I had hoped to be able to report gleefully on the Catholic men of Blackfen and Brighton tarring and feathering those who have calumnied one of "our" priests, but they must still be working off the monster hangovers from the Royal Wedding celebrations. Still: it will wait.
What follows is quite long but worth reading for the light it sheds on why we are in the mess were in, and what we look like to outsiders. It comes from the judgement in the appeal by the Diocese of Leeds against the ruling by the Charity Commission that Catholic Care, the diocesan adoption agency, should allow gay couples to put themselves forward as potential adoptive parents. The full judgement is here, but I have copied a section of it.
This isn't about the case itself: it's about Bishop Roche and his curia. I bet it could be about almost any of our Dioceses.
"24. The Tribunal also heard oral evidence from the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds, who was called by the Charity. He is the ex-officio Chairman of the Charity and in his witness statement he explained that, as the Bishop of the Diocese in which the Charity is based, he is responsible for ensuring that its activities are within the tenets of the Church: “in effect I am the arbiter of faith in respect of the activities of the Charity”. The Bishop told the Tribunal that the Church’s teaching is that a full sexual union without marriage is unacceptable, so that adoption services could not be offered by the Charity to unmarried heterosexual couples or to same sex couples. He did not think it generally acceptable for a single person to adopt, although he was aware that the Charity had in the past placed a child for adoption with a single adopter. He said he could not explain why the Charity’s website apparently suggested that single adopters were able to use the Charity’s services and said that whilst he was involved in setting the Charity’s policies, he did not necessarily know what went onto its website.
25. The Charity’s proposed objects (as currently drafted) did not seek to discriminate against same sex foster carers. The Commission had been informed by the Charity during the internal review process that the Charity did not object to placing children with same sex foster carers because this did not involve the creation of a family. When asked about this, the Bishop disagreed with this statement of the Charity’s policies and said he did not know why the proposed objects had been drafted in that way. He did not think the Charity had ever placed a child for fostering with a same sex couple and did not think it should. He thought that if a same sex couple who were already fostering a child applied to the Charity for assistance to adopt it, they would be referred to another voluntary adoption agency.
26. The Bishop explained that, as he had taken the view that adoption services could not, consistently with the tenets of the Church, be offered to same sex couples then (unless permission were to be given to amend the objects to allow discrimination) the Charity would close its adoption service completely. He said there was no “Plan B” in this regard, although he told the Tribunal he was aware of various re-structuring arrangements which had been adopted by other Catholic adoption agencies. These included instances of de-merger with the Church or making a gift of their assets to another agency on a restricted basis. He did not think that the Charity could re-structure so as to be able to continue its adoption work because he said the necessary financial backing from its supporters would not be available. He said that “the people who provide us with funds have clear views on these matters”. The Bishop told the Tribunal that he did not know how many Catholics supported same sex adoptions, he just knew that the stance the Charity had adopted in this matter had attracted much support. When asked if a change of stance might not in fact attract new supporters who did not oppose same sex adoptions, he responded that this was untested water. He told the Tribunal that since the suspension of the Charity’s adoption service it had received over 100 enquiries from potential adopters. These people had been referred to Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, which both operate voluntary adoption services in the same geographic region as the Charity.
27. The Bishop explained that the Charity had provided a service of real benefit to the community and enjoyed a high reputation for its adoption work, especially its post-adoption support services. He considered that this accounted for the low number of the Charity’s placements which had subsequently broken down (5%, as against a figure of 6% for voluntary adoption agencies generally and about 20% for local authority adoption placements). When asked to describe how the ability to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation would assist the Charity in its work, he explained that charities want their income to be applied to their own vision of what is in the best interests of the child. He thought that voluntary income had dropped off in areas such as Birmingham and Cardiff when there had been de-mergers of voluntary adoption agencies from the Church. The Bishop told the Tribunal that he agreed with the principle that a child should have the widest possible pool of potential adopters. He said he had heard that same sex couples rarely adopt hard to place children, although when directed to the evidence before the Tribunal which contradicted that view (see paragraph 51) he was prepared to accept that he might be mistaken on that point. (Mr McCall helpfully conceded on behalf of his client that the suggestion that same sex couples did not adopt hard to place children was no part of the Charity’s case).
28. The Bishop described the Charity’s approach to fund-raising, which he said was often conducted through appeals at Masses and in schools. The Bishop was asked how he knew that the Charity’s donors would end their financial support for the Charity if it offered adoption services to same sex adopters. He explained that the Charity has always been very clear about the family structure it promoted (the “Nazarene family”) and that this gives people confidence in the Charity. He said that he had written pastoral letters to the Diocese about this case and was surprised by the many letters of support he had received. He told the Tribunal he did not consider that the Charity’s adoption services would be viable without funding from members of the Catholic Church. He thought that the receipt of donations and the promotion of a Nazarene family structure went hand in hand. He commented that the law does not require the Catholic Church to bless civil partnerships and he thought that the law should allow the Church to act in accordance with its conscience in relation to same sex adoptions also.
There are two separate things going on here. First, the Bishop has gone to one of the most important meetings he will ever attend as a Bishop and is completely unprepared. His performance is woeful. "He did not think it generally acceptable for a single person to adopt, although he was aware that the Charity had in the past placed a child for adoption with a single adopter. He said he could not explain why the Charity’s website apparently suggested that single adopters were able to use the Charity’s services and said that whilst he was involved in setting the Charity’s policies, he did not necessarily know what went onto its website." This from the Bishop who says that “in effect I am the arbiter of faith in respect of the activities of the Charity”. There are three possibilities: one, that he just didn't bother to prepare; two, that he assumes that his staff will make sure that he is adequately prepared for important meetings which are outside his area of main competence and they hadn't; three, that he wasn't expecting to be questioned (in the sense that his authority as Head of the local Church would be a given to the Tribunal which would not correct him).
One of his interventions is embarrassing: "He said he had heard that same sex couples rarely adopt hard to place children, although when directed to the evidence before the Tribunal which contradicted that view (see paragraph 51) he was prepared to accept that he might be mistaken on that point. (Mr McCall helpfully conceded on behalf of his client that the suggestion that same sex couples did not adopt hard to place children was no part of the Charity’s case)." Bear in mind that Mr McCall is acting for the Bishop: his own barrister is telling the Tribunal to ignore what his client has just come out with.
Some while ago, I blogged about the fact that few of the Catholic Bishops had experienced the same sort of tertiary education as many of their contemporaries in public life: this is perhaps an example of the consequences of that lack of experience.
I said there were two concerns: my other is about what is going on in the Diocese behind the Bishop's back. I complain enough about the influence of the employees of the Bishops' Conference: here's an example of the same thing in microcosm. In spite of the Bishop being pretty clear on the Catholic view of hoew an adoption agency should work, and into what sort of family structure children should be placed, his own adoption agency was doing exactly what it wanted: happily referring gay couples to other agencies, placing at least one child with a single parent, and allowing gay couples to foster. Whatever Bishop Roche's expectation of Catholic policies from his organisation, they were being ignored, by people who are happily taking the diocesan shilling.
Of course, the poor old Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Leeds have paid good money for all of this, and are expected to keep on paying.