Volume > Issue > “Good News, Son, You’re Adopted!”

“Good News, Son, You’re Adopted!”

ADOPTION, DIVINE & HUMAN

By Christopher A. Decaen | July-August 2019
Christopher A. Decaen has been teaching at Thomas Aquinas College for more than 20 years, most recently teaching the Summa Theologiae. He and his wife, Rose, have four children, and yes, two of them are adopted.

When Catholics and Christians talk generally about adoption as an alternative to abortion, we tend to speak highly of it. We sing its praises to the skies — for the child, for the pregnant mother, for the adoptive parents. We describe it as heroic, generous, and even self-sacrificial for a mother to carry her child to term and then say goodbye, making perfect strangers the parents of her own flesh and blood. Adoption: What a beautiful choice, we say.

Sometimes I wonder whether we actually believe this. Or maybe we believe it, but our esteem of adoption is only half sincere. Is our full judgment really that adoption is merely the least intolerable outcome for all involved in a tragic and intrinsically undesirable situation? Is adoption, in our minds, really just a necessary evil?

I’ve heard people — good Christian people — say that they could never adopt someone else’s child, or they could never love an adopted child as much as their biological children. I once overheard a woman with adopted children, who had suddenly found that she had conceived, being told, “We’re so happy for you! Now you will finally have a child of your own,” as if her adopted children were not really hers, or only second-rate children. I’ve of course heard far worse from the lips of non-Christians, or narrow-minded and otherwise unthinking people. But when believers speak these things, they are far more incongruous. More subtly, and even more tragically, I’ve known really good people who’ve struggled for years with infertility who quickly dismiss the suggestion that they consider adopting; instead, they grumble about the Church’s rejection of in vitro fertilization. These things lead me to wonder whether there’s something deeper going on. It starts to look like even the owners of cars with the “Adoption not Abortion” bumper stickers sometimes have a mixed opinion of adoption — as something for others, not for themselves.

But what is God’s opinion about adoption? If we watch for it in Scripture, we find a subtle but profound view of adoption, one that bears on our own participation in the divine life itself. Contemplating and then internalizing the divine perspective could change not only our understanding of our relationship with God, but also how our lives intersect with biological family members, as well as adopted children and their birthparents.

 

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