A Missionaries of Charity nun takes care of a child at the Nirmala Shishu Bhavan orphanage in Kolkata. Mother Teresa began this first orphanage in 1955. (Photo by Julian S. Das)
The Missionaries of Charity congregation has decided to close down their adoption centers in India, citing new regulations that would allow nontraditional families to adopt children.
Founded by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the congregation runs several orphanages across India with 18 of them government-recognized centers that offer children for adoption.
But the nuns do not want to run adoption centers in India now, said Sister Mary Prema, the congregation's current superior general and second successor to Mother Teresa.
"The decision of seeking the government's de-recognition status for adoption centers applies only to India," Sister Prema told ucanews.com Oct. 11.
The nuns decided on this "voluntarily" after the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in Kolkata was informed about complying with the new Guidelines Governing Adoption of Children by the federal Ministry of Women and Child Development, according to an Oct. 10 statement issued by Sunita Kumar, spokeswoman for the congregation.
"If we were to continue the work set up by Mother Teresa, complying (with) all the provisions would have been difficult for us," the statement said.
The guidelines, issued in July, aims to regulate adoptions nationwide. It requires all applications and processing to be done online and based on the seniority of applicants at the time of application.
It says that a single woman is eligible to adopt a child of any gender but that a single man was not eligible to adopt a girl child.
It also says parents shall be given an opportunity to view the photographs, child study and medical examination reports of up to six children.
Father Joseph Chinnayan, deputy secretary-general of the national bishops' conference in India, said there are basic issues with these clauses.
The first clause would mean that unmarried adults in same-sex relationships, couples living together, and those divorced or separated could adopt children, contrary to the church's thinking about family and parenting, he said.
The guideline also says that those wishing to adopt have an option to chose from up to six children, which "offends the dignity of children," Father Chinnayan said.
"The bishops endorse the decision of the Missionaries of Charity," he said, adding that church officials will discuss the issue with lawyers to find out more about the consequences of the guideline and ways to mitigate them.
According to the government's Central Adoption Resource Authority, there were almost 4,000 in-country adoptions in India between April 2014 and March 2015.
Sister Prema could not give the number of children the nuns give up for adoption every year, but said about one-third of the congregation's adoptions are in India.
Orphanages to continue
The Missionaries of Charity statement said the nuns "will continue to serve wholeheartedly and free of charge unwed mothers, children with malnutrition and differently abled children" in all their institutions "irrespective of caste, creed and religion."
The adoption work started by Mother Teresa "has been a fruitful and rewarding experience, which has changed the lives of thousands of people," it said.
Sister Prema told ucanews.com that her nuns have not decided on the future of children under their care but they will "look after for life" the differently abled children.
Mother Teresa began her first orphanage — Nirmala Shishu Bhavan — in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata in 1955, five years after she founded the congregation.