Catholic Charities ceases adoption work

Speaking to The Pilot March 15, Father J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, said that the organization’s need to step out of adoption services is “tragic” and “a devastating loss.” Pilot photo by Gregory L.Tracy

BOSTON — The board of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston announced that the organization would no longer provide adoptions in a statement dated March 10.

The difficult decision came a week after the four bishops of Massachusetts declared that Church teaching prohibited Catholic agencies from placing adoptive children with same-sex couples. Eight members of Catholic Charities board of directors resigned in protest of the decision.

Speaking to The Pilot March 15, Father J. Brian Hehir, president of Boston’s Catholic Charities, said that the organization’s need to step out of adoption services is “tragic” and “a devastating loss.”

“We did not want to withdraw. We regarded it as tragic,” he said. “We wanted to do these adoptions, but we were lodged between the Church teaching on the one hand and the regulations on the other, and after four months of trying to find our way through that, we were not able to do it.”

“We were not trying to change the law to make gay adoptions impossible,” Father Hehir clarified. “It was just, given Church teaching and practices, that we couldn’t.”

Cardinal-designate Seán P. O’Malley said in a statement on March 10, “Sadly, we have come to a moment when Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston must withdraw from the work of adoptions, in order to exercise the religious freedom that was the prompting for having begun adoptions many years ago.”

Between 1987 — when Massachusetts reorganized its contracting with adoption agencies — and 2005, Catholic Charities placed 13 children in same-sex households, which represents 1.8 percent of all adoptions, said Father Hehir.

As outlined in a letter from the 2003 Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, placing children with same-sex families is morally wrong, he said.

“They obviously talked about it being gravely wrong to put children into same-sex households,” Father Hehir continued.

After media reports publicized the same-sex adoptions, Cardinal-designate O’Malley formed a committee to advise the Massachusetts bishops on how to move forward. Catholic Charities’ representatives from Fall River, Worcester and Boston participated. Catholic Charities of Springfield does not provide adoption services, he said.

The licensing requirements for adoption agencies in Massachusetts mandate that agencies must sign a non-discrimination pledge that includes gender, he said.

“At first I thought that if I didn’t take any state money I could resolve the issue, but that doesn’t do it because the first fundamental thing is to get licensed as an adoption agency in the state,” Father Hehir said. “We couldn’t get licensed under the terms of Church teaching. Secondly, we couldn’t get contracted with DSS [the state Department of Social Services] for these hard cases, which we specialize in.”

Father Hehir also sought the council of the law firm Ropes & Gray.

“They worked for us from November to Feb. 18, they helped us clarify the legal situation and they did not charge us for any work,” he said.

The committee looked for recourse in the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government. Gov. Mitt Romney informed them that the executive level was not an option, and Catholic Charities determined that the legislature was not a viable option, he said.

“Catholic Charities is not supporting the governor’s bill,” Father Hehir said. “We already looked at the legislative road and made a decision there was no possibility there.”

Romney proposed the bill designed to allow Catholic Charities to continue providing adoptions without serving same-sex couples but still allow other agencies to provide adoptions to gay couples.

“They have within their religion the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that children should not be sent into homes without a mother and father,” Romney said about Catholic Charities. “That’s their religious freedom to have that belief and we’d like them to be able to be true to that religion and at the same time provide a service to the Commonwealth of placing special needs kids.”

Father Hehir added that the committee decided not to seek help from the judicial branch.

“The third route was through the courts, and that would have been a long process with inconclusive prospects,” he said.

Father Hehir said he and the other members of the board were concerned that seeking an exemption “could threaten the rest of the programs over time,” including their management and funding.

“We run 129 other programs serving almost 200,000 people at $35 million, and we are focusing our energy on building those programs which deal with kids, families, women, refugees, AIDS victims,” he said.

Catholic Charities has pledged to place the children who remain in their care with families.

“Catholic Charities will work with the Department of Social Services and other appropriate agencies to make this transition as smooth as possible. During the transition, the agency’s priority will continue to be to serve and protect the children entrusted to us, with the ultimate goal of finding safe, loving and nurturing homes,” said a March 10 statement.

Catholic Charities has provided adoption services for over 100 years and has placed more than 720 children in homes over the past 20 years, specializing in special-needs adoptions, Father Hehir said.

“The special-needs adoptions are not infants, these are kids in the foster care system who have psychological difficulties, physiological difficulties, have been subject of abuse, have been caught in the legal system,” he said. “We do 31 percent of those and seven other agencies do 52 percent.”

Catholic Charities is one of the largest providers of adoption services in the state and spends $1.3 million of their annual $35 million budget on adoptions, he said.

“We value the adoption program. We value it highly,” Father Hehir said. “The skill and dedication of our staff is recognized throughout the state.”

AP materials contributed to this report


Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People&rsquo;s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigan&ograve; about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...