Unnecessary battles

Catholic Care has predictably lost its battle to change its constitution to explicitly allow only heterosexual couples to adopt. It is a blow to religious freedom and difficult to see how the ruling fits in with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that religious conscience rights should not be trumped, unless it is ‘necessary’.

What is concerning about the ruling is that in focusing purely on the perceived discrimination aspect, it seeks to put the rights of prospective adoptive parents above the needs of the child. The Catholic adoption agencies had particular specialist expertise in terms of placing the most difficult children, taking scores out of the care system and putting them in loving families. The legislation underpinning the decision was drafted in order to avoid discrimination in the provision of goods and services. Since when did the adoption of children become a service? It’s rather alarming if children are now consolidated as goods via the law and this decision paves the way for the inevitable gay marriage in Church test case which will occur if or when gay marriage is enacted into law.

The barrister for the Charity Commission also displayed a woeful lack of understanding of Catholic doctrine, by stating that ‘the Church’s belief that homosexuality is sinful’ must not be protected. The Church does not believe or teach that homosexual inclination is sinful, but that all sexual acts outside marriage constitute a sin. The Church understands that people may not be able to control their innate sexuality, however she asks all of her members to exercise appropriate restraint and chastity.

The irritating thing about this case, is that it could have so easily been won. Neil Addison blogged about it on three separate occasions. It’s worth revisiting his posts here, here, and here. Neil maintains that Catholic Care were pursuing entirely the wrong legal remedy and could never have hoped to succeed.

The change that Catholic Care wished to enact was automatically discriminatory and therefore destined to failure as Neil advised back in 2009. Had they amended their constitution as follows:

“The Charity shall not have power to engage in any activity which it knows, or reasonably believes, is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church; the formal opinion of the Bishop of [ ] shall be final in any question as to what is the teaching of the Catholic Church”

then this would have been indirectly discriminatory, rather than directly discriminatory and thus the Catholic agencies would have been able to continue their good work, as has happened in Scotland, who followed this route as did the Evangelical Protestant Alliance.

Of course one still cannot ignore the disturbing ramifications that the judgement has for religious freedom, the Catholic agencies should not have been put in the position where they were forced to chose between the exemplary work that they did or staying true to their ethos, questions need to be asked about why parental rights are put above the needs of vulnerable children and why could there not be scope for several different kinds of agencies. The type of work that the Catholic agencies carried out was as a supplement to local authority agencies, who are free to follow their own secular agendas. Why did there need to be a one-size fits all policy?

But most importantly, questions need to be asked as to why the advice of the Thomas More Legal Centre was not followed in order to allow the Catholic adoption agencies to continue their work unhindered. Rather than asking why we should not fight battles that we cannot win, the question should be why enter into legal battles that were wholly unnecessary in the first place?

8 thoughts on “Unnecessary battles

  1. Good post Caroline. The only ones who will lose are the children, those who need homes and love and stability in their lives.

  2. “Rather than asking why we should not fight battles that we cannot win, the question should be why enter into legal battles that were wholly unnecessary in the first place?”

    Yes, indeed.

    You’ve answered the second part of the question in your post, but the first part is worth exploring too. When +Kieran asked it, he took as self-evident that you don’t fight unless you have a good chance of winning. But what of the soldiers who defended Dunkirk knowing that they wouldn’t escape but their action would allow hundreds of thousands of others to do so? What about the fight against abortion (and in this context the incrementalist vs absolutist argument is irrelevant) which is not going to be won in earthly terms in my lifetime? Is it not worth fighting?

    If nobody is prepared to fight, then obviously the bad guys will win. If we only fight when certain of victory, then in every other case the bad guys will win.

    If we depend on Generals who aren’t prepared to fight for the cause, then the bad guys will win. Oh dear ….

    1. Absolutely. 👍

      I wonder though, whether the battle over the adoption agencies was entirely necessary, given that it could have been so easily circumvented?

      If we keep with the military metaphor, of course one should not give up on the battle, especially when it comes to defeating the culture of death. I wonder whether or not the adoption agency struggle could have been seen as a minor and potentially pointless skirmish? I also wonder quite how much has been squandered in legal fees? Perhaps in talking about the battle, the legal framework was being alluded to? There does seem little point in fighting a legal battle, which as Neil Addison contends, was impossible to win. In that situation the only victors are the lawyers.

      Maybe it’s more a question of picking battles as we parents know. Sometimes it’s not worth expending one’s precious energy and resources and instead reaching a compromise in which all sides feel they’ve won. In the case of the agencies who’ve dropped the ‘Catholic’, they are carrying on as before, the important thing is that children are still being helped and, it would seem, the law is being adhered to.

      It’s admittedly a potentially uncomfortable compromise. I wonder what will happen if a gay couple do apply to adopt?

  3. My understanding is that children are the primary concern, always. Gay parents are allowed to adopt because gay parenting does not harm children.

    I don’t understand how a person can spend time in prayer, in deep communion with the divine, and yet come out of it with the conviction intact that this perfect, infinite love is somehow less so for gay people. Because a God who doesn’t want gay people to know the most intimate human bonds of marriage and parenthood is a God who loves gay people less than He loves me. I just don’t accept that. I won’t.

    I started to read this post last night but couldn’t get past the third paragraph. “The Church does not believe or teach that homosexual inclination is sinful, but that all sexual acts outside marriage constitute a sin.” And yet the church will not allow gay couples the sacrament of marriage. That’s quite a bind.

    I know what you’re saying is the correct interpretation of the church’s position. It makes it difficult to carry on identifying as a Catholic. As for ‘blow to religious freedom’, the freedom to deny others the most profound human need to love and be loved in this life like anyone else makes a mockery of the word.

  4. Fiona

    You touch on a deep and difficult issue. How do we reconcile the idea of a God who loves us with the demonstrable difficulties that some people encounter in their lives, often through no fault of their own?

    That difficulty encounters us in so many situations: the child born handicapped, the young person who contracts cancer, those who suffer due to natural disaster or human wickedness; and the only answer is to be found in Christ on the Cross.

    People who suffer same sex attraction are in that same difficult place, for reasons we cannot know.

    However, the Church, taking its lead from Christ, has always taught that human sexuality is for marriage and procreation; and sex outside marriage, or divorced from procreation, is gravely wrong.

    It is wrong, not because it ‘makes God angry’ but because it is bad for us. It is a sad truth that the active homosexual lifestyle has poor health outcomes, physically and psychologically. It is therefore out of compassion, as well as obedience to God, that the Church cannot approve it.

    Likewise, it is for those reasons, and in order to honour God’s gift of marriage, that the Church cannot condone anything that elevates such relationships to equivalence with marriage.

    With regard to children, they are not a right, but a gift from God. The evidence on homosexual parenting such as it is (though for obvious reasons it is fairly scanty – this is a very novel experiment) so far suggests that children do less well in such arrangements than being brought up by their natural parents in a stable marriage.

  5. Thanks Bentrovato.

    People don’t suffer from same sex attraction but they suffer dreadfully from discrimination, disgust, and intolerance of others, sometimes their own families.

    By ‘active homosexual lifestyle’ I think you mean a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle? Monogamous relationships aren’t sexually harmful whether gay or straight, and promiscuity isn’t exclusive to gay people. Physical self-harm as part of sexuality is practiced by a minority, again not necessarily homosexual or even unmarried. It is also practiced by a minority as part of their Catholic worship.

    I’m not aware of research which suggests that children do less well with gay parents but if that’s the case then the lack of acceptance from others, the sting of a prevailing idea their family is wrong or not normal and that their parents don’t merit the validation of marriage by virtue of their gender, must surely be factored into any findings of psychological difficulties?

    In its resolute advocacy of those who suffer from sickness and poverty the church has always taken its lead from the stern and beautiful truth of the scriptures: my neighbour is all mankind. As such it should also be leading the way in demanding the same social justice for those marginalised and despised because of their sexual identity. Instead it denies human rights to homosexual Catholics by spinning itself a cocoon of slippery casuistry while an ever-secularising, ever more tolerant society can only shake its head at the obviousness of the hypocrisy and move on.

    Again I do know what you’re saying is in line with church teaching but I just find it an impossible conflict with my experience of God and my reading of the scriptures, particularly the teaching that we are all equal and that God is Love, that those who live in love live in God and God in them.

    I think all children need from their parents is endless love and endless patience. If we are created in God’s image we are most like him when we love. Heterosexual parents fail in this all the time, some more badly than others, because we’re only human and can only do our best. I don’t believe homosexual parents who live in love have any less capacity to raise children well and the adoption authorities don’t believe so either.

  6. The problem is with many so-called ‘faith-based’ organisations is that the reality is very different from the perception of the and organisation from the outside – particularly the associated faith-community’s perception. Leeds Catholic Care is a case in point – it receives well over 80% of its income from tax payer in some shape or form (indeed, proving that no publicity is bad publicity, the income the charity received in voluntary donations last year came to near 10% of its income, whereas for the year before it was only 2.4% – evidently getting its name known has help increase its income!). You note ‘The Catholic adoption agencies had particular specialist expertise in terms of placing the most difficult children, taking scores out of the care system and putting them in loving families.’ I would be interested to know from where this information comes? I was given to understand that Leeds Catholic Care is a very small player in the adoption stakes and only adopted around five children a year – and again, the bulk of the cost of the adoption process was met by the taxpayer. Whatever I think the case raises important questions about faith based organisations’ relationship with the state. Many are happy to charge the taxpayer the upper rate for the service they provide, yet there is little evidence to suggest these services are any better (or worse) than other voluntary or state provided welfare. And there is certainly little evidence of ‘faith’ being evident in the day to day activities of many (believe you me – I’ve worked for three faith based organisations and did a PhD on the subject too!).

    Part of my own academic research on faith-based organisations revealed that the ones that don’t ask for a penny from the state are the ones where you really feel there is something ‘different’ about them. Moreover they go out of their way to only employ or have as volunteer members of their own faith community, with demonstrable commitment to their church – and if there aren’t enough volunteers and workers coming forward from the faith community, then the faith-based work doesn’t take place. Catholic Care on the other hand states:

    “[Catholic Care] recognise and are committed to equal opportunities in our employment practices. Society policy is to make no distinction to potential or existing employees on the grounds of race, colour, and ethnic, nor on the grounds of religion, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability or physical appearance. We base selection and promotion decisions solely on the ability to meet the essential requirements of the post.” (see: http://www.catholic-care.org.uk/jobs/). In other words Catholic Care is happy to employ anyone – the most likely reason for this is because there aren’t enough Catholics willing to do the jobs at Catholic Care.

    I hear some say ‘Ah but it is the government that makes the organisation have this equal opportunities’ policy’. Yet this is just Daily Mail styled whining and a means of excusing the fact too few Christians want to get their hands dirty. There are exceptions, e.g. Prospect’s Care (a faith based charity that works with people with learning disabilities and is itself heavily reliant on government income) states:

    “Under Employer Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, Section 7), these posts have a Genuine Occupational Requirement to be a Christian. The successful applicant will be committed to the Mission ethos, aims and objectives of Prospects and will be able to demonstrate clear evidence of Christian commitment.” (see http://www.prospects.org.uk/index.php/getinvolved/5/6) There is nothing to stop Catholic Care doing this, but of course if it did I suspect it wouldn’t be able to fill its vacancies with people able to do the jobs on offer.

    The problem is that you can’t have your cake and eat it. Catholic Care has been happy to work within an ‘Equal Opportunities’ framework – when ‘Employer Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, Section 7’ would happily allowed the charity to employ only Catholics if it so wished – and still receive considerable financial support from the taxpayer, as is the case with Prospects Charity.

    Hence I suspect the issue of offering its adoption service to everyone, has only become a hot topic because it involves homosexuals (by the way the charity was happy to consider gay couples as foster parents… but for some reason not adoptive parents). i.e. the issue has been hijacked for political reasons – as can be seen the charity has liberal policies when it comes to employment – so I think it would have happily had liberal policies when it came to adoption, however it provide a useful political pawn not to do so and so the issue has been blow up out of proportion.

    @ Ben

    ‘The evidence on homosexual parenting such as it is (though for obvious reasons it is fairly scanty – this is a very novel experiment) so far suggests that children do less well in such arrangements than being brought up by their natural parents in a stable marriage.’

    The point is with adoption that there are no ‘natural parents’ able or willing to do the job. The comparison has to be between children who were not raised by their natural parents, surely? i.e. comparing children raised by foster or adoptive parents. Otherwise we’re inserting a false premise. And let us remember, that the bulk of children who come up for adoption do so because the failure of a heterosexual relationship or parenting.

    What children need is a loving and safe environment – I too would prefer children to be raised by their birth parents, in a stable, loving, home. But that is not always possible and where couples (straight or gay) are selfless enough to give up their home, time, money etc. to raise a stranger’s child, then hats off to them is what I say!

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