A Catholic misconception

11-26-08 edited to add: Thorn has written a wonderful post about this topic, please be sure to read it. It reminded me that there ARE individuals (like Father Tom Brosnan) and organizations under the Catholic Church's umbrella that DO understand adoption. I need to keep looking for more.

An article on the Catholic exchange by Heidi Hess Saxton is making the rounds of blogland. The article sums up a prevalent Catholic point of view on the relationship between adoption and abortion. It is a frustrating read, loaded with attitudes that I cannot reconcile with the Catholicism that I know: judgment, shame, and error. There is no mention of the Church's role in unjust adoptions, like the warehousing of young pregnant women in Church facilities, or the force Church agencies have used to women to relieve them of their babies, or the secrecy and lies that sealed such adoptions. It is rank hypocrisy for Catholics to claim any moral high ground in adoption, and wrong of us to use it as abortion's silver bullet. Precisely because of our adoption history, we more than any other church should be leading efforts to make adoption ethical and just.

One paragraph in particular grabbed my attention, and frustrated the heck out of me:
Women in crisis pregnancies who are considering adoption may have second thoughts when faced with the very real possibility that their “past” may come knocking on their door twenty or thirty years hence, disrupting their lives with demands and recriminations. Unless the records are truly sealed with a “suite lock” — one that can be opened only by mutual consent — the real danger is that these “unwanted” children will simply be aborted.
Let's count the stereotypes in this paragraph which adoption and abortion research have proven false:
  • that woman who have lost children to adoption fear them
  • that adoptees will always use their birth records to invade their mothers' privacy
  • that search is unidirectional - initiated by adoptees only
  • that if adoptees do search, their purpose is to make demands and recriminations
  • that mutual consent registries work
  • that adoption is necessarily a factor in a woman's decision to carry her child to term
  • that opening records will lead to more abortions
I'm sure I've missed a few, so chime in. Study after study has disproved these statements, yet here they are, put forward as fact. This paragraph is the best example yet of what single-issue attitudes have done to the Catholic Church: blinded it to truth.

In today's Catholic Church, if one's point of view doesn't overtly, loudly and clearly scream I AM PRO-LIFE, it is distrusted and dismissed. Abortion tunnel-vision has blinded many Catholics to adoption's injustices, and has turned adoption into a sacred cow: the ultimate alternative to abortion, and therefore above reproach, even when it's screaming for it.

To be fair, this point of view isn't monopolized by Catholics; there are plenty of people who belong to other churches who share this point of view. But I'm particularly aggravated when I see Catholics falling in line behind the notion that pro-life equals pro-adoption, which of course leads to precisely what you see in this article: the labeling of the adoption reform movement as "anti-adoption."

Adoption and abortion are two separate, unrelated experiences with different causes and outcomes. Continually connecting them only serves to delay badly needed discussion on how to improve the former and reduce the latter.

You know, I feel like a broken record saying all this, I've said it so many times before. Is anyone listening? Or, as I suspect, am I the only Catholic on the planet who feels this way?


Judy said…
That article -- Sheesh, how manipulative. Like this is what would happen each and every time. It paints a picture of exactly how things would happen if records are unsealed, almost like there's creepy music behind it, getting ever louder.

This is how people are influenced so easily, reading that "this is what would happen, OH NO, THE SKY WOULD FALL!!" and not knowing that there's another truth, a TRUER one, in fact.

Good post, Margie.
Rachel said…
Not Catholic, but I did grow up in a strongly pro-life church, where adoption was held out as an alternative to abortion. I agree with everything you said here.
patti said…
Catholic here who's thinking of not being one anymore. I was ticked at the "subtle" insertions of reminders in the Sunday bulletin about how Catholics "should" vote before the election. Now the bishops can't let that "loss" go and work for justice regarding poor women and their children. THAT would reduce the need for abortion, not keeping records sealed. I'm beginning to think ignorance is a permanent state. For sure, there seems to be NO willingness to listen to any other points of view besides the offically sanctioned one. Makes me sad to lose that community, but I refuse to be treated as a second (or NO) class citizen because I have a mind and choose to use it!
Anonymous said…
Fellow Catholic here, mostly agreeing with you.

I wonder if some of it is generational. Not to excuse it, but I know my mother feels the same way (she adopted me and my sister in the 1960s), especially about birthparents/birth records. Since most of Catholic leadership still thinks along 1960s realities (whether they were every really "reality" is another issue).

I've been more emotional on the topic lately, due to an unexpected email from my own birthmother (full post on Octomama at http://octomama.wordpress.com/2008/11/07/an-unexpected-message/). She commented, "There was never any talk of keeping you, it just wasn’t done that I know of, we were just hidden away until after the birth and were just suppose to get on with our lives." While she has always stressed to me that she was never overtly pressured to give me up, she clearly was covertly pressured (she gave up a second daughter to adoption a couple years later).

That said, she has also made it pretty clear that I was an unwanted pregnancy, and that she was fully unprepared to be a parent. So, in 1965, that meant adoption for her. If abortion was legal at the time, would she have made a different choice? I don't know, but the question helps me understand why people mingle the abortion/adoption issues.

My bigger struggle right now is on the overall topic of abortion. I do not share the staunch pro-life stance of most Catholics, but I am not solidly pro-choice either. Like most, I am 100% behind making abortion as rare as possible (through education and prevention -- I am not on the "abstinence is the only solution" train), but I think it should remain a safe and legal option, especially in extreme situations. I could never make that kind of a choice for another person. It is such a polarizing topic, and yet I can easily find a lot of grey area.

On a related topic, does anyone know of a good online source for objective, non-partisan information on the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA)? Everything I find via google seems pretty agenda-oriented.

Our fabulous, social-justice driven, diverse catholic church keeps us in the fold. I want to be able to believe the t-shirts I see so often at our church:


but the Church sure makes it hard sometimes...

Psychobabbler said…
Not Catholic here, Margie, but you are most definitely NOT the only Catholic on the planet that feels this way. However, many of the folks I know who have similar views have left the church for other Christian denominations, finding it very difficult to feel like they could get their spiritual needs met. What the tipping point is where one feels like they can stay and implement change from within vs. pick up one's ball and go play somewhere else, I couldn't tell you. But alone, you are not.
maybe said…
Saxton is no deep thinker. She would likley jump off a bridge if the pope declared that was the way to salvation.

The church was behind the systematic abuse of thousands of pregnant young women; they have no credibility on this issue whatsoever. I never trust an organization that cannot fess up to its mistakes.
Margie said…
Well, I'm mighty glad I'm NOT the only Catholic that thinks this way. Honestly, it's so frustrating.

Lulu, your parish sounds like mine, and it took a lot of searching to find it. It is a real blessing, an island of sanity in a Church that is slowly becoming crazily extreme. I'll need to track down those t-shirts you guys wear!!
octomama said…
Alyson and Ford said…
I read your post with great interest.
I wish people who know I am pro-choice would know that doesn't necessarily mean I am pro-abortion. (I am not Catholic).

Alyzabeth's Mommy
Forever Family Day 09/16/08
Judi said…
No, you're not alone. Lapsed Catholic and never again to be affiliated with any religion that is patriarchal with rules for women without regard for women and women's issues, including children. When will the connection between mother (whether first, second or third) and child be valued? Honestly. Every human on the planet had a mom and was a child. There's a disconnect that breeds disrespect and the past (and any current) abuses.
Another stereotype is that all the children were unwanted. I don't believe that. If you help the mom, then you help the child.

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