By Hilary White

LANCASTER, UK, December 22, 2008 ( – A UK Catholic Bishop has carried out his threat to de-fund the formerly Catholic charitable organisation that had been attached to his diocese over their decision to begin considering homosexual partners in their adoption services.

Bishop Patrick O’Donohue of Lancaster in North West England, wrote in an open letter to the adoption agency that the date of his resignation from the board “will forever be etched” in his memory “because it was on that day that the relationship between the Diocese of Lancaster and Catholic Caring Services suffered an irretrievable breakdown.”

In his letter, dated December 17, Bishop O’Donohue wrote that because of the agency’s “tragic rejection of the Church’s moral teaching,” it will not be allowed to call itself a Catholic organisation or receive any funding from the diocese.

Last year, the Labour government passed its Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR) that prohibit religious groups or individuals from refusing to provide goods and services to homosexuals. This created an uproar in the media when the government refused to allow a special opt-out for Catholic adoption agencies who would now be forced to consider homosexual partners.

The decision by Bishop O’Donohue to de-fund the Lancaster agency is in contrast to the decisions of four other dioceses in England that have opted to continue financing even though the social service agencies that have severed ties with the Church.

Despite claims to the contrary, both by the agencies and many of the UK’s Catholic bishops, it has been revealed that the law itself contains an exemption for groups that are committed to operating according to their religious beliefs. A UK expert in religious discrimination law, Neil Addison, told that with this legal opt-out already in place, none of the Catholic adoption agencies were necessarily facing closure by the law. To the contrary, Addison said, these agencies had chosen to secularise voluntarily solely because of their refusal to act in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. To date, Bishop O’Donohue is the only Catholic bishop in the UK who has refused to allow his charitable arm to secularise.

The Lancaster agency trustees, wrote Bishop O’Donohue, have created this situation by voting 9-1 in favour of dropping the title “Catholic.” This signified their “capitulation” to the SORs with “no attempt at resistance.” Bishop O’Donohue said that the trustees had rejected “out of hand” all his attempts to bring about a legal solution that would neither compromise the agency’s Catholic character, nor violate the law.

Bishop O’Donohue wrote, “Though Catholic Caring Services are involved in a whole range of valuable work with the disabled, the disadvantaged and the marginalised, how can I allow the Catholic Church to be associated with a body that has chosen a path that co-operates with actions that are against the explicit moral teaching of the Church?”

As a registered religious charity, the Lancaster agency will also likely have to review its legal situation when the diocese informs the government’s Charity Commission that it is no longer willing to act “in accordance with Catholic moral teaching.” According to British law, religious charities must act in accordance with their constitutions, or “charitable objects,” identifying the work they do as religious bodies.

The bishop told the board that his insistence that Catholic Caring Services refuse to consider homosexual partners for adoption grows out of his conviction, bolstered by the teaching of the Catholic Church and sociological research, that children develop and thrive best in the context of natural marriage.

“It is God’s intention that children are nurtured and raised by a loving father and mother, who become role models to boys and girls about what it means to be a husband and wife, a mother and a father. That this is seen as an unrealistic ideal by some in politics and the media shows how far our society has distorted morality,” the bishop wrote.

“If Catholic Caring Services truly hold that the needs of children are paramount it would do whatever possible to ensure that a child is placed with a father and a mother.”

The bishop announced in the same letter that the diocese would be instigating a new charitable agency to carry on social services, including adoptions, in a manner in keeping with the Catholic Church’s commitment to the good of children. Bishop O’Donohue has asked for support for the new initiative

  To donate to the new Catholic adoption agency of the Lancaster diocese:
  Attn. Mr. Paul Ryan,
  Diocesan Finance Office,
  Pastoral Centre,
  Balmoral Road
  Lancaster, UK
  LA1 3BT
  Phone: 01524 596059  
  Fax: 01524 596058  
  Email: [email protected]

Read related coverage:

UK Catholic Adoption Agencies Voluntarily Refuse Religious Opt-Out Clause for Homosexual Adoption