Can Christians run an adoption agency, based on a Christian vision of marriage and the family? Not in the state of Massachusetts. That’s the message from an extraordinary incident that took place in March in Boston.
Since 1903 Catholic Charities has a history of helping some of the most vulnerable, hard-to-place children in Boston. “Catholic Charities has really been a gold standard in providing adoption services to children in the welfare system for a long time,” Marylou Sudders, president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children told the Boston Globe. So Sudders and others involved in adoption work were shocked and saddened by the news that as of June 30, 2006, Catholic Charities would be out of the adoption business. “This is a tragedy for kids,” said Sudders. Of ninety-one children adopted from the state Department of Social Services through private agencies last year, twenty-eight were helped by Catholic Charities, and many of these were the hard-to-place children: older children, sibling groups, and handicapped kids.
“It’s a shame,” Paula Wisnewski, director of adoption for Boston’s Home for Little Wanderers, told the Globe, “because it is certainly going to mean that fewer children from foster care are going to find permanent homes.”
KICKED OUT OF THE BUSINESS
How did this happen? In 2003 the Catholic Church clarified its principles on adoption: Catholic agencies may not place children with same-sex couples. This spring a Boston Globe story revealed that Catholic Charities in Boston had in the past placed a small number of children in foster care with gay couples. The Archbishop (now Cardinal) Sean O’Malley made it clear: This would not happen in the future. That put Catholic Charities in violation of state rules that require those applying for adoption licenses to pledge non-discrimination on orientation.
The result was a firestorm of negative local media, attacking the Catholic Church for its stand on gay adoption. The Catholic Church asked both the governor and the legislature for a religious exemption, so it could carry on its work of helping children find homes. Governor Mitt Romney regretfully told Catholic leaders that he had no authority to issue an exemption. Leaders of the state legislature flatly refused to countenance what they called “discrimination.”
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.