Since June 2006 we have been in dialogue with the Government over the impact of proposed discrimination regulations on our Catholic adoption agencies. These regulations would require our agencies to consider adoption applications from same-sex couples. As you will be well aware, matters came to a head over the last week.
Although, sadly, we did not obtain the exemption we had sought from these regulations, the Government has decided to allow our agencies until the end of 2008 to work out a way forward. The Government is setting up an independent assessment process in an attempt to help us to find ways in which the future work of our adoption agencies can be safeguarded. However, we have yet to see the detailed proposals.
During the debate it has become clear to everyone that our Catholic adoption agencies do an excellent job and are generously supported by our community. Their contribution, together with the selfless generosity of the many Catholic families who offer themselves as adoptive or foster parents, is a wonderful contribution to the common good of our society and a great Christian witness of love in action. Your Bishops, working together with their agencies, are determined to do everything they can to find a way through the real difficulties we face and ensure that the future of Catholic adoption services in this country can continue.
We want to make it absolutely clear that our agencies remain open for business and are continuing their work with local authorities. Therefore, please continue to support the work of our diocesan agencies. Do please pray for this work. Do continue to give generously to support our agencies.
As Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has pointed out very clearly, this public dispute with the Government has raised wider issues about the role of faith and conscience in the public space. We all need to promote mutually respectful co-operation between public authorities and religiously motivated agencies so they can work in public service with integrity and good conscience in the service of the common good.
Do please write to your MP about these very important issues and do keep an eye on the Bishops’ Conference website www.catholicchurch.org.uk
Archbishop Peter Smith
Chairman, Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship,
Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
31st January 2007
NOTE ON PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE FOR THESE REGULATIONS
The Regulations will be laid before Parliament within the next few weeks. These Regulations cannot be amended, but do require the approval of both Houses of Parliament. As far as we understand at the moment there will be a short debate followed by a vote (probably in a committee) of the House of Commons