The Archdiocese of San Francisco announced on Wednesday that its social services division found a way to help connect hard-to-place children with welcoming parents – gay or straight – without violating the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that by partnering with another adoption service, San Francisco’s Catholic Charities will increase the number of children that find homes without directly placing kids with same-sex couples, said the agency’s executive director, Brian Cahill.

The agency’s decision is the result of the same controversy that caused Boston’s Catholic Charities to close down its 103-year-old adoption agency in June.

Despite Vatican teaching that calls gay adoptions “gravely immoral,” Catholic Charities agencies in Boston and San Francisco openly acknowledged last fall handling a limited number of gay adoptions, mostly involving hard-to-place foster children.

Agency officials cited a commitment to help vulnerable children, as well as the need to conform to the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

Since these disclosures, The Boston Globe reports, top church officials have pressured agencies to adapt their practices to conform with Catholic teachings. Boston’s Catholic Charities responded in early March by announcing it would shut down its adoption business because it could not reconcile its religious principles with state law.

The Boston agency told The Globe that it would continue some birth parent counselling and adoption follow-up assessments, though its limited program does nothing that would assist gays in adopting children.

According to The Globe, Mr Cahill said his understanding of Vatican teachings is that a Catholic agency cannot be “directly involved in the placement” of a child in a gay household.

When asked if the new plan still puts Catholic Charities in a position of assisting with gay adoptions, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer told The Globe he thought it was a form of potential “remote” cooperation that does not conflict with Catholic moral teaching.

He said he has consulted his predecessor, Cardinal William Levada, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, on this plan.

Thom Lynch, executive director of the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Centre, told The Globe he would have liked to see Catholic Charities maintain its own adoption programme.

However, he said, the compromise enables Catholic Charities staff to continue to assist with adoptions, and may hopefully lead to “far more children being adopted into gay families and other families.”

Before Wednesday’s announcement, Catholic Charities in San Francisco completed an average of 25 adoptions, including one to same-sex couples, per year, Mr Cahill said.

“I’m not going to downplay the fact the church told us to stop placing children in same-sex homes,” he said. “But we’re committed to our mission. We started off as an adoption agency. Why would we give that up?”

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