Virginia Ironside: The Catholic Church should stay out of the gay adoption debate

Same-sex parents

Saturday 21 August 2010 00:00 BST

It's not often that the Charity Commission, which has always seemed to me rather spineless, sticks its neck out and does the right thing. But when it rejected the application of a Leeds-based adoption agency, Catholic Care, to restrict adoption to heterosexual couples, I had nothing but admiration for them.

What is so stupid is that by refusing to let homosexual couples adopt children, the charity has, as so often happens, simply drawn attention to the pettiness of the Roman Catholic Church – and, to be honest, most other churches. Instead of concentrating on what surely should be their priority – finding, for children, loving homes consisting of two stable adults – it's let a mad and offensive doctrine take precedence. Indeed, it isn't even Catholic doctrine, just the religious views preferred by Catholic Care.

I think anyone would say that given two perfect couples, one consisting of a man and a woman (whatever their individual sexuality) and one consisting of two men or two women (again, even if each one were heterosexual), one would prefer a child to go to the more diverse pair. Simply because it's good for a child to have different sexes in its parentage to fulfill different roles. Also it would make life easier for the child at school, and because this sort of set-up is the norm and so on. But a good and loving same-sex couple with the same sexuality as opposed to a lifetime in care or a dodgy different-sex couple – well, of course. Couldn't be better.

Hilariously, according to the Charity Commission, the Leeds charity based its wish on rejecting gay couples on the grounds of only wanting to "consider heterosexual couples on the principle of the Nazarene family". If that's really the case they should consider suitable for adoption only families in which the mother already had a child by a father different from her husband. Faced with this kind of argument, I'm rather glad the charity may have to close down. I wouldn't trust them an inch to place the right child with the right family.

The church's preoccupation with sex is, in its own way, as tedious as Soho's preoccupation with strip clubs. It's just the reverse of the same coin. Who, honestly, cares one jot whether a vicar is gay or not? Or whether he or she is a man or a woman? Or whether he or she is a bishop or not? And, on a darker side, why is it that so many clergy have abused children in their care? And why isn't there an almighty row about it and an abject apology? And what's going on with the ghastly Alpha course, which seems to be taking over the Church of England, whose views on homosexuality are positively un-Christian?

In one way I feel angry about the Leeds charity's stance, and in another I'm afraid to say I rather gloat over the petty squabbles taking place in the Church. Because the more the fuss the Church makes about gayness, a subject we should all be able to take for granted in an equal society, the more outdated, muddled and arcane the church appears.

And I don't say that because I've always been a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. Prompted by a vision of Christ, no less, I did at one point do the rounds of churches and cathedrals, looking for some kind of answer. But in the end what I saw, apart from the many decent men and women who work in it, was arrogance, in-fighting and confusion and, I'm afraid, a lot of clergy of very little brain and even less insight into the human condition, let alone anything that might, if that's what you're into, pose as a spiritual one.

Surely it's not difficult for religious people of any church to concentrate not on gayness but goodness.

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