I still get a strong vibe on the cognitive disconnect in adoption discussions in some pro-life circles. On a recent St Blog’s thread, someone didn’t like my insinuation that the tendency to adopt infants is a sign that parents see children as a commodity–a cure for childlessness, rather than as an act of charity, justice, and love. The commenter posted:
To accuse people of regarding children as commodities because they regard adopting older children from foster care as risky — is unjust.
If I were accusing people who wanted to avoid risk by adopting babies, it would indeed be unjust. But that wasn’t what I was proposing at all.
It takes courage to adopt, and perhaps no more courage in many instances than becoming pregnant and bringing a child to birth within the confines of one’s own family. Parents are not materialists for wanting to control and protect the environment in which they rear their children. And indeed, not everyone is cut out to adopt older kids out of foster care. I’ve known unsuitable foster parents–I don’t need to be convinced it takes special, and sometimes extraordinary, gifts to do it.
My wife and I consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have adopted a rather well-adjusted five-year-old, despite what one of the four foster moms reported. We know from the social worker that the young miss was considered for adoption by other families. But in every case, the eventual decision was “no.” It was largely because of her medical condition. Sad, but something for which I feel grateful.
My criticism of the Catholic Church, its bishops, Catholic Charities personnel, and some families–that’s more general. Not every bishop has the charism to promote adoption. Not every bishop has the charism for administration. But it is the task of a bishop to ensure that adoption, as a charitable act toward needful children, takes place in his diocese. That should happen either through a personal ministry, or by delegating it to appropriate people.
It is part of the mission of diocesan Catholic Charities to offer an outreach of charity and justice in the name of the Church. Because adoption is a legal reality in our culture, it is governed by legal realities. We acknowledge those realities, and participate in a Christian way however we can do so. It is unseemly for Catholic Charities personnel or efforts to allow the witness of the Gospel to be clouded by politics, hurt feelings, or an inability to discern new opportunities. Not every CC office has the knowledge, awareness, or inclination to train Catholic parents to submit winning homestudies to other agencies. But they darn well should. It is a moral crime for bishops to be reducing CC staff in face of what they perceive to be an attack on morality. I could get behind the bishops if the moral witness on behalf of foster children was better placed.
Many Catholic couples welcome children into their families. A prerequisite for adoption is not being without children. The prerequisite is being able to provide a loving, stable, and safe permanent home. One must be prepared to adopt and to allow the child to adopt parents as her or his own. It might be that siblings welcome new siblings–the more the merrier, and so much the better to enter into the entirety of a loving family.
But certainly, not every family, not every couple has the charism to adopt. Many childless couples lack this charism as well.
As I’ve said countless times before, both on this blog, and in other forums, the pro-life credibility of the bishops, of Catholic Charities offices, and of Catholic families in general is crippled by the lack of action on adoption. I interpret the movement against same-sex unions and adoption as being simply an anti-gay movement of bigotry. I’ve seen nothing from any bishop to convince me otherwise. Certainly nothing on the adoption front. Archbishop Dolan and other spokesmouths can mewl all they want about persecution. But there’s a time for speaking out, and a time for rolling up one’s sleeves and getting to work. This current crop of bishops–and I’m speaking generally here–have a heck of a lot ot learn.
Why? Because of the tragic lack of witness on the adoption end. If there were indeed hundreds of thousands of same-sex, cohabiting, or single parents adopting children, why are nearly half a million American kids still in foster care? Catholics fret about “giving” a child to an inappropriate couple or individual. But every adoption agency has standards. If more Catholic couples stepped forward to say, “We will adopt,” that would be one thing. The institution seems more concerned with the narcissistic view: “Don’t make us do anything immoral. Don’t force us to give our babies to gays. Don’t make us uncomfortable.” In other words, the concern is less with the kids, and more with how things will look with God, the pope, or heaven forbid, the Temple Police.
I’m more than happy to travel or fly on a bishop’s dime anywhere in North America to catechize them and their people on this moral deficit. I’m not going to be a comfortable speaker–that’s true. But I will tell you the truth, and suggest ways you can turn this thing around. I can recommend others if they find this essay too distasteful to give me the time of day. It’s really past time for action. That one bishop doesn’t have the gift for promoting charity–I can understand it. That one CC agency lacks the personnel to promote adoption as a solution for hundreds of children within its diocesan borders who are waiting adoption–there’s an easy fix. That one Catholic family discerns, “No thanks,” to adopting even one child–understandable, too. I respect that.
That no bishop is promoting their families to adopt: inexcusable. That CC ministries are being cut back: unconscionable. That so few families adopt kids from foster care: blindness to the opportunity, to the charity, and to the grace.