Thursday, September 08, 2016

The nature of parenthood

Two articles on parenthood worth reading appear on Public Discourse this week. These are not “how to” articles, but discussions about the nature of biological and adoptive parenthood by Christopher O. Tollefsen. 

The two things (which are probably obvious to those not so dull-headed as I) that I pulled away as intriguing points to ponder further can be summed up, or at least introduced, in these short excerpts.

On biological parenthood:
The nontrivial sense of irreplaceable love is the sort we associate with personal relationships: if Smith is my friend, then Smith’s love and friendship are irreplaceable to me. There are goods for me that Smith’s friendship provides that no other friendship can provide, and there are times when it is specifically Smith’s friendship that I need and desire.

Moschella (This is a discussion of her new book: To Whom Do Children Belong? Parental Rights, Civic Education, and Children's Autonomy - JC) grounds the obligations of biological parents to their children in the special personal relationship that being a biological parent generates. Specifically, biological parenting inevitably brings with it the relationship of being biologically responsible for another’s existence, and being biologically implicated in another’s identity. And these in turn make it the case that there are goods that only biological parents can provide: the good of being loved by one who is biologically responsible for one’s existence, and the good of being loved and raised by one who is uniquely and closely related to one’s identity. Children raised by their biological parents, for example, can see in their parents’ lives examples both good and bad of how traits to which they may be disposed can, should, or should not be allowed to grow and develop.

On adoptive parenthood

It can be tempting to extend this description (i.e. a fertility problem –JC) of what is happening to the absence of children itself: that is seen as a problem, indeed, the problem, to be rectified by taking appropriate steps. That attitude can lead to the use of various assisted reproductive technologies that seek to make a child, thereby fixing what is wrong.

And it could equally lead to adoption of a child. Let’s call that adoption out of need. The couple has a problem: they need a child, and adoption is one way to fix the problem at hand. But spouses should not adopt from what they do not have, but from what they do: an abundance of spousal love that seeks to be creative and life-giving. We could call that adoption-out-of-abundance. (my emphasis – JC)

Read both articles for a more complete fleshing-out of these and some other ideas.

Oremus pro invicem! (on the nativity of our Lady)

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