During his homily celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the adoption agency, Leeds Catholic Care, Archbishop Nichols gave an account of the loss of Catholic adoption agencies as a consequence of so called Equality legislation that does not accord with Bishop O’Donoghue’s criticism of the Bishops’ Conferences failure over this issue.
Archbishop Nichols said in his homily:
‘Leeds Catholic Care, along with the other Catholic adoption agencies, found itself faced with a very difficult dilemma when a new law was proposed to insist all adoptions agencies had ‘open policies’ regarding those couples they prepared as potential adopters. Great efforts were made by the Bishops Conference and CSAN working together to find a legal solution that would allow an accommodation within the law for these agencies, and a number of routes were explored. Under the leadership of Bishop Arthur Roche, Leeds Catholic Care took a particular path to try and defend itself and its adoption service in the courts of this land and in the tribunal of the Charity Commission. Other dioceses in a variety of ways also sought ways through the grave problems presented by new discrimination laws. But despite the noble efforts of many, in the end we found no ultimate protection in the law.’
In contrast, Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, the Emeritus Bishop of Lancaster, wrote of his disappointment with the Bishops Conference’s failure in his book, Fit for Mission? Church, which was highly praised by, among others, the Congregation for Clergy:
‘I must register, too, my disappointment that our Bishops’ Conference recently could not agree a collegial response to the Government’s legislation on same-sex adoption.
The problem with attempting to arrive at a consensus among bishops with, sometimes, divergent views, is statements and documents from Episcopal Conferences have a tendency to be often flat and ‘safe’ at a time when we need passionate and courageous public statements that dare to speak the full truth in love. The effort to achieve a consensus results – as Cardinal Ratzinger so aptly expressed – often in the loss of the ‘scandal’ and the ‘folly’ of the Gospel, so that we are no longer the ‘salt’ and ‘leaven’ so urgently needed.’ (p. 92).
Bishop O’Donoghue took the courageous decision to insist that the Diocese of Lancaster’s adoption agency, Catholic Caring Services, refuse to co-operate with Labour government Equality legislation by insisting that it could not place children with homosexual couples because it was against the ‘primacy’ of the children’s best interests, and against the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Mr Jim Cullen, the Director of Catholic Caring Services, refused to follow Bishop O’Donoghue’s directive to follow the Church’s teaching, dismissing the bishop’s authority by saying his was only one vote among the Board of Directors. The Board of Catholic Caring Services, including a priest of the diocese, voted against Bishop O’Donoghue to accept homosexual couples as adopters. As a consequence, Bishop O’Donoghue informed Jim Cullen and Catholic Caring Services that it was no longer recognised as an agency of the Diocese of Lancaster, could no longer call itself a Catholic charity, and could not fund raise in Catholic schools and Catholic parishes. Jim Cullen re-named Catholic Caring Services, which had been a Catholic charity of the Diocese of Lancaster for over 100 years ‘Caritas Care’.
Since being stripped of its status as a Catholic charity and agency of the Diocese of Lancaster by its ordinary the Bishops Conference of England and Wales has recognised ‘Caritas Care’ as a Catholic organisation through accepting its membership of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and making Jim Cullen one of CSAN’s trustees. By doing so, Archbishop Nichols and CSAN are ignoring the decision taken by the competent legal authority to declare that Caritas Care is no longer an agency of the Diocese of Lancaster, and can no loner call itself a ‘Catholic’ charity. This is a scandalous disregard of the authority of an ordinary by an episcopal conference.
Protect the Pope comment: It sticks in the throat to read Archbishop Nichols’ white-wash of the loss of our Catholic adoption agencies, particularly when he describes the bishops lack of unity and the failure of nerve of many of them as as a ‘great effort’ and the ‘noble efforts of many’. Bishop O’Donoghue and Bishop Roche stand out as courageous and determined to defend the best interests of children and the Catholic right to conscience and religious freedom, but they were the few compared to the many who willingly compromised. Bishop Conry recently referred to his pride in the compromise he oversaw, that has seen his now arms-length adoption agency place Catholic children with homosexual couples. That Archbishop Nichols can speak in the same breath of the Bishops Conference and CSAN with Saints Thomas More and John Fisher is frankly insulting to the memory of two great saints who died in defence of the truth of the Catholic Faith. The fact that former Catholic adoption agencies now place children with homosexual couples is a monument to the failure of most English bishops to defend the Catholic Faith.