BY MARK GREAVES
A SFCOND Catholic charity in America has been forced to scale back its adoption services in the face of a law that prevents discrimination against gay and lesbian couples who seek to adopt.
San Francisco's Catholic Charities announced last week that it will now refer prospective parents to other agencies rather than arrange adoptions itself.
Three Catholic Charities' employees will join California Kids Connection, an internet adoption exchange featuring about 500 children which prospective parents can smirch.
Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco insisted that the extra workers would help the internet service handle more cases.
"That's where we'll help," he said. "What we won't be doing... is placement in homes. We can't be involved in that any more."
Catholic Charities arrange an average of 25 adoptions every year in the San Francisco diocese, including one to samesex parents.
Five months ago the archbishop reminded the agency that placing children with gay or lesbian couples marked a contradiction of the teachings of the Church.
But the agency, which was established to help children orphaned after a devastating earthquake in 1906, would be violating a state law if it refused to place children with samesex couples.
Brian C.ahill, the chief executive of Catholic Charities, said the new arrangement would allow the agency to find homes for more of the 824100 children in California's foster care system.
"I'm not going to downplay the fact the Church told us to stop placing children in &linesex homes," he said. "But wear committed to our mission. We started off as an adoption agency. Why would we give that up?"
In March, Catholic Charities of the Boston archdiocese announced that it would have to stop providing adoption services rather than infringe a state law which makes disaimination against gay or lesbian couples illegal.
In a statement in February the bishops of Boston urged the government to allow Catholic agencies an exemption from the requirement to neat same-sex couples equally.
But 10 days later the archdiocese announced that it could not continue its adoption services.
"We have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve," said Fr J Bryan liehir, president of Catholic Charities in Boston, and Jeffrey Kaneb, chairman of the board of trustees, in a joint statement on March 10.
They said the agency "cannot reconcile the teaching of the Church, which guides our work, and the statutes and regulations of the commonwealth", under which the adoption services had placed I3 children with same-sex couples over the past 20 years.
A document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003 said it would be "gravely immoral" to let same-sex couples adopt children.
Catholic adoption agencies in Britain could suffer the same fate as Catholic adoption services in America if legislation is approved in Parliament to make discrimination against gays and lesbians illegal.
The bishops of England and Wales have warned the British government that adoption agendes could be forced to close unless the proposed legislation was amended.
The bishops expressed concern in a statement released in July that the proposed exemptions to the law would be "too limited" and that Catholic charities would find themselves penalised in the courts.
"The impact of these regulations could mean, therefore, that, in the worst-case scenario, without an exception being granted, Catholic adoption and fostering agencies would close," they said.