Wednesday, January 24, 2007

That adoption row: Christian morality or thinly-veiled bigotry?

It is not so very long ago that a significant proportion of the population would have accepted, at least as an aspiration, the view of most Christian churches that sex was something that should happen within marriage, meaning heterosexual marriage. Views on sexual morality have changed – and a good thing too. By not altering its teaching to move with the tiems, the Roman Catholic Church has come to appear at best anachronistic, and at worst bigoted. Even most practising Catholics have moved on and their views on divorce, gay and lesbian rights, contraception and abortion tend to have more in common with non-Catholics than with the Pope.

And yet, like it or not, Christianity is part of national life. Christian organisations have a long tradition of doing humanitarian and philanthropic work, so the notion that they cannot follow the Church’s teaching in so doing. I can see how it might feel that Christian organisations are being prevented from following Christian morality in the way they work.

For me, as a Liberal and a Catholic, I can understand both sides’ point of view. The question is whether the Church is genuinely concerned to abide by the tenets of its own teaching or whether it is just engaging in a sly bit of homophobia. If the former then no doubt the Catholic adoption agencies refuse to give babies for adoption to heterosexual couples who are cohabiting or where one or both parties have previously been divorced.

If the point is that these agencies exist to find Catholic homes for Catholic children then just possibly it’s fair to allow them to discriminate in favour of couples who are within a marital unit that the Church recognises. Otherwise it might be difficult to bring the children up as Catholics.

If it is just same-sex couples who are being singled out, then the churches’ moral case falls to the ground.

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