Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, president of the bishops' conference of England and Wales, wrote on Monday to Prime Minister Tony Blair and members of the Cabinet that the new sexual orientation regulations would require Catholic agencies to "act against the principles of Catholic teaching."
The Equality Act 2006, which comes into force in April, bans discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation, and would require Catholic agencies to consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents.
The bishops of Scotland, in a letter sent Tuesday to Blair, expressed support for the position of Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, and asked that Catholic adoption agencies not be compelled to place children with same-sex couples.
The letter, signed by Archbishop Mario Conti, vice president of the Scottish bishops' conference, said that "the proposed regulations put in jeopardy the ability of these agencies to retain the discretion they have always exercised in favor of the children entrusted to them, which ... is informed by the moral and social teaching of the Catholic Church."
Also on Tuesday, Anglican Archbishop William Rowan of Canterbury and Archbishop John Sentamu of York sent a letter to the prime minister appealing for a second look at the new legislation, for "these are serious matters requiring the most careful consideration."
The letter said that the legislation, which seeks to "protect and promote the rights of particular groups," could actually infringe on the rights of others.
The note added: "It would be deeply regrettable if in seeking, quite properly, better to defend the rights of a particular group not to be discriminated against, a climate were to be created in which, for example, some feel free to argue that members of the government are not fit to hold public office on the grounds of their faith affiliation."
The archbishops expressed their hopes that the debate, which has been "until very recently ... careful and respectful," will take into consideration the rights and interests of all that will be affected by the law.
"It is vitally important," added the Anglican archbishops, "that the interests of vulnerable children are not relegated to suit any political interest."