By Hilary White
NOTTINGHAM, April 23, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – When the Labour government’s Sexual Orientation Regulations were passed last year, the leadership of the Catholic Church in England and Wales warned that the new law would spell the end of Catholic involvement in social service, particularly adoption. Now the first of the UK’s Catholic adoption agencies affected are announcing they will close their doors for good rather than betray religious principles and their guiding principle of the good of the child.
Bishop Malcolm McMahon said his diocese of Nottingham would be cutting ties with their adoption agency, the Catholic Children’s Society, because of the law that forces them to consider homosexual partners as equally qualified to adopt as people in natural heterosexual relationships.
“We have been coerced into this, I am not happy about it at all,” the bishop told Catholic News Service April 18. “The regulations have coerced the children’s society into going against the church’s teaching, and we don’t wish to do that.”
The Nottingham agency, together with that of the Northampton Catholic diocese, will become a secular institution “with a Christian character” by merging with the adoption agency of the Anglican Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham in October. The parish churches of the diocese will no longer solicit funds to support the agency.
The Nottingham agency was founded in 1948 by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace and placed 25 children a year with adoptive families.
Contrary to common accusations that Catholics are trying to unjustly discriminate against homosexuals, the Catholic Church holds that its motivation is rather the desire to protect the best interests of children. The Church teaches, according to recent documents from the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, that allowing a child to be adopted by homosexual partners “would actually mean doing violence to these children” by placing them into a situation where their full social and spiritual development would be threatened.
Homosexual partners have had the legal right to adopt children in Britain since 2002. The new law, however, removes the right of Catholic and other Christian agencies to decline to consider homosexuals for adoption.
The move by the Nottingham diocese follows similar decisions made elsewhere in Britain. In the summer of 2007, shortly after the legislation was passed, the Leeds-based Catholic Care, which placed 20 children a year with adoptive families, voted to pull out of adoption services. Bishop Patrick O’Donohue of Lancaster announced at the same time that the Catholic Caring Services, an adoption agency working in Lancashire and Cumbria, will likely close rather than bow to the regulations.
When the legislation passed in 2007, Cormac Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, attempted to find a compromise in which Catholic adoption agencies would be exempt. Tony Blair, later to be received into the Catholic Church by the same Cardinal, refused to consider an exemption. Instead Blair offered his own version of a compromise: Catholic agencies had a year to adjust to adopting children to gay partners or close. That deadline comes at the end of this month.
The conflict comes at the same time that local branches of government continue to discriminate against Christians who volunteer to take in foster children. In November 2007, Vincent and Pauline Matherick, a Christian couple who had fostered children for years, were told by their Somerset council that they would no longer be allowed to continue because of their religious objections to homosexuality. They were later reinstated but only after a media furor and notices to the council by a Christian lawyers’ group.
In February this year, it was reported that a Christian couple in Derby, Eunice and Owen Johns, is suing the local council after their application to foster children was refused because of their religious objections to homosexuality. In addition, the Labour-controlled council adoption panel was said to be “upset” that the couple insisted that children in their care would be required to accompany the family to church on Sundays.
In September 2007, an independent investigation revealed that a local council’s fear of being labeled homophobic had allowed a total of 19 boys to be placed with a pair of homosexual child molesters. Despite growing reservations by staff and complaints from the mother of two of the boys, the Wakefield council placed the children into the care of Ian Wathey and Craig Faunch who were convicted in May 2006 of molesting and filming eight-year-old twins and two 14 year-old boys.
Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
UK Catholic Church Agency to Cease Adoption Work as Government Forces Homosexual Adoption
British Churches Respond: Government Using Orwellian Tactics in Catholic Adoption Row
Investigative Panel: “Gay” Status Helped Couple Get Away with Sexually Abusing Foster Children
Another UK Couple Rejected for Fostering Children over Religious Beliefs on Homosexuality