Adoption The Issue, Not The Tool

adoptstampI’ve already posted my disappointment that the only mention of adoption in the Instrumentum Laboris for next month’s synod is in connection with same-sex couples. Until I see more discussion and interest in discussing adoption as its own issue, I can’t escape the sense that children are being used more as weapons in the culturewar than as people for whom the institutional church is genuinely concerned.

From paragraph 112, a description of situations where same-sex relationships are recognized legally:

(T)he situation reflects a real redefining of marriage, where the couple is viewed only in legal terms, with such references as “equal rights” and “non-discrimination” without any thought to a constructive dialogue in the matter based on the deeper anthropological issues involved and the centrality of the integral well-being of the human person, especially the integral well-being of the children in these unions. When legal equality is given to heterosexual and homosexual marriage, the State often allows the adoption of children (biological children of either partner or children born through artificial fertilization).

Children have been reared by gays and lesbians for decades, if not forever. If true, will it be difficult to absorb information like this? Or will such efforts be swamped by testimonies like this? Mr Fischer wrote:

Sociologists have demonstrated over and over again that the optimal nurturing environment for young children is in a home where they are raised in a two-parent family headed by a man and a woman who are married to each other. All good public policy will facilitate this ideal and discourage the recognition of marriage counterfeits.

If true, are group homes and foster homes also “counterfeit” situations? Shouldn’t we be concerned about emptying children out of these situations and into permanent homes?

The other mention of adoption is here in paragraph 120:

The responses are clearly opposed to legislation which would allow the adoption of children by persons in a same-sex union, because they see a risk to the integral good of the child, who has the right to have a mother and father, as pointed out recently by Pope Francis (cf. Address to Members of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), 11 April 2014 ).

It is difficult to express this ideal in terms of a “right.” Parents die. A child does not have a “right” to recall a mother or father from the grave. Parents make bad choices. A child cannot insist a father or mother be reclaimed from chemical dependency, from prison, from military service, from a faraway job because of economic need.

Compounding this line of thought is the widespread lack of regard for foster children and orphans in public care. These children, though not in the care of a social service system of the Church, are no less deserving of an optimal home life. The question I continue to raise: if adoption is such a concern, and man-woman marriages are so ideal, why doesn’t the Church promote adoption as a pro-life policy among married couples, including those who already have children.

The Church’s concerns seem to be sacramental. Not a bad thing. But not the first thing I would think of …

However, when people living in such unions request a child’s baptism, almost all the responses emphasize that the child must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children. Many responses indicate that it would be helpful to receive more concrete pastoral directives in these situations.

We should take care to discern what sort of “help” is being requested. Pastors make difficult calls all the time on parents, their relationship status, and a likelihood of the faith being transmitted to the young. I see the perspective from marriage and baptism rites. Sometimes there are no easy answers. Sometimes the pastoral minister gets the assessment all wrong.

Clearly, the Church has the duty to ascertain the actual elements involved in transmitting the faith to the child. Should a reasonable doubt exist in the capability of persons in a same sex union to instruct the child in the Christian faith, proper support is to be secured in the same manner as for any other couple seeking the baptism of their children. In this regard, other people in their family and social surroundings could also provide assistance. In these cases, the pastor is carefully to oversee the preparation for the possible baptism of the child, with particular attention given to the choice of the godfather and godmother.

If I were in Rome next month, I would have a lot more to say. Children without parents are being sidelined to attempt to make points in a political debate. I have no problem with a public discussion on the merits of same-sex unions and adoption. But let’s keep the issues separate, because mostly they are. And if the institution and its respondents are concerned about children being raised by one man and one woman, they need to widen their view considerably. If they want to retain any credibility when they utter or write the word “adoption” in their statements.

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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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