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The Roman Catholic Stand Over Homosexual Adoption by David Holloway
Parliament is at present considering the new Sexual Orientation Regulations. At the end of January 2007 it became clear that these will mean a significant restriction of Religious Liberties.
The Roman Catholic Church’s stand over homosexual adoption has highlighted the potential problems. The Church wants an "opt-out" to allow it to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation in their adoption service. On 26 January 2007 it was reported in the Church Times that "the Archbishops of Canterbury and York back the Roman Catholic Church’s appeal to be exempted from a law requiring agencies to consider gay couples as adoptive parents. 'The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well-meaning,' the Archbishops wrote to the Prime Minister on Tuesday (i.e. 23 January 2007)."
The debate so far, however, has focused only on the "conscience" and "religious beliefs" as though the Christian conscience and beliefs had no basis in matters of fact. This, of course, is not true. For there is evidence that children are adversely affected by homosexual parenting. Sadly, and seriously, the best interests of the child are not being debated and evidence that we have is being ignored.
To help with the debate, my wife Joy, a Paediatrician and specialist in adoption and fostering, wrote a short letter in the British Medical Journal, published as Lesbian Parenting may make a Difference. That can be read in the BMJ, 24 August 2002, p. 443. A longer article by Joy, Homosexual Parenting: Does it Make a Difference? - a re-evaluation of the research with adoption and fostering in mind was published in The Churchman vol 117.No.1 2003 (this can now be down loaded from http://www.christian. org.uk/html-publications/homosexualparenting.htm). Below, however, in the following pages and as another contribution to the debate, is a section from my book, Church and State in the New Millennium, London, HarperCollins, 2000, pp. 19-26.
Lesbian Adoption in Newcastle
[Extract begins] I was asked in 1998 to conduct the funeral of an elderly lady. In preparation for the service I had to contact her daughter. In conversation over the telephone the daughter said, 'By the way, I know your wife.'
'Oh! How is that?' I asked.
'Do you remember "the lesbian adoption case"?' she replied.
'Yes, indeed I do.'
'Well, I am the foster mother who adopted the little boy.'
On visiting the family and never having met 'the foster mother' before, I found a remarkable woman together with her son, known in the press as the 'little boy', but now growing up, integrated in what seemed a happy family and with normal life chances. But it could have been so very different. Thereby hangs a moral tale, indeed it provides a cameo of the moral and social environment we have inherited at the start of the twenty-first century.
The story began in Newcastle upon Tyne, in the Autumn of 1990. Brian Roycroft, a top social worker with a national reputation, was the Director of Social Services for Newcastle. Just before his retirement in 1993 he was questioned on Tyne-Tees TV about some of the most difficult times he had had to face in his long career. There was first the Mary Bell tragedy of 1968, when a young disturbed Tyneside child had brutally murdered two other young children. At the time it shook the whole of Britain. Secondly, there was the lesbian adoption scandal of 1990.
The scandal started quite innocently. An article in the Sunday Express on 30 September 1990 reported that eight local authorities admitted to placing children for foster care with homosexual couples. The paper had contacted 133 authorities and found that, in addition to the eight, a further 91 local authorities said they would not rule out homosexual placements. Only five claimed they would rule them out (29 refused to comment or did not reply).
Almost in passing, the article then stated that two lesbians were adopting (not just fostering) a boy under the age of 10 in Newcastle.
The following day the local Newcastle press picked up the story and made it headline news. How did the Director of Social Services, Bryan Roycroft, respond? According to the Evening Chronicle, he said that 'the decision to place the child with the lesbian couple was made after a nation-wide search'. He added that his department 'would always act in the best interests of the child'.1 According to The Journal, the then Chairman of Newcastle Social Services Committee said that the boy was handicapped and that the only alternative to the placement with the lesbian couple 'was long-term care in a hospital or institution'.2 In the same paper Bryan Roycroft himself was also quoted as saying that the child would have 'a quality of life he would never experience in a hospital or institution.' Another journalist was told that the Director of Social Services had 'sought the views of a High Court judge, a child psychiatrist, and an adult psychiatrist before deciding.'
Then on 6 October 1990 The Times newspaper on 6 October 1990 reported that the lesbian couple had been approved (and so promoted) by the famous charity Barnardo's, something that shook many Christian people. Thomas Barnardo, the founder, was a great evangelical philanthropist of the nineteenth century who had worked with destitute children.
This is what the public were told, and people therefore believed that the little boy had been placed for adoption with a lesbian couple as an alternative to life in an institution or a hospital. Then came the bombshell.
On 8 October an irate foster mother told the press that she had fostered the boy for two and a half years, since he was a tiny baby. Not only that, she had applied to adopt him herself after learning that another couple had applied to adopt the child. Her application, however, had been turned down and the boy was taken away and placed for adoption with this lesbian couple. It was believed that one of the lesbians was a social worker herself and the other had worked for Newcastle City Council. It was also discovered that the foster mother had had considerable experience, fostering a total of 30 children over a period of 19 years.
The public could not believe what it was hearing. The Evening Chronicle said, 'the stories don't add up.' The comments made by the foster mother called into question the 'claim that but for the willingness of the lesbian couple to provide him with a home, this toddler would have faced a life of institutional care'.3
Further controversy was generated when one of the two Medical Advisers to the Newcastle Adoption and Fostering Unit - my wife, Dr Joy Holloway, a paediatrician who specializes in the field of adoption and fostering - wrote to a local newspaper stating that, as a matter of policy, 'accepting practising lesbian or male homosexuals as foster or adoptive parents' was not 'appropriate' and it was 'not only morally wrong but unkind'. Furthermore, she wrote, 'I have expressed this opinion strongly to the Chief Executive and to the Director of Social Services over the past six months, saying that I believe such a policy should not be introduced without an open airing in the full City Council'.
I only learnt about this case from the press, however, through the chance but thorough investigative work of a Sunday Express journalist. At that point I took action and decided to fight the case publicly along with the Newcastle-based Christian Institute with which I was (and still am) involved. But I could learn nothing at all from my wife, who is the model of discretion and a believer in proper confidentiality. There was, however, no problem in finding out the facts from many friendly local and national journalists. What I learnt day by day, in my judgment, was disgraceful. What became clear was this: once you set out on a course of action that involves respecting, rewarding and so validating sexual immorality, soon in its wake come misinformation, half-truths and bad decisions.
How was the dispute resolved? In January 1991 the case reached the High Court which ordered the little boy to be returned to the foster mother. What went on behind those closed doors we do not know. The public had only the thinnest of press statements to go on, agreed by the court and Newcastle Social Services. It revealed nothing about the judge's views on lesbian adoption and fostering, one way or the other.
Sadly, the debate has not ended. In his pre-retirement interview, Bryan Roycroft said the real problem with the Newcastle case was that the public were not ready for lesbian adoption 'yet'. This case was simply one of the first shots in a major campaign to legitimize lesbian adoption and fostering that had been orchestrated by gay pressure groups.
In the light of our experience in Newcastle, my wife and I were asked by a senior MP to meet the British Secretary of State for Health who was consulting over these issues. We discussed the dangers of lesbian adoption and fostering and how it was not in the best interests of the child. The Secretary of State seemed genuinely pleased to see us. We discovered that in the period of consultation (now ending), we were the only people who in face-to-face discussion had represented the common-sense, traditional and Christian position - the one that the polls said was held by the overwhelming majority of the British public. The other representations had been from gay activists or their sympathizers.
No one, therefore, had detailed the problems children experience in lesbian households - the problem of secrecy; of other children responding negatively; of a sense of difference; of not being close to other children; of girls thinking of turning to other women sexually after boy-friend trouble; of a lack of peer support; of boys having anger towards the female lover and saying the mother's lover had become 'a threat to my sense of family,' or simply identifying the major problem as the lover - 'she sleeps with my mother.'4 Nor had it been detailed how one study found that in lesbian households 'older boys were significantly less confident about their popularity with other boys', and 'older girls' were more 'masculine'. They 'were more likely to mention a man as someone they would like to be like when grown.'5
The agenda of homosexual adoption and fostering is being vigorously pursued as we enter the new millennium. It must be stopped. Children in care do need families, some desperately - but not any family. And if potential carers are excluded because they hold to the Christian ethic - for example, that homosexual adoption and fostering is wrong - no wonder there is a childcare problem. It may be that on some measurements two educated, middle class lesbians, score better in parenting skills than a less educated single mother. But the problems in lesbian fostering and adoption are not so much the lack of parenting skills: they are in the relationship of the child to the outside world. The problem is summed up in one clinical study as follows: 'Even under the best of circumstances, children in gay step-families may experience difficulty since it is not easy for them to grow up in a family that is disapproved of by society and to be labelled as pathological or undesirable by association.'6
To read the paper summarizing existing research by the pro-gay Saralie Pennington, 'Children of Lesbian Mothers', leads to the only conclusion that it is cruel placing children with lesbian couples. She reports that children 'commonly fear that other children will find out that their mother is a lesbian. This awareness frequently occurs after seven years of age and intensifies during pubescence and the early teenage years.' 7
A fostered or adopted child would be forced to live with these fears for six or seven years. We are also told that 'children may fear being ostracized and isolated if their mothers' sexual orientation becomes known ... Girls, more than boys, commonly fear that they, too, will be gay or that people will think they are gay.' And then she says, 'Out of fear of discovery of their mothers homosexuality, these children can become anxious, withdrawn, hypervigilant, or secretive, and may attempt to control their mothers' behaviour. Some children, particularly as they approach their teens, shy away from friends and refuse to bring them home out of concern that someone will "find out".8
All this is put down - by gay propaganda and commentators like Saralie Pennington - to 'dysfunctionality' not from homosexual behaviours (which are axiomatically held to be healthy and normal) but from other aspects of family dynamics and especially from the 'profound impact of a homophobic culture.'9 The communal wisdom of human society as it has evolved over the centuries is not entertained as even possibly correct. This says that it is in the best interests of a child to have a mother and father, not two mothers or two fathers who are in a sexual relationship.
It is difficult to know what would ever count as 'proof positive'. In the UK one academic survey was often quoted in the 1980s and 1990s to claim that children could happily be reared in lesbian households. It was a 1983 study by Susan Golombok and others, called 'Children in Lesbian and Single Parent Households'. It was claimed that this proved that 'rearing in a lesbian household per se did not lead to atypical psycho-sexual development or constitute a psychiatric risk factor.' 10
This study and conclusion was cited regularly on TV and in various debates as watertight evidence. For many in the UK it undoubtedly legitimized homosexual parenting. However, it was not commonly pointed out that the conclusions and deductions from the study, if true, would only mean that children in lesbian households did no worse than children in father-absent single-parent households. Nor was it pointed out that the mean age of the children in this study was 9.5 years old. This is far too young to see long-term emotional and psychiatric effects, or to see how the children coped with puberty. Nor was it pointed out that the lesbian mothers were more educated and 'professional' than the control group. Nor was it pointed out that both groups of children had much higher rates of emotional and behavioural problems than those in the general population.
Golombok's 1996 follow-up study on these children as young adults - such as it was - showed that one quarter of the young adults from her lesbian households became involved 'in same-gender sexual relationships', whereas none of the participants from the heterosexual single-parent backgrounds did so - 'a significant difference'. That compares with only 2 per cent of this age group in the general population who have ever had a homosexual relationship.11 The study also reported that two-thirds of the daughters from lesbian households and over half the sons 'significantly ... stated that they had previously considered, or thought it a future possibility, that they might experience same-gender attraction or have a same-gender sexual relationship or both'. That compared with only one-sixth of all the young adults from the heterosexual control group. The results of this study, therefore, suggest that the homosexuality of two lesbian parents is associated with homosexuality in the children - something many deny.12 [Extract ends]
The above was written in 1999. Things, sadly, have moved on. But surely we cannot ignore what is happening; and we must work for change. To underline the seriousness of harming children, Jesus used extreme language. He said, "if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Mat 18.6). It is, therefore, very serious if we adopt policies and practices that are not only not in the best interests of children but have positive adverse effects.
1 Evening Chronicle, 1 October 1990
2 The Journal, 2 October 1990
3 Evening Chronicle, 8 October 1990
4 Karen Gail Lewis, 'Children of Lesbians: their Point of View', Social Work 1980: 25, pp. 198-203
5 R. Green, J.B. Mandel, M.E. Hotvedt, J. Gray and L. Smith, 'Lesbian Mothers and their Children: a comparison with Solo Parent Heterosexual Mothers and their Children', Archives of Sexual Behaviour, vol. 15, no. 2 1986, pp. 167-15
6 D. Baptiste, 'Psychotherapy with gay/lesbian couples and their children in "Stepfamilies": a challenge for marriage and family therapists', Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 14, no.1-2, 1987, pp. 217-32
7 Saralie Bisnovich Pennington, 'Children of Lesbian Mothers', in Frederick W.Bozett (ed.), Gay and Lesbian Parents, New York, Praeger, 1987, p. 62
8 ibid., p. 63
9 ibid., p. 61
10 S. Golombok, A. Spencer and M. Rutter, 'Children in Lesbian and Single-parent Households: Psychosexual and Pschiatric Appraisal', Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, vol. 24, no. 4, 1983, pp. 551-72
11 Johnson, Wadsworth, Wellings, Field, Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, op.cit., p. 191
12 Susan Golombok and Fiona Tasker, 'Do Parents Influence the Sexual Orientation of Their Children? Findings from a Longtitudinal Study of Lesbian Families', Developmental Psychology, vol. 32, no.1, 1996, p. 7.