updated 3/10/2006 5:25:35 PM ET 2006-03-10T22:25:35

The Boston Archdiocese’s Catholic Charities said Friday it would stop providing adoption services because of a state law allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children.

The social services arm of the Roman Catholic archdiocese, which has provided adoption services for the state for about two decades, said the law runs counter to church teachings on homosexuality.

“The world was very different when Charities began this ministry at the threshold of the 20th century,” the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities, said in a joint statement with trustees chairman Jeffrey Kaneb. “The world changed often and we adapted the ministry to meet changing times and needs. At all times we sought to place the welfare of children at the heart of our work.

“But now, we have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve,” they said.

Gov. Mitt Romney said he planned to file a bill that would let religious organizations seek an exemption from the state’s anti-discrimination laws to provide adoption services.

“This is a sad day for neglected and abandoned children,” Romney said in a statement. “It’s a mistake for our laws to put the rights of adults over the needs of children.”

Lee Swislow, executive director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the archdiocese’s decision was disappointing.

“All of the homes were good and loving homes and now through the pressure of the bishops, Catholic Charities is being forced to get out of the business,” she said. “There are no winners here. The children are the ones who suffer.”

The state’s four Catholic bishops said this month that the law threatens the church’s religious freedom by forcing it to do something it considers immoral.

Board members step down in protest
Eight members of Catholic Charities’ board later stepped down in protest of the bishops’ stance. The 42-member board had voted unanimously in December to continue considering gay households for adoptions.

Catholic Charities has been involved in adoptions for about a century but has had a contract with the state for the past two decades to provide such services to children with severe emotional and physical needs. Its contract with the state expires June 30.

In that time, Catholic Charities has placed 720 children in adoptive homes, including 13 who were placed with same-sex couples, Catholic Charities said.

In a 2003 document, the Vatican said gay adoption was “gravely immoral,” and that children placed in such homes “would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood.”

Some 682 foster children are waiting for adoption in Massachusetts, according to the state Department of Social Services. The bulk of adoptive children are placed by the department, rather than outside agencies such as Catholic Charities, the agency said.

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