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Adoption agency renews fight to stay open
BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE LAST REMAINING Catholic adoption agency in England and Wales has renewed its battle to stay open.
Catholic Care, which serves the dioceses of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Hallam, wants to continue its policy of assessing only married heterosexuals and single people as potential adopters and foster parents.
The Charity Commission has twice rejected its applications to change its statutes to allow this on the grounds that such a policy was unjustly discriminatory towards homosexual couples and in breach of both European and British equality and human rights laws.
But lawyers acting for the agency have challenged the legality of the Commission’s position, saying its interpretation of the law was simply “wrong”.
They have lodged an appeal against the Commission’s decision and have also accused Commissioners of effectively ignoring a ruling in favour of the agency by a High Court judge in March.
The appeal will focus primarily on whether the Commission was correct in dismissing the arguments of Mr Justice Michael Briggs when he supported the agency’s application.
Sir Michael had also been severely critical of the regulator’s stance, describing it as “neither logical, rational, purposive nor responsive to any reasonable linguistic interpretation”. He ordered the Commission to reconsider its position and to pay the costs of the case.
Benjamin James of London-based Bircham Dyson Bell Solicitors, representing the agency, said the Commission was wrong to reject the application of Catholic Care in the light of Sir Michael’s ruling.
“The Commission was wrong in its decision,” he said. “The Charity Tribunal will request that the Charity Commission responds within 28 days. Once the Commission has responded there will be a directions hearing deciding how the case will be managed.
“The actual appeal is on whether the Charity Commission correctly interpreted Sir Michael’s judgment.”
Catholic Care is the only Catholic adoption agency of 11 in England and Wales to continue to fight through the courts regulations passed in 2007 to prohibit discrimination against gay people in the provision of goods and services. The other agencies have either broken from the Church or closed down.
Before the regulations went into effect last year the Catholic adoption agencies annually found new homes for about 250 children, many of them categorised as
“difficult to place”. Catholic Care dealt with about 10 children a year.
In the last three years there has been just one recorded instance of a gay couple approaching a Catholic agency and the pair were referred elsewhere.
Lawyers for Catholic Care are arguing that Section 193 of the 2010 Equality Act, which incorporates the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs), allows limited discrimination in pursuit of charitable objectives.
The law, which came into force on Friday last week, says charities can discriminate if their actions represent a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim or for the purpose of preventing or compensating a disadvantage” linked to a charity’s characteristics.
Catholic Care understands this to mean that it can both comply with the law and operate according to Catholic teaching that gay adoption is “gravely immoral”.
But rejecting the agency’s application and the March ruling of the High Court, Andrew Hind, the chief executive of the Charity Commission, argued that such “discrimination can only be permitted in the most compelling circumstances”.
He acknowledged that Catholic Care provided a “quality, high-value adoption service”, but he also said that he believed that the agency’s demise would not matter because the numbers of children it dealt with were small and that these could be placed with “prospective parents through other channels”.
“Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is a serious matter because it departs from the principle of treating people with equal respect,” he said in his ruling published in August.
The position of the Commission has been vociferously supported by the
Equality and Human Rights Commission and by gay and secularist groups.
Last month Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds was named as a candidate for “Bigot of the Year” by Stonewall, the campaigning gay rights organisation, for encouraging Catholic Care to fight the SORs through the courts.
His nomination came just days after Pope Benedict XVI alluded to the fate of the Catholic adoption agencies when, in a speech in Westminster Hall, he appealed to British politicians to permit the Church to serve the common good in accordance with its own teachings.
The Pope said that laws requiring “Christians to act against their conscience” were “worrying signs of failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square”.
Reject the Mafia, Pope urges Sicilians
BY STAFF REPORTER
POPE BENEDICT XVI has urged the young people of Sicily to reject the “path of death” offered by organised crime and to stand up to evil by witnessing to the values of the Gospel.
The Pope made his comments during a day-long visit to Palermo where he celebrated a Mass, met priests and religious and spoke to young people and families. He paused to pray at the site of the assassination of anti-Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, killed by a bomb in 1992.
Addressing the young in central Palermo, the Pope said: “Don’t be afraid to fight against evil. Don’t give in to the suggestions of the Mafia, which is a path of death, incompatible with the Gospel.”
The Pope held up the example of Fr Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi, a Palermo priest murdered in 1993, and urged priests and the faithful to “imitate his heroic example”.
Editorial comment: Page 13
Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful as he arrives for a meeting with young people at the end of his day-long visit to Palermo, Sicily AP Photo/ Pier Paolo Cito
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Rome diocese opens next phase of Vietnamese cardinal’s Cause
BY ED WEST
THE DIOCESE of Rome is to begin the next stage of the Cause of Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận, former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
A solemn ceremony will be held on October 22 to mark the opening of the diocesan phase of the Cause at the Sala della Conciliazione in the Lateran Palace. Talks will be given by the
Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini, who will preside over the session, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Born in Hue, in the centre of the country, in 1928, Cardinal Văn Thuận was ordained at the age of 25 and made a bishop of Nha Trang at 38. He was made coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon on April 24 1975, just six days before it fell to the Communist North Vietnamese Army. As a religious leader and a nephew of South Vietnam’s former president, Ngô Dình Diem, he was a target for the new regime and spent 13 years in a “re-education” camp, nine of them in solitary confinement. While in prison he smuggled out messages to his friends on scraps of paper, which were copied and circulated, eventually being collected and printed as The Road of Hope. During his time in prison sympathetic guards also smuggled in wood and wire so that he could make a small crucifix.
Cardinal Văn Thuận was released in 1988 but kept under house arrest in the archbishop’s house in Hânoi, and banned from returning to Saigon. After visiting Rome in 1991 he was not allowed to return to his homeland and was given a series of posts in the Vatican.
He died on September 2002 at the age of 74.
Pope tickled ears of the Oratory cat
Italian PM scolded over Holocaust joke
BY NIBIN THOMAS
THE BIRMINGHAM Oratory’s cat, Pushkin, had an encounter with the Pope, a renowned cat lover, when he visited the parish, it emerged this week.
The Holy Father was surprised to hear the cat mewing, and the priests at the Oratory, knowing the Pope’s fondness for cats, were quick to arrange an audience.
According to Fr Anton
Guziel the Pope was delighted to meet the half-Persian black cat.
“Pushkin was howling very loudly,” he said. “The Holy Father had emerged from the sacristy, following the group photograph, and he saw Pushkin in the corridor. I took the cat to him and he stroked Pushkin with a smile.”
The Pontiff went on to inquire about the cat’s name and age and called him “very pretty” in German. He stroked his chin and tickled his ears.
St Philip Neri, the founder of the Oratorians, was also a famous cat lover.
BY JOHN THAVIS IN ROME
THE VATICAN newspaper has criticised Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for telling a “deplorable” joke about the Holocaust.
Mr Berlusconi, chatting with supporters outside his home, told a joke about a Jew who charged a fellow Jew €3,000 a day to hide him in his basement during World War II. L’Osservatore Romano said the story “offends both the sentiments of believers and the sacred memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust”.
Mr Berlusconi’s office issued a statement saying the joke was told in private, and that the re-
sponsibility for bad taste belonged to those who publicised it.
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