A recent column in the StarTribune has raised questions in some quarters about what the Catholic Church teaches regarding adopted children and kids raised in single-parent families.
The column, reporting on a recent talk about marriage at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, quoted an audience member saying the presentation characterized children in these families as “less than” children raised at home by their biological moms and dads. Another attendee said adopted children were described as “sociologically unstable.”
It’s not clear from the column what points the presenters may have tried to make or what they exactly said. In any case, what needs to be clear is that the Catholic Church does not consider adopted children or children raised by single parents as “lesser” or inferior. All children are children of God who deserve love and respect — no matter their age, their abilities or their family situations.
In words and action
Far from decrying adoption, the church supports it as a life-giving alternative to abortion. Adoption is a gift for everyone involved: the child entering a new family, the new mother and father, and the biological parents who want the best for their child’s future. There is nothing “unstable” about adoptive families.
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Catholic Church drives home that message by sponsoring annual events such as “A Day of Recognition and Honoring for Birth Mothers.” And agencies like Catholic Charities back up the support with action — in 2010, for example, Catholic Charities agencies throughout the United States provided adoption services to nearly 39,000 people.
The church likewise doesn’t assign second-rate status to children of single parents. Every parishioner and every pastor likely know at least one child in a Catholic school or religious education program who benefits from a dedicated single mother or father working to give his or her child every opportunity to succeed.
For decades, the church has supported programs to help single mothers and fathers both before the birth of their children and into early childhood — programs like the LIFE FUND in our archdiocese. And, it continues to advocate for state and federal public policies to help single mothers and fathers to raise their children in healthy environments and make ends meet in light of the added financial strains they often face.
Why does the church do this? Because it believes in the worth and dignity of every child and every parent who raises them.
Wanting what’s best
None of this, however, changes the fact that children generally thrive best when they are raised by a mother and father who make a lifelong commitment to each other within the bond of marriage. That’s why marriage is a cornerstone of our society.
It is not a slam on single parents to acknowledge that marriage offers kids certain advantages, such as two parents sharing the responsibility of child rearing, greater financial stability and the day-to-day support of both Mom and Dad as their sons and daughters face the challenges of growing up in a society that too often doesn’t have their best interests in mind.
That’s why the church promotes marriage and programs to strengthen the relationship among husbands, wives and their children. But this doesn’t change the way the church thinks about children — no matter what their family situation is.
All children are ultimately gifts from God. The church wants what is best for every child, and it works in various ways to support their physical, social and spiritual well-being. There should be nothing unclear about that.