The water of discussion is pretty well poisoned to begin with, so it’s hard to see that saying anything at all about it will come to much good. Amy reports on the Boston Globe editorial.
While respecting the church’s right to its opinion, it has become increasingly hard to demonstrate what harm might come from gay adoptions. Many studies, including a 2004 article in the journal Child Development, research from 2002 by the Child Welfare League of America, and a major survey in 1995 by the American Psychological Association all conclude that children brought up by single-sex couples were virtually identical to other children in academic performance, socialization, and sexual orientation.
A news outlet’s editorial staff is entitled to an opinion, but that doesn’t stop some Catholics from falling into either the trap of absolutism or snarkiness. Headlines such as “The Globe issues its instructions to the bishops of Massachusetts” cannot help but turn up the heat in discussion. Is it helpful? Does it further the Church’s ideals? You tell me.
I wasn’t wholly impressed with George Rekers’s summary of the anti-gay adoption case. Rekers and other commenters at Amy’s overlook the basic question I’ve raised time and time again, usually with little more than evasion and flimsy charges of dissent. Is it wrong to ask:
Is the parentless child better off in a group home or in temporary foster situations than being placed permanently with a gay person or couple?
Rich Leonardi, to his credit, responds seriously to my question:
Regarding the questions you ask at the end of your post, the lack of “permanence” in homosexual relationships is what makes placing children with such couples so risky, i.e., these typically are children who already have experienced disruptive transitions in their lives; we shouldn’t be increasing the odds that they will face more of them.
No foster or adoption placement is without risk. Many foster and adoptive parents bring their own baggage into the endeavor to bring a child into their home. My experience with state agencies is that social workers are scrupulous and careful in their screening of potential parents. Anita and I had the experience of going through the ringer. I have no reason to doubt that gay couples are examined with any less diligence.
Substantial numbers of children remain without parents. Many are in the foster care system, and though they might enjoy some of the benefits of a home life with parents and siblings, foster care is not always permanent. In striving to reunite foster children with birth parents, a great deal of risk is undertaken. In almost all cases, the children would have been better off being adopted during infancy, regardless of the parents’ promises or wishes to get their act together. But the legal and social care systems make a presumption in favor of blood over the health of children. For the children of addicts, it’s often a no-win scenario: reunification often takes place months or years after initial separation, and the critical ages of 0-3 are messed up with impermanence. If the reunification fails, the children have lost much of their attractiveness to prospective parents.
Before they are adopted by gay couples, children are already living in a 100% impermanent situation. By definition–otherwise they wouldn’t be available to be adopted. Comparing the birth children of a heterosexual couple to the adopted child of a homosexual couple is a straw man argument. The real comparison is with the life a child would have not being adopted.
Parenting instincts are independent of a couple’s sex life or sexual orientation.
My daughter was not the physical result of my wife’s and my marital relationship. Yet our ties with our daughter are not less strong than the ties between biological parents with their biological children. Why? Because parenting, at its root, is love. And love is a choice. Not a biological urging.
I remain unconvinced that homosexual people are less capable of choosing to love children and rear them to a healthy adulthood in the context of a family. Their sexual relationship does not enter into child-rearing in the presumed best of circumstances that we would expect of heterosexual couples. And if it did so in a way harmful to a child, no social worker would ever place a child with a sexually damaged couple or person.
I think a church organization must come to terms with church teaching, certainly. If a bishop finds he cannot permit involvement in permitting children to be adopted by gay couples, then the solution seems straight-forward: time to withdraw from the business of adoption, and leave it to others. That would be a prudential judgment, in my view. It would not necessarily be the only faithful response to church teaching.
But I’m convinced the Church might consider a prudential rather than a strict absolutism in looking at this. It might be one thing if less-qualified gay couples were given the opportunity to adopt over and above more suited heterosexual couples. But this isn’t happening. Tens of thousands of children languish in foster care, awaiting adoption, but there are simply not enough parents, single, gay, or straight, willing to fill the need.
In the end, it isn’t about the parents and their lifestyle. It should be about the children and their needs. I have my own beefs with the adoption process as it runs in the US. (Call me and ask me sometime, and I’ll give you an earful you never expected.) Keeping the focus on the parents, their needs and sins and all, reinforces the notion of children as less than fully human and more as possessions to be used by adults.
Children have a right to a stable and nurturing home. Every child that goes without such a home is an accusing finger pointed at whomever thwarts the just end of a stable upbringing. The primary morality coming into play involves the best possible result for all unparented children. What the parents are or what they do is secondary, given the understanding that they make the choice to parent needy children in the most healthful and sound way they are able.