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Mr Cameron, if you really mean what you say, you must allow our adoption agencies to re-open

Otherwise you will prove just how empty your words are

By on Thursday, 23 September 2010

David Cameron and Pope Benedict XVI at the farewell ceremony at Birmingham International Airport (Photo: PA)

David Cameron and Pope Benedict XVI at the farewell ceremony at Birmingham International Airport (Photo: PA)

As the living memory of the Pope’s visit fades we need now to continue our lives as Catholics in the perspective of those four days. The Pope’s visit wasn’t just for fun: it established a new perspective on some crucial issues, one of the most important being that it regained our place in the “public square”. In his Westminster Hall address, the Pope made it clear that he felt that Catholics had been and were being excluded from it.

“Religion,” he said, “is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance.” And by that, he made it clear that he meant the United Kingdom.

His achievement was that he put the politicians on the defensive in such a way that they could only insist that his was not merely a reasonable point of view, but that they themselves already shared it, honest they did. In his farewell speech, David Cameron insisted that “people of faith – including our 30,000 faith-based charities – are great architects of [the new culture of social responsibility we want to build in Britain].”

Well now, Mr Cameron, (may I call you Dave?) I would like to know how serious you are in what you say. Talk is cheap. I would like to know, Dave, what exactly you are going to do in response to the following passage in the Pope’s Westminster speech: “I am convinced”, he said, “that, within this country… there are many areas in which the Church and the public authorities can work together for the good of citizens, in harmony with Britain’s long-standing tradition. For such co-operation to be possible, religious bodies – including institutions linked to the Catholic Church – need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching of the Church.

Well, we all know exactly what the Pope meant by that: why were we forced to close down our adoption agencies as a result of legislation which was supposed to be about toleration? And Dave, if your warm words to the Pope about “faith-based charities” are not so much hot air, what will you now do to restore the freedom of Catholic charities to act in accordance with Catholic principles?

Me, I will not be holding my breath: as the Herald reported before the election, “some Christians are sceptical … especially after he voted with the [Labour] Government on the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which denied Catholic adoption agencies the right to refuse to assess same-sex couples as potential adopters”.

It would be simple, Dave, to show that you actually mean what you say about faith-based charities. You don’t have to repeal the Sexual Orientation Regulations: simply allow us an opt-out. If you won’t, don’t claim ever again that you “look forward to ever closer co-operation between the UK and the Holy See”: just let those empty words fall quickly into oblivion. As for us, we will be very careful before we believe a word you say, ever again: for you will then unambiguously have shown that in one respect at least, you are indeed the “heir to Blair”.

  • Bwaj

    Of course – in Australia they have similar legislation but there are certain permanent opt-outs for the Catholic Church. In that sense it could be said Australia is more tolerant than the UK.

  • chrysostom

    Please post this to his prime minstership?

  • Lancastrian

    Today the national office of statistics has revealed that only 1% of the nation is homosexual yet 71% are Chrstian. We need to go on the offensive and the Catholic bishops need to stop giving in to this tiny minority.

  • Ratbag

    Right, Mr Cameron! Put your money where your mouth is and let Catholic adoption agencies re-open with opt-outs in place, right here and right now. Go on! If a young, advanced country like Australia can do it, why can't you? It makes perfect sense.

  • SPQRatae

    I'm also not holding my breath. On the other hand, politicians are led by political calculations, not what is right, and the sums are interesting. A lot of Labour supporting gay people will never switch their vote, whatever Cameron does. But I sense a lot of Labour supporting Catholics are ripe for the plucking, especially after an outgoing Labour government that was the most anti-Catholic in living memory.

    Without the Catholic vote, Labour would be holed beneath the waterline. Go on, Dave, do it!

  • Dorsetshire-ian

    Not before time. For all to long we Catholics have been embarassed to stand up for our beliefs. We have allowed ourselved to be kicked, attacked and verbally abused because of our beliefs and not replied to criticism. We cshould be calm and non-confrontational inour replies but express our support for the church's attitude and beliefs. Those who do not like our beliefs, including those of our faith, should get on with their own lives and leave others to do the same.

  • Leo Glad

    “An opt-out” ? Perhaps if the catholic adoption agencies were not funded by public money, this wouldn't be an issue.

  • W Oddie

    Even if every penny came from Catholic sources (rather than a high proportion) the law would still refuse to allow the agencies to operate according to catholic principles. Otherwise, they would still be open: we would just fund them entirely from the giving of the faithful. And in any case, their main resource was always the time and dedication of those who ran them.

  • Nesbyth

    It's not going to happen…I'm cynical. But to have closed all those Catholic Adoption agencies was a tragedy because I doubt there are that many homosexual couples who would have come forward as you can't be a practising Catholic and a “practising” homosexual. But perhaps the Catholic Agencies weren't too fussy about the Catholic practice?

  • Robert T.

    “Allow!” “Allow!” William, as I wrote in your illustrious paper a year or so ago, the law shopuld just be defied and the courts dared to send the mamgers of the adoption agencies to prison, which i doubt if they would. Thomas More did not say in his trial” I'd better follow the guidelines.”