National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  August 15, 2003

Vatican Criticized for Opposition to Gay Adoption

c. 2003 Religion News Service

Some say the Vatican’s gone and stuck its foot in its mouth. Made it worse, they say, by the fact that it’s done so with issues dealing with the lives of children.

In a 12-page document released Thursday (July 31), the Vatican launched an international campaign against gay marriage and encouraged others -- Catholics, non-Catholics and especially legislators -- to join it.

At the same time, the Vatican report said gay couples should not be allowed to adopt because it “would actually mean doing violence” to children.

Civil liberties and gay groups charge that the Catholic Church is the last institution to be throwing stones, because of the spate of sexual abuse of children by its own priests over the last several decades. They charge that the church is hypocritical and that, far from condemning such actions, the church was slow to acknowledge the abuse and even slower to punish the offenders.

“For the Vatican to make such a statement in light of how it’s handled the sexual abuse crisis in the church is just appalling,” said Marianne Duddy, executive director for Dignity USA, a national lay movement of gay and lesbian Catholics.

Zach Wichmann, associate director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, defended the Vatican’s position.

“I don’t see any correlation between the sex abuse issue and the gay adoption issue,” he said. “I guess I wouldn’t link the two issues.”

Of gay adoptions, he said, “It’s the natural order that a child have a mother and a father. An absence of one or both of those is certainly a detriment.”

While Wichmann didn’t link the two issues, others did.

“Unless and until the Vatican takes real steps at protecting children from the violence done by sexual predators, its credibility on children’s issues will remain very weak,” said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.

“Church officials have clearly demonstrated that their priority was to protect the church, its finances and its priests, and they sacrificed countless children to that goal,” Duddy said.

“For them to now say that placing children with gay and lesbian couples who have been thoroughly screened by adoption professionals could endanger those children in any way is absolutely sinful,” Duddy added.

Church officials argue that reform within the church is under way and has nothing to do with the Vatican’s position on gay adoption. The Vatican’s position is that it is inimical to the well-being of the child to be in a nontraditional family.

“I think it’s a heartbreaking misunderstanding,” Lisa Bennett, director of the Family Net Project at the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group, said of the Vatican’s statement. “In the past decade, we have seen almost every child welfare organization and a growing number of medical organizations saying that what a parent brings to raising a child is not affected by what the parent’s sexual orientation happens to be.”

Numerous organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Child Welfare League, have argued that position, she said.

A stable home environment and loving parents, she said, are more important than a parent’s sexual orientation.

Only three states have restrictions on gay adoption. Florida prohibits gay individuals and couples from adopting; Mississippi and Utah prohibit gay couples from adopting, but not individuals. Utah also prohibits unmarried heterosexual couples from adopting, according to Bennett.

National Catholic Reporter, August 15, 2003

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