Charity Commission rules against RC adoption agency

See earlier reports on this case, here, and also here.

Civil Society reports on the latest decision:

The Charity Commission has again ruled that Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) may not change its objects in order to exclude homosexual couples from accessing its adoption services.

Despite being told in March by the High Court to reconsider, the Commission has stood by its original decision, arguing that there are not “particularly convincing and weighty reasons justifying the proposed discrimination”.

Speaking about the judgement, the Commission’s chief executive Andrew Hind, said: “In certain circumstances, it is not against the law for charities to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

“However, because the prohibition on such discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights law, such discrimination can only be permitted in the most compelling circumstances.

“We have concluded that in this case the reasons Catholic Care have set out do not justify their wish to discriminate.”

Read the news reports:

Guardian Riazat Butt Catholic adoption agency loses bid to bar gay parents from service

Telegraph Martin Beckford Last Catholic adoption agency faces closure after Charity Commission ruling

BBC Catholic charity’s appeal over gay adoption fails

Press Association Bid to block gays adopting fails

Mail Online Church loses gay adoption battle as charity commission claims adoption agency’s decision to help heterosexual couples only broke the rules

Associated Press UK: Adoption charity can’t ban gay couples

Third Sector Charity Commission refuses to change Catholic Care gay adoption decision

Press releases from the principals:

Charity Commission
Catholic charity ‘may not restrict its adoption service’, says Charity Commission
Summary of Decision
Full Document (PDF)

Catholic Care
PRESS STATEMENT : 18th August 2010


  • Father Ron Smith says:

    Let’s hope that the Pope’s visit will not be allowed to affect this latest judgement against the Catholic Adoption Agencies’ wish to discriminate against same-sex adoptive parents – by any of the UK Governmental dignitaries he is scheduled to meet. One fears that if Tony Blair had still been in office (with his newly-declared RC affiliation). he might have falloen under the onslought of papal bullism. However, with the present coalition heads of government, one hopes that justice will prevail.

    If Cardinal Newman were still alive – instead of being commemorated by a system of sanctification he himself might never have wanted – he might just have quietly applauded the UK authorities’ ruling on the authenticity of gay adoptive parenting – as a viable means of child support in instances where they might otherwise remain in institutional care.

    And as for the Pope’s ideas about women clergy and bishops – it will provide a good opportunity to inform him of the value of women’s ministry in the Church of England. It would be difficult to do without them.

  • Richard Ashby says:

    Very good news.

    Cardinal Newman certainly didn’t want to be made a saint as is made clear in the recent biography about him and neither did he want to be exhumed. Luckily he got his way about the latter.

  • Let’s try sticking to the topic of the article, which isn’t about Newman, or the papal visit…

  • From the Charity Commission’s summary:

    “On average it provides parents for about 10 children a year.”

    All of whom (according to the Commission) would be placed were the agency to close. I thought we were dealing with a much, much bigger operation here.

  • Robert Ian Williams says:

    I listened to the BBC news and it said the charity wanted only heterosexual couples to adopt. Could some one tell me, if the charity fought for the rights of a child to have married parents…a key distinction.

    I find it incredible if a Catholic Charity was taking a stand against gays and approving fornication.

  • Craig Nelson says:

    I’m not at all surprised by this decision which properly reflects in my view both the decision of the legislature and human rights based approaches. I think we had an extensive debate at the time the law was passed and a temporary exemption for adoption agencies was given to allow them to adapt. I found the high court ruling a bit odd at the time but freely admit I’m not a lawyer…..

  • chenier1 says:


    Thank you for the link to the full decision; it seems from a quick scan of the media reports that they have not noticed a central issue. The charity claimed in the High Court that:

    ‘Catholic Care was the adoption agency of last resort for the local authorities concerned, whose practice was to have recourse to Catholic Care only when all other avenues for the identification of willing and suitable adoptive parents had failed. But for Catholic Care’s work in that field, those children would therefore not have been adopted that year or, probably, at all.’

    That claim was tested by the Charity Commission by writing to the 13 local authorities whom Catholic Care had cited. Only 6 replied, and they disagreed with Catholic Care’s claims.

    I can’t cut and paste from the pdf, but pages 14-16 set out in some detail the relevant responses; it does appear that Catholic Care was inaccurate in its submissions to Justice Briggs.

    Cases turn on their particular facts, and the facts are contrary to the claim that children would not find parents if Catholic Care was not involved.

    There also issues of law which the Commission has considered; in particular the observations of the lawlords In re P and others

    Lord Hope:

    ‘The aim sought to be realised in regulating eligibility for adoption is how best to safeguard the interests of the child. Eligibility simply opens the door to the careful and exacting process that must follow before a recommendation is made. The interests of the child require that this door be opened as widely as reasonably possible. Otherwise there will be a risk of excluding from assessment couples whose personal qualities and aptitude for child rearing are beyond question. To exclude couples who are in an enduring family relationship from this process at the outset simply on the ground that they are not married to each other would be to allow considerations favouring marriage to prevail over the best interests of the child. I do not think that this can be said to be either objectively justified or proportionate.’

    The Charity Commission notes that, if the best interests of the child really are paramount, then excluding people who might make loving parents simply because they are not heterosexual is unacceptable.

    I think they are right…

  • @RIW Judging from other documents, it appears that they wanted to limit services to heterosexual couples to those in accordance with Church tenets.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    As I see it chenier1 picks up the first main point, while Robert covers the second.

    The Commissioners certainly took the instruction from Justice Briggs to “investigate” seriously.

    Even more sadly for all Christians the results of these investigations show there was an deliberate attempt to mislead – they were not the agency of last resort, other local agencies cover the same work and can take up the slack and, far from working only with happily married couples – the charity had worked with singles and unmarried couples ….. not (as RIW notes) quite the truth!

    So they failed to win the right to exclude gay couples – NOT because the law prohibits that discrimination, it quite clearly ALLOWS the Charity Commissioners the extraordinary power to allow such discrimination.

    No this Catholic Charity failed to win the right to refuse to serve gay people because they could not convince the Commissioners such action had justification and they lied and were discovered.

    Perhaps a specially selected theologically competent tribunal specialising in ecclesiastical cases would have missed that.

  • rick allen says:

    “On average it provides parents for about 10 children a year.”

    Obviously a dangerous organization that must be eliminated.

  • “Obviously a dangerous organization that must be eliminated.”

    Right – because no society enforces its laws when it’s confined to just a few cases…

  • chenier1 is absolutely right to draw attention to the details contained in the full text of the decision, which is well worth reading all the way through. The press reports to date are based mainly on the summary document, which was sent out on Wednesday, together with the press release, by the Charity Commission.

  • jimB says:

    Filing false claims before a court is a sure fire way to lose a case. The basic legal rule is that if one must lie to make a case, none exists.


  • chenier1 says:


    ‘The Commissioners certainly took the instruction from Justice Briggs to “investigate” seriously.’

    And how! It is about as close to bomb-proof as humans get; a very pretty piece of investigation work. I hope the team-leader took the grunts out for a drink when it was finalised; they certainly deserve it…

  • martin says:

    Here we have it! If Leeds Catholic Care had taken the sort of legal advice used by a number of other Catholic agencies, including those who have complied with the legislation, and whose previous non-discriminatory policies meant that they weren’t going to start discriminating now, then Leeds wouldn’t have got into this mess. Watch now to see what Westminster Catholic Childrens’ Society, and the Birmingham Father Hudson Society now do!

    From the US-based Catholic News Service:

    “Neil Addison, a Catholic lawyer who specializes in religious freedom, said that if all 11 Catholic adoption agencies – which together found new families for about 250 children a year – had united in their opposition to the regulations, the commission would not have been able to argue that their closure would have been insignificant.

    He told CNS Aug. 19 that the lesson for the church in countries that recently legalized gay adoption is that “the Catholic adoption agencies should stick together and take a united stand, otherwise they will be picked off.”

    Addison is not of course a disinterested party given that his Thomas More Legal Centre has been involved in a number of challenges to equality legislation, closely linked to a similarly named US organisation, and taking very similar positions to those of the Christian Legal Centre, Christian Institute etc.

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    ‘Addison is not of course a disinterested party given that his Thomas More Legal Centre has been involved in a number of challenges to equality legislation’

    The organisation’s name-sake does not augur well. More was hardly a model of toleration and openness to others himself. Those whom he considered heretic were in for a rough-ride from himself.

  • chenier1 says:

    ‘”Neil Addison, a Catholic lawyer who specializes in religious freedom, said that if all 11 Catholic adoption agencies – which together found new families for about 250 children a year – had united in their opposition to the regulations, the commission would not have been able to argue that their closure would have been insignificant.’

    He has not even bothered to read the Charity Commissions determination, has he? Had he done so, he would have realised that the false claim was that Catholic Care itself was the adoption agency of last resort for all the 13 local authorities concerned.

    He has flatly ignored that fact, but the other 10 agencies can hardly claim the same thing, since they can’t all claim simultaneously to be the adoption agency of last resort.

    I should enter a caveat; my expertise lies primarily in the legal implications of financial instruments and financial institutions; I am far more accustomed to lenders of last resort than I am with attempts to alter that principle to include adopters of the last resort.

    But this is still really nonsensical…

  • chenier1 says:


    Thanks once again for directing us to this earlier article by Neil Addison; I note that his original legal thesis was comprehensively trashed in the comments on his blog, and he made no attempt to defend it. What he did say, in response to another comment, was that:

    ‘The point is that the Charities were organisations, which were founded by the Catholic Church using Catholic money and they should have been free to make their own decisions on same sex adoption rather than being coerced’

    For those unfamiliar with British law I should explain that charities have significant tax exemptions; he neglected to mention that point, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the fact that the generality of British taxpayers, of all faiths and none, subsidise the activities of charities.

    It rather spoils his claims about ‘Catholic money’…

  • Robert Ian Williams says:

    No catholic Agency which allows the adoption of a child by an unmarried ” heterosexual” couple is worthy of the name Catholic. Furthermore to hand over a child to a non Catholic Couple is in my view, to lessen that child’s hope of salvation.

    That is why we insist on partners in non Catholic marriages making promises about the children that could be born.

    Don’t fear but in the future this will be tightened up.

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