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Top Administrator at San Francisco Catholic Charities Is A Gay Adoptive Father | Valerie Schmalz | March 20, 2006


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San Francisco, March 21, 2006 _  The director of programs and services of San Francisco’s Catholic Charities is an openly gay man who has a daughter he  adopted four years ago with his homosexual partner. Glenn Motola was recently promoted to the position as second in command at the Catholic social service agency, even though his homosexuality and his status as an adoptive father were well known at the agency.

That fact summarizes the challenge confronting the new archbishop of San Francisco, George Niederauer, in the face of the burgeoning controversy over Catholic Charities’ adoption placements with homosexual couples.

The controversy was brought to the boiling point by a March 9th directive from Archbishop William Levada, former archbishop of San Francisco and now prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith. Levada acknowledged that children had been placed with homosexual parents under his watch, and said it could no longer occur, in line with the 2003 statement by Levada’s predecessor, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — saying homosexual adoptions "mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development."

Niederauer issued a statement last week that said: "We fully accept and faithfully teach what the Catholic Church teaches on marriage and family life. In light of these convictions, we currently are reviewing our adoption programs to determine concretely how we can continue to best serve children who are so much in need of a home. We realize that there are people in our community, some working side by side with us to serve the needy in society, who do not share our beliefs, and we recognize and respect that fact."

Archdiocesan spokesman Maurice Healy told Ignatius Insight that gay adoptions would no longer be allowed. Healy did not know if any children were placed with gay foster parents by Catholic Charities and referred questions to Catholic Charities, which did not return repeated telephone calls.

However, in an interview published in the March 21st edition of the San Francisco Chronicle Catholic Charities executive director Brian Cahill disputed there is now a prohibition on gay adoptions at his agency. "This is an outright statement that is false," Cahill said of Healy's assertion. "Mr. Healy is, A, mistaken, B, doesn't speak for Catholic Charities and, frankly, it's clear to me that he's not speaking for the archbishop these days." The Chronicle also reported that a spokesman for the state attorney general did not know if funding would be withdrawn by California, as it was in Massachusetts when Boston Catholic Charities was forced by the state’s bishops to cease same sex adoptions.

On Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle attacked Catholic teaching against gay adoption, singling out Levada but failing to mention the new archbishop, Niederauer. In the March 19th editorial, the Chronicle stated: "San Francisco's Catholic Charities has a history of finding quality homes for children whose special needs make it difficult to find adoptive parents. But if they are forced to carry out Levada's order, these children have even less of a chance of finding a home."

Archdiocesan officials were not sure if the fallout from the decision would mean Catholic Charities would be forced to stop placing any children for adoption and they said the situation is under review in the archdiocese and at Catholic Charities. Cahill, executive director of Catholic Charities in San Francisco since 2000, has said non-discrimination laws and regulations mean Catholic Charities is obliged to place children with homosexuals.

Matt Dorsey, spokesman for the city attorney, told the Chronicle in the March 21 article that none of Catholic Charities' funding from San Francisco pays for adoption programs.

Sixty percent of Catholic Charities' $36 million annual operating budget comes from government sources, according to its website. Of that, in the most recent budget year, $5 million came from the city of San Francisco, $14.3 million came from the federal government, and $800,000 from the state. According to national Catholic Charities officials, most adoption funding is state money allocated via local government contracts. Most children placed for adoption by Catholic Charities were originally placed in foster care because of abandonment, neglect and/or abuse.

In San Francisco the policy of Catholic Charities has been to openly allow some gay adoptions, with Cahill praising "loving" gay homes in various publications. Cahill, who has a gay son, recently promoted the director of HIV/AIDS services, Motola, to his second-in-command as director of programs and services. Motola was quoted and described favorably as a gay adoptive father in the archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic San Francisco, in a December 3, 2004, article written by the public relations person for Catholic Charities. Motola is listed on several websites as a gay father, as well as in the December 6, 2005, issue of the alternative gay newspaper, The Advocate.

The Advocate reported: "The organization's director of programs and services, Glenn Motola, is gay--and out at work. He and his partner of 14 years, Mark Walden, adopted their daughter four years ago, though they went through a different agency to avoid a conflict of interest. ‘I have never felt disrespected in this agency for who I am and how I live my life,’ says Motola."

According to the Advocate, San Francisco Catholic Charities also includes at least four openly gay board members.

San Francisco Catholic Charities board member Nanette Miller, a lesbian, told the Advocate about her support for gay adoptions: "Part of giving care to everyone is not being discriminatory. I do firmly believe that being a qualified parent is not defined by sexual orientation."

Mayor Gavin Newsom, a strong proponent of gay marriage, gay adoption, and abortion rights, has so far declined to comment directly on any city reaction to the statement. A mayoral spokesman referred Ignatius Insight on Friday to an interview in which Newsom attacked Archbishop Levada’s March 9th directive calling it "wrong-headed," "corrosive," and "divisive." Newsom continues to describe himself as a "practicing Catholic" but said he won’t go to Rome for Levada’s installation as cardinal because of Levada’s statements against gay adoption.

Archbishop Niederauer was installed as San Francisco’s top prelate on February 15th and this is the first public crisis he has faced in his new post. He flies to Rome this week to attend the installation of Levada as a cardinal. In the meantime, many questions remain about how Niederauer and other bishops will address the sensitive and controversial issues raised by Catholic Charities involvement in gay adoptions. And how might the state and city governments change their relationships with Catholic Charities? The answers may not come quickly, just as the questions certainly won’t be going away anytime soon.

(Editor's Note: This news article is an updated version of a March 20th article.)

Related Story:

Archbishop Niederauer: No Gay Adoptions | The Moment of Truth in San Francisco | Valerie Schmalz | March 18, 2006



Valerie Schmalz
is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.



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