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Is Adoption Second-Best to a “Real Family”?


Elizabeth Kirk - published on 11/23/14 - updated on 06/08/17

Adoptive parents remind us that all husbands and wives are called to be open to life.  Like being open to life in a natural way in one’s marriage, adopting a child is a way of being open and fruitful in marriage. Ultimately, all married persons are called to be radically open to God’s will and to the way in which He intends the marriage to bear fruit.  When adoption occurs in the context of infertility, relinquishing the natural desire to conceive (and the understandable, yet still disordered, desire to control that process through IVF or some other illicit means) requires an act of generosity and faith in God’s loving Providence. In his address to adoptive families, Pope St. John Paul II stated, “Adopting children, regarding and treating them as one’s own children, means recognizing that the relationship between parents and children is not measured only by genetic standards. Procreative love is first and foremost a gift of self. There is a form of ‘procreation’ which occurs through acceptance, concern and devotion. The resulting relationship is so intimate and enduring that it is in no way inferior to one based on a biological connection.” Adoption, which creates a family and renders the marriage fruitful, is one way to demonstrate the trust and generous love required of all married couples.

Finally, adoption reminds all of us about our common humanity and the nature of our salvation.  The microcosm of our family and our interrelatedness provides ample ground for spiritual reflection for all of us about our relationship to one another and to God.  Adopting a child who is not “related” to you involves a profound kind of solidarity, of recognition that we are all one human family.  The young man featured in the Humanum video was brought from Vietnam to join children of other nationalities and with special needs to become part of one family.  In my family, God in His Providence brought five people, unrelated by blood, from all corners of these United States together to form a family.  We were brought together – not by happenstance to be acquaintances, friends, or colleagues – but to share the intimate bonds of husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter, brother, and sister. Moreover, in Christianity, adoption is the very means by which we are brought into a filial relationship with God.  Spiritual or supernatural adoption is the idea that we are not saved by virtue of our birth, but rather by our re-birth in baptism whereby we are adopted and thereby made sons & daughters of God. Like the human, legal institution, supernatural adoption is not based on nature, but rather is a gratuitous act of God, based on love.

On a supernatural level, each member of the human family stands in need of God’s paternal care and love, and through our adoption into His family, we can call him by that most intimate of terms, “Abba.” On a human level, adoption by a married couple gives a child the love of a mother and a father – “Mommy” and “Daddy.”  Adoption provides roots from which the child may grow and flourish – thereby serving as a sign to all families.

Elizabeth Kirk, J.D., is a Resident Fellow in Cultural & Legal Studies at the Stein Center for Social Research at Ave Maria University and former Associate Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture. She lives in Ave Maria, Florida with her husband and three children.

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