Breaking Silence: Catholics, Contraception, and Same-Sex Marriage

| 07-08-AD2013 | [44]

Mary Rice Hasson - Truth About Marriage

As the dust settles on the Supreme Court’s marriage rulings, Catholics and other defenders of traditional marriage have stepped forward with new energy and comprehensive strategies to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

On Redstate.com, Ryan T. Anderson sees the dissenting opinions of Supreme Court Justices Alito, Roberts, and Scalia in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ruling as “flares signaling the path that marriage proponents must take from here.”

From those dissents, Anderson sketches his own vision for strengthening marriage. We need “to start living out the truth about marriage…to insist that the government respect those who continue to stand for marriage as the union of a man and a woman…[and] to redouble our efforts at explaining what marriage is, why marriage matters and what the consequences are of redefining marriage…We should frame our message, strengthen coalitions, devise strategies and bear witness. We must develop and multiply our artistic, pastoral and reasoned defenses of the conjugal view as the truth about marriage, and to make ever plainer our policy reasons for enacting it.”

A huge task, to be sure, but a cogent vision nonetheless.

Let me offer a few thoughts on one part of that task, the challenge of bringing the marriage message home to Catholics.

Anderson highlights Justice Alito’s view that the marriage debate is a contest between two ideas, “the conjugal view of marriage: a ‘comprehensive, exclusive, permanent union that is intrinsically ordered to producing children,’” and “the consent-based idea that marriage is a commitment marked by emotional union.”

These dueling ideas square off in Supreme Court briefs, intellectual spaces like Public Discourse or First Things, and in the ‘New Conversation about Marriage’ at the Institute for American Values. 

But for many ordinary Americans—already conditioned by the sexual revolution to separate babies from sex and sex from marriage—Justice Alito’s ‘contest of ideas’ over marriage is all but invisible. (And in this respect, Catholics are no different from their fellow Americans.)

Sundering Sex and Procreation 

Heterosexual marriage has been functioning for decades now as a commitment based on love. Children? Optional. It’s a mindset primed to accept homosexual coupling and same-sex marriage.

Back in 2005, liberal historian Stephanie Coontz observed that the deconstruction of traditional marriage (and the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage) was a predictable consequence of the separation of sex and procreation.

Heterosexuals were the upstarts who turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship rather than a mandatory economic and political institution. Heterosexuals were the ones who made procreation voluntary, so that some couples could choose childlessness, and who adopted assisted reproduction so that even couples who could not conceive could become parents. And heterosexuals subverted the long-standing rule that every marriage had to have a husband who played one role in the family and a wife who played a completely different one. Gays and lesbians simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too.

If Coontz, Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families and a supporter of same-sex marriage, could name the problem (the separation of sex from procreation) back then, why couldn’t we? More precisely, why didn’t we?

Our priests didn’t preach and our teachers didn’t teach because contraception was the unmentionable sin-that-wasn’t. Why risk alienating parishioners (and donors) by condemning The Pill and other sundry methods? Makes things a tad awkward over coffee and donuts later in the cafeteria. Besides, no one wants to be “that guy,” the rube at a Manhattan cocktail party, bumbling, ridiculous, and very uncool.

So our congregations sat comfortably in their pews, undisturbed by truth. Let’s own this fact: Silence paved the way for Catholics’ ‘progressive’ march from yesterday’s contraception to today’s same-sex marriage.

Perhaps that’s an impolitic thing to say.

But until we name the problem correctly, we can’t fix it. At least in Catholic circles, if we hope to defend “the conjugal view as the truth about marriage,” we’ve got to teach anew the truth about sex. Why? Because the truth about sexuality is the basis for the truth about marriage.

Successful arguments in the public square may or may not begin in the same place.

But within our own families, parishes, and Catholic communities, Catholics need to hear that gender matters–that sexual complementarity, designed by God, tells us something about the sexual act, its purpose, and the moral norms that govern it. Catholics need to reconnect sex and reproduction, to realize that all ‘kinds’ of sex aren’t “equal” (some, in fact, are immoral), and to understand marriage in relation to these truths.

Catholics need to hear the big picture, to see the coherence of the entire truth. They need to know that the Church’s teaching against contraception is not an outlier among Catholic teachings, an outdated asterisk with little relevance to modern sexuality. (Nor is it some patriarchal plot to ensure that Catholic women produce lots of little Catholics.) On the contrary, the Church’s teaching on contraception flows from an integrated view of the human person, human dignity and sexuality—and that same truth provides the reason why marriage can only be the union of one man and one woman.

According to the Catholic women I’ve been interviewing over the past year, few Catholics hear much of anything from the pulpit about the Church’s teachings on sexuality and contraception. Although an increasing number hear the Church’s message that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, many aren’t buying it. The latest Barna Group polling shows that only 50% of practicing Catholics define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. (Barna defined “practicing Catholics” as those who attend Church at least once a month and consider their faith very important in their lives.)

We’ve got to understand why these Catholics don’t accept the truth about marriage: it’s because they don’t accept the truth about sex. And that’s the underlying problem we must address.

Today’s Catholics, especially younger Catholics, are by and large the products of public schools and a sexually corrupt culture. They’ve been taught (without hearing any countervailing voices in their parish) that gender is fluid and sex is only about pleasure. Every kind of sexual activity—anal, oral, vaginal, twosomes, threesomes, etc. —becomes an equally valid choice for consenting adults. (Newly released Gallup data shows that 68% of Catholics overall say that gay and lesbian sexual relations are morally acceptable, while just 29% believes those relations are morally wrong. Even among weekly church-goers, almost one-third believes homosexual sex is moral.)

Today’s Catholics also have learned—often from Catholic voices—that reproduction is a deliberate add-on to the sexual relationship, not an intrinsic aspect of sexual love, and indeed might be accomplished best in a petri dish miles away from the marriage bed.

It doesn’t take much, then, for Catholics to see marriage through minimalist eyes, as society’s validation of a couple’s commitment status and, not incidentally, as a vehicle that confer benefits. From that perspective, restricting marriage to one man and one woman seems little more than a hoary tradition—the vestige of a less enlightened era—that becomes hurtful and discriminatory to those excluded from it. And that’s where a huge percentage of Catholics are today.

Defending marriage is a vast and vital task. We need to work on all fronts, as Ryan Anderson argued so persuasively. But in our outreach to the larger society, let’s not overlook the extensive “in-house” work that needs to be done with our fellow Catholics.

If silence paved the way for Catholics’ ‘progressive’ march from yesterday’s contraception to today’s same-sex marriage, then it’s not hard to see the remedy. Catholics, be not afraid to teach, preach, and live the truth—especially the truth about sex and contraception.

© 2013. Mary Rice Hasson. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author:

Mary Rice Hasson is a Fellow in EPPC's Catholic Studies program. Mrs. Hasson is currently working on a book that offers new data on and explores the views of Catholic women on sexual morality and reproduction and on the Catholic Church's teachings on those topics. She recently co-authored an article on media ratings in the June 2011 issue of the professional journal Pediatrics. She writes commentary for the Catholic News Agency, which also distributes her columns to diocesan newspapers throughout the United States. She also writes from a natural law perspective for the international human rights website, MercatorNet.com, and for a variety of Catholic parenting websites. She blogs at Words from Cana. The mother of seven, Mrs. Hasson previously co-authored with Kimberly Hahn the leading book on Catholic homeschooling, Catholic Education Homeward Bound (Ignatius, 1995). She has spoken at numerous family conferences over the past 15 years, and has appeared on CNN, EWTN, and numerous local radio shows. A lawyer and member of the D.C. and Indiana bars, Mrs. Hasson graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1984 and from the University of Notre Dame in 1981, with a BA in Government.
Marriage, Politics Filed in: Family, Marriage, Politics
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  • Joel Schmidt

    Mary, this is undoubtedly the most concise, cogent, coherent explanation for how the contraception pandemic has given rise to the fallacy of same-sex marriage. “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

  • Molly

    Thank you for this terrific article, it really concisely defines the path contraception to same-sex marriage (with divorce in between the two).

    My only quibble is the statement about today’s Catholics being by and large the product of public schools – firstly, is it true that most Catholic children are NOT schooled in Catholic schools? Secondly, and this is my bigger point, I would argue that today’s Catholics, if not the product of public schools, are the products of secularized Catholic schools, i.e. public schools with a dash of religion. Do Catholic school children learn about the immorality of contraception, divorce, same sex marriage? I suspect the silence from the pulpit is mirrored by the silence in the classroom on these topics. And, if I may go slightly off-topic, the quality and content of Catholic school education will continue to diminish as many race to mimic public schools and adopt Common Core State Standards.

    But this is a minor point with regards to thesis of the article. Thanks again for the contribution!

    Today’s
    Catholics, especially younger Catholics, are by and large the products
    of public schools and a sexually corrupt culture. – See more at:
    http://catholicstand.com/breaking-silence-catholics-contraception-and-same-sex-marriage/#sthash.SnMmYndL.dpuf
    Today’s
    Catholics, especially younger Catholics, are by and large the products
    of public schools and a sexually corrupt culture. – See more at:
    http://catholicstand.com/breaking-silence-catholics-contraception-and-same-sex-marriage/#sthash.SnMmYndL.dpuf
    Today’s
    Catholics, especially younger Catholics, are by and large the products
    of public schools and a sexually corrupt culture. – See more at:
    http://catholicstand.com/breaking-silence-catholics-contraception-and-same-sex-marriage/#sthash.SnMmYndL.dpuf
    Today’s
    Catholics, especially younger Catholics, are by and large the products
    of public schools and a sexually corrupt culture. – See more at:
    http://catholicstand.com/breaking-silence-catholics-contraception-and-same-sex-marriage/#sthash.SnMmYndL.dpuf

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  • linred

    Another Voice: I have always accepted contraception in marriage, but not any of those other things, does not seem sensible or logical to me. All God’s children, married or single, need some kind of birth control, behavioral, chemical, or mechanical. NFP will never catch on if most advocates have 6-12 children, as I often see. Moreover, gaming the menstrual cycle is not for every woman, should be considered only one choice. It’s a heavy burden for a woman who must “get it right” every month, even if her husband does help. It’s her body under study, not his. No mystery why priests don’t preach against contraception. It’s VERY uncomfortable to push a rule they themselves don’t have to follow. Also, they are supposed to preach on the Scriptures for that Sunday, as per Vatican II norms, something I deeply appreciate. I well remember the days when the Bible readings were often ignored to favor some contemporary issue that offered no inspirational or healing value.

    • Leila Miller

      There are moral ways to regulate births, and immoral ways. The end might be the same (regulate birth, postpone pregnancy) and that end can certainly be moral; however, the means to that end are not all the same, nor are they all moral.

      Here is a bit more about that:

      http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/03/important-follow-up-to-natural-family.html

    • linred

      ONE IS AS ONE THINKS. Contraception does not subvert love and life, unless one thinks so. It does not destroy inner integrity, eliminate procreation, or disrespect God unless one thinks this way. Sex does not become disordered and lose transparency and meaning due to contraception unless one chooses to regard it so. There is no hard or soft evidence for these appalling assertions in my life!!! There must be lots of other folks who share my good experience in using contraception, as I don’t think I could be unique in this matter.

    • Leila Miller

      So let’s take your principle to its logical conclusion. If I “think” that my adulterous affair is beautiful and loving, then it is, correct? And if I think my abortion is a life-giving, liberating good, then it is, correct? One is as one thinks. Whatever I think is true. Then whatever my opinion is, is true. Yes?

      Are you a Christian, by any chance?

    • linred

      My point is about contraception only, in my experience. Your question is inappropriate and uncharitable; it does not merit a response. I am most disappointed.

    • Leila Miller

      The moral law is not based on any individual’s personal experience. We conform ourselves to the moral law, which is fixed and beautiful.

      And, how is my logic wrong? If one’s personal experience is the determiner of morality, then explain how that principle applies only to the issue of birth control and not abortion, adultery, etc.? Thanks!

    • JoAnna Wahlund

      Why is your point about contraception only? Why does it not apply to adultery and abortion as well? Can you explain your logic?

    • http://www.dariasockey.blogspot.com/ Daria

      ” It’s VERY uncomfortable to push a rule they themselves don’t have to follow…”

      Wait a minute. Priests have to abstain from sexual intercourse perpetually, so aside from their authority as pastors, they can speak from experience that abstinence 10 days a month is not the most difficult thing in the world.

    • linred

      Apples and oranges here—no real parallel: Priests do not live with spouses and, as single men, have no concerns @ pregnancy or family size. Moreover, for many couples the 10 days is a myth and/or a false promise; two weeks plus is often necessary; sometimes most days of the month. Fear of intimacy, desperation, bitterness, and diminished health are the fruits of nfp for too many couples as I look around on my life’s journey. One size can’t fit all. Church history does show changes in moral theology. I believe this unreceived teaching will eventually change, but not in my lifetime.

    • Leila Miller

      Nope. The moral law will not change. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil”. If the Church were to completely reverse herself and call a grave evil (contraception) a “good” after 20 centuries, then she is not of Christ. She would be darkness and evil, esp. for claiming to speak in Christ’s name for 2,000 years, and leading people astray. You should run fast from a Church who did that.

      I have lived life the contraceptive way, and then the Catholic way. I am not bitter, desperate, nor do I fear intimacy. I am healthy and happy. My husband is happy too, and sits on the Diocese NFP board (as a convert from Judaism and secularism). I wouldn’t go back to the way we were when contracepting for all the tea in China. Simcha Fisher has a book coming out about the very issues you discuss (and is very blunt about the difficulties of NFP), and I hope you will read it. You might find it speaks to what you are saying (one size does not fit all for sure — and we are free to do many things, as long as we stay within the moral law), but yet puts it into the context of the Faith and the wider culture, whose options are even “worse” than NFP.

    • linred

      I am glad NFP has worked out so well for you. However, everyone can’t be like you. Also, moral theology has changed in church history with regard to birth control, but that’s another issue I will not delve into. Someone once said Humanae Vitae is the triumph of authority and church politics over compassion and love. I agree.

    • Leila Miller

      Then you would be disagreeing with Christ’s Church. Not a place I would want to stand, frankly, but we all make our choices; such is the nature of the gift of free will. And if you can show me a time when the Church has said: “Artificial birth control is a moral good”, then you would have a case for saying that moral theology has changed in Church history regarding birth control. I am happy to have that discussion if you are up for it.

    • linred

      You seem pugnacious and condemning. I hate arguing. THE END.

    • Leila Miller

      Then you must hate St. Thomas Aquinas and the patrimony of our Church.

      And honestly, you are so sure of yourself in opposing the moral law of Christ and His Church that you may want to check your pride a bit. I think I’m really reacting to how sure you are of yourself in being “right” and the Church being wrong. Sounds like you do not like the Church and I just pray that you do not identify yourself as Catholic, and lead others astray. May God bless you on your journey.

    • Gert Helvey

      LINRED,
      I used to think that too “ONE IS AS 
ONE THINKS” Linred……. Way down deep inside we are never really sure that we ARE as we think…… we have no real assurance…and at 65 I don’t want to take that to the grave with me…real freedom is not in me it is in GOD. It’s a hard concept to grasp – it is a total letting go. I was too a contraceptive user in the early 7
0′s….my parents Rhythm method was for the “olden day” “I” thought…I
      am free to choose – so I thought. (Later I learned my freedom
      was in doing the right thing not thinking the right thing). Much
      tougher when I did not have a developed and growing faith…..how could I raise three kids virtually alone..there was nothing to nourish me from the church and I was a regular. I was so busy just like you – so what. 

God gives you all that you need – if you ask. Hang on to the lifeline that God loves you and gave you His direction in the bible. Keep growing towards Him.

  • Leila Miller

    Mary, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

    In July 1997, Philip Lawler wrote an excellent article about homosexuality in The Catholic World Report, which I’ve saved to this day. In it, Lawler quotes homosexual activist Andrew Sullivan* from his book, Virtually Normal:

    “The heterosexuality of marriage is intrinsic only if it is understood to be intrinsically procreative; but [with the acceptance of contraception] that definition has long ago been abandoned by Western society.”

    The response from Lawler, a faithful Catholic:

    “If Sullivan’s premise is correct, then his logic is inexorable. If [sex] is robbed of its distinctive quality — its fecundity — then there is no rational explanation for a public policy that restricts that franchise to heterosexuals.”

    They are right. If a culture accepts the marriage act stripped of its essence and purpose, with willfully sterilized sex now the norm within marriage, then that culture will be hard pressed to find a philosophical leg to stand on when traditional marriage needs defending. Pro-contraception Christians are in a particularly hard spot.

    The redefining of marriage began with society’s acceptance of contraception, and both gay activists and the Catholic Church know it.

    • bill bannon

      Leila and Mary,
      The Church permits the marriage of the elderly and of the sterile ( not the impotent). But then logically from this gay connection to abc, one would have to say that the Church permits two forms of marriage that parallel gay marriage in that neither aspires to procreation. I think people are trying to multiple reasons to be against abc but the solution lies elsewhere. A pope must do the hard work of an ex cathedra encyclical because Humanae Vitae was introduced at its press conference as non infallible by Msgr. Lambrushini ( easily googled). That why major theologians ( Rahner and Haring) who dissented from Humanae Vitae went uncensured by every Pope since then. Charles Curran and Hans Kung were censured during the same time span but for wider reasons. Rahner was noted as orthodox by Archbishop Amato ( 2nd at the CDF then) in the early 2000′s at the Lateran retrospective of his theology. The question is whether the issue is infallible in the universal ordinary magisterium or were the early Church saints over influenced by Stoicism that saw sex as immoral if procreation was not intended. Their exact position shows up in Jerome and several other saints and is now rejected implicitly by the use of the infertile times which Jerome and Clement and others would not have allowed.
      It needs ex cathedra and no Pope has taken on that task. TOB being a series of lectures was by tradition a low authority type venue. The big mystery is why John Paul didn’t spend that same time investment doing an ex cathedra encyclical on this. He succeeded in raising abortion to extraordinary infallibility in section 62 of Evangelium Vitae by polling Bishops worldwide ( the alternative to ex cathedra) but I suspect he tried on birth control but the Bishops might have voted insufficient support if they were polled on that too ( the topic was also in EV).

    • Leila Miller

      Whoa, Bill. Sex, even among infertile couples and the elderly, is ordered toward procreation, even if procreation does not occur. The act is still rightly ordered. Their sex is not “second tier” or some weird parallel sex to other husbands and wives. It is good and rightly ordered.

      And, even infertile couples may conceive later (if their issues are corrected — I’ve seen it numerous times), and we know from Abraham and Sarah that God can make the elderly fruitful as well.

      Again, it’s about being ordered toward procreation, not about being procreative or else.

    • Leila Miller

      And by the way, an infallible teaching doesn’t have to be taught ex cathedra. It simply has to have been taught as Christian truth from the beginning (always and everywhere). That is what we call the ordinary and universal magisterium. For example, the Church does not have to declare ex cathedra that murder or lying or fornication is wrong — it’s been taught always and everywhere and it’s Truth. The Church has never taught ex cathedra that God exists. She doesn’t have to. It’s a teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium. Truth. Infallibly taught.

    • bill bannon

      Leila,
      I addressed the issue of ordinary universal magisterium in my piece….see center area. Can you point to a post menopausal miracle ( not delayed menopause) after 33 AD. My point is that those miracles are only prior to Christ because they had a special macro purpose ie they were meant to ready the Jews for something more miraculous…a virgin birth.

    • Leila Miller

      Bill, are you implying that there was a time in the Church that she held contraception as moral? Of course not. She has always held contraception as immoral, as a grave evil. There is not one shred of evidence otherwise, nor is there any shred of evidence that she is changing her 2,000-year-old position (reversing evil and calling it good). It doesn’t need to be ex cathedra when anyone with eyes to read or ears to hear can ascertain easily the Church’s unbroken position on the wrongness of contraception. It’s not rocket science. These are easily accessed teachings. Contraception = immoral. Always has been taught as such, always will be. So, I’m not sure what your worry is? There is no ambiguity. And, many theologians have gone unchallenged on many different issues of error and heresy.

      Why would it matter if God has not made an elderly couple fertile since ancient days? You extrapolate from that that an elderly couple’s union is not rightly ordered, not as holy and good as a young couple, or on a different tier? The Church has never, ever taught that. Don’t go farther than the Church.

  • Mary Rice Hasson

    Molly,

    I agree with your comment that, “I suspect the silence from the pulpit is mirrored by the silence in the classroom on these topics.” And you are right that many Catholic schools are just like public schools with a dash of religion thrown in.

    But even as Catholic schools improve (and many are, under faithful bishops and JPII-generation leadership), fewer young Catholics will be exposed to faithful teaching as part of their education.

    To appreciate the decline in the influence of Catholic education,consider these stats. According to the National Catholic Education Association, ” Total Catholic school student enrollment for the current academic year is 2,001,740. (1,415,244 in elementary/middle schools; 586,496 in secondary schools–but 15% of the total enrollment is non-Catholic.) Just 3% of Hispanic Catholics receive a Catholic education (2011 Catholic World Report article, “The State of Catholic Schools in the US”). And 50% of the Catholic population under 25 in the US is of Hispanic descent (USCCB Backgrounder on Hispanics).

    That one hour when a child or teen attends Sunday Mass may be the only time most of them will hear the Church actually teaching on these issues. And if we’re silent, that means the ONLY voice they hear is the culture’s…

  • Mary Rice Hasson

    Leila makes an enormously important distinction–one that is too often lost in sound bites–”Sex, even among infertile couples and the elderly, is ordered toward procreation, even if procreation does not occur. ..Again, it’s about being ordered toward procreation, not about being procreative or else.”

    Our sexuality was made with some inherent (built-in) characteristics- sexual intercourse between a male and female has a natural capacity to be procreative, even if age or infertility preclude actual conception. Heterosexual sex is pro-creative in its design. Homosexual activity, by its nature, is only oriented to pleasure—it does not ever have the capacity to be pro-creative, even if each individual male is fertile. It does not have the inherent capacity to create a new human being because it’s not male-female. An infertile heterosexual couple’s sexual intercourse has nothing in common with homosexual activity.

  • momofthree

    I think the important point to stress is that without the product of
    sexual intercourse between males and females, there would not BE any
    sexuality. For example, sporozoans and yeast have no mating! Sexuality
    is first and foremost about the union of gametes to produce genetically
    variable offspring. It is also about bonding, but it is primarily
    about the furthering of genes. That is why exclusive homosexuality is
    such a curious conundrum. How did it ever arise if it is so blatantly
    maladaptive?

    Many are uncomfortable looking to animal origins for
    the morality of behavior, but it is at least important as part of the
    discussion. This is why the “mental illness” view of SSA seems more in
    line with biology, but nobody wants to go there.

    That said, I
    really think that homosexual marriage is far less threatening than no
    fault divorce, and I would rather throw my resources that way.

    • Leila Miller

      momofthree, but Catholics and Christians won’t be fined, ruined, or go to jail due to our protestation of no-fault divorce. The gay “marriage” issue actually impacts basic religious liberties. Catholics, in this new world, will be legal discriminators, afoul of the law, if we oppose gay “marriage” either in speech or action.

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  • Catholic adoptive parent

    Ms. Hasson, perhaps Catholics in the pews would be more receptive to the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control if we didn’t feel like the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (and some other leaders of the American Catholic Church) had been hijacked by the Republican Party. My parish priest (a Notre Dame grad like you and me) talks frequently about the evils of birth control and abortion. Our Archbishop calls the Obama administration “godless.” Parish priests in my State (at the behest of the Archbishop) demanded that Catholics vote in favor of a constitutional marriage amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman. Indeed, our Archdiocese spent $650,000 on lobbying efforts. I hear PLENTY in my parish about marriage, abortion and birth control. From my perspective, there isn’t a lack of information or understanding by the faithful. There is, however, a lack of credibility in the heirarchy of the Catholic Church. If we could only hear homilies and see lobbying efforts designed to support immigration reform, universal health coverage, support for the poor and other social justice issues, we might feel like our local church truly follows Catholic social teaching on all issues, and would pay more attention on the issues that are the focus of the Bishops today. But of course — for the most part — there is deafening silence on poverty, affordable health care (except for religious liberty), immigration, affordable housing, unjust wars, etc.

    There is also a punitive tone of condemnation from the Catholic bishops on issues of religious liberty, birth control, abortion and same sex marriage. It has carried over to my Archdiocese and my parish. The Church’s position on marriage is well known and understood. But in preaching about it, our Church chooses to justify how horrible it is for children with same sex parents by explaining how complementarity and procreation are the cornerstones of marriage and create the families that society needs. When the Church wants to illustrate all the societal benefits of a marriage that is “intrinsically ordered to produce children,” we hear Catholic priests and other theologians contend that a heterosexual couple are naturally ordered to procreate and this is the very best thing for the family because it produces their biological children and those children are best raised by those parents. As an adoptive parent, I CRINGED when my parish priest focused primarily on “natural law” (like you, your father and others do) to justify marriage between one man and one woman. Comments he made like “children do better when they are raised by their biological mother and father” are likely a well-meaning attempt to villify assistive reproductive technology and support the procreative design for marriage. But those words hurt. They really do. A pre-teen sitting in the pew who joined his family by adoption feels offended and demeaned. Likewise all adoptive families are offended when commentators like you describe a child of a same sex couple obtained through surrogacy or artificial insemination as a “biological fiction.” I am in a Catholic marriage with a husband and three children. My husband and I are not biologically connected to our adoptive son, but I would never refer to him as a “biological fiction.” It offends his birth mother and her heroic and selfless gift to my family. Your attempts, like the attempts of my priest, to explain how same sex marriage impacts our society at large in a negative way, use language that offends adoptive families. Quite frankly, I’m getting tired of it. I’m tired of seething in the pew. I’m tired of trying to explain to my kids that our family is just as good as your family with your seven biological kids.

    Of course many of these statements made to justify opposing same sex marriage are inconsistent with what the Church asks young women to do when they are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. The Church encourages these women to choose adoption. Indeed, that choice by my son’s birth mother brought him to our family. If we are to truly honor the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control, assistive reproductive technology and abortion, we MUST endorse, encourage and applaud adoption. The focus today by our Church on highlighting the evils of same sex marriage as a result of the failure to honor the procreative and unitive aspects of sexuality often runs contrary to adoption. I don’t think you realize that when you vilify the way that a same sex couple builds their family with children, you are offending all adoptive families. Perhaps you should think about that when writing on this issue in the future.

    • Leila Miller

      First, it sounds like you are in an amazing diocese! You are blessed. Second, the reason that it seems the Church hits on the Democrats more than the Republicans has to do with public policy “non-negotiables” (the Dems oppose the Church on those) vs. the issues of prudential judgement (issues like how to help the poor, immigrants, etc.). The non-negotiables trump all else according to our Church and here is more on that:

      http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2012/10/to-catholic-democrats.html

      As for adoption vs. ART, you have it exactly wrong. The Church encourages traditional adoption for the same reasons it rejects ART: The dignity and rights of the child. Half my closest Catholic friends are adoptive parents (my best friend has adopted four), and I am a huge adoption advocate (I have a blog dedicated to special needs adoption). I am also firmly against IVF and ART and gay marriage, as is the Church. Traditional adoption seeks to restore what has been lost to a child. IVF and ART treat children as commodities (with millions not surviving the process) and often builds in the loss of a parent on purpose (and with gay ART or IVF, it always involves the deliberate, planned absence of a mother or father). Children are not commodities, not chattel to be manufactured at the whim of the wants of the adults. I wrote about the children, and how their voices are the ones no one wants to hear. They are told to sit down and shut up:

      http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2013/06/should-children-sit-down-and-shut-up.html

      The need for traditional adoption arises from the need of a child who has experienced a loss, or whose own parents for whatever reason (sin, tragedy, abuse, etc.) cannot parent. It is restorative. It respects the rights of the child, not the wants of the adults. Please, never confuse adoption with the purposeful, planned, built-in loss that comes from IVF and ART and gay parenting.

      From the Catechism:

      A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.” CCC #2378

    • Catholic adoptive parent

      Leila, I fully understand the Church’s position on adoption and I do not “have it exactly wrong.” I understand the Church’s teaching and support it. You completely ignored my valid point about the language used by priests, Mary Rice Hasson, and other commentators that offend adoptive families. To call a child that is not biologically connected to his/her parents a “biological fiction” is offensive. To tell families from the pulpit that marriage between a man and a woman is designed by God because the procreative aspect of marriage leads to children “who are best raised by their biological mother and father” is hurtful to my family. My son is not “best raised” by his biological mother and father. Most adoptive kids – and there are many, many, many of them – are not best raised by their biological mother and father. And they are not “tragedies or abuse” in most cases, for heaven’s sake. A woman, in a selfless act, gave life to my son and yet chose not to parent him. The UCCB’s “Unique for a Reason” very clearly states “a child is meant to be raised by his or her own, married mother or father.” I am my son’s “own” married mother. My point is that this dogged focus on the procreative nature of marriage leads to statements made by priests and others that are not fair representations of the Catholic Catechism and imply that children in adoptive families are in a lesser category. My Archdiocese has had married couples speaking at our Catholic high schools stating that heterosexual married couples parenting their biological children is the ideal, and that adoption is “sociologically unstable.” My own parish priest quoted an article on Holy Family Sunday stating that two parent families are the best for children and “the fact that both parents have a biological connection to that child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and would be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child.” You may say that these statements are not reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on adoption, and I agree with you. But some priests and others who advocate for the Church’s definition of marriage are speaking authoritatively for the Church on these matters every day. So I would appreciate it if you would take a moment to reflect on how a young person who is adopted sitting in the pew receives this message. The insensitivity to adoptive families in the Church is shameful. Those who support adoption and live it need to hold our Church accountable and make sure that those who speak in favor of marriage are not going so far that they tell adoptive kids they are second class citizens. Because believe me, in my Archdiocese, they are. I would encourage you to talk with your Catholic friends who are adoptive parents to see if they have experienced these comments in their parishes or Catholic schools. I would ask you to have them talk with their kids to find out if in Catholic religion class, Catholic school or Mass, or Catholic youth acitivities they have heard similar comments that made them feel uncomfortable. It is hard to get some adoptive kids to talk about what they are hearing and how they feel, but I think our Church can do better on this. Thank you in advance for doing what you can to help our Church honor and promote adoption and make sure its teaching is clearly understood and not undermined by the Church’s efforts on the marriage issue. Thank you.

    • Leila Miller

      My friends who are adoptive parents would absolutely agree that the only reason adoption is necessary in this world is because it is a fallen world. In a perfect world, in a world without sin and sickness and brokenness, every child would be raised by his or her own biological parents. That is the ideal. The fact that we live in a broken world makes it necessary for the restorative acts, redemptive acts, such as adoption. I recently witnessed two infant adoptions (helped facilitate them) with very, very brave young Catholic birth moms who wanted the best for their children, knowing that the circumstances of the children’s conceptions made it less than ideal for them to raise the children themselves (without stable families, without a mother and a father). The pain involved was excruciating. It is a true sacrifice of love, born out of a broken choice, a wrong turn, and dare I say it, a sin. Adopted children know this and can understand this. Yes, you are the children’s “real” parent, just as my friends are the “real” parents of their adoptive children. But they know and acknowledge that there are two other parents for each of their children, too. The biological parents for whom they pray daily. It is not “ideal” that any child be separated from their biological parents, but adoption restores what is lost to a child. It is a beautiful, blessed option in a fallen world. It takes the pain of a sad situation and redeems it.

    • Leila Miller

      PS: The very tiny, orthodox Catholic school my friends and I send out kids to is fully supportive of adoption (we had one adoption last year, one the year before, one currently pending from overseas… baby with Downs), and fully supportive of Church teaching on adoption and on the sinfulness of IVF, ART and gay “marriage”. There have been no problems either in the school or in the orthodox Catholic parishes that we attend. We celebrate adoption and the adoptive kids just as we do all the biological births (and there are many, since this crowd does not use contraception and is fully open to life). That’s why your comments surprised me.

    • Leila Miller

      Sorry, one more. I asked my friend (with four adopted children) to read over our conversation and tell me if I am way off base. She replied that it looks good and then this: “I would also add that in a perfect world there would be no infertility or unplanned pregnancies.” Amen.

    • Catholic adoptive parent

      THis will be my last post. We are talking past each other. I do not challenge the Church’s teaching on adoption. I embrace it and live it. It is still not okay for Mary Rice Hasson to call an adoptive child a “biological fiction.” The Church’s teaching uses no such language.

    • Leila Miller

      I apologize as it could be me, but I searched the post and comments with the “find” button, and the only time the words “biological fiction” popped up was in your comments. Could you refer me to where Mrs. Hasson uses that term? You can cut and paste if you’d like. Thanks, I truly appreciate it.

    • Catholic adoptive parent

      She did not specifically use it in this article, but it is a favorite of hers. The first time I read it was in the “When the Coach is a Lesbian” article, and I’m not sure where that one appears. Ms. Hasson uses it frequently when denigrating the children of gay couples. She uses it to refer to children of gay couples where only one parent is the biological parent of the child. The accusation that someone parenting a child has some type of a “lesser” child because they are not biologically related is unfortunate. While trying to condemn the same sex couple’s relationship, she attacks the child, and in the process, attacks all children not biologically related to the parents who raise them. Shameful.

    • Leila Miller

      Whoa! Talk about taking something out of context! I would truly appreciate your linking me to that actual article, and also cutting and pasting the relevant sentence/paragraph here. You are committing a grave injustice against Ms. Hasson, who has every right (as a Catholic whose Church teaches it!) to say that it is wrong to pretend that an unrelated gay lover, who with a same-sex partner is playing at and imitating real marriage, is a “parent” in the same way that a biological father or mother is. She does not denigrate a child, she denounces the situation that the adults have put the child in! It is a sin against the child’s rights, according to our (your?) Church!

      I would love to see the links and the quotes, please. Thank you.

    • DJ Hesselius

      Funny, as a libertarian/Republican leaning voter, I have always considered the USCCB specifically and the Catholic Church in general to be simply part of the Democratic party, but then, I live in a diocese that never speaks of the contraception/abortion/marriage issue. Indeed, at the parish in which I was received some years back, books on why we could disagree with Church teachings on the so-called non-negotiables (contraception, abortion, etc) were prominently displayed in the Church vestibule book racks.

    • Leila Miller

      DJ, that is so awful! And I have had similar experiences. Thankfully, in my region we have gone from having a hotbed of dissenters running our diocese (who seemed to be embarrassed at Church teaching, and mocked it) to the most faithful, incredible bishop who has surrounded himself with faithful people. We even have seminarians now, and Poor Clare cloistered nuns! ;) I recently wrote about the lie of “just follow your conscience” for dissenters:

      http://catholicstand.com/dissenting-catholics-and-the-conscience