The Equity Act, approved at the beginning of this year, forces all adoption agencies to consider homosexual couples as possible adoptive parents. Catholic agencies immediately expressed their concern that the decision would force them to close. The Church was denied an exemption.
In a statement released Thursday, the bishops' conference of England and Wales reiterated the gravity of the problem now facing Catholic agencies.
They said the issue is entirely the result of a government decision, and it places in peril the future of some of society's most vulnerable children.
The statement said: "The excellent work of Catholic adoption agencies in England and Wales is at the service of many of the most vulnerable children in our society. This work is a manifestation of the Gospel in action, founded on the Church’s moral and social teaching including the Catholic understanding of the vocation of marriage.
"The threat that now hangs over the future work of our agencies is entirely the result of the government’s decision to include adoption work within the scope of the sexual orientation regulations, and then to refuse a reasonable exemption. It is a problem not of our making."
The bishops affirmed the Church's desire to find a solution, but without losing Catholic identity.
"We welcome the government’s offer of limited financial assistance to agencies to pay for further work to be done to explore whether within the law there might yet be ways found which will enable the adoption work to carry on and for our agencies to continue to be Catholic agencies," the statement said.
Noting the government indication that funding would be more readily granted to joint applications, the bishops asked adoption agency directors to submit a proposal by the end of this month.
The research would "explore all feasible ways in which the moral and doctrinal requirements of the Church and the practical requirements of the law can be met, including the legal, practical and financial implications of any recommendations," the bishops explained.
"In the event of an irreconcilable position, to recommend the most appropriate ways forward in the interests of the children and adoptive parents, of the staff and future work of the agencies, and to set out the employment, financial and other implications of such recommendations," the statement added.
The bishops asked that a moral theologian be part of the group representing the agencies.
"Any report commissioned as a result of a joint application made by, or on behalf of, the agencies will naturally be addressed to the agencies themselves, and in the end it will be for the trustees of each agency, in conjunction with the local bishop, to decide the future of their agency’s adoption work," they concluded. "It will also, however, be important that, before such final decisions are made, the bishops’ conference has the opportunity to consider the recommendations."