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Christian Principles Outlawed

2/5/2007 - 6:00 AM PST

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British Government Squeezes Out Catholic Adoption Agencies

By Father John Flynn

ROME, FEB. 5, 2007 (Zenit) - Catholic adoption agencies in Britain run the risk of being forced out of business. On Jan. 29 British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that there will be no exemption from anti-discrimination laws for the Catholic agencies.

The new regulations will be voted on in Parliament this month and come into force April 6, according to a BBC report Jan. 29. The Equality Act, valid for England, Wales and Scotland, prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation.

The only concession to the Church is that Catholic agencies will have a breathing space before they are obliged, by the end of 2008, to accept same-sex couples as prospective adoptive parents. Until that time they can refer homosexual couples to other adoption agencies.

In a statement issued the same day as the government's announcement, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, said he was "deeply disappointed" at the decision not to give the Catholic organizations an exemption based on religious conviction and conscience.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor expanded on his position in an opinion article published in the British newspaper Telegraph on Jan. 31. He noted that all parties recognized the "outstanding contribution" Catholic agencies make to the common good, a point recognized by the prime minister himself.

The cardinal objected that the regulations go against the view of most people that children need a father and a mother. In addition, all the major faiths active in Britain share the "deepest convictions" that a child "prospers in the care of a father and a mother."

Respecting conscience

This was demonstrated by the show of support Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor received from leaders of various faiths.

Anglican archbishops Rowan Williams of Canterbury and John Sentamu of York sent a letter Jan. 23 to the prime minister in which they said: "The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning."

Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the "right to practice one's faith or the freedom to have no belief is a cornerstone of our society," reported the Times on Jan. 26.

The grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, Ian Wilson, also declared his support for the position of the Catholic Church. "There has to be more tolerance of the views of people of faith, and that includes the cardinal," said Wilson in a report published by the Scotsman newspaper Jan. 31.

The previous day the Scotsman published an article reporting declarations by a spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Media Office, who warned that the new regulations will create serious problems for Catholics.

"This is UK-wide regulation that will impact on anyone who provides goods and services, from the priest who refuses to hire the parish hall to a same-sex couple, to the editor of a Catholic newspaper who refuses to carry a gay pride advertisement, or a printer who refuses to print those advertisements -- they will all be criminalized by this draconian measure," he said.

In the days leading up to the government's decision, many commentators warned of the dangers involved in not respecting the religious liberty of Catholic adoption agencies.

"There has been much talk of rejecting discrimination," commented William Rees-Mogg, opinion writer for the Times newspaper Jan. 29. But there was never a question of taking away liberties for same-sex couples, who have the legal right to adopt. Rather, it is a question of a government that seems to fear the gay lobby more than the Catholic one, imposing its will on the Catholic Church.

Stephen Glover, in an opinion piece published by the Daily Mail newspaper on Jan. 25, observed that the Catholic Church was not threatening anyone, and only wanted Catholics to be allowed to follow their consciences, according to the centuries-old values held by many millions of people. Hardly an extreme position, he observed.

Andrew Pierce, who declared himself to be an "adopted gay Catholic," announced his support for the Church in an article published by the Telegraph newspaper Jan. 27. Reflecting on the work of Catholic adoption agencies, he noted that last year they placed 230 children. A small number of the overall total, but they handled 32% of the so-called difficult-to-place children.

"Decades of experience will be lost if the agencies are squeezed out by the conflicting forces of Church and state," stated Pierce. After all, he noted, homosexuals don't have to go to the Catholic agencies if they want to adopt.

Mary Dejevsky, writing for the Independent newspaper Jan. 25, also noted that ...

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