Adoption for Same-Sex ‘Couples’
Catholic agencies have been divided on how to handle requests for adoption by homosexual couples. In recent years, this division has been exacerbated by two opposing forces: On the one hand, governments have begun requiring equal treatment for gay “parents”; on the other, the Vatican has made it very clear that it is immoral to deliberately place an adoptive child with a same-sex couple.
Readers will remember the scandal in the archdioceses of both Boston and San Francisco, which had to be told point-blank by the Vatican to stop placing children with homosexual applicants. The order went out to Boston in December of 2005, and to San Francisco in March of 2006. Since that time, as Catholic agencies have clashed with new state laws, some agencies have simply ceased to provide adoption services at all. For example, this is how Catholic Charities in Boston resolved the issue.
The same issue is being debated in England, where Parliament recently required adoption agencies to provide equal treatment for gays. Before the law was passed, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Great Britain’s ranking prelate, had stated that Catholic adoption agencies would have to close rather than comply. Now that the law has passed, British agencies are as divided as their American brethren. For his part, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor has decided to use his own Westminster Catholic Children’s Society to challenge the law. The Society will amend its bylaws to stipulate that its services are available only to married couples. This is seen as a possible way to avoid homosexual placements, at least unless or until Great Britain recognizes same-sex marriage.
But not all British Catholic agencies have opted to fight. In fact, the largest Catholic adoption agency in England and Wales—the Catholic Children’s Society of Arundel and Brighton, Portsmouth and Southwark (A&BSP)—has decided, with the approval of the bishops who oversee the agency, to comply with the law by ceasing to screen out homosexual applicants for adoption. It is fairly clear from news reports that this is intended at least partly as a hedge. Terry Connor, the chief executive of the Society, has noted that eligibility to adopt is merely a first step, and that same-sex couples who simply seek to test the system “will not get very far.”
But serious same-sex couples, if they consistently do not “get very far”, may land the Society in legal trouble. Connor said this policy has been deemed by the entire organization to be the “only transparent, straightforward and guaranteed way of preserving our full range of much needed services for some of the most vulnerable in the country.” The decision was, says Connor, “the most reasonable and responsible course of action for the greater good.” So we will have to wait and see how many children are sacrificed to the greater good.
Violence against Children
Nor is “sacrifice” too strong a word. Make no mistake about it, the placement of children with gay parents is a serious instance of violence against children. Confusion about one’s sexual identity is extremely painful, inclinations to homosexual attraction are disordered, and constant exposure to sexual affection between homosexuals places a child in an intolerable position with respect to his own sexual, moral, psychological and social development. Not only does such placement leave the child without either an adoptive mother or an adoptive father, but it substitutes a distortion for the missing adoptive parent and for the nature of marriage and family in their entirety. Placement of children with gay couples is quite simply a brutality.
In addition to all of this distortion, confusion and continual subjection to what is disordered and immoral, the possibility of direct sexual abuse of the child must be presumed to increase dramatically in homosexual unions. Homosexuality is very closely linked with the sexual abuse of children; that is, the inclinations involved in same-sex attraction for adults and pedophilia, while not identical, appear in practice to be very closely related. This was widespread in Greek culture—the last significant Western culture to generally approve homosexuality—and many homosexuals (consider, for example, the National American Man/Boy Love Association) openly advocate sexual relations with children. The presumption must be that some homosexuals will attempt to adopt precisely for this purpose and that, in any case, the incidence of direct sexual molestation will increase dramatically in homosexual “families”.
The Only Moral Course
Because placement of adoptive children with homosexual “parents” is indeed violence against children, it is clearly immoral. That is why the Vatican has ordered Catholic agencies to end the practice wherever it has crept in. The Vatican, at least, does not accept the argument for the “greater good”. In fact it is the Caiaphas argument all over again: “It is expedient that one man should die for the sake of the people” (Jn 11:50). It is not morally permissible to deliberately do violence to one person in order to be allowed to continue to do good for others. It is immoral under every circumstance to attempt to do evil so that good might result.
The contemporary confusion is, in some ways, understandable. It is understandable, for example, that some Catholic agencies have become such creatures of the surrounding culture that they no longer perceive the horrible distortion of dedicated, active homosexuality, nor the irreparable harm that it can do to children. It is understandable that a Catholic agency, even if it would rather place children with heterosexual parents, might be confused enough to permit something it regards as “sub-optimal” in a few cases so that its other work can continue. And it is understandable that an agency, in a calculated effort to circumvent the intent of the law, would choose to comply with a bad law in theory while attempting to avoid homosexual placements in practice.
But all these things are understandable only because, to turn a common phrase upside down, we are in very bad shape for the shape that we’re in. The failure on the part of agency leaders to fully perceive the nature of homosexuality and homosexual adoption arises from their own lack of formation and their own habitual preference for the things of this world. The willingness to participate in (what they regard as) even a very small evil arises from poor moral training and lack of competent spiritual direction. This is understandable, but not excusable, and in the light of arguments already developed here, no further comment is necessary. But what of the tactical choice of appearing to comply with an immoral law while hoping to avoid its consequences in practice?
Such tactics may be moral in some cases but not in others, and (based on news reports) apparently not in the case of the A&BSP, their bishops to the contrary notwithstanding. If an adoption agency’s policies had never envisioned applications by homosexuals, so that its policies did not on their face conflict with the new law, it might be a moral course to say nothing about it, preferring to weed out homosexual applicants along the way, and hoping the “bias” goes undetected. But it is specifically and precisely immoral for an agency to state that it will abide by a government ruling which prohibits it from eliminating homosexual applicants from consideration based on their homosexuality.
This is immoral for three extremely powerful reasons. First, the agency gives grave scandal, confusing all onlookers as to what a Catholic (or, indeed, any person) is required to believe and how he is required to act regarding same-sex adoption. Second, the agency both affirms and participates in an evil which all good persons are bound to resist, namely the teaching that homosexual adoption is morally acceptable. Third, the agency fails to give the invaluable Christian witness it is bound by the Gospel to give. One may understand why a potential martyr would deny his faith in order to save his life, but it is still a very grave sin. The directors of the agencies in question have far less personally at stake than their lives.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s strategy, on the other hand, is perfectly moral. In Great Britain, marriage is legally defined as a union between a man and a woman. Hence, whatever may be on the horizon, the attempt to challenge the law somewhat obliquely by restricting one’s services to married couples is perfectly moral. Moreover, this tactic has considerable witness value, at a number of levels. One may presume the inevitable triumph of same-sex marriage in Great Britain, and so one may prefer not to hitch one’s cart to that particular horse. But this is merely to say that the strength of the horse is questionable. It remains a good horse, and we certainly have no wish to put it out of its misery.
True marriage is a very good thing for children. Parodies of marriage are not. Our culture needs to learn again to recognize the difference. Given their tremendous power over the lives of the children they serve, Catholic adoption agencies need to lead on this issue in the best way possible. They must lead by example.
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