I could respect a decision of conscience like this or this if either diocese were willing to own up to the real reason old-style adoption services were being dropped. In my own diocese, a Catholic Charities counsellor reported helping in five adoptions in seven years. We opted out of adoption services, too. Why? Because the workload is too small to justify the effort. Other competent agencies do adoption, and many Iowa Catholics are referred to them.
With all the handwringing about children getting placed in homes of SSA people, dioceses have a clear action to take instead of giving in to the hermeneutic of subtraction*. Work the supply side: rustle up a few hundred thousand parents.
Instead, our prelates seem to zero in on GOP talking points. Change is bad bad bad. Just in case one of us owns an apartment building, we don’t want gay sex going on inside it. And this effort is dressed up in some phantom support for marriage.
There are ways of making principled stands without discrimination, alienation, and such. It takes creative thinking. And hard work. I’d like to think the bishops as a group defend my marriage and promote adoption. But I know they don’t.
If they did, Catholic Charities adoption divisions would be reworked to promote adoption as an option among the millions of Catholic families. Well over a hundred-thousand American kids are free to be adopted right now. Another 400,000 live in foster care and group homes waiting for the legal complications to shake out. If Catholics had something relevant to say about who adopts, then certainly traditionally married partners would step up to the plate in droves.
And as for defending marriage, bishops and pastors need whole new ways of drawing young adults into the Church, developing ministries to couples in the early stages of marriage, and spending energy to promote the Marriage Encounter movement and its offshoot efforts.
The church is digging in its heels, unable to comprehend this sudden change in societal norms. Despite the campaigns, statements, and preaching, lay Catholics lead the nation in support of gay rights. At some point, something has to give. Will the church change its stance on homosexuality? Of course not. Catholicism is the largest denomination in the US, but it is still a tiny sliver of the global church, and attitudes elsewhere, especially in the growing hotspots of global Catholicism, remain rigidly conservative. But church leaders may want to reconsider where they focus their limited time, energy, and resources.
It’s clear many bishops don’t give a hoot about adoption or marriage. Cardinal Rigali has come down on the side of protecting the institution. Many of his brothers have joined him over the years. To these guys, adoption isn’t a ministry. Marriage isn’t something to support directly. These efforts have morphed into political wedges used (and used very poorly) to stamp feet and pout in the public square. But over the past forty years, the number of babies available to the Church for adoption has grown vanishingly small. Time to retool and address the real situation of the poor and needy. Not the divisive political talking points of the proud and arrogant. Hundreds of thousands of Catholic marriages are in difficulty. They are not going to heal because a smaller number of SSA couples want to commit for life.
* Subtracting the aspirations or rights of others.