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The adoption row and how autonomous institutions get undermined

The row about whether Catholic adoption agencies should be allowed to refuse to give children up to gay couples has already caused a great deal of controversy, and there is a very, smart article on the issue at The Devil’s Kitchen blog which takes a pretty firm libertarian line on the matter. In my view, if a Catholic or any other religious organisation wishes to refuse to hand over children entrusted to it to certain sorts of people on grounds of religious doctrine, then one can certainly object to those views, but they should not be banned, in my view.

The problem, however, is that such adoption organisations receive money from the taxpayer: you and me. I am not a Catholic (although my wife is) and I am not happy that I may be financially enabling people to act on views I regard as wrong. This in my view demonstrates the great dangers of encouraging charities to receive tax moneys or indeed to get involved in state initiatives of any kind. By receiving such moneys, these bodies will slowly but surely lose their autonomy. The Catholic charities that are involved in areas like adoption may choose to sever any links with the state apparatus, and I strongly urge them to do so.

This government, remember, is one that regards autonomous institutions, be they businesses, charities, or any associations of people, as a threat to its power and designs. It wishes to bend these institutions to its corporatist, collectivist ends. In a sense, this is in fact a profoundly fascist government, in that it maintains the appearance of tolerating private property rights and institutions, but in fact seeks to regulate them so closely as to turn them into empty husks.

I hope this whole episode drives home in people’s minds the extent to which civil society, traditionally understood, has been weakened by this government. It was the late Tory MP, Nicholas Budgen I think, who once remarked that NuLabour would no longer seek to nationalise industries. Instead, it would nationalise people.

12 comments to The adoption row and how autonomous institutions get undermined

  • Paul Marks

    If taxes were lower then adoption could be financed voluntarily (as people would have more money to give to this and other good causes).

    However “no taxpayers money for bigots” will (of course) not fly – as many of the taxpayers who had their money taken from them (by the threat of violence) are “bigots” themselves.

    As for the general principle. As I (and many others) have said many times – it is is a matter of freedom of association. If freedom of association does not include the freedom NOT to associate, then it is no freedom at all.

    If, for example, I choose not to associate with blond people (i.e. not trade with them, not allow them on my property – and so on) on the ground of their having blond hair, I may indeed be a fool and an bigot but my choice (for “to discriminate” means to choose) should not be a matter for the civil or criminal law.

    However, for Mr Blair and Mr Cameron people should only be allowed to associate in the way they COMMAND.

    State control (this time in the name of “antidiscrimination”) is what they stand for.

  • Nick M

    Well, I for one was stunned that HMG had anything to do with Catholic adoption agencies. I thought we’d seperated church and state several hundred years back. Oh, wait that was America wasn’t it?

    I see nothing wrong with gay couples adopting children. I similarly utterly fail to see what the hell any of this has to do with the government and with my tax money.

    I would’ve thought that if you weren’t averse to your kid ending up with a gay couple you’d deliver it to a non-Catholic adoption agency. I would’ve thought that but then I’m right naive me.

    The fact that I’m paying for this bullshit outrages me.

    Oh for fucks sake! This is state-funded faith schools all over again.

  • It occurs to me that there is one entity, and perhaps only one, that should not be allowed freedom of association/dissociation: government.

    Best regards

  • RAB

    I completely agree with Johnathan here.
    Get the state out of your funding and you can set your own regulations.
    My take, such as it is, having no children, and no intention of adopting any, is that if gays were prohibited from adoption then I would be against that.
    But this isn’t that. This is a blanket uniformity being imposed from the other direction.
    Gays can easily adopt from many other agencies. Given the lenghty proceedure needed to be gone through, I hardly think these other agencies are oversubscribed with prospective adoptees, gay or straight . Do You?

  • Pete D.

    There was a thread about this issue over at Butterflies and Wheels.

    My view is that the right not to associate certainly is very important, and must be upheld. But exactly where is that line being drawn? The Church adoption agencies have been entrusted to look after the interests of the children in their care. As part of their duty of care they must do the best for those children.

    Does the Church have the right to impose their doctrines on the children, who are unable to make the decision themselves? In the past the Church frowned on unmarried couples and previously divorced people in a second relationship. The Church based agencies, in dealing with the public, and the children and the prospective adopters are members of that public, should not be allowed to let their private views interfere with the well being of the children in their care. Unless the agency can demonstrate that being adopted by a couple in a same sex relationship, in and of itself, is harmful to the child, then they should not be allowed to reject the adoption application.

  • Sunfish

    The Church adoption agencies have been entrusted to look after the interests of the children in their care. As part of their duty of care they must do the best for those children.

    Fine. Who decides what constitutes “best for the children?” The agency to whom the children were entrusted by their birth parents, or some amoral clown in the government? And if the Catholic agency following Catholic doctrine are unfit custodians for children, then what of (observant) Catholic parents?

    To the extent that the state is involved at all, I would respectfully submit that the only constraints are that the agency does an adequate job of ensuring that receiving households are free of abuse or neglect. Otherwise, we might as well just let the state do the parenting. Maybe the UK government is unusually moral and competent and fit for that tast, but I doubt it.

  • The Catholic Church has been supping with the Devil State. There isn’t a spoon long enough.

  • On the back of my iPod is engraved, “Get your long spoon…”

    And, boy, do we need it!


  • MarkE

    Does the Church have the right to impose their doctrines on the children, who are unable to make the decision themselves?

    The church has the right, if not the duty, to comply with the wishes of parents putting their child forward for adoption, if they have expressed any preference. I suspect that parents using a catholic agency would have certain preferences they would want honoured, and that may include whether they would want the child adopted by a gay couple.

    My discomfort with this matter lies in the appearance that the churches are requesting preferential treatment. If every non-government agency could set whatever rules or limits they chose I would be quite happy, but I’m uncomfortable with the thought of a law applicable to all, except certain churches.

    I do however support Nigel; the government must treat all citizens equally.

  • James

    Well, I for one was stunned that HMG had anything to do with Catholic adoption agencies. I thought we’d seperated church and state several hundred years back. Oh, wait that was America wasn’t it?

    Only if you read the Federalist Papers, Nicky, and not the Constitution. ;^)

  • Michiganny

    If the Roman Catholic church had an honest discussion of homosexuality, or human sexuality in general, I think it would be a healthy thing.

    Here in the states, the church has just outlawed homosexuals in the clergy because it conflates them with child abusers. And this a church that educated Jews and Hindus in my local high school. And it is a church that must be offering adoption services to non-Catholics, or I assume there would be a row over that, too. Clearly, it is now worse to be homosexual than to be a non-Catholic in the eyes of my church.

    This is a tragedy, since gays are thought to be between 10% and 58% of the priesthood(Link)

    The older I get, the more I see Cordelia from Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited as not just an example of the guilt and self-loathing the church instills so well in its adherents, but as a symbol for the church itself.

  • Paul Marks

    Priests in the United States and other places WERE found to be abusing childring Michiganny – it is not a matter of the Church “conflating them”.

    Wanting to bugger a little boy is one thing, but actually doing so is quite another. The “liberal” approach to such priests did not turn out well. The priests in question could not (or would not) control themselves (perhaps they did not have enough “guilt and self-loathing”)

    Actually (as Pope John Paul II stated) there is no reason in THEOLOGY why a Parish Priest (as opposed to the “regular clergy” of monks and nuns) should have to be celebate. It was a matter of “discipline not doctrine” (the fear once was that parish piests would want to leave land to their children – thus hitting the Church).

    Of course a move to allowing a married clergy would not prevent all child abuse (there are married men who still bugger children), but it would greatly reduce it.

    None of the above should be taken to mean that all celebate priests are phony (i.e. that they are engaged in sexual activity), still less that they have homosexual inclinations (let alone give in to them).

    It is a matter of dealing with a minority of offenders. But certainly the “liberal” approach of allowing Bishops (and the past Vatican II administrative structures) to sweep it all under the carpet (“show tolerance and understanding”) did not serve children well.

    “But not all people who engage in homosexual acts with adults wish to do so with children” – quite true, and none of the above says they do.