Some Elaboration on “A Particular Fruitfulness”

adoptstampThe instrumentum laboris of the Fall’s Rome synod is out in English here. You won’t see a section-by-section treatment on this site. The final result of the family synod is likely to be far different from the plan the Church is given.

I did do a ctrl-f to locate if the document mentions adoption, and if so, in what capacity. It’s a start. And a much-needed addition to last year’s final report–a mere two mentions. 

Section 136 references those two mentions from section 58 of last Fall’s effort under the heading of “Responsible Parenthood.” Here’s the repeat:

The adoption of children, orphans and the abandoned and accepting them as one’s own is a specific form of the family apostolate (cf. AA, III, 11), and has oftentimes been called for and encouraged by the Magisterium (cf. FC, III, II; EV, IV, 93). The choice of adoption or foster parenting expresses a particular fruitfulness of married life, not simply in the case of sterility. Such a choice is a powerful sign of family love and an occasion to witness to one’s faith and to restore the dignity of a son or daughter to a person who has been deprived of this dignity.

This is reflective of a few New Testament passages that describe our relationship with God in terms of adoption (Cf. Gal 4:5; Rom 8:14, 23; Rom 9:4; Eph 1:5). The historical context is different of course. As we know it today, adoption is a fairly recent development. In some countries it is still barely an option. And even in the US, the tradition of a widespread adoption community is only two or three generations old.

Culturally, there’s a huge difference between antiquity and the modern West. Still, the idea of being grafted into a family is a good image that demonstrates a certain commonality. At least, Saint Paul had a seed. Section 138 of the instrumentum laboris is provides a shoot, “Adoption and Foster Parenting”

To provide families for the many children who are abandoned, many ask that more attention be given to the importance of adoption and foster care.

Yes, I’ve been asking. I’m sure others have been asking too, for this to be included explicitly.

In this regard, it must be emphasized that raising a child has to be based on the differences between the sexes as in procreation, which also takes place in the act of conjugal love between a man and a woman, both of whom are indispensable for the integral formation of a child.

As given here, this is a stretch. Raising a child was once considered the purview of the extended family. It was nearly unthinkable for a young couple to uproot and plant themselves and their children long journeys away from home.

It could be said that grandparents, uncles and aunts, as well as cousins contribute to the raising of a healthy child. Maybe other members of a household, if not a village. With higher rates of mortality in previous ages, more children than today did not have the accompaniment of one or both biological parents into adulthood. There was certainly nothing formed theologically or sociologically that suggested boys and girls needed parents of different sexes. It would have been unthinkable because even if dad or mom had died, other figures would have contributed to the rearing. It seems more likely that opposite-sex parenting of children was marginalized in previous generations.

That’s not to say that males were uninfluenced by their mothers or daughters their fathers. History gives us many such examples. My sense is that such relationships were not preferred to the alternative.

No respectable voice today suggests that every widowed parent must marry a new partner for the good of the children. It may be a good idea for individual persons. But even the Church does not insist. Single parents have a significant burden, no doubt. A life partner can help that, but so too, extended family, friends, and a local community.

We also know that the Church looks askance on divorce and remarriage. To take 138a to a logical conclusion we might consider instances where a marriage is irretrievably broken. Consider the good for children abandoned by one of their parents. Even in cases of divorce, is it better for the abandoned spouse to remarry? I don’t think the bishops have a consensus on this, do you?

And as for same-sex couples adopting, it would seem we have many millions of children worldwide who lack parents. That includes nearly a half-million in the developed US alone. Are kids better off in foster homes and institutions? This is an untenable position for moral theology. If the science of same-sex parents is controversial in some quarters, there is indeed a consensus on non-permanent parents. They are always inferior to a committed adoption.

One concern I have is the use of children as pawns in the culturewar. Children are not possessions of moralists. My challenge: take up the cause of promoting adoption, or get the heck out of the gay adoption issue altogether. Along those lines, a useful discussion distinguishing between viewing children as quasi-possessions or persons in their own right:

In those cases where a child is sometimes wanted “as one’s own” and in whatever way possible — as if the child were simply an extension of one’s own wishes and desires — adoption and foster care, properly understood, illustrate an important aspect of parenting and raising children, in that they help parents recognize that children, whether natural, adopted or in foster care, are “persons other than one’s self” and, therefore, need to be accepted, loved, and cared for and not just “brought into the world.”

Just right.

I suppose if I had another life, I’d be interested in exploring the theology of adoption as is suggested here:

On this basis, adoption and foster care should be appreciated and further treated, even within the theology of marriage and the family.

All in all, a favorable expansion of the discussion. A good step two, if you will. Thoughts?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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One Response to Some Elaboration on “A Particular Fruitfulness”

  1. Chris says:

    “In this regard, it must be emphasized that raising a child has to be based on the differences between the sexes as in procreation, which also takes place in the act of conjugal love between a man and a woman, both of whom are indispensable for the integral formation of a child.”

    I’m thinking of my gay friends who are raising children with their same sex partners. I don’t think it would be better for the children for them to split up and move in with a different sex partner.

    Although, on reflection, this paragraph is rather vaguely worded and does not actually exclude same sex couples raising children.

    God Bless

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