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 CNS Story:

ADOPTION Mar-13-2006 (1,030 words) xxxn

Catholic Charities in Boston Archdiocese to end adoption services

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic Charities of the Boston Archdiocese announced March 10 that it will stop providing adoption services rather than continue to comply with a state law requiring no discrimination against gay and lesbian couples who seek to adopt.

The same day Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called it "a mistake for our laws to put the rights of adults over the needs of children" and said he would seek legislation allowing religious agencies to perform adoptions without violating their religious tenets.

Prompted by a similar issue arising at Catholic Charities of San Francisco, a top Vatican official has said Catholic agencies should not be involved in adoptions by same-sex couples.

"We have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve," said Father J. Bryan Hehir, Boston Catholic Charities president, and Jeffrey Kaneb, chairman of the board of trustees, in a joint statement March 10.

They said the agency "cannot reconcile the teaching of the church, which guides our work, and the statutes and regulations of the commonwealth," under which archdiocesan adoptive services had placed 13 children with same-sex couples over the past 20 years.

A 2003 Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document says it would be "gravely immoral" to let same-sex couples adopt children.

"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 development," said the document.

Massachusetts laws and regulations, however, require adoption agencies contracting with the state not to discriminate against same-sex couples who seek to adopt children.

A similar issue has arisen in Catholic Charities of the San Francisco Archdiocese which, in collaboration with government agencies, has placed five children with same-sex couples in recent years.

Cardinal-designate William J. Levada, who headed the San Francisco Archdiocese during those years but is now head of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, said March 9 that since the 2003 Vatican document, "it has been, and remains, my position that Catholic agencies should not place children for adoption in homosexual households."

After The Boston Globe reported that Boston archdiocesan Catholic Charities had arranged the adoption of 13 children by same-sex couples over the past 20 years, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference formed a committee to review the issue.

In a statement Feb. 28 the state's bishops urged the government to give Catholic adoption agencies an exemption to the requirement of equal treatment for same-sex couples seeking to adopt.

Catholic agencies in the state have provided adoptive services for more than a century "out of the religious and moral conviction that we should act in support of children in need and parents who seek to respond to those needs," the bishops said.

"Because of the church's teaching, Catholic agencies may not provide adoptions to same-sex couples," they said.

Seven of the 42 members of the Boston Catholic Charities board resigned in protest over the bishops' decision to seek a licensing exemption, saying the move "undermines our moral priority of helping vulnerable children find loving homes."

By its vote March 10, the board agreed to end its adoption services in light of the conflict between the law and Catholic teaching, so that it can focus its energies on its other programs to assist the poor and vulnerable.

According to data provided by the Catholic Charities agency:

-- It received about $1 million in reimbursements for its adoption-related work in 2005; its total 2005 revenue was about $37 million.

-- In 2005 it found adoptive homes for 41 children, provided post-adoption training and support services to 883 families and conducted 730 information searches for adoptees.

Last year, Catholic Charities said, it served more than 200,000 children, teens, families and seniors in need. It provided programs ranging from serving basic human needs to behavioral health, child care, after-school programs, adult day health, counseling, and refugee and immigration services.

Catherine Loeffler, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., said the Boston agency's decision would not affect her agency's practices.

If a same-sex couple comes to the Worcester agency seeking to adopt, it will continue to ask the state, which refers the couples, to use another agency for that case, she said.

San Francisco archdiocesan spokesman Maurice Healy said March 10 that after inquiries from The Globe about Catholic Charities practices in his archdiocese, he asked Cardinal-designate Levada if he wanted to add any clarification.

In his e-mail reply the former San Francisco archbishop said that during his time in San Francisco, he had been informed of placements with same-sex couples "for three children or teenagers who were judged difficult to place. These placements involved prudential judgments about the needs of the children."

He added, however, that such placements should be barred in light of the 2003 Vatican document. "The reasons given in the document, as well as the potential scandal for the faithful should an archdiocesan agency act contrary to the clear teaching of the church's magisterium, require that a Catholic bishop follow this clear guidance from the Holy See in his oversight of Catholic diocesan agencies," he said.

Healey said Cardinal-designate Levada had been informed of three adoptions by same-sex couples in 2002; the total number subsequently rose to five same-sex adoptions out of a total of 136 over a five-year period, he said.

Brian F. Cahill, executive director of San Francisco's Catholic Charities, told Catholic News Service that about $450,000 of his agency's $37 million annual budget goes to adoptive services.

He said it was too early to say how the Boston decision or Cardinal-designate Levada's note would affect the San Francisco agency's future approach to adoptive services. He said he expected soon to brief Archbishop George H. Niederauer, who was just installed in mid-February, on the issue.

"We have always been operating, one, guided by the teachings of the church and, two, guided by the best interests of some very, very vulnerable children," he said.


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