Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
"On government and legislation on the family: The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God. For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the population problem—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded."
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife.
It comes as a surprise to some that the Church would not favor technology that assists couples in producing children. To some, the fact that the Church has always been adamantly opposed to artificial contraception, suggests that the truly faithful Christian should be producing as many children in as short order as possible.
But when we remember the dual purpose of marriage, and the natural order that produces children within the marital embrace of his mother and father, we see that forcing science into the mix violates the dignities of all parties.
Now, if a couple is having difficulty conceiving, it is perfectly legitimate to use medical technology to diagnose disorders and even to restore reproductive health. The Pope Paul VI Institute has been assisting couples wanting to achieve pregnancy (and women suffering from a variety of other health issues) since Dr. Thomas Hilgers founded it in 1985.
Still, there are some methodologies that are not morally acceptable, especially IVF. One of the most obvious difficulties lies in the fact that so many embryos are left in a state of frozen half-life, abandoned in the petri dish. Since 1997, the Snowflakes Embryonic Adoption Program has been working to give life to more than 400,000 unborn children. And yet, some Catholic moral theologians insist that this type of adoption only compounds the original error of the natural parents. Others insist that the child's right to life trumps all.
When my husband and I contemplated how far we should go to "help God along" in our efforts to become parents, we finally took great comfort in one passage from the Catechism (par. 2379):
"The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord's Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others."
Monday, July 21, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
While Craig and I have not participated in the program, I remember that my parents did do just this when I was about five. For two weeks, we hosted "Monique," a seven-year-old girl from Atlantic City. I can still remember the song she taught me about a bus driver.... I think she was the first African-American child I ever had a chance to know.
Sara Wilson, a coordinator for the Fresh Air Fund, has asked me (repeatedly) for assistance in placing 200 children before the August 1 deadline. If you would like more information, click on the title above, which will lead you directly to their site, or contact Sara directly here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In marriage we are called to imitate the self-giving, fruitful love of God in a lifelong union marked by charity and fidelity. Marriage was created by God for a dual purpose, which is described in paragraph 8 of the document:
"Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives. "Through marriage, then, we not only prepare one another for heaven, but participate as co-creators (in the case of biological parenting) and co-redeemers (in the case of adoptive parenting) in the formation of those young souls.
By "co-redeemers," I am not suggesting that adopted children are more flawed or sinful than children raised by their natural parents (it is not their fault that their parents are unable to care for them). Rather, adoption is the process by which a child who cannot be raised according to the natural order (in the loving embrace of their natural parents, a man and woman joined for life in the sacrament of matrimony) can begin to experience in his or her adoptive family the love and security that is the natural right of every child.
In one sense, adoption is never God's first choice for a child. He set the universe to run according to certain principles, called "natural law," and when that plan is disrupted suffering is inevitable. Sadly, it is often the child who suffers most. This suffering is compounded for couples who are unable to conceive, who must grieve and reconcile themselves to the reality of their situation. In both cases, adoption is no magic pill, and cannot wipe away the circumstances that made the adoption necessary.
And yet, love is the most powerful force in the universe. When we choose to open ourselves to that love, and to imitate that love the God who adopted us as His children (see Galatians 3:25-4:7), we begin the process of healing that leads us closer to the perfection God always intended.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
July 25, 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most eloquent and (in some circles) controversial of encyclicals, Humanae Vitae. Penned by Pope Paul VI shortly after the convocation of the Second Vatican Council, this letter examined the Church's ongoing teaching on the purpose of marriage within the natural order of God's design. Specifically, it upheld the dignity of both men and women, especially within the vocation of marriage, and elevated marital love to nothing less than a sacred act.
This week I will reflect upon several of my favorite passages from this important document, which you may read in its entirety by clicking here. And so we begin ...
"Men rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one's partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife." Humane Vitae #13
The other day as I was watching Shadowlands, the love story of C.S. Lewis and his wife Joy Davidson, I was struck by the hospital scene in which Lewis marries Joy, who was fast losing her battle with cancer.
Sitting together on the bed, Joy promises to "love, honor, and obey..." and Lewis vows, "With this ring, I thee wed; with my body, I thee worship..."
Perhaps at no other time have I been so struck by the fact that the sacrament of matrimony in a very real way mirrors -- was always intended to reflect, in fact -- the union of love that is the very nature of God, as well as the love of Christ and His Bride, the Church.
At that moment in the movie, the meaning of "worship" is distilled with uncommon clarity. "With my body, I thee worship" does not mean, "I will give myself to you because it feels good." It does not even mean, "I will make you feel as good as can, for as long as I can."
No, it goes much deeper than that. At the moment he professed his vows, Lewis must have understood that chances were excellent that (due to his wife's rapidly deteriorating health) they would never consummate their union. Rather, he was consigning himself to a lifetime of suffering alongside his wife, taking her burden as his own. He would take her into his home. Raise her son. And when the time came, he would entrust her back to God having loved her courageously, knowing from the start that it would likely hurt like hell.
And yet, he chose to love ... knowing that love is the only thing in this world stronger than death, stronger than hell itself. And in making that choice, C.S. Lewis discovered what it was to be fully human, and learned through experience what up to that time he had known only in theory: the endlessly compassionate and inscrutible love of God. It is a love that does not spare us suffering, but walks alongside us all the way.
What is worship?
For many Christians, this image of worship as sacrificial self-giving too often stops at the church door. Too often "worship" is comprised of songs I like, people I want to be with (most of whom are a lot like me), and the particular spin on the Scriptures that makes me feel good (or at least doesn't demand too much from me). To worship is to go away "feeling fed." And if I don't "experience God" in one church, I'll either move on to the next church or stop going altogether.
And so they walk away from the sacraments because they don't "feel" anything, feeding their passions rather than their souls. And the angels weep.
We see it in marriages, too. "With my body, I thee worship" is taken to mean "I'll make you feel good as long as you appeal to me, and as long as it makes me feel good, too." No wonder the divorce rates are so high! Women can no longer bring themselves to "submit" ... and men have forgotten what it is to "worship."
I do not say these things lightly. Right now I am struggling to know how to help a friend whose husband is clearly mentally ill. He is hurting her, and hurting their children as well. She was never far from my thoughts as I watched Shadowlands, and saw with fresh clarity the pain that is the "shadow" of love. She is suffering ... just as my friend MJ's grieving husband is suffering. Love does not always feel good ... and yet, we are called to love nevertheless. Called to give. Called to hope.
We are called to worship.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
You can read about it here.
Monday, July 14, 2008
To feed the hungry: This one requires no financial investment, just moments of your time. All you have to do is click here. Or, for as little as $1, you can add to the important work of "The Greater Good." Or, since charity begins at home, for $25 you can feed a family of five right here in the U.S. through Second Harvest.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
M.J.'s funeral was today. Burying a friend my own age (breast cancer), who had a child even younger than my own, made me contemplate my own mortality. Am I doing the best job I can with what God has given me? Something worth considering ...
Father said it best. "God has nothing to do with cancer. Or drunk drivers. Or war. Evil is real, and it touches every life at one time or another."
Later, on impulse, I called another friend, I'll call her Joan, whom I haven't seen for about a year. She confessed that her husband is abusing her. She has two preteen girls, who both have special physical needs. The husband has managed to isolate Joan from her church friends, her employer, and most of her extended family with fantastic stories -- evidently paranoid ragings of an unwell mind.
All things considered, Joan is better off than many women in abusive marriages. She understands that the violence will only escalate, and that she needs to protect herself and her children. She has a job, and has the means to be able to support herself and her children.
And yet, in a very real sense, evil is winning. The fight isn't over ... there may be years and years of battle ahead. But as I was reminded at the funeral today, the battle won't last forever. At times that final punch cuts in unseemly fashion.
Tonight two families are hurting -- one whose mother has gone to God, one who is trying to hang on. Please pray for them both.
Áve María, grátia pléna,
Benedícta tu in muliéribus,
et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi, Jesus.
Sáncta María, Máter Déi,
óra pro nóbis peccatóribus,
nunc et in hóra mórtis nóstrae. Ámen.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
The 'Middle Wife' by an Anonymous 2nd grade teacher
I've been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second grade classroom a few years back.
When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles, model airplanes, pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that. And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them. If they want to lug it in to school and talk about it, they're welcome.
Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater. She holds up a snapshot of an infant. "This is Luke, my baby brother, and I'm going to tell you about his birthday.
"First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom's stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ate for nine months through an umbrella cord."
Erica was standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I'm trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement.
"Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts saying and going, 'Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh!'" (Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans.) "She walked around the house for, like an hour, 'Oh, oh, oh!'" (Now this kid is doing a hysterical duck walk and groaning.)
"'My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn't have a sign on the car like the Domino's man. They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this.' (Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall.)
"And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like psshhheew!' (This kid has her legs spread with her little hands miming water flowing away.)
"Then the middle wife starts saying 'push, push,' and 'breathe, breathe.' They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff that they all said it was from Mom's play-center (placenta), so there must be a lot of toys inside there.'"
Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat. I'm sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, when it's show-and-tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another 'Middle Wife' comes along.
Now you have two choices...laugh and close this page or pass this along to
someone else to spread the laughs. I know what I did!!! Live every day as if it
is your LAST chance to make someone happy!
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Kati moved into Tom and Dennis’ home for thirty days, while they attempted to persuade her to change her conviction that gay and lesbian couples should not be allowed to foster or adopt children. (She kept referring to this alternately as her “belief” and “opinion.”)
The persuasion took a variety of forms, including …
Dinnertime confrontations: “Are you saying that these kids would be better off in a group home than with us? Are you saying that we’re bad parents?”
Mandatory attendance at gay and lesbian events and support groups, in which participants took turns at using her for target practice for her “prejudices.” (Groups included COLAGE, an Ann Arbor group for children raised in same-sex parent households and CARE, an advocacy group that seeks to have laws passed to protect same-sex couples.)
Forced labor, in which she had to hand out flyers to businesses in the downtown area (the owners had clearly been coached to make barbed comments about “those people” who are treading upon their rights).
A field trip with two social workers from Detroit, who took Katie into a crumbling neighborhood, to see a group home in which one of them had been raised, to demonstrate how much better off children are with ANY family than in a group home.
Is Any Family Better than NO Family?
This last point is usually the argument most groups return to, as it is the most difficult to refute. For a long time I avoided writing on this particular subject for the simple reason that I, too, had SEEN such a group home, and was horrified by the conditions in which the kids were living. Were the children truly better off in a place like this than with a gay couple? And, if so, how?
Watching “30 Days,” the answer became very clear to me. The first clue came when I saw that Katie was put on the hot seat over and over again for her “opinions,” yet at no time did the tables turn. Tom and Dennis were never made to sit down with sociologists or psychologists or theologians who could ask them the hard questions about what they were teaching the children about heterosexual relationships, and how it might affect the future ability of these children to form healthy families. No one suggested that any other considerations (including the developmental needs of the kids) might trump their “right” to have a family. They were never asked to confront anything more persuasive than “I’m sorry, but this is what I think.”
What they want you to presume, of course, is that no such considerations exist. And yet they do exist, and cannot be discounted without doing real and lasting damage to the well-being of children who have already suffered so much. (For more about this, click on this study from the Family Resource Center.)
Here are a few of them:
1. Children adopted by gay and lesbian couples are absorbed into a subculture is intrinsically different from the one in which they originated, and to which they very likely belong.
Many experts in adoption contend that it is highly undesirable to place an African-American child (or a child from any other non-white background) with a Caucasian couple. No matter how loving or well intentioned, the argument goes, the white couple is intrinsically “different” from the child, unable to give that child the tools he or she needs to get along in his particular corner of the world. (Some couples attempt to overcome this by exposing the child to others with similar backgrounds at school, in church, and even on play dates. However, in a very real sense, a white parent can never hope to teach by example what it is to be part of that particular community.)
Similarly, homosexual or lesbian couples cannot teach children by example the skills they will need to grow up and form healthy heterosexual relationships. Because the gay and lesbian community tends to form a distinctive subculture within mainstream society, the pressure to accept the gay lifestyle as “normal” or even desirable could not help but form an indelible impression on the children placed in their care. The tensions (such as those seen on the show) between the two camps cannot help but have a negative effect on the kids.
At one point in the program, one of the men (I think it was Dennis) commented on how the kids hadn’t warmed up to Katie. “I haven’t seen them hug her even once, and they are normally very affectionate kids,” he said. In reality, the children had picked up on the tensions in the house, between their “dads” and this lady who “didn’t want them to be a family.” Children tend to take their cues from their parents … and these two had already branded Katie “the enemy.”
2. Children placed in gay and lesbian homes become unwitting targets, exposed to greater censure and scrutiny by their peers than other adopted and foster children.
In the “30 Days” episode, a young child – six or seven years old – going to his first day at school was admonished by his “dad” to choose whether or not to tell his classmates that he has two dads. Katie was horrified by this. “You’re asking a six year old to make decisions about something he shouldn’t have been exposed to in the first place!”
While her horror is justifiable, the reality is that this kind of decision making about how much information to share, and with whom, is all too common for foster children and adopted children. This is especially true when children are adopted outside their racial or ethnic group; their coloring makes it immediately evident that their natural parents are not raising them. Children pick up on this quickly, and questions such as, “So where are your real parents?” or “How come you don’t live with your real parents?” are all too common.
Responsible parents talk with their children ahead of time, and help them to decide how to respond to these personal questions. Unfortunately, children raised in gay and lesbian households suffer an additional level of scrutiny. Their desire to blend in to their peer group is frustrated each time “both dads” or “both moms” show up for ballgames or other class events, or they are asked to do projects about their families. (Children raised by single parents generally do not have the same difficulties because of the prevalence of divorce.)
Although many schools try to smooth over these differences in the name of “tolerance,” the bottom line is that these children are forced to be a constant reminder of a lifestyle many other parents strongly object to … which only adds to their sense of being “different” or “unlovable,” making them unwitting (and undeserving) targets.
3. Children placed in gay and lesbian homes are not taught how to embrace God’s design for family life.
Children raised in gay or lesbian households don’t get to experience the positive ways men and women complement and complete each other, especially within marriage. Rather, they are subjected to conflicting and contradictory messages in their adoptive homes, no matter how otherwise “loving” and “supportive.” For these children, the “theology of the body” is all but lost, and their inherent dignity is further obscured.
So … Back to the Orphanage?
Whenever human choices cause them to take steps that are outside the revealed will of God, there are consequences that are very real, and often far-reaching. If Adam and Eve had imagined that a bite of fruit would have sent them so far from the Garden, do you think they would have taken that first bite?
The children currently in the system are not pawns in the war of political activism. Most of them were brought into this world through the ill advised and often sinful actions of their parents, and have scars that are both deep and permanent. There is no denying this. They are growing up in a world that is harsh and by all accounts unloving.
There was a time when whole religious orders were dedicated to caring for such children, forms of which continue to this day. However, no institution – no matter how well organized, or well-intentioned – can take the place of the family. The first Christians had a tremendous influence on the Roman Empire for the simple reason that they tended to the needs of the poor and marginalized, especially its discarded children.
The best thing for ANY child is to be raised by his natural parents -- one man, one woman, lovingly united for life in the bonds of holy matrimony. Each time this plan is disrupted, the child is the one who suffers. The question is not "if" the child is going to suffer, but "how much"?
The child who is adopted by another couple will likely grow up wondering about his birth parents.
The child who is raised by a single parent will grow up wondering about the other parent who is no longer a part of his or her life.
The child who is adopted by a single parent grows up with all these questions, plus a few more in the event that single parent marries unwisely. (Two women in my family had children and subsequently married. Both children suffered at the hands of their birth fathers and their mother's husbands.)
In the short term, placing a child with a gay or lesbian couple may seem like a better choice than leaving him or her in a group home ... until you think about the consequences of that choice. As a result, that child is absorbed into a subculture to which he does not belong, forced to accept as normal a lifestyle that is far outside the mainstream. Instead of learning from his parents the tools he needs to understand the beauty of the complementarity of the sexes and the order of natural family life, he is subjected to conflicting and confusing messages that strike at the core of his identity ... and his dignity as a human person.
However, until and unless we are prepared to accept responsibility for these lives, and teach them the things they need to know to form healthy relationships and enter into marriage and family life, our protests will fall on deaf ears. Resources are limited. The need is too great.
To the extent – and ONLY to the extent – that we are prepared to respond with tangible help, can we hope to effect real, lasting change. And so, there is only viable response to the social worker who says, “What can I do? Send them to the group home … or with Tom and Steve?”
The answer is the same as the one Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta so often gave. “Give those children to me.”