Tag Archives: adoption

Putting on Heirs

7 Jan

St. RaymondToday is the feast of St. Raymond of Penyafort. As readers will recall, I have an adopted son named Raymond, and having this great Dominican canonist as a patron saint played into our name selection. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I (or should I say, my son) was getting a Dominican “twofer,” as there is another great Dominican Raymond: Blessed Raymond of Capua, the spiritual advisor of St. Catherine of Siena. Of course, only a few years after Raymond’s birth, his sister Mary Kate became Sr. Evangeline, a Dominican sister.

Given Raymond’s special feast day, I thought I would share with our readers some further reflections on adoption and what it teaches us about God.

Adoption in the human family is often misunderstood today. Even more so is our adoption into the family of God, the Church.

Being God’s children by adoption doesn’t mean that we’re second-class citizens in the kingdom of God, as though God couldn’t have had “children of His own.” And it’s not some sort of legal fiction, as though He simply lets us think we’re His children to help our self-esteem.

Rather, we’re confronted with the controversial passage that through Baptism we truly become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). Our adoption in Christ means that through grace we are able to participate in the very life of God.

If we were gods in our own right, we wouldn’t need to be adopted, just as if my adopted son Raymond were by birth a Suprenant, we wouldn’t have had to bother with all the bureaucratic red tape that goes with adoption in the human family. And if God were distant and uninvolved with us, we would not truly be His children. Continue reading

Gay Parenthood

10 Jul

One argument offered in support of same-sex marriage is that children raised by same-sex couples have no more problems than children raised by their married biological parents. Aware that a major impediment to their agenda is public concern about the welfare of children raised by same-sex couples, gay activists have encouraged researchers to “disprove” this concern. They offer their “findings” to the courts in marriage cases.

The majority of these studies do not compare children raised by same-sex couples with those raised by married biological parents, but with children raised by single mothers or in other less-than-ideal circumstances. Further, many of these studies have been shown to be externally or internally invalid. And in some cases, researchers simply ignored their own findings and skewed their conclusions to fit their agenda.

Persons with same-sex attractions (SSA) are human beings. It’s natural for them to want to experience the joy of having children: to love, to nurture, to leave a legacy. There’s nothing wrong with a woman wanting to become pregnant and bear a child, or a man wanting to experience the joy of seeing his son grow into manhood or his daughter develop into a beautiful woman.

Yet children are not trophies, or a way to meet one’s personal needs, or props to help forward an ideology. People aren’t a means to an end; they’re meant to be loved for their own sake. Therefore, no one has a “right” to a child. It’s children who have the rights. When circumstances separate a child from one or both biological parents, adults should try to create a situation for him or her that is as normal as possible. No matter how honorable the intention, no one has the right to compound the tragedy of separation from biological parents by subjecting a child to another suboptimal situation.

At this point, children raised by same-sex parents are being subjected to a massive social experiment not undertaken for their benefit, but to further the gay rights agenda.

Activists might claim that couples with SSA are “rescuing” children by adopting them out of poverty or other hard circumstances. Although laudable, this intention doesn’t negate the real problems caused by same-sex parenting—problems deeper and longer-lasting than material deprivation. This argument also loses force when one considers the many roadblocks to adoption faced by stable, well-to-do married couples. Same-sex adoption doesn’t necessarily provide more homes to needy children; it often keeps those children away from married couples who would otherwise adopt them.

Of course, when reproductive technologies are used to create babies for same-sex couples, these children aren’t being “rescued” from anything. Instead they’re being intentionally (and immorally) conceived to be placed in suboptimal situations. At best, this is treating the child as an object, a possession, without regard to what may be best for him or her.

On pp. 218-19 of her outstanding book, One Man, One Woman: A Catholic’s Guide to Defending Marriage (Sophia, 2007), author Dale O’Leary summarizes the risks to children of same-sex parenting as follows:

(1) Each of these situations is either fatherless or motherless. Children flourish when they can identify with a parent of their own sex and feel loved and accepted by a person of the other sex.

(2) These children are fatherless or motherless because of adult decisions–often based on a need to feel validated or “complete”–not unavoidable circumstances. Either by adopting them or conceiving them artificially, their care-givers deliberately choose to deprive their children of a mother or a father.

(3) In every same-sex household, one or both parents have no biological relationship to the child. Often compounding the situation are complicated and often contentious legal and emotional relationships with sperm donors, surrogate mothers, former spouses, and ex-partners.

(4) Persons with SSA have a psychological disorder rooted in childhood trauma, which can negatively affect their relationships, their attitudes toward the other sex, and their attitudes toward parenting. They are also more likely to have psychological disorders and therefore are more prone to engage in behaviors that might negatively affect their children.

(5) Adults with SSA are part of a community that views itself as oppressed and in conflict with the greater society. This at-war-with-the-world stance places a burden on the children.

(6) Homosexual behavior is considered sinful by many religions, and same-sex parenting is otherwise stigmatized to some degree in mainstream society. The majority of people in most communities believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. Right or wrong, this can’t help but isolate the children raised by same-sex couples, creating feelings of differentness and inferiority.

(7) The community of adults with SSA tends to have attitudes toward sexuality that encourage sexual experimentation and don’t adequately protect minor children from exposure to sexually explicit materials and sexual exploitation.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

18 Jun

Samuel (number 12) today

I originally wrote the following article for Lay Witness magazine in 2002, shortly after the adoption of our son Samuel. Since today marks the tenth anniversary of his adoption, I thought I would reprint it here, with some minor updates.

Maureen and I were married on February 2, 1991, during the Gulf War. At that time, people were tying yellow ribbons everywhere as a reminder of our loved ones who were away at war. We all needed reassurance during this time of conflict and uncertainty.

The homilist at our wedding told us that our marriage needed to be a yellow ribbon, a witness to life and love amidst the hatred, despair, and death we saw around us. We were newlyweds when the Gulf War ended, and of course now nation is still at war in that region, as well as embroiled in the ongoing, complex war against international terrorism.

Meanwhile, Maureen and I have quietly lived our marriage vows for over two decades. We remember Pope John Paul II telling us over and over again that civilization passes by way of the family. We are far from perfect, but we have taken seriously the challenge we received at our wedding–a challenge issued to all Christian families–to be joyful witnesses to Christ in the midst of the world.

The Lord has abundantly blessed our marriage with children. We have six beautiful children (they take after their mother) and 14 godchildren. [And now one grandchild.] We’ve welcomed at different times many others into our home, including our elderly parents, siblings, and college students. I thank the Lord every day for the singular gift of our family, our little domestic Church.

Yet we’ve also endured times of sorrow. Maureen has had several pregnancies end in miscarriage. Many families have experienced miscarriages and know what a silent, difficult cross they can be. After all, here we are in a contraceptive society, in a “culture of death,” willing to accept new life, only to have the child taken from us before we can even hold him or her. We’ve entrusted these little ones to our merciful Father, trusting amidst the tears that these tragedies are part of a larger, more glorious plan.

Family life isn’t a contest in which the players with the most children at the end of the game win. Yet Maureen and I wanted to be as open as possible to the Lord’s blessing. We have always considered adoption at some point, and after some of the pain from the miscarriages subsided, we realized in 2001 that we had room in our hearts and our home for another child. So we took the next step . . .

We didn’t have the money to go through an expensive agency. Further, we weren’t looking for a “designer baby” with all the “right” qualities. We simply wanted to be open to accept whatever gift the Lord would want for us.

We decided in February 2001 to receive 36 hours of “training” through the county to become certified as foster/adoptive parents. We also obtained a home study, a comprehensive report prepared by a social worker concerning the suitability of an adoptive family. We figured that by going through these at times onerous steps, we would be ready to act quickly should a child become available.

We had our home study sent to various Catholic Charities offices in our region. We expressed a willingness to consider any age, race, gender, or special needs, but we hoped for a younger child so that there would be a better chance of forming good attachments. We made ourselves available, and then we had to wait.

One morning in September 2001, months after completing our home study and only a few days before 9/11, Maureen commented to me how nice it would be to have a son. I nodded as I left for the CUF office. Later that day, I had slipped out of the office to go to our parish’s adoration chapel to prepare for a talk I was going to give that weekend. While I was there Maureen and my three youngest daughters tracked me down. They told me that we just received a call from Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh. We were going to be able to adopt a baby boy!

The baby was only two months old. Interestingly, the foster parents were calling him Samuel. I would have been inclined to go along with a noble biblical name like Samuel anyway, but remarkably I happened to be studying the book of 2 Samuel when I received the happy news from Maureen. Only later did I learn that Samuel John’s birthday was June 24th, the feast of the birth of John the Baptist, the new Samuel. (I do assure Maureen that she’s considerably younger than St. Elizabeth!)

Baby Samuel quickly became an integral part of our family. I couldn’t imagine loving a biological child more than I love Samuel. He is also now a loving big brother to Raymond, whom we adopted at birth in 2004.

We have much to teach Samuel, but he has already taught us so much. For one thing, his (usually!) pleasant, outgoing disposition and his “I’m just happy to be here” smile continually calls us to gratitude for God’s gifts and to put our worldly concerns in perspective.

Further, his addition to our family has been a concrete lesson on the gift of adoption that all of us received at Baptism. We are not second-class citizens but truly children of God. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 Jn. 3:1). As we rejoice in the expansion of our little family, even more does our Heavenly Father take delight in sharing His glory with the creatures He has fashioned in His image and likeness.

Samuel’s story would not be possible without a whole network of people who were committed to the Gospel of life. I’m thinking of the various social workers and Catholic Charities personnel, Samuel’s loving foster parents, and our many family members and friends who have stormed heaven with their prayers and who have materially helped us in myriad ways. Above all, my heart goes out to Samuel’s birth mother. She read our anonymous “birth parent letter” and chose our family for her child. I pray with utmost confidence that our Lord will bless her heroic generosity and draw her closer to Himself.

I think we need to proclaim these little pro-life “success stories” to our contemporaries. In a world in desperate need of “yellow ribbons,” we must be ambassadors of a supernatural hope rooted in the goodness and promises of the Lord of Life. We know that Jesus Christ through His Church is the world’s salvation and hope, and in the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to tell one another and the world, “Do not be afraid.”

The Third Option

25 Apr

Ever been stuck between a rock and a hard place? Mary Magdalene was on Easter morning.  Well, actually, it was Jesus’ body that was stuck between a rock and a hard place, and she seemingly had no way to get to him.  This consumes her thoughts on the way to the tomb.  How will I get that stone moved? Jesus needs to be anointed. If I ask the guards, what will they do to me? Can the disciples move it? They would be thrown in prison if they tried! And further, they don’t have a great track record of sticking around when things get tough…

What I think is most striking about this inner dialogue of Mary is that as she runs through the impossibilities in her head, she keeps moving toward the tomb.  It seems like she has two options: to incur ridicule or worse from the guards at the tomb, or to fail to give Jesus a decent burial.  Yet when she arrives, she finds something altogether different. Jesus has provided a spectacular third option she never could have dreamed of.

I have been reflecting lately how so many of our pressing social issues come down to a failure to see and embrace that third option.  Our society forces people in difficult circumstances into a false dichotomy of horrible solutions.  If you’re in a troubled marriage, you have two choices: the trauma of divorce or the long agony of staying together “for the sake of the kids”.  Young, pregnant and unmarried? Your choices are abortion or a doomed future of poverty and underachievement. This is a brilliant tool of the devil.  No one likes divorce or abortion, but if you juxtapose it with something equally devastating, it suddenly seems like a viable option.  The “lesser of two evils”.

Now enter Mother Church, who is increasingly a lone voice against some of these “lesser evils”.  Prohibit contraception? You want women to become helpless baby factories! Prohibit assisted suicide? You want Grandma to linger is meaningless pain! Prohibit IVF? You want to deprive people of the beauty of parenthood! What our culture fails to see in every one of these tough cases is the third option.  The Church never just slaps on a legislative cuff.  Instead she gently takes the struggling sinner by the hand and says, “this is extremely difficult, but you can do it”.  In short, the third option is grace.

Grace is a poorly understood concept today, but simply it means God’s supernatural power which we have access to by our Baptism and by the other sacraments.  What it means is that we never face our hardest times alone.  We face them with the same power that moved the stone for Mary Magdalene.  Grace opens doors where no doors should be able to open.

The third option is a transformed marriage where partners can learn to slowly rebuild trust and love again.  It is adoption, where an infertile couple becomes parents, the young person is able to continue with their education and the baby gets to live.  It is Natural Family Planning, through which couples learn to be generous in their love, open to God’s will for their families and through which they can either space their children or often conceive children despite low fertility.

I’m not naïve. I know that life is not a Hallmark movie.  That’s the beauty of grace! I know that sometimes the third option is an ability to survive one of the first two horrible options.  If Grandma is terminally ill, grace normally won’t provide a miraculous cure.  But God will illuminate the meaning of Grandma’s suffering.  Like all suffering endured with Christ, it can be a powerful avenue of grace for others.  This is true of any suffering we let God into.

Finally, the best part about the third option is that it is available even after one of the “lesser evils” is chosen.  There is hope for those who have divorced, whether that choice was made for safety, against one’s will or in the pursuit of a happier life.  There is forgiveness and healing for those who have chosen abortion, or IVF or contraception.  Here, too, the third option opens up floodgates of mercy and peace that never could have been imagined before.  No matter what the situation, choosing the third option of grace leads to a surprisingly rich joy.

So this Easter season, let’s approach the tomb with our deepest anxieties.  Let’s offer them up to the Lord and see what miracles await us.

Note: Grace is often channeled through practical avenues.  For help in understanding the issues raised in this post or in getting practical help, please contact your pastor or the Respect Life or Family Life Offices.

Everybody Loves Raymond!

10 Nov

Raymond dressed as Cardinal Burke this past Halloween

Today is the seventh birthday of my youngest son, Raymond. Filled with thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father, I will once again tell the remarkable story of how Raymond became part of our family. For those of you who have already heard it, tough!

Toward the end of October 2004, while I was still serving as president of Catholics United for the Faith (“CUF”), our Tucson CUF chapter underwent a name change, taking as its new patron the recently canonized St. Gianna Beretta Molla. All this took place in the context of a large, regional conference cosponsored by the chapter.

At the Friday night banquet, I was privileged to introduce the keynote speaker, Archbishop (now Cardinal) Raymond Burke of St. Louis. Even though the presidential election was only a week away, Archbishop Burke was not there to talk about the role of Catholics in political life, much less who should or should not be allowed to receive Holy Communion. Instead, he was there to tell us about St. Gianna, whose image was prominently displayed during the banquet and throughout the weekend.

Archbishop Burke gave a moving overview of the life of this twentieth century saint: a wife, mother, and physician, who ultimately gave her life so that her youngest child, Gianna Emanuela (who visited KC earlier this year), could live. Her loving husband, Pietro, was present at her canonization. (For those interested in reading more about St. Gianna, I recommend this biography published by Ignatius Press.)

I was already somewhat familiar with St. Gianna, but I was struck by Archbishop Burke’s comment that she’s a powerful intercessor for infertile couples. Even though Maureen and I already had five living children, we have struggled with infertility throughout our marriage and by that time we had already lost six children in utero. We were open to another child, but our “window of opportunity” seemed to be closing.

So, hearing Archbishop Burke’s words, I was moved that evening to pray to St. Gianna for the first time, hoping against hope that our family would be blessed with another child.

The rest of the weekend conference was predictably both tiring and fruitful, and Sunday afternoon the CUF staff members who attended the conference boarded the plane for the trek back to Ohio. On the plane, I pulled out a journal I had been keeping for my (then) three-year-old son Samuel, and I wrote him a letter. It was October 31st, Halloween, the birthday of my dear brother Ray who, with my father Leon Sr., died in 1978. In the journal entry, I told Samuel about his Uncle Ray. I also mentioned that his mother and I were still hoping that someday he would have a little brother, if that was God’s will for our family.

It’s a Boy!

After two flights and a 45-minute drive, I finally entered my home after midnight and crawled into bed. A few hours later, there was much activity, as we all got up early Monday morning to go to All Saints’ Day Mass at our parish. Then, as a feast day treat, our family went to a coffee shop for breakfast to catch up on what had happened the past few days while I was gone. I remember thinking at the time that it was one of the nicest mornings our family had ever had, and I rejoiced to be back with “everybody.” But then I dropped everybody at home and drove to the CUF office. We were closed for the holy day, but I had a few things that needed my immediate attention.

As soon as I arrived at the CUF headquarters, I realized that I needed a phone number, so I called home. Maureen answered the phone. She sounded like she was in a state of shock. I asked her what was going on, to which she replied, “Honey, I just got a call from Florida. We are going to adopt a little boy.”

St. Gianna doesn’t waste any time!

Maureen explained more of the situation to me. The birth mother was due to deliver in two weeks, but she wanted to meet us before she went into labor. In addition, we had to get busy to prepare for this sudden addition to our family.

Later that afternoon we talked about a name for the little boy and we selected the name Raymond Leon, not only for the great Dominican canonist St. Raymond and “great” Pope St. Leo I, but also for my brother Raymond, my father, Leon, and Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, who encouraged the prayer to St. Gianna.

We flew down to Florida that week to meet the birth mother, her family, and the social worker. The birth mother told us she chose our family specifically because of Samuel. She saw that we had already welcomed a biracial child into our family, and so she felt comfortable that her son would likewise be accepted and loved. We also made arrangements with a generous CUF family in Florida who would take in Maureen and baby immediately after the birth, since it takes about a week to get clearance to leave the state. The family was part of our new “Our Lady of Life” CUF chapter!

In His merciful providence, Our Lord ordinarily gives parents nine months to prepare for the rigors of childbirth and caring for a new baby. In this case, though, we had nine days, not nine months. After scurrying to get all our paperwork in order, we received a call on November 10th, the feast of St. Leo the Great, telling us that our son was born. Continue reading