Head of Marriage Care urges Church to re-think the family

Gay couples are as capable their married heterosexual counterparts when bringing up children in stable relationships. That will be  one of the claims made  by Terry Prendergast, Chief Executive of Marriage Care, the Catholic marriage counseling service,  in a speech to members of QUEST, the community of lesbian and gay Catholics at their annual conference this weekend. His remarks come after many Catholic adoption agencies have, in recent months, had to agonise about whether to fall into line with new legal arrangements which oblige such bodies to make adoption available equally to same-sex as well as heterosexual couples.

Mr Prendergast will address the gathering in Leicester with his wife, Kate, a lecturer in social policy at Brunel University. The conference theme is:“ We Are Family: New Thinking for the Twenty First Century.”

“Statistically, children do best in a family where the adult relationship is steady, stable and loving, “ he says. “Note that I stress adult, not married, since there is no evidence that suggests that children do best with heterosexual couples, “ he adds.

A dominant theme of his address centres on how the Church has often built up a romantic image of a golden age of the nuclear family which, in truth, has not really found expression in reality, often with unwelcome consequences for those that “do not fit.” These include single parent families, and also co-habiting and same -sex families. He says that often “those individuals…want to live good lives according to the precepts of the Gospels. They are an advert for the Church, an advert that the Church often ignores, or consigns to the waste bin.”

He says that in all relationships, the institutional aspects are less important than the sacramental qualities, “the presence of God mediated through commitment, consent and covenant. The move from the institutional to companionship, choosing for love, has been marked, possibly more deeply, in co-habiting and same-sex couples.”

Inspired by Professor Margaret Farley’s book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Ethics,  Mr Prendergast lays out seven norms or criteria for evaluating the richness of relationships and family:

Do no unjust harm,
Free consent,
Mutuality,
Equality,
Commitment,
Fruitfulness
Social justice.

Terry Prendergast has been  Chief Executive of Marriage Care, formerly CMAC, since 2000.  He was born in West Yorkshire and joined the Montfort Fathers in 1967.  He left the Montfortians in 1970, marrying Kate.  He trained as a social worker in 1975 and as a Psychotherapist in 1980, but has been involved in management in the charitable sector since 1989. He has an MA in Managing Change in Community, from Bradford University.  He is concerned about long-term relationships, their management and support, as well as the development of their spiritual and sacramental aspects
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Kate Prendergast’s address is entitled: “Chance, Choice and Caritas,” and will also feature as part of the conference proceedings.

Sir Stephen Wall, a former adviser to both Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Tony Blair, will be the after dinner speaker on the evening of Saturday 18 July. Sir Stephen has been a member of Quest since January 2008.

The 2009 Quest Conference will take place between 6pm on Friday 17 July and 4pm Sunday 19 July at John Foster Hall at the University of Leicester.

For more information see:  http://www.questgaycatholic.org