.- The Catholic hierarchy in the United Kingdom is facing serious questions today following Prime Minister Tony Blair’s declaration last night that Catholic adoption agencies in the United Kingdom will not be exempt from a new law requiring them to provide children for homosexual couples. While the Church in England and Wales has announced its disappointment at the decision, Scotland’s Catholic hierarchy has already declared that it will not close its adoption programs without a fight.
Blair’s cabinet made the decision late yesterday to deny the request of the Catholic Church for an exemption from a law that would require all adoption agencies in the U.K. to place children with homosexual couples.
The Roman Catholic Church holds that homosexual lifestyles spring from an intrinsically disordered desire and that as such, a household led by a homosexual couple is not a healthy place for the raising of children.
While the Catholic Church of England and Wales forewarned that the decision to require Catholic agencies to provide adoption services to homosexuals would result in their closing, Archbishop Mario Conti, speaking for the Church in Scotland, has insinuated that the Church plans on fighting the decision.
Conti, the Archbishop of Glasgow and Vice-president of the Scottish Bishops Conference said late last week that agencies would continue to work as normal, and that it would be the government that forced them to close by not allowing them to work within their conscience.
The archbishop admitted that, "Catholic adoption agencies would be unlikely to retain registration, given that they would be unable to comply with the proposed regulations."
A spokesman for the Church in Scotland has said that the Church may have legal ground for fighting the regulations. “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,” he said according to Lifesite.com Article 9 of the Human Rights Act affirms the right of freedom of religious expression.
Nonetheless, Peter Kearney, the Catholic Church's spokesman in Scotland, conceded to the Daily Record that ultimately the agencies will be forced to close, saying, "It is impossible to see how a Catholic adoption agency could remain in business. This is a full-scale assault on religious belief.
But, he added, "It is not just a Catholic Church issue. It affects anyone who has a belief that says homosexuals are not on a par and should not be equated with heterosexual marriage.”
"Anyone who holds that belief could be in a position where they break the law."
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, echoed Kearney’s sentiments, expressing his dismay this morning that the Church’s beliefs will now be subject to legal action for discrimination, "We are, of course, deeply disappointed that no exemption will be granted to our agencies on the grounds of widely held religious beliefs," he said.
"This debate has raised crucial issues for the common good of our society,” the Cardinal added. "We believe there is an urgent task to reach a new consensus on how best the public role of religious organizations can be safeguarded and their rights upheld."
The Catholic position had also been backed by leaders of the Church of England as well as some Muslim clerics.
"The freedom of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning," the Archbishop of York John Sentamu told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Sentamu, whose church has ordained homosexual priests and allows them to marry so long as they refrain from sex, said he opposes all forms of discrimination.
"But when you overlegislate and intervene too much in people's private lives, I think in the long run you end up with a statute being used to cure all ills, which it cannot.”
The Catholic Church in Scotland, England, and Wales now has 21 months to either close its adoption agencies or face legal action for non-compliance.