Bishop of Lancaster Patrick O’Donoghue has threatened an adoption agency with eviction from church property.
Bishop O’Donoghue’s ultimatum comes after the trustees of the Lancashire-based agency, Catholic Caring Services (CCS), said they wanted to comply with the Sexual Orientation Regulations.
The bishop also warned that he would sue the CCS for money left in wills by Catholics to the agency if they did not change their stance on gay rights within one week.
In addition, he threatened to inform the Charities Commission that the organisation was no longer Catholic, and would break its link with the Lancaster diocese.
The Catholic Herald reports that Bishop O’Donoghue wrote a letter to CCS, claiming that they could not be classified as a Catholic organisation if they accepted gay adoptive parents.
“I find it unthinkable, indeed heart-breaking, that Catholic Caring Services, so linked to the Catholic Church since its inception, would abandon its position and capitulate to recent same-sex adoption legislation.
“As your bishop I cannot give permission to an agency of the Catholic Church to act in opposition to her teaching and her long and rich experience of the placement of children with adoptive parents.”
He continued “On grounds of conscience, formed by faith, we believe that same-sex partnerships do not provide the essential characteristics necessary for the well-being and development of the child.
“I remain convinced that the best interests of children are served when they live with and are brought up by a married couple.
“Any dilution of this fundamental principle can harm children and undermine their paramount place in the whole question of adoption.
“I would imagine that many of you may consider my insistence on these actions harsh and even extreme, but this would be to underestimate the seriousness of your decision to reject, thus far, the teaching of the Catholic Church and your failure to uphold your responsibility as trustees of a Catholic agency.
“Surely you must have realised that when you made such a decision there would be tragic consequences.”
The CCS appears to have made no plans to give in to the bishop’s demands.
Jim Cullen, chief executive of CCS, said:
“The decision of the trustees [to comply with SORs] has been taken after extensive consultation, legal advice and a great deal of prayer and discernment.
“We will remain a Catholic charity, operating the same services, with the same staff, same values and same ethos.
“We are confident that this course of action is the only transparent and certain way to preserve our services for some of society’s most vulnerable children and adults.”
Bishop O’Donoghue has made his stance on gay equality within the Catholic church clear in the past.
In August, he published a review that condemned the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales for its stance on same-sex relationships.
In the review, he wrote: “I must register… my disappointment that our Bishop’s Conference recently could not agree a collegial response to the Government’s legislation on same-sex adoption.”
He went on to claim that the Conference’s statements were “flat and safe at a time when we need passionate and courageous public statements that dare to speak the full truth in love.”