When Pope Francis earlier this month confirmed the “heroic virtue” of Pope John Paul I, he conferred on him the title “Venerable”, reminding us of Pope John Paul II’s earlier declaration of him as a “servant of God” – the first step on the road to sainthood.
My interest in John Paul I is that there have been numerous suggestions that he may have been the first to speak up for pastoral support for gay couples – for example, by permitting adoption by gay couples, or even for some form of recognition for same-sex unions.
My original source came from a post at “The Gay Mystic, which I first wrote about some years ago. I’ve now done some more research, and found much more of interest.
For years, Italy has been a major, conspicuous anomaly on the Wikipedia map of same-sex unions in Europe: the only country of Western Europe to have neither same-sex marriage, nor any other legal recognition for same-sex couples. Up to now, this has come about with the implacable opposition of the Italian bishops to any form of legal recognition.
With the passage this week of a civil unions bill in the Italian senate, by a comfortable majority, that’s about to change. More remarkably, this has come about with the de facto acquiescence of the Italian bishops. This is a truly remarkable turnaround, in just a few years!
Of course, we knew this: my daughter Robynn says of gay parents “I recommend them” (aHEM!) – but still good to have it confirmed in a major meta – analysis of all available academic research: . “Same-sex couple adoption doesn’t have any negative effect on children”
A 2013 study addressed the question directly, evaluating the outcomes of adoptees less than 3-years old who had been placed in one of 56 lesbian and gay households since infancy. It was a fairly small sample size, but the study found no significant associations between parental sexual orientation and child adjustment. In other words, no downside related to same-sex adoption was reported. The same can be said about this new study.
Now, a new study conducted by University of Colorado Denver research found that children of same-sex parents experience ‘no difference’ in terms of social and behavioral outcomes to children of heterosexual couples. The study examined thousands of peer-reviewed articles referencing same-sex parenting for patterns in citation of work by other researchers. Jimi Adams, an associate professor in the Department of Health and Behavioral Studies at CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences wanted to review all existing literature on the issue, and see if a consensus was reached. By the time he reached the 1990s, a consensus was already starting to develop, and by the time he reached 2000, he discovered that researchers had reached ‘overwhelming’ consensus on the issue. Basically, virtually all researchers reported that same-sex parenting is just as fine as opposite sex parenting, but they just weren’t aware of each other’s results.
The Irish referendum has encouraged Italian politicians to move ahead with plans for civil unions and there is a strong majority in support. However, only a narrow majority support full marriage, and a large majority oppose gay adoption. In Italy, Catholic Church influence has stalled civil unions progress up to now, but a new survey for La Stampa shows that even among Mass going Catholics, a two-thirds majority (67%) support civil unions.
Civil unions: Yes 67%; No 27%; no opinion 6%
Gay marriage: Yes 51%; No 37%; no opinion 6%
Gay adoption: Yes 24%; No 73%; no opinion 3%
Some extracts from the La Stampa report, freely translated:
Civil unions “yes”, same – sex marriage “maybe”, gay adoptions “no.”
What would happen if the Italians, like the Irish, were called to vote in a referendum on gay unions? The picture that emerges from a Piepoli survey for La Stampa suggests a moderate reform in our society: two Italians out of three (67%) believe we should just amend existing legislation – our country, without a law on the subject, is now isolated in Europe – but only one in two (51%) would like to follow countries like Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Great Britain, Luxembourg and Finland, where same sex marriages are legal.
Italians prefer to follow the German-Austrian model, which prohibits marriages but allows civil unions (although Berlin now wants to step forward).
Age and sex
In general, looking at the responses of the Italian by gender, we see that women are more open than men on the issue. The same goes for the young: the proportion favorable to gay marriage and adoptions falls with increasing age.
Another decisive variable, is religious orientation. Needless to say, practicing Catholics are against adoption (only 17% in favor) and marriage (56% say no), but the majority of those who pray and go to Mass regularly (57%) would accept civil unions .
The text describes how Abraham was called by the Lord to leave his country, his kindred and his father’s house, and journey to a new land – a call which he dutifully followed, together with his household. This passage from chapter 12 is only part of the story. The continuation in the opening of chapter 18 describes how as a result of his hospitality to three strangers (angels in disguise), he is given a promise that Sarah will conceive a child, in spite of their advanced age. Then in chapter 21 the child, Isaac, is born,
The phrases / verses that “speak” to me:
3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Abraham is the one in this passage who is called by the Lord, but in fact we are all called to holiness. Just as the Lord says to Abraham that he will bless all who bless him, and curse all those who curse him, we should understand that we too are addressed in the same way, if we follow that call. As gay men in the Church, we know what it is to be cursed by those who assume that “gay Christian” is an oxymoron, an impossibility. The Lord promises that such curses will themselves be cursed. But many of us have also experienced a welcome in church, “blessed” by welcoming parishes and other groups. Those too, will be blessed.
9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.
Just as Abraham embarked on a journey to the promised land, we too are on a journey to full inclusion in the Church. Just as his journey was conducted in stages, so we too must understand that our own journey to inclusion will not be concluded in a single step, but will take many stages, some of them difficult.
Here are the bishops’ questions, with some responses:
What does it mean for Abram to ‘have faith’? How does Abram listen to God? How does God challenge? What does God promise? How do the family respond? What are their hopes?
What hopes do you have for your family?
My hopes for my family are the same as others – that we can continue to flourish, enjoy each others’ achievements and celebrations, and support each other in times of difficulty or sadness.
In addition, we hope for something other families do not think about – that we can be treated by society, and especially by the Church, with the same dignity and respect as other, more conventional families.
What are the ways in which your family ‘listen to God’?
In the past, my partner and I participated together in a CLC (Christian Life Community) group, meeting weekly and sometimes in formal retreats to reflect on where we have God in our lives, and using techniques from Ignatian spirituality to discern the path He was wanting for us.
In addition to numerous valuable insights we found about our daily lives, we also found through these evenings and weekends of prayer together, profound affirmation of the value of our relationship
What ‘impossible’ things happen in families? In our families, how do we show our ‘trust’ in God and in one another in tough times?
Sometime after my (formal) marriage had broken down, and I had started a new, same – sex (informal) marriage, my ex – wife began to make it extremely difficult for me to see my children, and absolutely impossible to see them in the company of my partner. In this, she was egged on by her family, who were convinced by Catholic teaching that our relationship was obviously sinful, and so I would be a morally unsuitable influence on the girls. As any father will know, to be deprived of access to one’s children is extremely painful, as it was to me.
The outcome however, was the reverse of what mother and her family had intended. As the girls grew older, they insisted on not just access to myself, but even asked to come and live with me – and my partner – , instead of with their mother (which at different times, each of them in fact did, for a period). Today, they and their own children both have far stronger relationships with me and my partner, than they do with their mother.
As for the fears about my supposedly “poor moral influence”, I take immense pride in the conclusions of my younger daughter. While living with us for some of her high school years, she compared the example she was seeing in our relationship, with what she observed in her classmates’ families . Looking back later as a young woman, she concluded that the grounding in morals and values she had received from our same – sex relationship, was in fact superior to that of many others raised in more conventional families. On that basis, she has stated in print and on-line that “Gay parents? I recommend them” , and has told me that when she sees a young child out with two dads, her instinctive response is “lucky kid”.
What does having children, or not having children, bring to a family?
More important that what “having” children brings to the family, is what “raising” children does.
What promises do we make to each other in families?
Through this story, what can we know and believe about the promises God makes to us in our own family lives, whatever our circumstances?
The key questions to draw the conversation together:
How does this story ‘speak’ to us about our ‘call’ to be a family?
How does it speak to our ‘journey’?
How does it speak to us about our ‘purpose’ or ‘mission’ as a family?
What support do we need from the Church?
For queer families, what we need above all is simple: acceptance and appreciation that same – sex couples can and do, make as good a job as others in raising children. Even though such couples are obviously not capable of creating babies, they are definitely capable of the more challenging task or raising and guiding them to maturity. Many such couples are successfully engaged in that task, either with the biological children of one partner, or with adopted children.
It is hurtful and offensive to those parents, and especially to those who are sacrificing their lives to raise children whose own biological parents have failed them, that the Church opposes gay adoption and claims, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, that children are somehow harmed when raised by gay parents.
For the sake of the children, It is essential that the Church should now end its hostility to gay adoption.
What is already available? What needs to be developed?
From our family life experience, what do we offer that could enrich the life of the Church?
As we approach Father’s Day, a British adoption charity is encouraging gay men to apply as adoptive dads – so that next year, some of the 6000 kids waiting for adoptive parents, will have a dad to celebrate. Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said:
In the UK there are 6,000 children waiting to be adopted and we know that gay men can make loving fathers.
If more people came forward we would be able to help give loving homes to thousands of children.
We need to make sure that everyone knows that they can adopt – so by next year many more will celebrate their first Father’s Day
The Catholic Church and others opposed to adoption by gay men and lesbians, make claims such as that a child needs (or has a right to) a mother and a father, and that we must always put the best interests of the child before the selfish desires of those wanting children. These claims (they hardly qualify as rational arguments) completely miss the point.
Even if it were true that children do better when raised by two opposite sex parents (a claim which is contradicted by research comparing like with like family composition), the issue for many children awaiting adoption is not whether they should have opposite – sex or same – sex parents, but whether they can have the chance of any parents at all, or none. The simple fact that we have 6000 kids waiting to be placed is tragic evidence both that they their own, biological parents (of difference sexes) have been unable to give them suitable care, and also that where adoptive parents are available, the children who are most easily placed, are usually young, healthy babies. Older children, those with severe health problems, or behavioural difficulties (possibly resulting from earlier neglect by unsuitable opposite – sex couples) are left at the back of the queue. To exclude all same – sex couples from parenting, some of whom have demonstrated extraordinary willingness to take on the most troubled children, and make a real difference in their lives, is to condemn some kids to no parents at all, putting simple sexual ideology ahead of the true best interests of the child.
Step by step, queer families are seeing moves to full recognition, even in American red states (and in church). The latest in victory in Idaho follows court decisions in Utah and Oklahoma to strike down the states’ constitutional ban on gay marriage, and the decision by Nevada’s Republican governor not to defend his state’s ban. A challenge to the gay marriage ban in Texas is in court this week, and court challenges under way in a further 19 states.
There is progress too in many churches, including the Catholics: Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, is just the latest in an expanding list of senior bishops who have opposed full marriage equality, but suggested civil unions as an alternative.
Idaho’s top court grants adoptive rights to spouse in gay marriage
Idaho’s top court on Monday ruled that state law allows a woman to adopt the children of her same-sex spouse, in a precedent-setting victory for gay couples in a socially conservative U.S. state that has banned the unions.
The ruling stems from an adoption petition filed last year by an Idaho woman shortly after her marriage in California to her same-sex partner, the parent of boys ages 12 and 15, legal records showed.
The woman, unidentified in court documents on confidentiality grounds related to adoption, sought to share parental rights with her long-term partner. She appealed a magistrate judge’s rejection of her petition.
The Idaho Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision reversing the lower court’s ruling, said a person’s gender or sexual orientation was not part of the legal criteria that allowed a minor to be adopted by an in-state adult resident.
“Any adult person” is defined as any human being over the age of 18 and “cannot possibly be construed to mean ‘any married adult person’ as the magistrate ultimately determined,” Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones wrote for the court.
JUSTICE MINISTER ALAN Shatter has, today, published the General Scheme of the long-anticipated Children and Family Relationships Bill.
The proposed legislation, which would clarify the legal status of children in in civil partnerships, surrogacy arrangements and assisted human reproduction, will now go forward for discussion at Oireachtas committee level.
The new laws will allow civil partners to jointly adopt a child for the first time.According to the Minister, this measure “removes the current anomaly where single lesbian and gay individuals can adopt children, but civil partners cannot jointly adopt”.
Today’s law relating to adoption provides for the adoption of children by married couples and by single persons (irrespective of their sexual orientation), but not jointly by civil partners.
Shatter has asked the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality – in conjunction with members of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children – to undertake a consultation process on his proposals for the Bill.
The cross-party TDs and Senators will have until Easter to furnish any observations to his department before the outlined proposals which, according to the Minister, “seek to put in place a modern legal architecture to underpin family situations”.
Portugal’s parliament on Friday handed same-sex couples the right to adopt the children or foster children of one partner, a partial victory for equality campaigners that fell short of their call for full adoption rights.
The co-adoption law scraped through with a majority of just five votes in the 230-seat Lisbon assembly, prompting long applause from the gallery. Nine deputies abstained and as many as 28 did not show up for the vote.
Activists hailed the biggest step forward for gay rights since Portugal became the eighth country to allow nationwide same-sex marriages in 2010, breaking with the Catholic nation’s predominantly conservative image.
“It was a super-important, fundamental approval as it concerns the human rights of the children and not just the couples,” said Paulo Corte-Real, head the country’s gay, lesbian and transgender rights association, ILGA.
He said the law would benefit children raised by same-sex couples by giving the children additional protection if their original parent died or became seriously ill.
Catholic Church leaders have opposed moves by some European countries to allow same-sex unions and adoption by gay couples, saying heterosexual marriage has an indispensable role in society.
France, which is mainly Catholic, last month followed 13 countries including Canada, Denmark, Sweden and most recently Uruguay and New Zealand in allowing gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot. The French law also authorized adoption.
The Portuguese bill, presented on the International Day Against Homophobia, still needs to be signed into law by conservative President Anibal Cavaco Silva, who enacted the same-sex marriage bill in 2010 but expressed his disapproval.
Another bill introduced by two left-wing parties that would have extended full adoption rights to gay couples failed to pass on Friday.
The ILGA took the Portuguese state to court after the European Court for Human Rights ruled in February that Austria’s adoption laws discriminated against gay people on the issue of co-adoption. Reuters: