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Archbishop Nichols says he is in favour of gay civil unions: but that legally includes the right to adopt. So why did we lose our adoption agencies?

The teaching of the Church on civil unions is clear enough: does the archbishop support it or not?

By on Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Archbishop Nichols, right, at a press conference following the bishops' plenary meeting (Photo: Mazur)

Archbishop Nichols, right, at a press conference following the bishops' plenary meeting (Photo: Mazur)

I begin with a question, one which has a surprising answer: who, last week, pronounced the following words?

We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision… As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life. The Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give…

Well, the answer is that these words were uttered by Archbishop Vincent Nichols last week at a press conference following the English and Welsh bishops’ conference. That’s the same bishops’ conference which in 2003 published a document in response to a government consultation on “civil partnership – a framework for the legal recognition of same-sex couples”, in which the bishops stated their unequivocal view that “the government’s proposals to create civil partnerships for same-sex couples would not promote the common good” and that they therefore opposed them. Their reasons, in brief, were that these proposals would in the long term undermine marriage and the family, and that they were “not needed to defend fundamental human rights or remedy significant injustices for same-sex couples, as these have either already been substantially addressed or can largely be addressed by the couple entering into contractual arrangements privately.”

So, what has changed? It simply won’t do for the archbishop to cover himself by asserting, as he did, that “equality and commitment do not amount to marriage” and that civil partnerships were “categorically different” from gay marriage – which, he asserted, the bishops oppose. He said he was “very disappointed” that the Government had decided to introduce gay marriage. But this is surely mere cant (a word which according to the Oxford dictionary means “hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature”), since civil partnership as actually now defined in English law have virtually all the characteristics of civil marriage except the name – including, crucially, the right to adopt children. So this looks to me very like a volte face, at least on Archbishop Nichols’s part. In 2003, the bishops gave the most cogent and, in sharp contrast to many Vatican documents, lucidly expressed reasons for opposing the legislation the Blair government went on to enact, legislation which Archbishop Nichols apparently now supports:

The signal the law would send to rising generations is that marriage as husband and wife, and a same-sex relationship, are equally valid options, and an equally valid context for the upbringing of children. By publicly elevating same-sex relationships to a legal status virtually equivalent to civil marriage, the signal given to society would be that these two states of life are equally deserving of public protection and respect, when in fact they are not.

Clearly a few same-sex couples do bring up children, though they cannot both be their biological parents. But same-sex parents remove from children’s immediate family experience and context either the male or the female experience… The general psychological male/female complementarity in parenthood is not directly witnessed… It is in this long term context that we have to consider the rights of children. It is wrong to embark on a policy whose probable long-term outcome will be that more children are deliberately brought into this world only to be deprived of having both a father and a mother. This will be the most likely long-term result of a public policy which promotes same-sex couples as parents by giving them a public status equivalent to marriage.

It isn’t just that this document gives the most eloquently expressed rational arguments against civil unions. It also supports (which Archbishop Nichols in effect apparently no longer does) the explicit teachings of the Catholic Church. The following comes from a document which I quoted only a week or two ago in this space, entitled “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons”, issued by the CDF when the present Pope was its prefect. This can be taken therefore as representing authentic pontifical teaching. Like the English bishops, the CDF document stresses the need for children to be brought up in the conditions which marriage provides, with both a father and a mother:

As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.

Really, my own personal view is irrelevant. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has expressed the Church’s view: that the adoption of children by people in civil unions is “doing violence” to these children by placing them “in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development” and that this is “gravely immoral”. My own bishops have stated that “It is wrong to embark on a policy whose probable long-term outcome will be that more children are deliberately brought into this world only to be deprived of having both a father and a mother”. So firmly has the Church in this country believed this that rather than obey a law which would have compelled their adoption agencies to collaborate in adoption by gay couples they have actually closed these agencies down.

And now we are told, by the chairman of the bishops’ conference, that the English Church supports civil unions between homosexual persons, unions which have been given the legal right to adopt children. What are we to think? That the archbishop (to employ a Bush-ism) “mis-spoke” himself, that actually he didn’t mean the kind of civil union we actually have but another kind, which would envisage all the rights such unions now enjoy except for the right to adopt children?

The trouble is that it doesn’t actually look as though he does mean that, since he also made it clear that “we are very committed [question: who is this “we”?] to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life”: that’s all the activities of life, presumably including adoption. So what does he believe? Just what is he saying, on behalf of his brother bishops and presumably the rest of us?

That’s a real question, to which we who are members of the English Church need, and I believe have a right to, a considered response. I really hope we will get one.

  • Bob Hayes

    As reported this does indeed appear to be a volte face. If that is the case, there is a real danger the Church’s opposition to gay ‘marriage’ will be seen as little more than semantics or pedantry. It also appears that ‘equality’ is being interpreted to mean ‘equal rights’. The former has theological roots in all human beings being equal in the sight of God; the latter is a produce of liberal-democratic jurisprudence. 

  • Anonymous

    Traitor to the faith, plain and simple. Whoever decided/thought this man was a suitable leader??? This man is not suitable to lead the proverbial in the brewery! He cares more for the world, and diplomacy and politics than standing up boldly for the truth, for Christ and his Church. It is because of in-vertebrae like Archbishop Nichols that Catholics feel so powerless as the culture slides closer to hell. Our own leaders stab us in the back, then give us a delicate kiss on the cheek with his usual graceful eloquent bulls***. He has a lot to answer for…………..

  • Bob Hayes

    Correction: The last clause should, of course, read ‘the latter is a PRODUCT of liberal-democratic jurisprudence’.

  • Anonymous

    The first duty of the bishop is the spiritual welfare of
    those in his diocese. Preach the Gospel to the converted and to the
    unconverted. The bishop guides his flock, to help them better understand the
    Christian faith and correctly translate it into action.
    If Archbishop Nichols regrettably respects same sex relationships why
    should he quibble at the next stage in this sad charade?
    He appears to have shifted one boundary, why not then shift
    some more.

    Subjective morality abhors boundaries.

    There is an agenda by some to push at every boundary in
    their mindless quest to destroy traditional family values.
    The law of unintended consequences kicks in and none of us
    has any idea where concessions to the permissive society will take us.
    One does not have to be a bishop to see this.
    The Catholic Church requires authentic and robust gospel
    leadership to protect traditional family values and this false compassion
    undermines the gospel message and causes enormous confusion among the faithful.
     
    Archbishop Nichols appears to be yet another shepherd of
    souls the Catholic Church could do without.

    I despair.

  • karlf

    Pilgrim74 – going by what you have written, Archbishop Nichols is clearly far more a Christian than I believe you will ever be.

  • karlf

    maxmarley – surely it would be wrong for gay people to have families, so traditional family values aren’t really an issue here.

  • Anonymous

    Archbishop Nichols is the sort of man who will say whatever is most pleasing to whoever he is addressing at the time.

  • http://queering-the-church.com/blog/ Terence Weldon

    Why, indeed, if not simply to put religiosity before the best interests of the child. Those interests are, very simply, that each child in need of adoption be placed with the most suitable available parents. Tje available evidence from both academic researchers and child care professionals is that in general, gay or lesbian parents are as capable as any others of making suitable parents. Some individuals are superb, some are not – just as heterosexuals differ in their suitability as adoptive parents.

    For some children, gay parents may even be the better alternative – or the only available possibility. The bishops’  strenuous opposition to gay adoption was a disgrace – and made a complete mockery of their often repeated claim that the only consideration in adoption should be the best interests of the child. For them, it seems the primary concern was simply to protect religious orthodoxy. 

    I applaud Archbishop Nichols for his sanity on civil unions – and pray that it will lead him, and the rest of the church, to the obvious, logical conclusion on gay adoption. 

  • Mr Grumpy

    The Archbishop seems to forget (or choose to forget?) the case of the two elderly sisters who tried and failed to register a civil partnership. That established that civil partnerships are not fundamentally about “a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership” – the sisters plainly had these – but specifically about sex, and that to approve them is therefore to approve the sex.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    They used to say “Is the Pope Catholic?” in a rhetorical way to make the point that something is dead certain.

    With regard to this archbishop, I don’t think the question “Is the archbishop Catholic?” would be regarded as rhetorical.

  • Anon

    IVF,designer babies,’commodity’ based adoptions,all part and parcel of these worrying trends. Perhaps we can look to Cardinal Keith o’ Brien for guidance on the direction of travel?

  • Anonymous

    The CDF statement makes a false claim about the results of experience of children placed with same sex couples. All the available research shows no adverse consequences, indeed on balance children do better when raised in same sex households. It could be argued based on the evidence that it “does violence” to children to bring them up in mixed sex households since their human development would be better if raised in a same sex environment.

    When the CDF makes a mistake the sooner it is corrected the better.

    I am pleased to see the gradual change of teaching about homosexual relationships has begun. It will not happen overnight, but it is inevitable that the Church will learn from experience that homosexual partnerships are nothing to be feared, and eventually celebrate in church the sacramental union of two people in a permanent  same sex relationship.

  • Davidfsavage

    Good for the Archbishop, pastor looking for the lost sheep.  bringing God’s mercy.  Rebellion is the crime of the Devil and his minions. Those who are scathing and insulting  to him… who is your master?   ( I think the same of the dissenters of the new mass and Pius X Brigade by the way).  
    Gospel values coming through the miasma of ego and misplaced intellectualism.  

  • Bob Hayes

    ‘… on balance children do better when raised in same sex households’. Interesting claim. Have the claimed achievement data been adjusted to take account of the social class of the adopters? 

  • Bob Hayes

    Having had the chance to read the source of Archbishop Vincent’s words, I see that it is The Tablet (26 November edition - http://www.thetablet.co.uk/pdf/5348 ) in an article titled. ‘Archbishop praises civil partnerships’. 

    Now having listened to the podcast of the press conference ( http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/Home/News/Bishops-Resolutions-from-November-2011 ) I find The Tablet somehow failed to mention the Archbishop saying, ”We would want to say categorically these [marriage and civil partnerships] are two different things. [...] To call it [life-long partnership] a marriage if you like, to annex the territory of marriage, is something quite different.’

    Listening to the Archbishop speaking in the podcast is highly recommended! 

  • chiaramonti

    This is very unfair to the Archbishop. The fact that he is prepared to tolerate civil unions for same sex couples in order to avoid what would otherwise amount to fiscal and inheritance disadvantage should not be taken as meaning that he in any way undermines the sanctity of marriage or supports what is sometimes called “gay marriage.” In a democracy, those who wish to form same sex relationships must be allowed to do so. The real battle ahead, in which I have no doubt he will engage on the side of the angels, is the likely attempt by the government to move from civil partnerships to a new definition of marraige that embraces homosexual unions. In order to make an effective stand against such nonsense an essential first step is to accept civil partnersips thereby removing at a stroke the suggestion that any relevant form of discrimination remains. To include homosexual partnerships within the concept of marriage is probably acceptable to the unthinking masses. It will, of course, amount to nothing more than a legislated lie should it come to pass. All Christians must oppose such Alice in Wonderland use of language and the Archbishop’s approach is an essential concession if the status quo is to be maintained.

  • Bob Hayes

    Respectfully suggest you listen to the Archbishop’s own words – podcast: http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/Home/News/Bishops-Resolutions-from-November-2011 ‘Plenary November 2011 Q&A) before accusing anyone of treason.

  • Anonymous

    Good old bishop Nichols, what a champion for traditional
    Catholic values.

    Vincent is our shepherd there is nothing we shall want

    With civil partnerships
    we could soon have gay marriage

    With Vincent the Catholic Church is in a very safe pair of
    hands. 

    Maybe priestesses,
    perhaps openly gay priests and bishops and cardinals.

    The church militant will be triumphant

    Perhaps a little bit
    of divorce, some abortion, but just for the very hard cases mind you

     “Gates of Hell” will
    never prevail against Christ’s true Church

    Some new age liturgy,
    anybody?

    The martyrs of Tyburn will rejoice in heaven.

    Alexander VII will occupy the Seat of Peter or maybe
    Alexander VII junior

    Our shepherd Vincent will bring us to the promised landZeitgeist uber alles

    Halleluiah

     

    Anybody for some SSPX?or will Benedict fire him first?Watch this space!!!

  • Davidfsavage

    I know two elderly nuns who are both biological sisters living together in a small house in the inner city, when they introduced themselves to the lesbian couple next door as sisters their neighbours assumed  the obvious

  • Bob Hayes

    Have you listened to the press conference podcast? This story seems to be largely a concoction of wishful thinking from The Tablet.

  • Anonymous

    “In a democracy, those who wish to form same sex relationships must be allowed to do so.”

    Why?  Is democracy a more just and equitable philosophy than the teaching of the Catholic Church?  A human construct like a gay CP is nothing more than a permit to disobey the will of God, another defiance of the Church of which Nichols pretends to be a member.

  • Anonymous

     “Rebellion is the crime of the Devil and his minions.”

    Oh dear.  Have you told St Catherine of Siena, Mr Savage?

  • Anonymous

    “..it is inevitable that the Church will learn from experience that
    homosexual partnerships are nothing to be feared, and eventually
    celebrate in church the sacramental union of two people in a permanent 
    same sex relationship.”

    What planet do you inhabit, Mr Hadley?  Why do you find it so difficult to accept that Our Lord’s promise to the Apostles and their successors will be enforced by Him until the end of time?  Do you seriously believe that the Holy Spirit would give a solemn promise concerning the teaching of the Church, and then allow pipe-dreamers like you to make a mockery of that promise?  Get off your high horse and live in the real world of Catholicism, the only force capable of opposing and defeating the vicious gay agenda and their intention of forcing all real Catholics to submit to their sinful way of life.

  • Anonymous

    Time will tell who is right, but I wonder if Mr Smith expected the Archbishop of Westminster to express  support for the right to establish same-sex civil partnerships. That is certainly a major step in the right direction.

    The lesson of history is that eventually progressives always win. However most progressive victories become so well accepted and unchallenged that the conservatives try to pretend that they never happened.

  • W Oddie

    I don’t think this affects the main point of my article in any way.

  • Anonymous

    I do not know the answer to Mr Hayes question, but I expect the research is available for anyone who wants to investigate. However even if the results of the research were skewed by the social class of the same sex adopters, that would not prevent it disproving the CDF argument that putting a child into a same sex family was doing violence to the child’s future development.

  • Deus Vult

    Given that Archbishop Nichols doesn’t know whether the Church – THE CHURCH – will come round to blessing homosexual unions and ordaining women (see link below), I think expecting him to offer a Catholic response to the issue of civil partnerships is somewhat optimistic.

  • Anonymous

    “The lesson of history is that eventually progressives always win.”

    That depends, of course, on how you define the term ‘progressive’.
    Some people would say that Martin Luther was a progressive, or that the Bolsheviks were progressives.  They disappeared into the history books, as these so-called gay progressives are destined to do.

  • Tiddles the Cat

    We need Archbishop Nichols as ‘Head’ of the Roman Catholic Church of England and Wales like we need a jelly pickaxe!

    Pope Benedict XVI ought to rein him in like he did with the Archbishop of Toowoomba in Australia.

  • Davidfsavage

    or Martin Luther

  • GabrielAustin

    “Mis-spoke” is not a Bushism but a Nixonism.

  • Dosabhain

     what is  Catholic about slagging off an archbishop in his pastoral work…perhaps you should join forces with the BBC and then we can be attacked on all sides.  

  • Dosabhain

    and are you the man to cast the stone

  • Anonymous

    Ok then Dr Oddie: With this latest fiasco;
    together with the RCOG memorial lecture [for an abortionist to abortionists where he praised them for their [actually non-existent] conscience rights; followed by a Q&A where he declared the Church had no right to intervene on their ethical surgical decision-making] ;
     together with continuing abortifacients-provision and abortion referrals at the St John & Lizzie years after the Pope ordered Cormac to stop it;
    and the Archbishop’s silence when Terry Weldon[below] said the Warwick Street masses has +Vin’s and Vatican-backing ;
    and +Vin’s presidency of a Bishops’ conference which allowed statutory rape-promoting and death-mongering ‘Connexions’ into Catholic Schools
    and the Euthanising Liverpool Care Pathway as the recommended form of palliative murder, erm..care;
    with his silence and by default continuing support of Terry Prendergast of Marriage Care who said there was no difference in child-rearing between natural parents and same-sex adopters;
    with +Vin stating ‘hold your tongue’ to those condemning the promotion of homosexual sexual activity during prayers at mass;
    with +Vin saying ‘who knows what’s down the road?’ in regard to blessing gay marriages;
    with +Vin declaring a foetus has more moral worth than an embryo;
    with his normative response of ‘well the Church says, BUT the other side do have a point …’ [e.g. regarding women priests]
    with his months of silence while the Pope was being falsely accused of personally covering up clerical abuse;
    with his refusal to freely give the ordinariate an HQ and London Church [with the excuse that they weren't financially sustainable yet] ;
    with his refusal to intervene while Oona Stannard sold the Church out and almost had Catholic moral teaching banned outside religion classes;
    with his embarrassing lack of leadership during the Papal visit preparations [creeping over to Rome and telling them the Pope couldn't celebrate a large beatification mass because they'd wasted all the money on consultants,event planners and umbrellas!] [ironic given in his Independent interview he told them his phone-confrontation with Cameron actually rescued the Visit - when we all thought Damian Thompson's Spectator article [forcing governmental intervention] was what rescued +Vin from public humiliation]
    With his bully-boy tactics over the Vaughan and then the strange incident where he publicly denied that he had informed the governors that they must vote a certain way to prevent a DES inquiry…

    ….and when the author of a book on St John Fisher also says
     “I fully recognise the importance of the position of
    the Established Church in protecting and fostering the role of faith in
    our society today.”

    …and with all the dozens of gaffes, and debacles and syncretist, meandering heterodoxies and platitudinous inanities…

    Isn’t it about time we told +Vin that it’s time he retired to keep bees or grow marrows or something?

  • James

    It seems to me that neither those who, motivated by the pursuit of gay rights, advocate unfettered adoption rights for same sex couples nor those who, motivated by adherence to religious dogma, oppose adoption by same sex couples in any circumstance are not primarily concerned with the wellbeing of the children. Where children, for whatever circumstance, are without a loving family and there is no heterosexual family available to provide them with one it is surely better for them to be brought up in the loving and personally caring environment of a same sex household rather than in an institution.

  • James

    This a second posting – the first didn’t make sense because of a misprint! It seems to me that neither those who, motivated by the pursuit of gay rights, advocate unfettered adoption rights for same sex couples nor those who, motivated by adherence to religious dogma, oppose adoption by same sex couples in any circumstance are primarily concerned with the wellbeing of the children. Where children, for whatever circumstance, are without a loving family and there is no heterosexual family available to provide them with one it is surely better for them to be brought up in the loving and personally caring environment of a same sex household rather than in an institution.

  • Bob Hayes

    Given that you did not cite the source of your original claim, that is particularly unfortunate. It reinforces my suspicion that your data are meaningless. Think about it: a child adopted by a couple of city bankers is likely to achieve more academically at (fee-paying) school than a child adopted by an East End working-class couple sending her/him to a state comprehensive. And the point is……?

  • Bob Hayes

    Ah yes, Whig history.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XEKVYLFJBF3KPYN2GKADBGUPK4 hey old man

    Hell’s road will be paved with the head of Archbishop Nichols…

  • Rowancarstairs

    When a man like Nichols denies The Faith, as he clearly has here, is there any wonder that the Society of St Pius X are concerned that they avoid the mortal sin of heresy, leading souls to hell, by accepting the current Anti-Catholic and Anti-Christian leadership of The Church 

  • Anonymous

    I’m no defender of Archbishop Nichols, and I agreed with the earlier document and given the way in which it has led to step after step, such as adoption, such as marriage legislation, such as CPs in church I think that was right.
     
    To be fair to him, however, I think he is merely trying to adhere to the teaching which states that all unjust discrimination in their regard is to be avoided. It is in one way perfectly fair enough that things such as tax and pension entitlements should be allowed to them. This doesn’t imply that he is approving sexual sin, nor that he thinks that the further step of marriage is appropriate – as clearly he does not. Nor does this imply that he approves of all of the entitlements that CPs provide, such as the right to adopt. He clearly doesn’t. He is in favour of eliminating unjust discrimination but not of removing just distinctions.
     
    It is unfortunate though that the original legislation included entitlements which went too far and also created the climate in which today’s further steps became inevitable.

  • Anonymous

    Archbishop Nichols has failed to abolish that blasphemous Mass for gays at Warwick Street.  Correct me if I am wrong, but the gays who attend this Mass are permitted to receive communion, even if they are shacked up with partners.
    If this is your idea of ‘pastoral work’ , then you know where you can shove it.

  • Anonymous

    I would like you to answer this question: Why do you find it so difficult to accept that Our Lord’s promise to the Apostles and their successors will be enforced by Him until the end of time?

  • Joel Pinheiro

    I see more of a moral issue in the State formally accepting and giving incentive (and moral sanction) to homosexual unions than in allowing homosexual couples to adopt.

    Granted that the best for a kid is to have a father and mother, and every kid should have it, still, for many seeking adoption it is a choice between the orphanage or a homosexual couple. And it is not at all clear that life in the orphanage is the best choice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hans-Coessens/1071642602 Hans Coessens

    Well it’s about time…the prelate shows his true colours.

  • Bob Hayes

    Your link is to a YouTube page with some stunningly selective editing. A classic example of the journalistic malpractice of ‘never letting the truth get in the way of a good story’.

  • Bob Hayes

    True, but it is always wise to take a large pinch of salt with anything emanating from The Tablet.

  • Anonymous

    I’d be a lot more inclined to believe that His Grace’s primary consideration is for equality if he showed any sign of being concerned to promote the equality of siblings, or even chaste friends, who choose to share domestic arrangements.  How is it just that they are subject to inferior inheritance rights to homosexual couples?

  • Agent Provocateur21

    Well folks, I actually went to see the “so called gay masses” with my own eyes and shot this short clip after the mass. This interview is eye-opening and in many respects revealing…and yes, His Eminence Vincent Nichols is mentioned there….

  • theroadmaster

    It looks like Archbishop Nichols prefers to equivocate in the case of civil unions for homosexual couples, so as not to receive too much opprobrium from those on either side of the argument.  He is looking for a “via media”, but the indefinite nature of his language only ends up in  confusing those who will be looking for clarification regarding Church teaching on this very contentious issue from the Chairman of the Hierarchy of England and Wales.  In trying to be appealing to everyone, he will end up satisfying no-one, which is rather like the reality that we experience with politicians. From bishops above all, we need doctrinal clarity and pastoral prudence in relation to the biblical truths which reveal God’s Revelation through the Natural Law.