Church leaders are defending the last remaining Catholic adoption agency in England and Wales against homosexual equality laws that will force it to close. They say children in the agency’s care will suffer, charging that the government is trying to force the agency to disregard Church teaching.
Last Sunday, three bishops said that they were taking the case of the Catholic Care adoption agency to the High Court, the Catholic Herald reports. The agency finds homes for about 20 hard-to-place children each year.
Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, Bishop John Rawsthorne of Hallam and Bishop Terry Drainey of Middlesbrough, said in a letter read at Masses that the government is trying to force the agency to operate “with disregard to the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life.”
They said the agency consistently placed “some of the most vulnerable children” in a service that has operated for over 100 years. But despite this work, the bishops charged, “we are being invited either to stop our adoption work or stop being a Catholic charity altogether.”
The bishops stated that vulnerable children have the right to a loving family and that the closure of the Catholic agency would eliminate an “effective and well-respected resource.”
Catholic Care serves the dioceses of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Hallam. It is the only one of 11 Catholic adoption agencies in England and Wales that is continuing to fight the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs). The 2007 law barred discrimination against homosexual couples in the provisions of goods and services. Leaders of all the mainstream religious faiths protested the legislation.
The law obliged Catholic adoption agencies to assess homosexual couples as potential adopters or foster parents, the Catholic Herald says. Because of Catholic teaching on homosexuality, adoption agencies have either been closed or disaffiliated from the Church.
The prelates said it is in the interests of children that the agency’s work continue, adding that they are not judging other agencies which accept homosexual couples for adoption.
“We should not be forced to do so, nor is there a necessity for this to happen. We believe that this is a legally justifiable position," they wrote. “Children have a right to a family life. There are too many children awaiting adoption and Catholic Care has a vital and a special role in helping very vulnerable children by finding loving families for them.”
Catholic Care had applied to the Charity Commission to change its charitable mission so it could appeal for an exemption under a regulation allowing limited discrimination.
However, the Charity Tribunal said it could not continue as an adoption agency unless it accepted homosexual couples. The regulation could not be a defense because the proposed alteration “arose substantially out of a desire to maintain a principled stance” rather than advance the charitable purpose of care for children without families.
The appeal to the High Court began last Wednesday.