Why The Bishops Are Very Wrong On Adoption

In replying to FrMichael below, I realized my response was heading to essay-length. In addition, I want to make clear some basic parameters from which I work. I don’t believe that adoption should be invoked to drum up opposition to same-sex unions. It is a losing strategy, if not a false one.

Adoption has its own challenges in our culture and our legal system. For an orphan to be adopted by a gay man, a lesbian, or a same-sex pair is not the worst thing that could happen. Being abused by loved ones is the worst. Languishing in an institution or living in a series of foster homes is certainly much worse compared to having a single parent. In too many situations, children lack permanence. They may be separated from siblings. They certainly lack that one-on-one connection with a mother or a father, let alone one of each. The sad truth is that 130,000 boys and girls have lost their parents to death, severe disability, addiction, abuse, or neglect. That is a legal reality here and in many countries: parents unfit for raising children are separated from those whom they have harmed.

The law also provides ample opportunity (I might say too much) for parents to get their act together. My daughter lived in four foster homes in less than five years because every legal opportunity available to her birth family was being applied. In the end, addiction, a debilitating injury, and physical abuse trumped the parental rights. Her birth family was unable and unwilling to make their family work. And so the young miss came to live with us as her permanent family. Her two older siblings were adopted by another couple. Sad and tragic for all five people, but not quite as catastrophic as what would have happened if the family had stayed together to endure neglect, beatings, and continued substance abuse. Being adopted by a single gay parent or by a same-sex couple would have been a mercy. A God-given mercy.

FrMichael posted below:

I’m in agreement with you with respect to promotion and support of adoption at the diocesan and parochial levels. Nonetheless, that still doesn’t obscure the reality that we are slowly being squeezed from that apostolate by threat of hostile legal forces.

I don’t think the Church is being squeezed at all. Adoption is a legal event, not an ecclesiastical one. It has always been so. For the Church to complain about legal hostility is an outright fabrication–kids have far more to complain about. Beatings. Neglect. Starvation. Rape. Abandonment. Alcohol and drug-derived birth defects. And that doesn’t even begin to address the positive influences parents should be: cuddling, comforting, reading, playing, stimulating, talking, listening … loving.

I’ve been through the adoption system as a parent, so I’m well aware there are many aspects within the law, the culture, and the system that are directly or indirectly harmful to children. That life is not fair is not a surprise to me.

I’ve also been told that for state agencies, the priority has been and always will be, a close birth relative if possible, a mom and dad next, and single or same-sex parents after.  Social workers are looking for optimal placement for the kids in their care, and they will always look for the best situation for placement.

They do not employ a merit or quota system for parents. In fact, we were told very bluntly that the state was not advocating for us. They are advocates for the needy children. We were told to be our own advocates: take more classes, get more certification, accept foster children as “practice,” meet other social workers, attend adoption events, produce a video tour of our home.

That said, I’m very aware that wealthy people are able to manufacture opportunities or connections to adopt infants or even to acquire a birth child through artificial means. Lamentable, perhaps, for the older kids who are waiting for adoption. But it’s the reality. It’s also a reality that SSA people, singly or as a couple, are able to adopt in this way. They have the resources. They have the connections. It’s going to happen whether same-sex unions are made legal or not, and there’s not a darn thing any bishop can do about it. Except maybe look like an idiot if he missteps politically.

My problem with Bishop Cordileone, Archbishop Dolan, and others is their shocking naivete (at best) or their willingness (at worst) to throw orphans under the bus to get at same sex unions.

The biggest need in the US–not to mention the world–is for more prospective parents. That’s my soapbox: more parents. Regarding the very few infants in their hands, if dioceses can’t or won’t work within legal parameters with SSA people, the very least they can do is retool their Catholic Charities offices. That no diocese currently has instituted a program to develop adoptive and foster parents reveals an abject emptiness to the whining about adoption.

It would border on the corrupt and the immoral … if I didn’t realize the bishops are simply ignorant when it comes to adoption.

From what I see, the bishops are more concerned with not doing wrong than performing a direct good. That shows a shocking immaturity about morality, and a total lack of pragmatism. LGBTQ people and their allies must surely be salivating at the prospect of bishops throwing their weight against same-sex unions. And bringing up the child card. The bishops are as earnest as a bunch of high school athletes. The sad continuation of that metaphor is that they are playing against pros. Bishop Cordileone is a sixteen-year-old batting against Roy Halliday with a plastic bat. Archbishop Dolan is a seventeen-year-old on the offensive line with both legs in a sack assigned to block DeMarcus Ware. If the Church is serious on this issue, get these guys off the field. Please.

What the bishops should be doing is slowly, quietly, and surely, building back up their credibility. They could start by gathering financial and personnel resources to scout for good parents. We need tens of thousands of willing Catholic parents stepping forward to adopt. Some of them could and maybe should have kids already. Adoption is not a cure for childlessness.

Let me repeat that: Adoption is not a cure for childlessness.

Adoption is rescuing boys and girls from lives without love, without connections, and without even one permanent adult to rear, to guide, and to love them back.

Until I start seeing dioceses and parishes working with state social workers, hosting adoption fairs, promoting home studies, organizing workshops, I will never, ever believe a bishop whining about those nasty gays stealing babies. And you shouldn’t believe the lies either.

If the Church is truly being squeezed, then it’s time for action. Not ignorant mewlings from the ivory tower. We really, really don’t need Bishop Cordileone’s war of words. Talk is cheap. What is needed is an active witness that is moral, compassionate, sensitive, opportunistic, and has as its aim the relief of authentic suffering.

Tough words? Yes, certainly. But I haven’t given up on the bishops just yet. I think they are capable of reform and renewal. Their real challenge remains for people who have been so embarrassed, shocked, and flabbergasted by the episcopacy that they don’t even pay attention any more. It’s not that hard to get in touch with me. If a bishop wants to field a practical idea or two, drop me a call. And if they don’t believe me, they could sit down with a state social worker and get educated about what the real adoption issues are.

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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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11 Responses to Why The Bishops Are Very Wrong On Adoption

  1. *clap clap clap Clap Clap Clap CLAPCLAPCLAP*

    Bravo. Your bravery, your knowledge, your experience and your actual life all contribute to a beautifully put and very Catholic point of view.

    Thanks for reminding me not to give up yet either.

    Thank you for everything.

    Prayers for you, your wife and Young Miss. Who I am sure that you can’t imagine a life without.

  2. crystal says:

    More clapping :)

  3. FrMichael says:

    So Boston and San Francisco and IIRC, somewhere in Illinois didn’t happen. Got it. I’ll be sure to ask Catholic Charities SF, the first adoption agency in the state, how many adoptions they facilitated last year. I’m guessing the number is an integer between -1 and 1.

    Stop misrepresenting my argument. It isn’t “nasty gays stealing babies.” My issue is “nasty gays driving the Catholic Church out of the adoption process.” And nasty cultural progressives/leftists sticking their evil noses into areas too where they don’t belong. And being openly anti-Catholic In San Francisco, the County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution encouraging the reigning archbishop to renounce Catholic doctrine and his obedience to Rome. My imagination? Maybe I’ll go ask a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence.

    Perhaps you live in a tranquil cultural zone. In CA it’s a true cultural war fought on many fronts.

    • Patti says:

      It’s only a war if you are lacking in compassion and tolerance enough to make it so. We create our own heavens and our own hells on this earth. You choose. Will you accept that people have the right to live in ways that differ from your beliefs or must everyone in this huge and diverse country march to the beat of your (and whichever institution to which you subscribe) drum?

  4. crystal says:

    The Catholic Chuch isn’t being forced out of the adoption process. They can still run adoption agencies. What they can’t do, as long as they choose to discriminate, is run them using state money.

    • Liam says:

      Indeed. Instead, the local Church leaders choose the “Help Help I Being Repressed – See The Violence Inherent In The System” gambit. It’s facile.

    • John Drake says:

      I hardly think “discriminate” is an appropriate term to describe an effort to remain faithful to church teaching. And placing kids with a same-sex couple, or a single homosexual, is, despite what Todd argues above, clearly endorsing a deviant lifestyle. While it may seem preferable to certain alternatives, it is the start down the slippery slope to being forced recognize “domestic partners”, and ultimately “same-sex marriage”. If indeed the closing of Catholic adoption agencies – in the face of being forced to place kids with homosexuals – results in fewer adoptions, it is the state which bears the blame.

      • Mike says:

        John, see Liam’s post immediately above yours. It applies to your “argument” as well.

  5. FrMichael says:

    Chystal and Liam:

    You act as if this slowly rising tide against Catholic participation in adoption is a singular action. Unfortunately, it is a small facet of a more dangerous effort for the government to get involved within the Church, as the action of the SF Board of Supervisors already indicates. I will admit that the Catholic Church only took a small blow in this area of interest, adoption, but LGBT brownshirts are after bigger game. They will never rest content while God’s Church exists in their midst as a living rebuke to their perversions.

    • Liam says:

      “Brownshirts”.

      Jumped the shark. Godwin’s Law. Et cet. Your argument is now officially worthy of being disregarded.

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    If the Catholic Church wants to be in the adoption business and takepublic money in doing so, then the time-honored British axiom applies: If you take the Queen’s shilling then you do the Queen’s bidding. In other words, there are restrictions to what you can do with public funds — and discriminating according to your own rules that conflict with public policy won’t hack it. If that is being a brownshirt, make mine very dark brown if you please.

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