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New equality laws here will mean the end of Catholic adoption agencies in Ireland, thanks to the Vatican

When I was a boy, our house was never without a collecting box for Canon Craven's Crusade Of Rescue. He was the head of the Catholic Adoption Society of Westminster.

Years later, when I was a priest and he was a bishop, I supplied at his London parish of St James's. He spoke proudly of what he and his co-workers had done in placing Catholic orphans in good Catholic homes.

It came as a shock to me when I heard this week that the last of England's 12 adoption societies has been forced to close. A century of good works came to an abrupt halt. They had run foul of England's new equality laws.

The Vatican believes no Catholic agency can allow same-sex couples to adopt their children.

The body that oversees English adoptions says no agency is allowed not to. This government-funded body even refers to those opposed to gay couples adopting as "retarded homophobes".

Rome insists that a child needs a mother and a father as parents and not same-sex couples.

The reality is that many Irish children are being brought up exclusively by single parents -- unmarried mothers.

Would not, say, two mothers who love each other be at least as acceptable?

Unnatural

Not to Pope Benedict. His decision rests on his belief that homosexuality is unnatural, a disorder, polite words for a perversion. He doesn't want to risk two perverts bringing up a Catholic child.

Scientific research suggests that homosexuality is natural, if less common than heterosexuality. In any case, gays should have exactly the same civil rights as others. Rome disagrees chiefly because it's convinced of a connection between the twin "perversions" of homosexuality and paedophilia.

The Pope said that English legislation violates the Church's civil liberties and the natural law in which human equality is grounded. This sounds strange, coming from the head of a Church that allows no women the right to make any key decision in their lives.

How does this affect Ireland? In 2006, the High Court held that same-sex marriages were against the Constitution. Ms Justice Dunne, however, looked forward to legislative changes to help same-sex and unwed heterosexual couples deal with real difficulties in their relationships. Only the Dail can decide what such changes should be.

In July this year, The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 was passed without a vote by the Dail, then by the Seanad 48-4 before being signed by the President.

Rights

All polls suggest that people are overwhelmingly in favour of these changes. Politicians should take note: three polls, 58, 62 and 63 per cent support full marriage rights for gays as in Belgium, Holland, Spain, Portugal etc. Could it be a change in the Constitution is not far off?

Legislation is expected to be introduced in the Dail this December.

Gay couples demand no more rights than heterosexuals, nor any less. They'll obviously be granted full rights in matters like the family home, taxation, inheritance, hospital visits.

With the hierarchy lobbying hard to prevent an outcome anathema to the Pope, will politicians dare include the right to adopt?

If the bishops fail, and adoption by same-sex couples passes into law, the many Catholic adoption agencies in Ireland may have to follow their counterparts in England and shut up shop.


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