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


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San Francisco, March 18, 2006 _ The new archbishop of San Francisco took his first significant public stand with a declaration that will end Catholic Charities' placement of children for adoption with homosexual parents. The decision is bound to set the Archdiocese of San Francisco on a collision course with city officials and perhaps with the state.

San Francisco city officials declined to issue an immediate direct response to the statement issued late in the day Friday by Archbishop George Niederauer but a similiar policy stand by Boston Catholic Charities resulted in the agency's loss of its government adoption contract and the Boston bishops' decision to close it down.

Niederauer was installed as archbishop on February 15th. One of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's first actions as mayor in early 2004 was to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, an action halted by the courts a few weeks later. In a recent interview, he termed opposition to gay adoption "divisive" and "wrong-headed."

The new archbishop's March 17th statement is diplomatically worded with gentle words for homosexually-inclined persons, but archdiocesan spokesman Maurice Healy said Niederauer's meaning is clear: Catholic Charities will no longer place children with homosexual parents for adoption. Catholic Charities has placed five children with homosexual parents since current Catholic Charities director Brian Cahill assumed the post in 2000. A total of 136 children have been placed for adoption by Catholic Charities in that time. Cahill, who has a gay son, has publicly stated his support for placing children with gay parents.

Niederauer's statement is:

"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."

On March 9th, former San Francisco Archbishop William Levada stated gay adoptions cannot be allowed by Catholic Charities, even though all known gay adoptions occurred while he was in San Francisco. Levada is now prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith, and responsible for enforcement of church teaching worldwide.

Archdiocese of San Francisco 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 said the situation is under review in the archdiocese and at Catholic Charities. Cahill has said non-discrimination laws and regulations mean Catholic Charities is obliged to place children with homosexuals.

Sixty percent of Catholic Charities' $36 million annual operating budget comes from government sources, according to its website. Of that, $5 million comes from the city of San Francisco, $14.3 million comes from the federal government and $800,000 is state-funded. According to national Catholic Charities officials, most adoption funding comes from the state through local government contracts.

In the past, Catholic Charities director Brian Cahill, under whose watch since 2000 all the known gay adoptions have taken place, has said non-discrimination clauses require Catholic Charities to place children with homosexual parents. Five of 135 children adopted since 2000 have been placed with gay parents, according to the archdiocese. Cahill defended gay adoption, telling the Bay Area Reporter this week, "Five kids were placed with highly qualified, loving parents. I commend them."

Cahill was out of the office and could not be reached for comment.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is a strong proponent of gay marriage and gay adoption and did not immediately comment on the archbishop’s statement. A mayoral spokeswoman referred Insight to Newsom's March 13th interview in the alternative newspaper the San Francisco Sentinel. In that interview, Newsom called opposition to gay adoption "divisive" and "wrong-headed." Newsom told the Sentinel: "Somehow inherently that two people of the same sex can't be loving parents to me is patently offensive because it belies fact and it belies any sense of sensitivity or capacity of understanding."

Noted orthodox thinker and editor Father Richard John Neuhaus, who termed Niederauer's appointment "troubling" in a February First Things essay "The Truce of 2005?", was heartened by Niederauer's St. Patrick's Day declaration.

"That's an encouraging reassurance that the archdiocese is intent on representing and observing Catholic faith and practice without compromise," Neuhaus told Insight. Neuhaus said Niederauer has faced a moment of truth in San Francisco and measured up to it. "One has to hope and pray and offer every encouragement for the leadership of Archbishop Niederauer in an extremely important See of the Catholic Church of the United States."

In the February essay, Neuhaus expressed reservations about Niederauer’s appointment, saying he had a "reputation of being gay friendly".

In 2004, nationwide there were 4,229 adoptions completed by Catholic Charities agencies, said Carol Peck, senior program director for family support for Catholic Charities USA.

Of those, Peck said, 1,326 were infant adoptions, 1,529 were special needs or hard to place kids, and 1,984 were adoptions of children from foster care. In addition, Catholic Charities agencies assisted with 797 adoptions of children from other countries, she said. In the U.S, there are 500,000 children in foster care, with 118,000 of them available for adoption, according to Catholic Charities USA.

Levada in a statement sent via email to the Boston Globe on March 9, said that gay adoptions by Catholic organizations cannot be allowed under any circumstance and that it was wrong for them to occur while he was archbishop of San Francisco. In the email, Levada referred to three placements, although since then the archdiocese has found five children were placed with homosexual parents, Healy said.

"According to my recollection, Brian Cahill, Executive Director of CC/CYO, informed me that these placements had occurred, principally to find placements for three children or teenagers who were judged difficult to place. These placements involved prudential judgments about the needs of the children, the teachings of the Catholic Church, and the overall policies and goals of CC/CYO," Levada wrote in his March 9th e-mail.

But the statement by Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003 that adoption by gay persons was unacceptable and harmful to children made it clear this never should have happened, Levada wrote. The CDF prefect at the time was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. "After the 2003 statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ... it has been, and remains, my position that Catholic agencies should not place children for adoption in homosexual households," Levada wrote.

"The reasons given in the document, as well as the potential scandal for the faithful should an Archdiocesan agency act contrary to the clear teaching of the Church's Magisterium, require that a Catholic bishop follow this clear guidance from the Holy See in his oversight of Catholic diocesan agencies."

Levada sent the statement to the archdiocese of San Francisco and to Niederauer, who was out of town at the time the statement was sent, according to spokesman Healy last week.



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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