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Theme: Adoption in Britain

January 29, 2007

CWNews: No exemption for British Catholic adoption agencies

Turning down an appeal from the country’s Catholic hierarchy, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced that Church-run agencies will not be exempt from a new policy requiring equal treatment for same-sex couples.

Saying that “there is no place in our society for discrimination,” Blair announced that all agencies receiving public funds will be required to abide by the anti-discrimination provisions of the Equality Act. The new policy, as applied to adoption agencies, will take effect next year.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster had pleaded for an exemption to allow Catholic agencies to bypass the new rules, and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham had warned that Catholic adoption agencies might be forced to close rather than violate Church teachings. But after a week of reflection– and a reportedly heated debate within his Cabinet– the prime minister rejected that plea.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that Church leaders were “deeply disappointed” by the decision announced on January 29, but stopped short of saying that the Catholic hierarchy would oppose passage of the Equality Act when it comes before Parliament in April.

ICN: Government offers adoption agencies no exemption from gay rights law

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor released the following statement in response to the news:

It is clear from the Prime Minister’s statement that he has listened to some of the concerns of the Catholic Church in regard to its adoption agencies.

We are, of course, deeply disappointed that no exemption will be granted to our agencies on the grounds of widely held religious conviction and conscience. We look to the forthcoming Parliamentary debate to address some of the fundamental issues centred on the well-being of the child, whose needs must always be put first.

We note and welcome, however, the Government’s expressed desire that the experience and excellent work of our agencies is not lost, especially for the benefit of needy children.

We appreciate the two year period that will be established for independent assessment. We note that one of its purposes will be to “ensure the valuable expertise of faith-based adoption agencies in successfully placing the most vulnerable children, including the full range of post-adoption services, is retained and developed”(Terms of Reference). We understand that Local Authorities will continue to work with and fund our Catholic agencies in their vital and sensitive work during this period.

This debate has raised crucial issues for the common good of our society. We believe there is an urgent task to reach a new consensus on how best the public role of religious organisations can be safeguarded and their rights upheld.

An important part of our Catholic tradition is to work constructively with the Government in mutually respectful cooperation, in which we can act with confidence and integrity in the service of the common good.

Times Online: Down Westminster corridors the poison is flowing

The amount of vitriol being whispered in Westminster corridors this week shows how shallowly buried are the old prejudices. “I’m not going to have some bloody reactionary German Pope dictate the law of our land,” said one minister. Another admitted, only half-jokingly, that his mother had always told him: “Never trust a Catholic.” And a third asked: “Where’s all the child abuse and paedophilia? In the Catholic Church. They should get their own bloody house in order and sort out the way paedophilia lies hidden.”

(…)

Oddly, had the Catholic position been more hardline, it might have stood more of a chance. But once Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Birmingham, admitted on Tuesday’s Newsnight that his agencies were happy to place children with single gay people, but not couples, his argument fell apart. Surely two parents are better than one? If single homosexuals are acceptable, why not a couple committed to each other? The widespread view was that he couldn’t have it both ways: either homosexuality was wrong or it wasn’t. Equally, Catholic agencies are prepared to place children with cohabiting heterosexual couples, even though the Church disapproves of sex before marriage. As one Cabinet minister put it: “If there was a religious principle at stake here, they sold the pass several years ago.”

Times Online: Response by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham

Sir, In quoting my remarks on Newsnight, Mary Ann Sieghart (comment, Jan 26) has, uncharacteristically, missed the point. Catholic concerns are not prejudice against people of a homosexual orientation but are focused on the wellbeing of children.

If the judgment is made that a particular child is best placed with a single parent, then the sexual orientation of that parent may well not be relevant. The Catholic Church teaches that to identify people by their sexuality is to diminish them.

The point of our concern about same-sex couples is precisely that they are a couple. They offer, in day-to-day living, a partnership in parenting that lacks the complementarity of male and female. They also offer to the child a very particular model of adult sexuality which will be deeply formative. This is not so in the case of a single parent.

The point of the current debate, however, is to find a way in which choice and diversity can be maintained within the adoption service.

The Guardian: No exemptions for gay adoption laws

Tony Blair has announced there would be “no exemptions” from gay rights laws for faith-based adoption agencies.

But the Prime Minister said in a statement that the new rules would not come into force until the end of 2008.

Until then there will be a “statutory duty” for religious agencies to refer gay couples to other agencies, he added.

Mr Blair’s official spokesman said the statement reflected the Government’s position, and the Commons would not be given a free vote.

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, a prominent catholic who was thought to be demanding exemptions for the church, greeted the announcement as a “breakthrough” that should be “welcomed by everyone”.

In a statement, Ms Kelly said the approach represented “a positive breakthrough in eliminating discrimination while recognising the need for a practical approach that ensures the most vulnerable children are found loving homes”….

The Independent: Cherie Blair ‘split Cabinet in Catholic adoption row’

Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, a committed Catholic, was accused of seeking to gain an opt-out for the Church. But Ms Kelly and the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, have privately told MPs the pressure for an exemption has come from the Prime Minister.

“They said Tony is the one who has been asking for this exemption, not Ruth, who is pretty annoyed at the way she has been presented in the media,” said a senior Labour MP. “Another cabinet minister told me it’s all coming from Cherie.”

Mrs Blair is also a committed Catholic and there has been speculation that Mr Blair will convert to Catholicism when he leaves office. He and his wife had a private audience with Pope John Paul II and Mr Blair met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican last June. The Prime Minister went to Catholic Mass in Miami over the New Year break.

The Prime Minister’s office confirmed yesterday that Mr Blair had taken charge of the issue and was “looking for a way through”. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “This is an issue with sensitivities on all sides and the Prime Minister recognises that. This is not a straightforward black and white issue. This is an issue where there are sensitivities on all sides and we have to respect those but equally find a way through.”

William Rees-Mogg: Now, all our English liberties are becoming orphans

The dispute all starts with a European regulation — with one of those European incursions into British sovereignty that hardly one British person in a thousand was aware of at the time it happened. We think that we are free people, but 80 per cent of our laws come from Brussels, and cannot be rejected by the British Parliament or, indeed, by the British electorate.

If we do not like what Brussels decrees, there is only one thing that we can do. We can lump it. We certainly have no power to repeal it. Christopher Booker, who reports on European law very thoroughly, has told us where the story did actually begin. Brussels adopted a general directive, 2000/78, that gave a framework for equal treatment in “employment and education”. It outlaws any “discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”. There is a feast of possible future litigation in those words.

Brussels was, in fact, rather more cautious than usual. Having in mind the Roman Catholic populations of Poland, and perhaps of Malta, where almost everyone goes to church at least on every Sunday, it added a clause stating that the EU “respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations”. Brussels left the member states free to make specific provisions for religion. As a result, the Polish Government exempted Catholic adoption agencies from having to arrange adoptions for single-sex partnerships.

The British Government would have none of this. It chose to redefine “employment” and “occupation” to include the work of adoption agencies. It also chose not to exempt the Catholic agencies in respect of single-sex partnerships. This is a secular Government with a secular programme. It is also a Government that is very open to influence by lobbies. Rightly or wrongly, it is more afraid of the gay than the Catholic lobby.

The response of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, who are moderate men with a somewhat left-of-centre view of society, was to ask for an exemption. The Church does not accept gay marriages as valid. Ruth Kelly, the Minister for Equality and herself a Roman Catholic, did want to make an exception; indeed she still does. Tony Blair would have liked to support her; the Cabinet wanted a fully secularist policy, of a universal character, except in Scotland, where Catholic agencies would, reasonably enough, be allowed to refer single-sex partners to non-Catholic agencies.

(…)

The Cabinet, less Ruth Kelly and Tony Blair, is trying to impose its will on the Roman Catholic Church, which has become the representative of liberty as such. I do not doubt that the Catholic hierarchy will stand up for themselves. They have the full support of the Anglican Archbishops of York and Canterbury. They deserve everyone’s support. The European philosophers are represented by the universalism of Immanuel Kant, who believed in the “categorical imperative”, which he defined in this way: “I am never to act otherwise than so that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law.” How English Mill seems; how un-English Kant was; how Kantian our human rights law has now become; how rapidly we are losing our liberties. Is it not strange that the weakest Government in modern memory should also represent the most insidious threat to our liberties?

See also:
LifeSite: Official Anti-Catholic Bigotry Returns to British Parliament
LifeSite: Birmingham Archbishop: “Oh by the way,” Britain’s Catholic Adoption Agencies Already Adopt to Gay Singles
Times Online: Catholics get time to adjust to gay rights
Sunday Herald: Crisis of faith
SundayTimes: Gay basher? Blackmailer? Not me. Dear God, no

Update:
Diogenes: sinners in the hands of an angry state

Note what’s going on here. In ordinary discourse, the wrongness of discrimination has to do with discrimination that results in deprivation of something of value (e.g., housing, school admission, etc.). But in this case that doesn’t apply: the Church has no monopoly on adoption services, and, regrettably, the Church’s prohibition in favor of the child doesn’t prevent gays from adopting or even incommode them. They can freely go to alterative agencies to effect their project. That’s to say, the Church’s so-called discrimination — more accurately termed “discretion guided by moral sanity” — has zero restrictive effect on the disfavored group.

Then why is it intolerable to let the Church practice this harmless instance of “discrimination”? Because the state has deemed it to be sinful in itself. Even if no person is wronged in a juridically intelligible way, the state has taken upon itself the duty to enforce a code of gay-positive morality…

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor/Telegraph: Regulation must not trump conscience

The imposition of such anti-discrimination legislation becomes the creation of new rules of normality, which, in this case, simply push the point too far. The first consequence is plain: any organisation that is not prepared to conform to this new normality has no part to play in this public service. Any organisation that wants to act on the conviction that the best interests of a child are served by being brought up by a mother and father is barred from publicly funded service in the work of adoption.

It would seem that a gulf is opening up between the requirements of this legislation and most people’s instincts regarding the needs of children.

There is a second consequence of these regulations. The conviction of what is best for a child, even when exceptions are permitted, is shared by all the major religious faiths in this country.

The deepest convictions of the Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Sikh faiths are that a child prospers in the care of a father and a mother.

Leaders of these faiths have appealed for space in which this conviction can be respected in the public sector. They have appealed for respect for their religious conscience, so that the contribution of well-established agencies, working for the common good, such as Catholic adoption agencies, can continue. These appeals have been turned down. We are being told that, in this matter of adoption, religious conscience is over-ruled by regulation…

More:
Guardian: Catholic agencies given deadline to comply on same-sex adoptions
LifeSite: British Churches Respond: Government Using Orwellian Tactics in Catholic Adoption Row
VFR: As liberalism reveals its true evil, reader sees that “conservatives” have no real opposition to it

Christopher Booker’s notebook/Telegraph: An Equality Act that disrespects Catholics

The sight of Chris Bryant and Angela Eagle, the Government’s gay and lesbian shock troops, accusing the Catholic Church of trying to “blackmail” the Government over the gay adoption issue prompted me to look at the explanatory notes to the Equality Act 2006 which set this furore in motion. The chief inspiration for the Act was EU directive 2000/78, “a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation” that outlaws any form of “discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”.

Our Government chose to extend the meaning of “employment and occupation” to adoption. But the directive also includes a clause stating that the EU “respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations”; and that “Member States may maintain or lay down specific provisions on genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirements which might be required for carrying out an occupational activity”.

In other words, our Government could have allowed the Catholic Church still to refuse the adoption of children by gay couples (as is the case in other EU countries such as Poland), but it has deliberately decided not to make use of that exemption.

Related Posts:
Theme: The De-Christianization of Britain

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One Comment
  1. http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=145842007

    Interesting article concerning a response in the Scottish church.

    ‘Catholic Church is to go to war over new legislation on rights for homosexuals, vowing to create “gay rights martyrs” if the laws are passed.’

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