Can Same-Sex Couples Adopt?

Last night my boyfriend walked up to me and shut my iPad. “Please hang out and talk with me!” he implored… begging me to pause the TV show that has been eating up all my free time.

In that moment, I had a choice. I could say no, claim I needed to “relax” and watch TV like I had been for the last couple hours, and remain closed in on the world of my screen. Or I could choose something greater that was being offered to me — the chance to connect in relationship with another, the chance to be known and loved and accepted — things my precious TV show can never offer.

This invitation to something greater is exactly what the Catholic Church offers us in the teachings on faith and morals. Sure we can choose to do something else and reject the invitation, but we are challenged to trust in an authority that communicates to us God’s greater plan for our lives – including our sexuality, families, and wants and desires.

I recently gave a talk about the Catholic Church’s teaching on same-sex attraction and I was pretty surprised about the question I was asked repeatedly after the talk. Many people wanted clarification about why the Church teaches that gay couples should not adopt children.

On the surface, letting gay couples adopt seems like a good thing, doesn’t it? If there are children without homes, shouldn’t we do whatever we can as Christians to ensure they have safe, loving families?

That end goal – to give children a family and a home – is indeed a worthy cause. But there are so many contributing factors that the Church must take into consideration when providing guidance on this topic. It’s not easy to understand, but I want to invite you to look at the whole picture with me.

Let’s start with the desire of the couple.

1) A couple doesn’t have rights to a child simply because they desire one.

Our wants and desires don’t determine our rights. Just because I want my co-worker’s lunch, doesn’t mean I can take it from the refrigerator at work. If I desire to date Daniel Radcliffe, it is not my right to make that happen with any means I choose to use.

Last example — if I have the desire to save babies from abortion, an end goal that is a good cause, I can’t achieve that goal by threatening violence against a woman or an abortion clinic. You can’t violate a woman’s right to safety because you want to do a good thing and save the life of the baby.

2) A child has rights.

Every human has rights that are inherent to their being and are written in the natural moral law of our universe. The natural order of the world is that it takes a man and a woman coming together in a sexual union to create a child. (Sure this can now be done medically, but it still requires a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg and just because something can be done medically, doesn’t mean that it should. More on this later.)

Moreover, this sexual union was intended to be between two people who love one another and genuinely care about the well-being of each other and any children they create. This family unit provides for a safe place for children to grow up and it is the essential building block of our society.

A man and woman who procreate and raise children in a good home is the primary (or ideal) way that society is able to carry on. Therefore, every child has the “right” (as a human) to being born and raised in a home of a mother and a father who love one another.

Think about it, if men and women didn’t keep having children, humanity would die off. Also, if these children weren’t kept safe and taught how to be functioning members of society, our world would fall into a state of worse depravity and violence and degradation than it already is. A one father, one mother home is the ideal place for a child to be nurtured and loved in both a masculine and feminine way, by a man and woman – the two sexes that God designed to be perfectly complementary in every way, including parenting.

Of course, a father/mother home doesn’t always happen because of death, divorce, and situations that require a man or woman to parent on their own. The key here is that it is unfair and violates a child’s rights if we willfully and purposefully deny them a loving mother and father. Ask any child in a single parent home if they wished they had a good mother and a good father and they will absolutely respond with a “yes.” It is ideal for a child’s healthy development  that they be raised by a male and a female and we do an injustice to children by purposefully denying them a father or a mother by placing them with a same-sex couple.

3) Adoption, Surrogacy, or IVF Doesn’t Make the Couple’s Sexual Union Procreative.

In talking about gay marriages and God’s plan for our sexuality, I always share the fact that God created sex to be two things: unitive and procreative — it unites the couple and it creates more human beings.

As I mentioned earlier, these two things are necessary for a healthy society — we need more people for our species to carry on, and we need those people to be safe and cared for by a man and woman who love each other so that later they can be contributing members of society.

A gay couple’s sexual action can in no way be naturally procreative. Any artificial means of creating or obtaining a child still doesn’t make their sexual union procreative. Therefore it doesn’t reach the height of sexual excellence that God has ordained us for.

4) This is not a condemnation or sentencing.

The teaching that a same-sex couple cannot adopt children is not to say that anyone who experiences a same-sex attraction is destined for a life devoid of love or the joy that children bring to our lives.

The Church seeks to define for us the best way, the way of excellence according to God’s plan for sex and families. Those who have made other choices are absolutely welcomed and loved by the Church. And those who feel like they must be left out of the joys of parenting are encouraged to have hope in the reality that we are all called to lives of love. For some, that love is manifest in directly creating and nurturing new life. But for others, that love can be manifest in a multitude of ways outside of directly creating and nurturing life, such as life in community with others – with one’s church and family. There is so much fullness of life that we can experience by living lives of self-giving love and it is not confined to parenthood.

One more thing that I think is essential to this topic: this teaching difficult to understand or live by if you aren’t first seeking to know, love, and serve God. Personally, I believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church because I believe Jesus was who He said He was and that He established the Church on earth to help us get to heaven.

This is a very loaded topic that comes with a lot of emotions for people. I completely understand that. But I also know that God wants us to be happy and fully alive (John 10:10) and that He has a plan for our lives that is so, so good (Jeremiah 29:11). That means we can’t do whatever we want, however we want. God’s way is good and though difficult, leads to peace and fulfillment. I know that this teaching comes from a place of love because I trust the Church… the Church who is anything but hateful or bigoted, the Church who isn’t trying to force this teaching on everyone, but rather, inviting everyone to the beauty and goodness that is the truth of God’s plan for sex and families. There’s something greater we are invited to participate in — are you willing to be humble enough to consider that God’s way may be best?

Editor’s Note: Although the terms “gay,” “lesbian,” and/or “homosexual” are used freely in popular culture, the Catholic Church encourages us to use the phrase “person who experiences homosexual inclination” in order to acknowledge the dignity of the human person, whose identity isn’t found in their sexual orientation but rather in their Creator (CCC 2357-2358). We, at Life Teen, wholeheartedly accept this distinction and emphatically agree with the Church that our humanity is not to be solely defined by one’s sexuality, inclinations, or desires.

Bearing this in mind, when you occasionally notice that we use a phrase like “gay” or “lesbian” in a blog or other piece, understand that it is in an effort to engage popular culture where it is, in order to engage souls and walk them into the transformative light of Christ’s truth. The soil of the mind and heart must be tilled if the seed of God’s truth is to find fertile soil to take root. It is never our intention to reduce a person to their sexual orientation, even as we seek to call all people to lives of joy-filled chastity.