BOSTON — Catholic Charities of Boston has decided to stop all adoptions rather than seek an exemption to a “non-discrimination” law that forces them to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.

The agency announced March 10 that it will not seek a renewal of its contract with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to provide adoption services. That contract expires June 30.

Within an hour of the announcement, Gov. W. Mitt Romney said he would file a bill allowing religious organizations to seek an exemption from the anti-discrimination statute.

Catholic Charities’ announcement came a day after news that Pope Benedict’s successor as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office has said the practice must stop.

The Boston Globe reported March 10 that the Archdiocese of San Francisco received an e-mail from its former archbishop, Cardinal-designate Archbishop William Levada, who now heads the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The e-mail opposed such adoptions, and the archdiocese said it will review the practice.

The Register obtained a copy of the e-mail sent by Archbishop Levada. He said that when he was archbishop of San Francisco, the executive director of Catholic Charities CYO informed him that children had been placed with homosexual parents, “principally to find placements for three children or teenagers who were judged difficult to place.” The placements involved “prudential judgments about the needs of the children, the teachings of the Catholic Church and the overall policies and goals” of Catholic Charities, Archbishop Levada said.

But after a statement in 2003 from 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,” the archbishop said.

He referred to the statement issued by Pope John Paul II and signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” which says that allowing children to be adopted by persons living in same-sex unions “would actually 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. This is gravely immoral.”

“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,” wrote Archbishop Levada, who was tapped last year by Pope Benedict to head the doctrinal office.

Catholic Charities CYO in San Francisco had placed five children with same-sex couples since 2000, the Register reported in December.

Meanwhile in Boston

Boston Catholic Charities President Father J. Bryan Hehir and Chairman Jeffrey Kaneb, said in a statement March 10 that “the world was very different when Charities began this ministry” more than 100 years ago, but now the agency had “encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve.”

“In spite of much effort and analysis, Catholic Charities finds that it cannot reconcile the teaching of the Church, which guides our work, and the statutes and regulations of the Commonwealth,” they said.

“This is a difficult and sad day for Catholic Charities,” Father Hehir said.

A press release from the agency said it will continue to provide other services, such as child care and after-school programs.

Charities’ decision to get out of the adoption business came after the bishops of the four dioceses in the state tried unsuccessfully to get the state to exempt Catholic Charities from the anti-discrimination clause.

Last year, Father Hehir acknowledged that the agency had placed at least 13 children with same-sex couples. That figure included only adoptions in which the parents “self-identified” as homosexual, however, because the agency does not question prospective parents’ sexual orientation and does not have a figure on total adoptions by single parents, Virginia Reynolds, Catholic Charities’ spokeswoman, said in February. She would not say whether Catholic Charities has any more such placements in progress.

Some in the mainstream press vilified the bishops’ efforts at seeking an exemption as “discrimination,” and the Catholic Charities board publicly fractured. The March 10 decision was in stark contrast to a December vote on the part of the trustees who, according to some media outlets, had voted unanimously to continue allowing homosexuals to adopt.

Boston Auxiliary Bishop Richard Lennon, however, a trustee, did not attend the meeting and did not vote, said archdiocesan spokesman Terrence Donilon. And Father Phillip Earley, an ex-officio member of the board, does not vote, said Reynolds.

There has been much research on the need for complementarity of mother and father for the psychological development of children. Social scientist David Popenoe in 1996 found that when a mother and father rear a child, the child has an easier time navigating the developmental states, is more solid in his gender identity, performs better in academic tasks and has fewer emotional disorders.

A. Dean Byrd of the University of Utah pointed out that complementarity is provided by “mothers who are flexible, warm and sympathetic, and fathers who are more directive, predictable and consistent.” Byrd also said that children learn about male-female relationships through the modeling of their parents.

Cardinal-designate Archbishop Sean O’Malley and the three other bishops of the state — Robert McManus of Worcester, Timothy O’Donnell of Springfield and George Coleman of Fall River — established a committee last fall to seek a solution to the problem. The committee reportedly had considered seeking a law, a court ruling or an executive order from Romney to allow Catholic Charities to refuse homosexuals who applied for adoptions.

“We face a serious pastoral problem in which our religious freedom is challenged,” the bishops said Feb. 28.

Protesting the bishops’ stand, seven Catholic Charities trustees resigned within hours and an eighth followed shortly thereafter. Their public statement made it clear that they disagreed with and would not abide by Church teaching.

“Seeking an exemption to the state’s non-discrimination clause represents a profound disrespect for those same-sex families with whom the agency has placed children,” said Peter Meade, former trustee chairman and executive vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, editorials in the Globe and Boston Herald chastised the bishops for upholding the principles of their faith. The papers undermined their credibility, however, by conspicuously failing to provide the reasons for the bishops’ stand. In a further show of bias, the papers ran features sympathetic to the homosexual cause, such as “normal means two fathers” and one on “hubby-to-hubby” organ donation.

A Los Angeles Times article seized on the issue to resurrect a history of past complaints against the Church. The Globe, in an article title, “Gay Ban May Cost Millions,” speculated that corporate donations could dry up.

Fueling that speculation was a report that the United Way of Massachusetts “will seriously review continued funding” for Catholic Charities if the bishops halt adoptions by homosexuals, spokesman Jeff Bellows was quoted as saying. “We have an anti-discrimination policy in accordance with the law and to protect the freedom of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable.”

Ironically, the vulnerability of children and the desire to protect them from spiritual, psychological and possibly physical harm is why the Church opposes placing them with homosexuals.

“Children have a right to a mother and father. Adults do not have the right to a child,” Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist in West Conshohocken, Pa., said in an interview. ”Children have the right to have healthy parents, not individuals who have three to five times more psychiatric illnesses than heterosexuals.”

Fitzgibbons, a member of the Catholic Medical Association, said the push to legalize same-sex “marriage” is fueled by an ideological and political agenda that ignores medical findings. Research has documented serious psychiatric and medical problems associated with same-sex attractions and behaviors, he said in a 2005 interview with Zenit news agency.

These illnesses include major depression, suicidal ideas and suicide attempts, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, conduct disorder and sexual promiscuity with an inability to maintain committed relationships. Also, men have lower self-esteem, more instances of abuse and a shortened life expectancy.

“The sexual practices in the lifestyle, particularly sodomy, are associated with numerous serious medical illnesses,” Fitzgibbons said.

“In effect, the social-science research supports the [2003] statement of the Vatican that to deliberately deprive a child of a father or a mother through adoption by those in the homosexual lifestyle would inflict severe harm onto those children,” he concluded. This teaching aims at protecting the dignity of marriage and the stability of society.

Gail Besse is based in

Hull, Massachusetts.