But Bishop O’Donohue, despite a vote of 8-2 by the Trustees that complying with the government regulation is necessary to keep the service open, says no.

  He wrote that the government’s Regulations would attempt to force the Church to “treat same-sex applicants in an identical manner to married couples thus giving explicit approval of homosexual and lesbian partnerships”.

“As your Bishop, I simply cannot give permission to an agency of the Catholic Church to act in opposition to her teaching and her long and rich experience of the placement of children with adoptive parents.”

  In changing the constitutions of the service to allow the adopting of children only to couples in natural marriages, Catholic Caring Services, would “explicitly and officially approving” the true meaning of marriage.

“On grounds of conscience, formed by faith,” O’Donohue said, “we believe that same-sex partnerships do not provide the essential dimensions necessary for the well-being and development of the child.”

  But as only one member of the board of trustees for the service, the bishop says he cannot force the issue. But, he writes, “it is my earnest hope that this letter will convince my fellow trustees of the wisdom of taking this legal route.” 

“I very much look forward to hearing from the Trustees of Catholic Caring Services as soon as possible.”

  Since the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which are part of the Equality Act 2006, came into effect in April 2007, several Catholic adoption agencies have chosen to cease operations rather than acquiesce in the requirement of adopting children to homosexual partners.

  The Catholic Church asked for an exception that would allow Catholic adoption agencies to continue to operate according to their religious principles, but the government instead offered the “compromise”of giving the Catholic agencies 21 months to “work out a solution”.  The dioceses of Northampton and Nottingham have ended their involvement in all adoption agencies.

  Catholic Caring Services of the Lancaster diocese offers range of services in addition to adoption and foster care services, including residential care of children and young people, support of adopted adults, pregnancy counselling, services for adults with learning disabilities, residential and supported living, advocacy, services to deaf and hard of hearing people, and community development projects.

  Read related coverage:

  Frenzied Anti-Catholic Reaction to Lancaster Bishop’s Reforms

  More British Catholic Adoption Agencies to Close Doors instead of Bowing to Sexual Orientation Regulations

  UK: Religious Schools May Not Teach Christian Sexual Morals “As if They Were Objectively True”