India's Catholics slam move to allow singles to adopt children

NEW DELHI - The Catholic church in India on Friday criticised government plans to allow single people to adopt children, a move that has prompted Mother Teresa's charity to stop adoptions from its orphanages.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) said some of the new guidelines went against the principles of "ethics and human dignity" established by Mother Teresa.

"It would be quite an unacceptable procedure to allow the single parent to adopt a child, as it involves many risks for the adopted children and defeats the very purpose of adoption," the CBCI said in a statement.

The Missionaries of Charity -- the order of nuns that Mother Teresa founded in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata -- said earlier it had stopped its work on adoptions after the government introduced new guidelines.

The guidelines, introduced in July but details of which have only recently emerged, allow single, separated or divorced people to adopt from registered organisations in India.

The government says the changes are aimed at boosting the number of adoptions in India.

Thousands of children are orphaned or abandoned in India every year, but government data shows only 4,000 were legally adopted in the year to March.

Known across the world for her charity work, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work with the poor, sick, old and lonely in the slums of Kolkata.

On Friday Sister Blesilla, the nun in charge of adoption at Missionaries of Charity, said the new guidelines had forced their hand.

"We have stopped adoption of children because of the new guidelines issued by the Indian government," she told AFP.

"Complying with all the provisions would have been difficult for us," she said, adding the decision had been taken two months ago.

The CBCI said the new guidelines would also allow adoptive parents to select from six children.

"Equally unacceptable is the directive that six children to be shown to the adoptee to select one from among them," it said.

"This would be tantamount to consider the children as mere commodities for preferential choice and a denial of human dignity to children."