Gay Adoption Raises Larger Questions

By McBrien, Richard P. | National Catholic Reporter, April 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

Gay Adoption Raises Larger Questions


McBrien, Richard P., National Catholic Reporter


The sexual-abuse scandal within the Catholic priesthood was never confined to the Boston archdiocese. The same is true of the latest controversy over the placement of adopted children in gay and lesbian homes. Indeed, the controversy has already become national and even international in scope, reaching all the way to the San Francisco archdiocese on the opposite coast and across the Atlantic to Scotland.

But like the sexual-abuse scandal, this latest controversy has had its most notable manifestation in Boston. After the bishops of the four Massachusetts dioceses acceded to the directive issued by the Vatican's nuncio to the United States, Catholic Charities of Boston announced that it would no longer place children for adoption by gay or lesbian couples.

The full 42-member Catholic Charities board had previously voted unanimously to continue the practice--a practice that affected only 13 of 720 adoptions handled by the agency since 1987, when the state's antidiscrimination rules went into effect. However, after the archbishop announced the decision to discontinue the practice, eight members of the Catholic Charities board (as of this writing) tendered their resignations in protest.

Since it was clear that significant financial support for all other Catholic Charities services would be jeopardized by the archdiocese's decision, the archbishop and the remaining members of the board decided, with great reluctance, that Catholic Charities of Boston would have to withdraw entirely from the adoption business. (Last year, Catholic Charities of Boston handled 41 adoptions, which made it one of the state's top five adoption agencies.)

Even the Boston Herald, the conservative counterpart to The Boston Globe, expressed reservations about the archdiocesan decision, and the state's four gubernatorial candidates, two from each major party, went on record against legislation proposed by Gov. Mitt Romney to exempt religious groups from the Commonwealth's antidiscrimination laws in the matter of adoptions.

Throughout this controversy, there have been constant--but unspecific--references to the Vatican's condemnation of such adoptions as "gravely immoral."

That judgment appears in a document issued by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on July 31, 2003, "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons." Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, was prefect of the Congregation at that time.

The pertinent section reads as follows: "As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. …

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