Catholics in San Francisco and throughout the United States continue to be confused by the decision of San Francisco Catholic Charities to persist in facilitating adoptions to homosexual couples, an action which the Church has spoken out against.

In announcement made two weeks ago, San Francisco Catholic Charities decided that while it will close its own adoption services, it will continue to outsource personnel to an agency that facilitates adoptions in the area, including adoptions to homosexual couples.

Many claim that the motivating factor for Catholic Charities’ decision to change its policy on adoption is increasing pressure from the Vatican.  In 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), headed by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, released a document entitled Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons.  The CDF document makes clear that the Catholic Church does not approve of or wish to take part in the adoption of children by couples living an active homosexual lifestyle.  Since the document’s release little visible action had taken place on the part of Catholic Charities, that is, until this year.

Following the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop William Levada, who at the time was Archbishop of San Francisco, was chosen to take his place as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  

In the midst of the transition, some questioned the fact that San Francisco Catholic Charities, along with the Catholic Charities of Boston, continued to place children with homosexual couples.  

Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Levada issued a statement admitting that children had been placed in the custody of homosexual partners while he was in San Francisco but declaring that appropriate action should now be taken to ensure that the practice did not continue by any Church organization.

With a directive for action coming from the Vatican, the foundational identities of Catholic Charities of Boston and San Francisco came head to head with state legislation prohibiting the “discriminatory action” of not adopting to homosexual couples.

The decision of Boston’s Catholic Charities, which came on March 10th of this year, was to fully cease their adoption services and transfer all open cases to the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.  During the period of decision-making, seven members of Boston’s Catholic Charities Board of Directors resigned, telling the Boston Globe that they disagreed with the Church’s teaching on homosexual adoption.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco also responded to the issue in March.  Archbishop George Niederauer announced that the organizations of the archdiocese, including Catholic Charities, “fully accept and faithfully teach what the Catholic Church teaches on marriage and family life.”  As such, Niederauer said, the archdiocese would begin considering a course of action that would best serve children.

When asked to clarify, the official spokesman for the archdiocese, Maurice Healy, said that gay adoptions would no longer be allowed.  However Brian Cahill, Executive Director for Catholic Charities of San Francisco, quickly replied through the press that Mr. Healy was mistaken and that a different solution was being sought.

A concrete plan for San Francisco’s Catholic Charities, was finally announced just this month. The plan was not for the organization to pull entirely out of adoptions but rather to continue funding workers who would work for California Kids Connection, which is an information and outreach service of Family Builders by Adoption, an organization who actively places children with homosexual couples.  

Herein lays the confusion for many Catholics.  While San Francisco Catholic Charities says its employees will not technically be placing children into the custody of homosexual couples, it would be promoting the services of Family Builders and guiding both homosexual couples and children in need of families into homosexual adoptions.

But Family Builders is not simply “open” to homosexual adoption.  According to their website, Family Builders offers special support groups for gay and lesbian families, and says that they “are the only agency which has a program and a staff person devoted exclusively to outreach in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community,” in order to encourage more adoptions by homosexual couples.  

Their web site also claims that, “Family Builders has been in the forefront of advocating for public policy and practice changes in the adoption field to provide the opportunity for LGBT families to adopt.  Family Builders is a lead partner in the newly formed Bay Area LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) Youth Task Force, along with Legal Services for Children, and The National Center for Lesbian Rights.”

Jill Jacobs, executive director of Family Builders, told the Bay Area Reporter yesterday that, “We're about the gayest adoption agency in the country."

The Bay Area Reporter said that Jacobs noted that it was important for her organization to make sure Catholic Charities "really knew who we were, and that in our own adoption program more than half the families we serve are LGBT families.”

“I ask myself, ‘How is this not supporting homosexual adoption?’” Vivian Dudro, a San Francisco resident, told CNA. Dudro, who has lived with her husband and four children in the area for the last ten years, says that her family has given to Catholic Charities through parish appeals nearly annually.  

“When I found out that these adoptions had already been occurring I felt betrayed.  Now I learn that (Catholic Charities employees) are going to continue to assist in placing children into the hands of homosexual couples and I just wonder, ‘What is going on?  How is the Church’s teaching not clear?’”

Vivian, who works full time raising her children, is not alone in her confusion. Several moral theologians, familiar with Church teaching on the issue, are also unclear as to how the Catholic organization is rationalizing their participation.  Dr. William May, a professor at the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Family and Marriage, told CNA that he’s not sure why Catholic Charities thinks they are not acting contrary to the Church’s teaching.

“I find it difficult to reconcile the actions of Catholic Charities of San Francisco with the 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” May said.

Dr. May pointed to a paragraph of the document which considers the fact that homosexual unions lack in both the biological and anthropological elements that make up a marriage.  The CDF document states that children should not be placed into such a situation.  “As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons,” it says. “They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood.”  In other words, the best environment for raising children involves a mother and a father.

The document continues, “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.”

Such actions, the Vatican says, are “gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.”

May also pointed to a paragraph of the document which discusses what action individual Catholics and Church organizations should take in situations, such as the ones which exist in Boston and San Francisco, in which governments recognize homosexual partnerships as equal to marriage.  The document states that in such situations, “clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.”

What is more, the document says that, “One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application.”

Cahill, who was unavailable after repeated phone calls from CNA, told the Boston Globe last week that in his opinion, the only thing the Vatican was saying is that Catholics should not directly place children into the custody of homosexuals.  Cahill said that the Catholic Charities staffers will assist any prospective foster or adoptive parents who approaches California Kids Connection, regardless of sexual orientation, and if that work leads to a match between a gay parent and a foster child, that is fine. "God loves them all," he said.

Cahill repeated his views in the Bay Area Reporter this week saying that adoption to homosexual couples has never been an issue for his staff.  “It only came onto the radar after it became an issue in Rome,” he said.  

“We should be praising (those adopting) regardless of sexual orientation and thanking them for what they are doing.”

Under the new agreement, Cahill said, his staff will, in the end, do more of what they want to do. “It's impossible not to use the word 'irony' in this situation,” he remarked, “Out of what could have been a crisis came a great opportunity.  We actually are going to increase our role in adoptions. And working with Family Builders will actually help them double and triple the number of kids who are up on their Web site.”

The Catholic Charities partnership may even result in more LGBT families adopting children than before, the Bay Area Reporter said.

Which leaves the faithful wondering what is happening with the Catholic organization to whom they’ve given money and support as well as with the archdiocese, which is supposed to be following Catholic teaching.  “I don’t see how they don’t understand that this may not be good for a child, especially one who is coming from a difficult situation already,” Vivian Dudro wondered.  

Reconciling questions such as Dudro’s will ultimately be the task Archbishop Niederauer.  The archbishop is officially the Chairman of the Board of San Francisco Catholic Charities.  However, Cahill has praised the Archbishop for his “hand’s off” approach to the decision, “If we were precluded from helping gay or lesbian parents then we would not be able to work with anyone,” Cahill said of the decision. “So rather than shut it down, we came up with something. The good news is that the new archbishop (Niederauer) was very pastoral and gave us an opportunity to develop a creative solution to serve everyone,” he told the Bay Avenue Reporter.

Rather than being created based on directives from the archbishop, the paper says, the decision for partnership was hammered out after months of meetings and consultations between Catholic Charities and Family Builders, members of the San Francisco community, and elected officials.  Other than Cahill and Niederauer the top representative for Catholic Charities is Clint Reilly, the President of the Board.

Reilly, who was appointed to his post by then Archbishop Levada, is a San Francisco businessman and philanthropist who has raised a great deal of money for the archdiocese over the years.  Reilly helped Levada found the Archbishop’s Charity Council and the Archbishop’s Loaves and Fishes Dinner, which has raised millions for the archdiocese and Catholic Charities.  

Reilly also has had a very successful career in the political realm.  Aside from an unsuccessful run for Mayor in 1999, Reilly has been highly involved in political activism and for many years ran a campaign management firm, called Clinton Reilly Campaigns.  Clients of Reilly have included, U.S. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as fellow Democrats, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.  

Although Reilly has officially retired from his political campaigning, he continues to support and advise candidates including his wife, during her run for California State Assembly this year and is considered to wield considerable political power within the city and state.

With such political power on the side of Catholic Charities, many wonder how the agreement allows the organization to take on a roll which seems so much at odds with the 2003 Church document.  Dudro and others wonder why Catholic Charities felt necessary to continue their adoption work, instead of making a clean break, such as Boston’s organization did.  

“It seems that the leadership of the Archdiocese decided that they were willing to sacrifice the children and the lay faithful in the pews so as not to earn the displeasure of the politically powerful in this city,” Dudro said.

“It’s as if political power and money have overshadowed the Truth of the Church’s teaching.”