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Issue Date:  March 24, 2006

Boosting the anti-gay troops

The church teaching is beyond dispute. The church holds no place for gay or lesbian couples and rejects the idea of same-sex parents. So agencies like Catholic Charities should not accommodate adoption by gay parents.

That was the simple outline of the case in Boston, where Catholic Charities decided to abandon adoption services rather than comply with a state law requiring no discrimination against homosexual couples who seek to adopt.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is said to be investigating the possibility of a law that will provide a narrow exception to the nondiscrimination provision for religious groups.

Whether that is a possibility remains to be seen. For now, however, Boston Catholics are out of the adoption service, and that is a sad and unnecessary situation.

For just as church teaching is clear, so is the need. According to a recent written statement prepared by the Child Welfare League of America for a news conference dealing with the Boston situation, more than 500,000 children are currently growing up in America’s foster care system. “Each year, 120,000 of these children are available for adoption.” Unfortunately, far fewer homes than are needed are available, and that is especially true for older children and those with special emotional and physical needs.

Another reality, according to the Child Welfare League of America: Gay couples often adopted the difficult-to-place kids.

That will end in Boston and probably elsewhere as prohibitions against Catholics groups becoming involved in adoptions by gay parents begin to spread.

Other ways could be found to deal with such adoptions without issuing absolute pronouncements. One model would be that used by then-San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, now head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In his previous position, Levada allowed placement of difficult-to-place children with gay parents. He recently explained such decisions were “prudential judgments” involving considerations of the needs of the children, church teachings and the mission of the agency, according to a March 10 report in The Boston Globe.

Of course, having been asked the question about gay adoptions as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in light of the Boston flap, Levada apparently is no longer in a position to publicly counsel prudential judgment. So the absolutes surface.

There is much in the Catholic air these days about homosexuality. Pope Benedict XVI, as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has provided much of the content, from the assertion that gays are “objectively disordered” to the 2003 document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Ratzinger then headed, that called gay parenting “gravely immoral” and said permitting gay couples to adopt “would actually mean doing violence to these children.”

He has certainly emboldened the troops. Listening to people like Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, one might conclude humans know all there is to know about sexuality and sexual orientation.

In an interview in The Pilot, a publication of the Boston archdiocese, Haas was asked if a Christian in good conscience could disagree with the teachings of the church on this issue. “No,” he answered. “It is a misunderstanding of what conscience is. Conscience conforms to reality and the moral law. It doesn’t make the moral law and determine what reality is or is not.”

In a recent conference on homosexuality at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, French Msgr. Tony Anatrella, a psychoanalyst and consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family, said without qualification that gay couples were unable to model the sexual difference essential to any child in developing his or her own sexual identity. He asserted that 40 percent of children raised by homosexuals became homosexuals themselves. It wasn’t clear in the Catholic News Service report where he got that number, though the story did report that the assertion was greeted with chuckles in the audience.

In his analysis, children of gay parents could experience such an altered reality that “we could reach the point where we have violence, and what I call ‘civilized delirious behavior.’ ”

Oh, there was more. David S. Crawford of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, holds that tolerance of homosexuality and affording gays rights would lead to a society-wide form of “compulsory homosexuality” in which all relations would be “fundamentally homosexual. … They all become in this sense, essentially, or at least for legal and social purposes, gay.”

There was no indication in the story that an actual homosexual person was part of the conference or consulted about all of these rather bizarre conclusions that would stem from their very existence.

All of this, of course, does little to enlighten, though it does do much to enrich the antihomosexual atmosphere around issues such as gay adoption in Boston.

If only church leaders would opt here for a little prudential judgment, if not for simple prudence. They might even consult groups such as the Child Welfare League of America, which includes 900 child welfare and child health organizations throughout the country representing more than 3.5 million vulnerable children and their families.

The group has a substantial record of following adoptions of all sorts, including those by gay parents. “More than 30 years of sound social science research exists that demonstrate irrefutable evidence that gay men and lesbians are as well-suited to be parents as their heterosexual counterparts,” claims the league.

Maybe the group is wrong. But what’s the harm in consulting the data, in talking to those involved in tracking such adoptions and their outcomes before pronouncing so absolutely on all the imagined deleterious effects of gay adoptions?

Who is right or wrong about homosexual orientation, its causes and what effect it might have on gays’ and lesbians’ ability to be adoptive parents may not be as apparent as, say, whether the sun or earth is at the center of the universe, but it may be even more compelling to explore.

National Catholic Reporter, March 24, 2006

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