PinkNews.co.uk exclusive

A gay Anglican priest who has fostered a child for 15 years has defended the staff of Catholic adoption agencies and criticised the way in which Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has been pilloried for her religious beliefs.

Fr Martin Reynolds, who is a prominent member of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said that everything must be done to preserve the “outstanding work” that social workers and other staff in Catholic agencies do to help vulnerable children.

“Putting together teams of this quality is very difficult and they must be preserved for the children,” said Fr Reynolds.

The priest and his partner of 27 years, Chris Iles, became carers for a boy with behavioural problems and learning difficulties when the child was five.

The charity Barnardos had been unable to place the boy with anyone else because he was so disruptive.

Fr Reynolds and Mr Iles still care for the boy, who is now a 19-year-old man about to take up a place on a college course.

“My foster son lived with us from four to 14 part-time and then he was full time with us unexpectedly – he was an emergency placement at 14 and he is still with us five years on.

“You just cannot know how much of a challenge and joy it has brought to our lives.,” Fr Reynolds told PinkNews.co.uk

Catholic agencies may be forced to close if Church leaders refuse to let them consider gay and lesbian couples as parents.

Fr Reynolds said he was glad that the media storm around the issue seemed to be dying down, but criticised the way in which senior Catholics and gay activists alike have approached the issue.

“This is not a matter of gay rights or church rights – the only right here is the right of a child to a loving home. The children are the only ones with rights in this discussion,” he said.

Fr Reynolds went on to say he was disturbed by the way in which Ruth Kelly has been abused because of her religious beliefs.

“My view of Ruth is that she has every right to bring her faith to bear. She has the discipline of the party to adhere to and a cabinet to convince.

“If she lost her argument on a matter of principle she has two choices, she can resign or comply. Every minister has to face that choice.

“There has been a huge amount of personal attacks on her because of her views and I think the language has become abusive. That is to be deplored.”

The Newport priest, who formed a civil partnership with Mr Iles on their 26th anniversary last year, was critical of the Catholic hierarchy, saying that they are using the adoption row as cover for their disapproval of gay marriage.

“They need to step back from this crisis they have brought upon themselves and bend their principles.

“The politics here is not about gay adoption but about gay marriage – that is what they are wild about.

“The English hierarchy have been put under huge pressure from the Vatican.

“I would be very angry if these vulnerable children are being used to score political points.”

Fr Reynolds, 53, and Mr Iles, 47, want to adopt two more children, but were recently turned away by a Catholic adoption agency.

“It was a natural place for my partner to go as he is a Roman Catholic, and we raised our foster son in that faith. We were turned away.

“However, there are two other agencies that we are talking to who are pursuing taking our case forward.”

The process of adoption is stringent, and many people fail to stay the course. Fr Reynolds explained that while the rewards are great getting there can be stressful.

“They investigate every part of your life they want to know everything, and rightly so for the sake of the child.

“You have a social worker almost living with you and they ask questions you never want to be asked in your life.

“The process is hugely difficult to endure and it puts a strain on your relationship. It goes into the problems and strains you have as a couple, but it can also be very healing.”

Fr Reynolds said that gay and lesbian people have something special to offer children in care.

“A lot of these kids have faced discrimination in their lives and they need someone who can deal with rather than just react to it.

“Someone who can teach them how to live with discrimination.

“Teach them that a sense of personal worth not based on what other think of you and gay people know all of that. A lot of gay people have a lot to offer these children.

“The sad thing is that most gay people are viewed as being into designer clothes, designer parties, designer drugs. They need to get a life!

“Have a few kids who smash things – learn what real kids are like – It was a shock for us at first I can tell you. It teaches you that it’s about putting people first and not possessions.”