Sunday, March 05, 2006

It Needs To Be About The Children
... not about the parents. Bill Cork weighs in on a Boston globe piece: Bishops' gay ban may cost millions - The Boston Globe; bottom line for secularists--you won't get our money if you don't do what we want. I think it's inaccurate to speak generally of "secularists." The law is what it is. And the courts have interpreted discrimination in the secular sphere as inclusive of gay people. For the Church, the solution seems simple enough: abide by the principle of not sending children in its care to gay couples. In other words, we do not participate in the system, and we don't take its money. That seems straight-forward, right? It's hardly a matter of individual philanthropists telling the Church to kowtow to their individual wishes. The laws of a government are to be followed. The alternative might include civil disobedience, non-cooperation, and the like. But the money in question is not "owed" to the Church or any of its agencies. You can make a case that the law is wrong. Or that it should be disobeyed. But it's not a matter of whim or blackmail. But even the supporters of gay adoptions acknowledge that there have been very few. It isn't like hundreds of kids are affected. I'm not surprised at this. I don't know why Bill is. Any gay couple seeking to adopt a child from a civil service agency or the Church must go through the same hoops as anyone else. One is found fit by one's psychological make-up, maturity, ability to raise children and provide for them, and other particular factors that match a child's needs. Just to tell you: after Anita and I completed our training as foster and adoptive parents, we "applied" to adopt some twenty-eight different children over a period of about two years. Our daughter was the twenty-ninth. In those twenty-eight cases, more experienced and more suitable parents adopted more challenging children. It was sad and wrenching for us, but we knew the adoption process was not about us. It was about the children. We knew up front that the social workers making the calls on these placements had the best interests of the children as the top priority. Prospective parents do not have the same priority. Nor should they. The concern for the prospective parents is their overall suitability, plus a workable match with the child or children in question. We understood this and could easily assent to these conditions. Which leads me to Bill's last question which, I think, shows a substantial naivete about what is entailed in adoption: Meanwhile, how many heterosexual couples were kept waiting who wanted to adopt? Because it's not about the couples wanting to adopt. It's about finding a permanent and loving and stable home for children who have not known permanence, love, or stability. At least not in the quantities needed for healthy development. So if thirteen heterosexual couples were kept waiting, it was because they were less qualified psychologically and particularly than the gay couples who had those thirteen children placed with them. In the secular realm, I have no problem with gay people adopting children. The option for those fortunate ones who do go to permanent homes is not adoption by a heterosexual couple, but more time in the foster care system. And while there are many good people doing heroic things standing in for a permanent parent, it is important to remember this is a stopgap solution. It is second best--and a distant second--to the ideal of adoption. In the realm of the Catholic Church, I have no problem with bishops setting standards for placing children in its care for adoption. My parents were denied such an adoption before I was born because they were not Catholic. Non-married or single parents may be denied adoption, as well as gay people. If you have the children in your care, you make the rules. It's no different from foreign adoption services, private adoption agreements, or any other legal set-up. Some of those set-ups cater more to parents. Some prioritize the needs of the children. As a Catholic, I also believe the needs of children must be prioritized. The advocacy of straight couples waiting while thirteen children are placed with gays badly misses the boat. Parenting is not a right. Let me repeat: nobody has a right to be a parent. Parenting is a duty. Children without parents are cared for by various persons and organizations. As children are placed for adoption, the duty is passed from one entity to a permanent one. Those doing the placement have a moral duty to ensure the children have received the best possible placement for their lives. I would find the concern of the bishops and the curia about gay people adopting children more convincing if the Church (meaning hierarchy and laity) addressed the more harmful state of not-being-adopted. What I've read betrays a parent-centered approach more than a concern for the hundreds of thousands of children worldwide who lack parents. I would go so far as to say that the enormous numbers of children waiting for adoption is a direct contradiction of Church teaching. While I cannot say that particular couples should be adopting children, I will state that the numbers of children waiting to be received into permanent and loving homes is as scandalous to me as some people find a scandal in contraception or deliberate childlessness. That more Catholic couples do not adopt is an institutional sin. I can't get any clearer than that.

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