Developing a Theology of Adoption

Somebody needs to do it. A quick look through the catechism and my volumes on post-conciliar documents shows but one reference to adoption. This from John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio:

It must not be forgotten however that, even when procreation is not possible, conjugal life does not for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility in fact can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children.

Adoption as a passing option for childless couples. I have no quibble with adoption as an option alongside these many other laudable choices from section 14. But they do not deal with the fundamental need of a child to have parents and a permanent stable family. Familiaris Consortio is a fine work detailing many rights and responsibilities within the family and society. It makes a good plea for the needs of poor, ailing, or handicapped children (section 26). But like Church teaching, it fairly ignores the orphan. The Bible is much more explicit in urging the believer to care for the orphan, in spite of the fact that we have many millions more children without parents today than in ancient times.

I have to confess I was surprised to see nothing but this single naive reference in post-conciliar Church teaching.

While many childless couples find joy in adoption as an alternative to biological procreation, some couples are unsuited or unprepared for raising children. They would be better off leaving the mantle of parenthood for others. Also, we are not animals with only biological generativity as our option. Human beings have free will and the intellect to transcend mere biology. We were created for greater things, including perhaps the imitation of the Father in his act of adopting the many believers inspired by his Son.

It would seem that couples who already have children and are raising healthy families are well-equipped to adopt. Yet all too often, adoption is seen as a second-tier choice: something we resort to when another method fails. Totally inconsiderate of the millions of parentless children awaiting fulfillment in their lives.

It would seem married people in the Church could take a greater lead in this regard: promoting adoption, and offering attractive and fruitful alternatives to people in parishes and other faith communities.

It would also seem it’s time for lay people to develop a theology of adoption, and promote it to fill what is lacking in the Catholic tradition. We have a biblical witness to recover. We have divine example. Millions of children are waiting. Let’s get to work on all these fronts.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Developing a Theology of Adoption

  1. mark diebel says:

    You might want to check out, The Morality of Adoption, edited by Timothy Jackson.

    Includes discussion from both Catholic and Protestant position.

    My bone to pick with the discussion… not enough input from adoptees. Adoption is a socially constructed process and it has many weaknesses… from child, original parent, ap perspectives… the biggest weakness is considering that adoption is a lifelong process for the adoptee… and this gets short shrift.

  2. Jeff Pinyan says:

    It’s mentioned in V2’s Apostolicam Actuositatem n. 11. But… yeah… not a lot…

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