I’m aware that most blogs today are rejoicing in the ‘victory’ Catholic Care won in the High Court yesterday; and I’m afraid I shall be regarded as a ‘wet blanket’ if I say that I don’t think it was actually a victory in anything more than a technical sense.
Certainly the not-inconsiderable number of people who have commented that other Catholic Adoption Agencies will now be realizing that they shouldn’t have thrown in the towel so soon have got the wrong end of Mr Justice Briggs’ judgment.
Now; please don’t misunderstand me. I’m delighted at the judgment, and I’m delighted that Catholic Care still stands at least a fighting chance of being able to continue doing its very important work for children : but I think it’s important that everyone is clear what actually happened.
What was under discussion was the Charity Commission’s refusal to allow Catholic Care to amend its Charitable Objects (the governing framework of its activities).
As you will know, the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 made all sorts of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal; including refusing to consider applications to become adoptive parents from same-sex couples.
The Charity, however, believe that Regulation 18 could be construed in a way which permitted it to continue its work in accordance with the teaching of the Church : and so sought to amend its Objects to reflect this – an application which the Charity Commission refused
Mr Justice Briggs’ decision was not that the Charity Commission was wrong and that the amendment had to be allowed – which undoubtedly would have been a victory for Catholic Care – but rather that the Charity Commission should go away and reconsider Catholic Care’s application in the light of the judge’s detailed statement of the legal position because – in the consideration it has so far given – ‘it has alighted upon what I have considered to be the wrong interpretation of Regulation 18.’
However, this does mean that the Charity Commission can still say ‘no’ : and given the attitude of the current Government, I think it likely that they may do that; although they may well then face a further Appeal, on the basis of the obiter dicta of Mr Justice Briggs, who made a number of very useful observations which the Charity Commission cannot safely ignore.
One significant point which he made was that allowing Catholic Care to continue to operate in accordance with Catholic teaching would not deprive same-sex couples of any significant benefit (ie ability to adopt a child) ‘not least since the only alternative of closure would make that benefit unavailable anyway’. (para.107(iv))
He also observed (which the Government apparently fails to perceive) that ‘any competition between the interests of the children and the interests (including the human rights) of prospective adoptive parents could only be properly resolved in favour of the children’. (para.107 (v))
So : yesterday was by no means a disaster for Catholic Care and the Catholic Faith, but it was certainly not the occasion to open the champagne either.
Catholic Care has another chance to persuade the Charity Commission, in the light of the Judge’s definitive statement of the law, that it should be allowed to amend its Objects as it wants to; and if it fails it will have another opportunity to challenge that refusal – whilst if it succeeds I think there can be little doubt that the Equality Gestapo will challenge that in the Courts . . . thus ensuring that this saga has lots of life in it yet !
Please, keep praying for Catholic Care, and that God’s law will ultimately prevail.