.- The largest Catholic adoption agency in England and Wales has decided to implement an adoption policy that does not rule out same-sex couples in the face of new laws that forbid such screening. The change in its adoption policy was made with the full support of the bishops who oversee the agency.
The decision, made by the Catholic Childrenâs Society of Arundel and Brighton, Portsmouth and Southwark (A&BSP) means the society will not turn away any homosexual couples who present themselves as potential adopters.
Terry Connor, chief executive of the society, explained to The Universe that any changes would not start until January and were a direct result of the recent Sexual Orientation Regulations which enforced ârightsâ for same sex couples who wish to adopt.
The move will undoubtedly be seen as controversial in some quarters. In January 2007, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor wrote to the-then Prime Minister Tony Blair suggesting that Catholic adoption agencies in England and Wales would be forced to close down if they were not allowed to opt out of new gay rights laws, which he said contradicted Catholic teaching.
The cardinal said forcing people to act against their consciences would mean discrimination on the grounds of belief, adding that it would be an "unnecessary tragedy" if Catholic agencies were forced to close.
In the cardinal's Westminster archdiocese, the Catholic Children's Society has opted to mount a legal challenge to the regulations by amending its constitution. But A&BSP, which prepares between 40-50 potential adoptive parents a year, has instead decided to comply with them.
In a letter sent to the society's supporters by Mr. Connor, he suggested that such a course offered the "only transparent, straightforward and guaranteed way of preserving our full range of much needed services for some of the most vulnerable children in the country."
His letter added that the bishops concerned - together with trustees, management and staff - had all agreed that, in the circumstances, it was the most reasonable and responsible course of action for the greater good.
Mr. Connor also stated clearly that that eligibility to apply to adopt a child was only the first step on the road to adoption.
"I suspect if a same-sex couple arrives at any of the agencies just to test out the system, they will not get very far," he said this week.
âWe do not know whether we will actually be asked to consider same sex couples for the placing of children because, statistically, very few same sex couples go for adoption anyway.â
"We have to give an interview to same sex couples asking to be considered for adoption. But we are not anticipating we are going to get lots of same sex couples. It is much more likely that they will go to their local authority because it is the local authority which makes decisions about matching children with approved adopters, not the society.â
Mr. Connor added: "We need to make it very clear that the assessment of any adopters is very thorough. It is not about finding children for adults, but it is about finding families for very difficult children.â
"There are bishops who are taking the legal route about this, but ours are not. It remains to be seen whether that would result in more difficulties for their agencies.â