An open letter to the Rt Rev Kieran Conry
Lynne Miles // 25 May 2008
Dear Rev Conry,
You were quoted in the Daily Mail today, on the subject of the adoption agencies from which the Catholic Church is withdrawing funding. I understand that the future of those agencies is extremely uncertain as a result. Now that I have finished the reading the article, spluttering, re-reading it, and ranting at your breathtaking hypocrisy, I have a question.
I understand you weren’t very happy about the legislation that was passed last year prohibiting you, and all others offering commercial goods or services, from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. I remember that Tony Blair wanted to grant concessions to religious organisations such as your adoption agencies, but that his cabinet (in a rare but welcome show of strength) revolted and, instead, you got a year’s grace and some transitional funding*.
“The Catholic agencies do and did very good work. For the sake of a principle and certain political correctness we are losing some very good facilities […] the government has forced us into this position”
I was agreeing with you until that last bit. Ridiculous to lose all those excellent facilities over a point of principle. Stubborn. Bloody minded. Petty. But – whose principles? Not the government’s.
You said it yourself – you’re doing a good job out there. I feel sure you’re right. You’re undoubtedly helping a lot of very unhappy children and parents. You must be bringing happiness to very many lives. I’m pleased that some “hundreds of thousands of parishoners … have raised millions of pounds over the years to support the much-loved organisations“. You’re the expert on these matters, of course, but I’m pretty sure God would approve. These agencies seem like perfect examples of the charity, grace and love which the Bible entreats humans to show to one another. If religion has a place in our society (and there’s an argument for another day) this surely must be its most important? It’s a while since I read the Bible but I remember it being pretty heavy on helping the poor and the dispossessed, bringing God’s grace not only to those of whom we approve, but to all of His children*.
I’m digressing – I had a question. It’s a terribly simple one.
Kieran – if you think it’s so unacceptable to deny needy children these services ‘just for the sake of a principal’ (and, by God, I agree with you) then why are you?
The government certainly aren’t forcing you to withdraw that funding (money which doesn’t by rights belong to you but to your parishoners who, presumably, gave it to you on the understanding that you’d use it to actually help children).
Nobdoy’s saying the Church aren’t fit to run adoption agencies. The government hasn’t asked you to shut down, and – unless you’re privy to some inside information that we’re not – they don’t want you to shut down. The only reason that the Catholic Church has pulled out of the adoption game is that you refuse to comply with the law that this democratically elected government has passed. You are selling these children up the river exactly on a point of principle – and a pretty negative one at that.
‘Politically correct’ you may think it, but the legislation you’re so convinced you will be unable to comply with is not terribly unreasonable. As much as the Church has tried to spin that it’s prioritising one group (‘The Gays’) over another (‘Decent God-Fearing British Christians’) – we both know that it’s not. The only thing that legislation requires you to do is to treat people equally and without prejudice. I’d go so far as to say that it’s pretty Biblically sound (think of it as a “let he who is without sin…” kind of vibe). Of course the placing of children with parents will be subjective to an extent, based on grounds of suitability which must be judged. But this law isn’t asking you to hand out children to anyone who knocks on the door. What it is asking you to do is judge a case on its merits, judge a parent by their capacity to love and provide for a wanted child. Again, it’s a decade or two since my scripture exams, but I’m pretty sure that was exactly the sort of thing that used to float Jesus’ boat. You know – the humility to interact with people without judging them, judgement being the perogative of God, and God only. That sort of thing.
So, Rev Conry, how dare you defend your Church’s wilful disregard of these children; children you know from first-hand experience need help? Not everyone is in a position to help. You and your church are – you have money, you have organisations with experience, you have infrastructure in place. You have petulantly withdrawn it because you haven’t got your way, and because you want to score political points. You, along with your Church and the other self-righteous men (name checking: Rev Peter Doyle and Rev Malcolm McMahon) are blaming the government for not validating your prejudices. You are cynically playing with the futures of the children you should be helping – who I’m pretty damned sure God would like you to help – and you will be the only ones responsible for any unnecessary misery and suffering caused to these children because of your “principles”. Please stop trying to pretend otherwise.
*at least the New Testament – the Old Testament as I remember it is supposed to only be there for historical context since Jesus wiped the slate clean.