Gay Parents Threedux: Reader Roundup

by Jimmy Akin

in Homosexuality

First, I want to thank everyone who commented in the second of the gay "parents" comment threads. Some of y’all made truly outstanding points while I was at work–so much so that I was tempted not to do a reader roundup, y’all had done such a great job. I’d like to quote and praise you all individually, but then this post would go on for so long that nobody would read it and would miss the praise anyway, so I hope a generic, up-front collective "Kudos!" will do. :-)

Now . . .

Down yonder, readers write:

READER A: So long as the kids’ parents agree to keep their sexuality out of
the classroom (i.e. only have one of them be seen publicly with the kid
on campus), then I don’t see where they should be penalized.

I think that we agree here that if the homosexuality of the "parents" was something that could be kept out of the classroom, so that the only child being harmed by knowledge of it was the child in question, then this would fall into the area of a covert sin that does not pose a scandal to the other children in the school. Under those (magical) circumstances, I wouldn’t be opposed to letting the kid in the class.

As other readers are about to point out, there are virtually insuperable problems with the idea of keeping this a secret among a class of five year olds. I would add the further point that, so far as I can tell, it seems to be obviously not happening in this school. The homosexuals, so far as I know, are making no secret of their relationship to each other, and the kids are aware of it. (Though if I am wrong on this point, I invite correction from those in a position to know.)

READER B: How could you possibly enforce such a requirement? Would it even be
legal for the school to ask the parents to abide by such a requirement.
I can just see the ACLU jumping on that one.

Even if the parents aren’t seen, as Jimmy points out, the face will
come out as part of the natural interactions between children of this
age during talk about their ‘family’. How do you prevent that? Ask the
child to agree to not talk about it?

I don’t know if this would be illegal or not. Perhaps some of the Southern Appeal lawyer folk who read the blog could tell us that. I totally agree, however, that even if the parents tried to keep their status a secret, it would fail. Five year olds are nowhere near tight lipped enough to reliably keep something like that to themselves, and they’re going to be asking questions about each others mommies that would, even if the kid could keep his second daddy a secret, put him in the proximate occasion of the sin of lying.

READER C: But, the line still has to be drawn somewhere. I mean, is it only
gay and nudist parents that cannot have their children attend Catholic
schooling? What about divorced and remarried Catholics kids…I could
just as easily see one become an apologist for divorce in the classroom
as for homosexual activity? Or how about the child who’s father is
addicted to pornography…couldn’t you see a child say, "My daddy looks
at pictures like that all the time and mommy says it is OK since he is
just looking"? I think I agree with you, Jimmy, but how are we to draw
the line here? Or are we just reacting this way because it is a hot
button issue while divorce and remarriage is now commonplace (although
destructive and scandalous as well)?

I agree that the line has to be drawn somewhere, and the place I would tend to draw it is: any sin that kids of a particular age shouldn’t know about and that would have a high probability of coming to their attention. Homosexual "parents" clearly falls over that line. So does public nudism. So do polygamous relationships (not serial polygamy; I mean the real deal).

I wouldn’t put private use of pornography, as tragic as that is, in the same category, or divorce and remarriage without annulment. Those sins are not nearly as likely to come to the attention of the children in the class. If, however, the parents were of a mind to make these sins known to the children of the class (e.g., by bringing pornography to get-to-know-Billy’s-father day or complaining at parent-child gatherings about the Church’s oppressive annulment requirement that keeps them from really being married in the Church’s eyes) then I would put them over the line.

READER D: The presence of a nudist in front of a class of kindergarten-aged
children necessarily calls attention to itself in a way that the
presence of a homosexual may not. Unless you are prepared to define
some physical characteristics that are endemic to homosexuality I fail
to see how your analogy can be carried much further.

I agree. The analogy was deliberately more extreme than the homosexual "parents" situation in order to show that there are at least some situations in which the child must have his religious education taken care of in another manner. After establishing that point, it could be argued whether homosexuality is one such situation.

MORE D: Let’s consider another analogy. Suppose we have a child that has
been born out of wedlock and is at present only being taken care of by
his mother. The situation of a child having no daddy is just as likely
to become apparent to the rest of the student body as the case of a
child having two. So should this child also be denied admission?

No. The "no daddy" situation is common throughout history. Often fathers get killed or die of an illness or vanish for other reasons that are incomprehensible to young children. It’s sad, but it doesn’t pose a moral scandal to the kids under most circumstances. The odds of young kids becoming aware that Billy’s parents weren’t married at the time he was born are low.

READER E (RESPONDING TO READER C): Unfortunately divorce is commonplace and children will likely be
exposed to it no matter what the school policy is. Kids likeley can
simply no longer be shielded form this (with a 50% divorce rates even
among Catholics, it’s likely 1/2 the kids in the school have divorced
parents). Fortunately, Homosexual Unions are not yet so widespread that
this is the case. Children still can be shielded from this and should
be. Under what you seem to be saying, because we can’t shield the from
everything, we shouldn’t shield them from anything. Does that seem
right? We (and the school in question) should do what we can, all the
time realizing that we live in an imperfect world were our ability to
do so will be limited by the sinful nature of all and that the lines we
attempt to draw won’t be perfect.

Excellent point. We cannot allow the facts that we (a) can’t shield kids from all dangers and (b) can’t draw lines perfectly to deter us from drawing reasonable lines to shield kids from what we can protect them from. Put it another way: Just because I can’t keep all dangerous objects away from Billy all the time, that’s no reason I shouldn’t keep the gun cabinet locked.

READER F: You are going to run across many, many situations you have not
already considered here that is going to occur in a school situation
with various kids who have various backgrounds. And I am speaking as an
educator who has taught in the public school system for 6 years and
taught and volunteered in a Catholic school for 3 years. All I can say
is homeschooling is now the only option for us.

Reader F, you deserve an "A"! Both the public and Catholic school systems are so problematic that (barring special circumstances) I view homeschooling as the strongly preferred option for my family, should I have one.

READER G: Also, don’t leave the "parents" out in the cold. Remember that, "God
scourges everyone whom he loves". Use this as a point of instruction to
bring *all* of the parents into line with the gospel rather than
singling out a parent that lives at the cultural fringe.

Yes, and preaching the gospel to individuals can involve excluding them from the society of the Church in order to awaken them to the dimensions of their sins. This is the point of the penalty of excommunication, for example, and St. Paul is very firm on this in 1 Corinthians. It’s a "tough love" approach, but sometimes it is necessary. One harms not only the children in the school but the homosexual "parents" as well if one communicates to them that their behavior is acceptable, or even tolerable, in the Catholic community.

MORE G: Remember that we all have absolute moral freedom. Nothing is
preventing these parents, all of them, from changing; nothing but
themselves.

I’d be a little careful, here. The homosexual "parents" can certainly split up and lead chaste lives, though they may or may not be able to get shed of their same-sex attractions.

READER D AGAIN: The thing about this case that I find especially galling is the
attempt to establish homosexuality as a special sin deserving of unique
consequences in a way that other sexual sins are not.

This is not about the sexual activity of the same-sex couple. It
can’t be because they have declined to make any public comment and
their personal situation is not known. Their apologetical moment came
and they declined it. Nevertheless their reticence is still not good
enough. After all, they are homosexuals. It’s not about what they do,
it’s about what they are.

It isn’t about what they are. It isn’t even about their private sinful behavior. It’s about what they are doing publicly, which is to present themselves to the world as "parents" and try to inject themselves into the life of a school at an age-level where children should not know about these matters and will inevitably learn about them.
Also, as the above indicates, there are other sexual sins that have a similar public dimension (full-time nudity, simultaneous polygamy) that would be similarly problematic, so this isn’t singling out homosexuality. Any sin that would pose a scandal to the kids would fall on the other side of the line to my mind.

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{ 6 comments }

Michael Forrest January 20, 2005 at 6:40 am

Most people aren’t having difficulty with this, but others seem to be in the ‘no judgement’ zone. These are simple prudential matters. With your own children, you make choices everyday about the influences of morally disordered people. For instance, you would probably take your children to a company picnic despite your boss’s alcohol problem or him bringing a woman half his age that replaces his wife. For the same man, you probably wouldn’t invite him over for dinner on a regular basis. Which is closer to being in school 8 hours a day and 9 months of the year, dinners or company picnic?
Given the choice between being in a parish where half the parents are divorced or a parish without children, I for one would choose the parish without children. And given the choice between a Catholic school mired in the consequences of social decay and homeschooling, many parents are choosing to homeschool.

dcs January 20, 2005 at 7:21 am

I strongly agree with the comments about homeschooling. The only caveat I would have is that one should be wary of some parish CCD programs (I understand that some parish priests insist on CCD classes for homeschooled children to receive the Sacraments).

dcs January 20, 2005 at 8:15 am

For instance, you would probably take your children to a company picnic despite your boss’s alcohol problem or him bringing a woman half his age that replaces his wife.
I suppose that would depend on whether alcohol would be served at the picnic, and whether the boss could control himself in the presence of alcohol.

Anonymous January 20, 2005 at 8:59 am

The thing about this case that I find especially galling is the attempt to establish homosexuality as a special sin deserving of unique consequences in a way that other sexual sins are not.
Aquinas would rank homosexuality as worse than promiscuity and aldutery, because it goes against the nature of sex itself.

Nicholas January 20, 2005 at 2:48 pm

I’ll respond to Jimmy and the other readers on two points.
1.) Homosexuals do have absolute free will in changing there current circumstances. We may all abstain from illicit sex. This, depending on our respective drives and the licit outlets available may be difficult, but it is always possible.
We might also note that a genetic as opposed to social theory of the development of homosexuality is not universally accepted. There is a certain amount of investment in the genetic theory since it reduces personal guilt. I’m not entirely sure that’s the right answer, but hey, I’m not a geneticist so I’m content to argue to review the information provided by them and make informed decisions based on that review.
2.) The 50% divorce figure has been thrown around a lot. If I remember correctly the number, as popularly used, is incorrect. I believe its understood about 50% of *marriages* fail not that 50% of the population *experiences* divorce. Many of the failed marriages result from serial marriage failures.
Again I’m not a Catholic, but in my pastoral responsibilities in my own faith I tend to see this quite a bit. Usually unstable personalities have this really bizzare attraction for one another and the result is that you can get a series of marriages that fail within a small subsection of the community.
The upswing is that a policy that would restrict admitance of those living in a state of adultery would probably not be as exclusive as the numbers would first suggest. It would also make it, possibly, much easier to minister to that community since, again, it is smaller than the numbers at first suggest.

Eric Giunta January 20, 2005 at 5:23 pm

Thanks, Jimmy. You’ve got me convinced!

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