Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The recent decision by Catholic Charities of the Boston Archdiocese to stop offering adoption services to avoid placing children with homosexuals is reverberating through child welfare circles and sparking fears that other Catholic Charities agencies may follow suit.

“Everyone’s still reeling from the decision,” Marylou Sudders, executive director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC), said yesterday.

“Ultimately, the only losers are the kids,” said Maureen Flatley, a Boston adoption consultant and lobbyist. If other Catholic Charities agencies withdraw from public adoption, “you can’t even begin to talk about what the impact of that will be nationwide,” she said.

On Friday, leaders of the Boston Catholic Charities said they would not be renewing their nearly 20-year-old contract with the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS) to provide adoption services, citing state law that says homosexuals must be allowed to adopt.

The Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI has called homosexual adoption “gravely immoral,” in part because it deprives children of “the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood.”

Recently, Massachusetts’ Catholic bishops said Catholic agencies may not provide adoptions to same-sex couples. An attempt by Catholic Charities to obtain an exemption from state law failed in February.

“We have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve,” the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, president of the Boston Catholic Charities, and Jeffrey Kaneb, chairman of the agency’s board of trustees, said in their statement announcing the discontinuation of adoption services.

Boston Catholic Charities had placed 720 children in the last 20 years, including 13 children in homosexual households, the agency said.

A spokeswoman for the state DSS said it was already working to “transition” hundreds of foster children to new agencies. The Boston Catholic Charities’ contract expires June 30.

As of yesterday, no other Catholic Charities agencies in Massachusetts or in other states have issued similar declarations, but “we’re following the situation, as it might impact Catholic Charities agencies across the country,” said John Keightley, spokesman for Catholic Charities USA, the trade group for Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities are independently incorporated, he said. “Difficult decisions” like these are all made at the local level, in the context of the local church and local laws, he said, adding, “the real authority for Catholic Charities comes from the local bishop.”

Homosexual adoption is widely supported by child welfare agencies. Exceptions are Florida, which disallows homosexual individuals and couples to adopt, and Mississippi and Utah, which forbid homosexual couples to adopt.

Ms. Sudders of MSPCC said that by not renewing its state license, Boston Catholic Charities will be opting out of myriad services, including recruitment of adoptive parents, training, home studies, managing adoption placements and working with special needs adoptions. She said the loss of the state’s biggest and most experienced adoption agency is “a very big deal for Massachusetts and a very big deal for the kids.”

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