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Catholic Charities and Gay Adoption

3/25/2006 - 7:00 AM PST

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Father Roger Landry on the Conflict in Massachusetts

NEW BEDFORD, Massachusetts, MARCH 25, 2006 (Zenit) - Local Catholic Charities leaders have said they made a legal accommodation for a greater social good when they facilitated 13 adoptions of children in foster care to same-sex couples.

They contended that if they did not comply with Massachusetts' non-discrimination policy, they would no longer be able to fulfill a state contract that has allowed them to place hundreds of other foster care children in stable homes.

For insight into the situation, we turned to Father Roger Landry, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish and executive editor of the Anchor, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River.

He shared with us the history and issues that led to the gay adoptions, and how the Massachusetts bishops and concerned laity can defend the Church.

Q: How did the Church ever find itself in this dilemma?

Father Landry: There's both a civil and an ecclesiastical history.

In 1993, the commonwealth of Massachusetts passed anti-discrimination legislation that included protections for same-sex individuals. The impact on adoptions was somewhat muted because of the preference in general for married couples in adoptive placements.

When, however, the state's Supreme Judicial Court by a 4-3 judicial fiat created same-sex pseudo-matrimony, and endowed it with all the same rights as traditional marriage, it brought greater attention to adoption by same-sex couples.

When the Boston Globe in 2004 looked into how Catholic Charities in Boston was dealing with the issue, they discovered that Catholic Charities had already facilitated 13 adoptions of children in foster care to same-sex couples. That came as a shock to almost everyone.

Practicing Catholics, especially those who were working so hard to defend the institution of marriage, felt a deep sense of betrayal.

The leaders of Catholic Charities have said they made a legal accommodation in the name of a greater social good. If they did not comply with the state's non-discrimination policy, they stated, they would no longer be able to fulfill a state contract that has allowed them to place hundreds of needy kids from foster care in stable homes.

So even though they may have requested an exemption from the state law back
in 1993, they never applied.

Q: What are the options for the Church in this case? It is possible for the Church to work with the state and still be loyal to the Gospel?

Father Landry: The bishops of the commonwealth, along with their political and lobbying arm, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, have announced that they will seek an exemption from the non-discrimination policy from any of the three branches of government that will provide it.

Governor Mitt Romney has been sympathetic to the bishops and has filed a bill to grant an exemption, but stated that he has no authority to issue an executive order in the Church's favor. Many of the state's top legislative leaders have announced their reluctance or outright opposition to granting such an exemption.

The Church may have to sue, but many wonder whether the activist judiciary that gave us same sex pseudo-matrimony will treat the case according to the law rather than their own personal ideas.

Since the 1993 non-discrimination policy was announced, the Diocese of Worcester has been referring same-sex couples seeking adoption to non-Catholic agencies, minimizing their cooperation with this unjust law.

While a spokesperson for the state Department of Social Services claims that this practice is in violation of state rules, there really has been no crackdown.

State adoption officials, I think, realize that the Catholic Church's participation in adoption services is crucial for the welfare of children and, as long as same-sex couples still have access to adopting children through other agencies, authorities seem to look the other way. No one paid much attention to the practical compromise until the Globe article.

I think some accommodation like the Worcester practice will be possible once state authorities recognize that the Catholic bishops are firm in principle and ready to persevere. Most politicians would prefer that the issue go away and many seem to be hoping that if they do nothing to help the Church, the bishops will cave and adopt the policy practiced by Boston Catholic Charities.

I think some accommodation like the Worcester practice will be possible once state authorities recognize that the Catholic bishops are firm in principle and ready to persevere. When Boston Catholic Charities, influenced by Cardinal-designate Sean O'Malley, announced on March 10 that they will not renew a contract with the state to facilitate adoptions, the dynamics of the ...

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