Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Culture Wars, UK Edition

Yet again, a hierarchy v. government row has broken out in Britain -- this time over impending regulations that the rights of same-sex couples extend to equal opportunity in adoptions.

Cormac's jumped in seeking an exemption, and No. 10 is said to be "wavering":
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, said the church would have "serious difficulty" with the proposed regulations, putting a total of 12 Catholic adoption agencies at risk of closure.

This morning the prime minister's official spokesman admitted that Mr Blair still had to make his mind up on the issue.

The regulations, part of the Equalities Act 2006, are designed to give gay and lesbian couples the same protection against discrimination under the law as ethnic minorities.

But Cardinal Murphy O'Connor has warned that the law would force Catholics to "act against the teaching of the church and their own consciences".

Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "This is an issue with sensitivities on all sides and the prime minister recognises that, and that is why it is worth having some discussions in government before we come to a decision.

"The key thing we have to remember in all of this is the interests of the children concerned and that there are arguments on both sides.

"This is not a straightforward black-and-white issue. This is an issue where there are sensitivities on all sides and we have to respect those but equally find a way through."

Weekend reports speculated that both Mr Blair, whose wife and family are Catholic, and Ruth Kelly, the communities secretary - who is a member of the Catholic sect Opus Dei - were in favour of allowing the church some form of exemption.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor released a letter the church had sent to Downing Street, saying: "We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the government to insist that if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service."

The cardinal said it would be an "unnecessary tragedy" if Catholic agencies were forced to close - rather than being forced to consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents.

The act is due to come into power in April, but Downing Street would not be drawn on a timetable for discussions exempting Catholic adoption agencies.
Regrettably, no imitation of the San Francisco solution has yet been proffered.