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Push for same-sex rights led by political minority, says English bishop

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October 24, 2012

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The push for gay marriage rights is being driven by politicians who are following their personal agendas rather than the actual demands or expectations of the gay community, said Bishop Kieran Conroy of Arundel and Brighton, England.


“Very often” some social policies, such as requiring church-run adoption agencies to consider same-sex couples as potential adoptive parents or proposals to legalize same-sex marriage, “are politically motivated in terms of vote-catching and representation of politicians as standing up for human rights,” he said.


Such proposals are not necessarily coming from the gay community, he said during a briefing with journalists at the Vatican press office Oct. 23. Bishop Conry is one of hundreds of bishops attending the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization.


People advocating such policies seem to be “some other small group” that is not personally invested in the issue, but rather is motivated by defending human rights in very general, broadly sweeping way, he said.


Brighton “is regarded as the gay capital of the United Kingdom,” and the bishop said members of the gay community he has spoken to “respect the right of the churches to have their own rules” on issues.


The Equality Act 2006 prohibited discrimination against homosexuals in the provision of goods and services. It required all adoption agencies, including church-run groups, to not discriminate against and to assess same-sex couples as potential adopters and foster caregivers.


Almost all of the 13 Catholic adoption agencies in Britain were forced to either sever ties with their dioceses or close down because of the laws.


One Catholic adoption agency, which covers three dioceses in northern England, fought the regulations through the courts. However, in 2010, the Charity Commission for England and Wales refused the agency permission to amend its constitution so it could turn away gay and unmarried couples.


Scotland, which has its own legislature, allowed its Catholic adoption agencies a loophole to carry out their work in accordance with church teaching, Ann Widdecombe, a former Conservative Party minister, told Catholic News Service in 2010.


Bishop Conry said, however, that the agency his diocese helps run went along with the law because it did not want to deny children needed services and “we knew very well that (gay couples requesting to adopt from a Catholic charity) would not be an issue.”


They had seen that when other U.K. dioceses were “virtually forced” to close down their adoption agencies by local authorities rather than be forced to comply with the law, it was the children who paid the price, he said.


“We wanted to make sure that the interests of the children in that case were served first” by keeping the agency open, operated and funded by the church. “We simply withdrew the name ‘Catholic'” from the agency’s title, he said.


As a result, each year “there are 30 children who are taken out of institutions and put into families,” he said.


Also, since the legislation has been enacted, the diocesan adoption agency “has not had a single request from a gay couple to adopt or foster a child.”


When asked what the agency would do if a same-sex couple did request to adopt or provide foster care, he said, that decision “is not in the hands of a few people” and is always based on what’s best for the child.


“We’re not going to have a public fight that we’re going to lose possibly and come out of it with everyone suffering,” he said. “We work on the principle: You only fight battles you can win.”


Currently, the bishops are fighting British government proposals to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.


The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has said government assurances that churches would not be compelled to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies were meaningless because the law could be amended at any time.


Civil partnerships introduced by the government in 2004 already conferred many of the rights of marriage on homosexual couples.


Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, said in March that the drive to legalize gay marriage represented “an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.”

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