Once a Catholic?

Once a Catholic?

Once a Catholic?8

Finance | Daniel Phelan | 1 Apr 2010

The Charity Commission must continue to resist Catholic Care's efforts to circumvent the law, says Daniel Phelan

Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) has won its case in the High Court forcing the Charity Commission to review its decision that the adoption charity could not be allowed to discriminate against gay couples by virtue of an exemption from equalities legislation. The Bishop of Leeds, the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, said that "without being able to use the exemption, children without families would be seriously disadvantaged".

Some people will find this hard to swallow coming from an institution that has for decades refused to acknowledge or properly deal with the child abuse crimes of its clergy without any apparent regard to the emotional wellbeing of the young victims. However, it does focus on an important and difficult area of law where the rights of the individual to hold and act on a belief come up against the rights of people not to be discriminated against.

In what many people say is an increasingly secular world, some ask how much weight can realistically be placed upon what they see as irrational or even superstitious beliefs. Others suggest that when establishing where to draw the line between religious freedom and other peoples’ rights we should look at the funds involved because, they argue, state funding should not be available for discriminatory practices, even those which are faith-based (an argument rejected in the Catholic Care case).

The charitable status of religious organisations was debated for centuries before the arrival of the Human Rights Act. Given the large number of religious charities, conflicts like those underlying the Jewish Free School and the Catholic Care cases are unlikely to diminish and will be a constant thorn in the side of the Charity Commission.

But should being good at delivering a difficult service mean you can blackmail the law into accomodating your bigotry? Or has the time come for the Commission to redouble its efforts to identify harm in the context of the public benefit of religious charities and weed out those that seek to circumvent the law?

Daniel Phelan is editor-in-chief of Civil Society Media

Ken Simpson
28 Feb 2011

Dear Mr Phelan,
Religiphobia is just as bad as homophobia, sexism, racism and any other biased view. Trying to mock people’s beliefs as you have in your rant is always a sign of some sort of phobia. Although I am not, never have been nor intend to be a catholic, I can spot intolerance and someone with an agenda when I see it.

John Woodruff
Independent Options (Stockport) Ltd
6 Apr 2010

Michael Thompson echoes the arrogance of some in the church - usually those up near the top of the hierarchy - by progressing from "what the church has always taught" to "this truth" to "wanting the right" to put this truth into practice.

There are few cases of black and white in this world and if the church hierarchy were a little more flexible, a lot more humble and gave Christianity back to decent, ordinary people it might be able to make a more effective contribution to society.

Jane Allinson

1 Apr 2010

Yes, Mr Phelan, how dare you call the anti-gay stance of Catholic Care "bigotry"? Next you'll be telling us there's something distinctly uncharitable about wanting only to help able-bodied people, or everyone but Afro-Caribbean people, everyone but Jews or everyone but the Romany.

Remember: it's not bigotry if "God" commands it! No - then it's a sincere belief which you have to respect! If scripture says you should treat a demographic group as second class citizens, then secular society should not only respect that, but fund it, dagnavit.

Of course, anyone attempting to establish a charity to assist everyone except Catholics should be shot down in flames.

Because there's a terribly good reason why that's different. I just haven't worked out what it is yet.

Carl Allen
1 Apr 2010

Has our civil society lost another defender?

Carl Allen
31 Mar 2010

Making news and reporting news ... you are allowed an off day. Or perhaps you should take the day off.

Michael Thompson
Antioch Community
31 Mar 2010

What a surprise to read such a rant in your pages, when I am used to reading measured argument. It does the author's egalitarian cause no good to insult those who have a different point of view. There is no question of "blackmailing" anyone when a court of law decides to support a cogent legal argument.
The Catholic church has always taught that the welfare of children is best served in a family of a father and a mother. This truth is not lessened by the sad prevalence of broken families, or the criminal activities of any people who abuse children.
The Catholic adoption agency in question wants the right to put children into a family with a mother and a father, in accordance with a firmly held conviction that this is best. Why should the law forbid them to do what they feel is best, when many others offer alternative options?
I do hope that Mr Phelan returns to his usual objectivity in the next piece that he writes.
When governments start to attack those opinions which do not square with their own agenda we are in the territory described by Martin Nielmoeller. "They came for the Jews, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew, etc . . ."

Tony Ford
PL Trust
31 Mar 2010

Is Mr Phelan using the cheap tactics of red-top journalism or expressing his own views? Bigotry is a word that could be applied to many on both sides in any religious-secular debate. Defending one's sincerely held beliefs used to be a good trait in our society, whether those beliefs were atheist or theist.

Confusing an adoption society with a church at large is a basic mistake here.

Please try to raise your standards, Mr Phelan.

Jeremy Moodey
Chief Executive
31 Mar 2010

Mr Phelan goes through the motions of presenting a balanced account of the Catholic Care case, but then rather gives his own personal prejudice away by referring to the charity's alleged "bigotry". Who is the arbiter here of what constitutes bigotry and what constitutes genuinely held orthodox Christian belief? No-one is denying same-sex couples the right to adopt - they can go to a non-Christian agency, of which there are many. The government wants faith-based charities to provide essential public services, but then denies them the right to be distinctive in the way they provide those services. This is called having your cake and eat it. I write as someone who was placed for adoption many years ago by a Christian agency which has now, thanks to this government's institutional hostility to faith-based organisations, shut up shop. Securalists like Mr Phelan and Harriet Harman will probably rejoice, but then they should come clean about their anti-faith agenda instead of hiding behind 'equality' legislation.


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