The Catholic Church in Northern Ireland is pulling the plug on a long-standing relationship with the Family Care Society, a Catholic adoption agency, after a judge ruled that all adoption services must be willing to place children with same-sex couples and singles.
In a statement released Thursday, the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland said it was “with regret” that they were severing their relationship with the Belfast-based Family Care Society, an agency that the church itself founded.
After exhausting appeals of a 2012 judicial decision obliging all adoption agencies to treat gay civil unions the same as married couples in adoption decisions, the bishops said that “they were left with no option but to disengage from the adoption agencies they had founded and with which they had a long and cherished link.”
The bishops said it was “unreasonable for legislators to oblige faith-based organizations to act against their fundamental and reasonable religious beliefs in the provision of services that contribute to the common good.”
The statement also said that “equality would be best served by support for a diversity of adoption providers, with reasonable accommodation in law for those adoptive parents who value the support of an agency with a particular religious ethos.” The bishops expressed regret that the Family Care Society “is no longer free to provide adoption services consistent with a Catholic ethos, valued by so many adoptive parents over the years.” The new law makes it “impossible for this agency to continue with the support it has enjoyed up to now from the Church,” they said.
Paul Givan of Northern Ireland’s legislative assembly expressed deep disappointment that the church had ended its relationship with the adoption provider, noting that the case demonstrates the need for a conscious clause in Northern Ireland.
“This decision by the Catholic Church is another reminder that our laws do not make provision for those with perfectly legitimate religious beliefs,” he said.
“Equality of opportunity for Catholics to access adoption services from their own church is being denied as a result of our laws,” Givan said.
Thomas D. Williams can be followed on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.