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Gay adoptions test San Francisco archbishop

Says program must be 'in synch' with doctrine

SAN FRANCISCO -- Without barring adoptions by gay families outright, San Francisco's archbishop, George Niederauer, has made it clear he believes that placing children in same-sex households conflicts with Roman Catholic teachings on homosexuality, a spokesman said.

Niederauer, therefore, has asked the social services arm of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to bring its adoption program ''fully in synch" with the church's views while continuing to find homes for hard-to-place youngsters, spokesman Maurice Healy said Monday.

''Our teaching on marriage and family life precludes these kinds of adoptions," Healy said. ''We need to find another way to help this vulnerable population. How remains to be worked out."

Niederauer, who was installed Feb. 15, first offered his thoughts on the subject last week following an announcement by the Boston Archdiocese that it would stop providing adoption services because Massachusetts law requires gays and lesbians to be considered as prospective parents. Similar laws exist in California and seven other states.

''We realize that there are people in our community, some of whom work side by side with us to serve the needy in society, who do not share our beliefs, and we recognize and respect that fact," Niederauer said in a written statement.

Since 2000, five of the 136 adoptions facilitated by Catholic Charities of San Francisco have been to gay couples, according to Brian Cahill, the agency's executive director.

Stressing the small numbers involved and the difficulty of finding homes for the handicapped children Catholic Charities serves, Cahill said Monday that he interpreted the new archbishop's remarks as a guideline, not a ban.

''Catholic teaching is paramount. Equally paramount are the best interests of the vulnerable children that we serve," he said. ''It is not that gay and lesbian couples come banging down our doors. They are not going to come to an agency that is the social service arm of the Catholic Church."

Healy said Catholic Charities might be able to complete any adoptions by gay couples that already are in the pipeline, but he was less sure whether Niederauer's position offered any flexibility.

''It's clear to him: Under Catholic teaching, a Catholic agency should not be making these kinds of adoptions," he said, adding that one option for the archdiocese is to work harder to recruit heterosexual Catholics as adoptive parents.

Following the announcement from Boston last week, William Levada, a former San Francisco archbishop who is now second in command at the Vatican, told The Boston Globe he had been aware of a handful of gay adoptions during his tenure in California and at the time saw them as ''prudential judgments." But he issued a statement saying they should not continue.

In response, San Francisco's mayor, Gavin Newsom, decided not to attend Levada's official elevation to cardinal this week in Rome, said Peter Ragone, a spokesman for Newsom. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider a resolution today calling on Levada to withdraw his comments and for local Catholic leaders to ''to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada."

Although city supervisors have threatened to withdraw funding from Catholic Charities if the archdiocese decided not to place children in same-sex households, Healy said such a move would not force the program to close. The agency's adoption service has an annual budget of about $400,000, he said.

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