So where are we.

Downing Street appeared to be wavering today on allowing Catholic adoption agencies exemption from gay rights legislation, after a warning from the leader of Catholics in England and Wales that agencies may close rather than comply with the regulations…Mr Blair’s official spokesman said: “This is an issue with sensitivities on all sides…The key thing we have to remember in all of this is the interests of the children concerned and that there are arguments on both sides. This is not a straightforward black-and-white issue. This is an issue where there are sensitivities on all sides and we have to respect those but equally find a way through.”

But are there arguments on both sides? Or are there just sensitivities. There is a difference. I hope Blair knows that – but I’m not confident that he does. It’s also worth pointing out that in fact we don’t ‘have to’ respect all sensitivities just because they’re sensitivities. I hope Blair knows that too, but again, I’m not confident that he does. It sounds too like the usual community-respect-grievance-fuzz-wool for confidence. This is one reason all this kind of thing gets so…hopelessly lost in the fog: it’s because people know that all they have to do is bleat about sensitivities and respect and conscience and faith and there will be spokespeople eager to say that we have to respect those. Well we don’t. Not necessarily. It depends what they are. The people of Little Rock had ‘sensitivities’ – the white people among them, that is – about integrating the public high school there. No one ‘had to’ respect those, because they were nasty and wrong. You could multiply that example by the thousands or tens of thousands all over the planet. Everywhere you go there are ‘sensitivities’ about various outgroups and ways in which We don’t want to mix with Them and in order to avoid that dread fate we want to shut them out of various public accommodations and services so that we won’t have to, you know, mix with them and be contaminated by them. Those sensitivities do not have to be respected, and ought not to be respected, and it’s not impressive to see Blair or his spokesman saying they do. A Tory MP did a hell of a lot better than Blair did.

The Tory MP John Bercow, who has argued strongly in favour of gay equality, said: “The idea of an exemption for Catholic adoption agencies is an anathema and contradicts the concept of equality at the heart of this legislation. People choose their religion, they do not choose their orientation. I believe equality is equality is equality and it is quite incredible for the Catholic church to insist its religious views should take precedence over others’ human rights.”

Yes, it is. Perhaps this is a more straightforward black-and-white issue than Blair wants to admit.

Let’s have a look at the archbishop’s ‘argument’ then.

[T]o oblige our agencies in law to consider adoption applications from homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents would require them to act against the principles of Catholic teaching. We require our agencies to recruit and approve appropriate married and single people to meet the needs of children in local authority care for whom adoption has been identified as being in their best interest. We place significant emphasis on marriage, as it is from the personal union of a man and a woman that new life is born and it is within the loving context of such a relationship that a child can be welcomed and nurtured. Marital love involves an essential complementarity of male and female. We recognize that some children, particularly those who have suffered abuse and neglect, may well benefit from placement with a single adoptive parent. However, Catholic teaching about the foundations of family life, a teaching shared not only by other Christian Churches but also other faiths, means that Catholic adoption agencies would not be able to recruit and consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents.

That’s it. And frankly it seems completely worthless. A single parent is okay, though not the first choice – but a gay couple is not okay. Because…’it is from the personal union of a man and a woman that new life is born and it is within the loving context of such a relationship that a child can be welcomed and nurtured.’ Sorry, that doesn’t work. It is, of course, from the personal union of a man and a woman that new life is born, because that’s how that works, but adoption isn’t about the birth of new life, it’s about rescuing an existing life from loneliness, abandonment, neglect and unhappiness. The idea seems to be (though the archbish does a damn bad job of spelling it out) that because children are born to two parents, therefore adopted children ought to be put in a situation that mimics a two-parent situation. Well – why? Why ought they? That is not clear. And, especially after learning what we’ve been learning about life at Goldenbridge, I think the archbishop should have made it clear. I assume he didn’t because he couldn’t because there is nothing to make clear. It’s not a real reason, it’s just a ‘sensitivity’ (that is, a taboo) dressed up in religious clothes, as ‘sensitivities’ so often are.

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