A Welsh Catholic adoption agency, which has been in operation since 1947, is cutting its ties with the Catholic Church because of new rules that force adoption agencies to consider placing children with homosexual couples.
One adoption agency chief executive described the decision as the “darkest hour in 150 years of Catholic social work in Britain.”
The St. David's Children's Society, which covers the three Welsh dioceses of Cardiff, Menevia and Wrexham, is the oldest adoption agency in Wales and reports it has placed nearly 2,000 children with families over sixty years. In the year ending March 31, 2006, 30 children were adopted through the society, representing 14 percent of all Welsh adoptees that year.
Trustees of the society, which was founded by the Church, argue that if they are to remain in operation they have no choice but to cut their links to the Catholic bishops and become an independent charity to comply with the new Sexual Orientation Regulations of the 2006 Equality Act, the Catholic Herald reports.
Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair had given the charities until January 1 2009 to resolve the situation.
"The situation is one in which really we have to either fully comply with the regulations or to close, St. David’s Children’s Society director Gerry Cooney told the Catholic Herald.
"We are in the process of fully complying with the regulations. That will mean separation from the dioceses. We are aiming to be fully compliant in the near future.
"It is a very sensitive issue and a very difficult issue. The bishops have said that it is a situation not of their making and there have been no easy decisions taken at this time."
The society is the third largest Catholic adoption agency in England and Wales. It will become the fifth to have severed its Church affiliations in the wake of the new regulations.
The Catholic Children's Rescue Society of the Diocese of Salford decided to end its adoption operations in response to the new rules, while the Catholic Children's Society in the Archdiocese of Westminster hopes to remain under Church authority and to challenge the laws in court.
The Father Hudson's Society of the Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Nugent Care Society of the Archdiocese of Liverpool also could join in the legal challenge, the Catholic Herald says.
Ann Widdecombe, a Catholic former Tory Minister criticized the new law, which she argued made a crisis “inevitable.”
"It is ludicrous. No one is benefiting from this law. Homosexual couples could already adopt, they just couldn't adopt through Father O'Flaherty. The very difficult placements the Catholic Church was so good at are at risk of being lost and it will be those children who depend most upon this service who are going to suffer."
Widdecombe blamed the Ministers and MPs who supported the regulations. She said the bishops had fought a brave and vigorous public campaign to retain their adoption agencies.
She argued that the government should have granted an exemption to the agencies if it had wanted them to continue their services.
The St. David’s Children’s Society issued a statement on its web site, saying:
“You may have become aware through the media, of the government's intention to implement the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which will have an impact on the Catholic Adoption Agencies. We wish to reassure you that we are still very much in business. As widely documented in the press over recent weeks, our services are very much in demand and are highly valued.
“The Trustees and staff of the Society remain fully committed to providing our full range of adoption services, and in due course will be agreeing the best way forward to ensure that the well being and interests of children, and all our service users remain at the heart of future development plans for the agency. We remain confident about our future."