Ask a Priest

Single-Parent Households and Same-Sex Adoption

Apr 21, 2017

Hi Father,

I was recently speaking with another person about marriage and proposing to them why it would not be in society’s best interest to re-define it. We spoke about the importance of children and right to a mother and father but he said to me “How can you be opposed to same sex couples having children and not be opposed to a single mother raising her children after her husband passes away”.

I hadn’t heard of the argument or a response before this conversation so I was admittedly a bit stuck to respond. How should I respond to this? I know there are many responses to the argument on sterile couples and same-sex marriages but it was the first I’d heard of objecting to a biological mother taking care of her kids on her own due to no fault of her own (her husband passing away).

Thanks for your help.

Asked at 01:15 pm on April 21st 2017

Hi Miguel, rather than depend on my own limited knowledge and experience in this area, here’s some points from an excellent article by Rick Fitzgibbons, a US psychiatrist with 35 years of experience – you can easily find the full piece, ‘Same sex adoption is not a game,’ with all the references, at MercatorNet, 18 November 2011. Here are some of the points he made, which I doubt have changed much in the last 6 years:

First, same sex couples tend to be promiscuous. One of the largest studies of same sex couples revealed that only seven of 156 couples had a sexual relationship which was totally monogamous. Most of these relationships lasted less than five years. Couples whose relationship lasted longer incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity: “The single most important factor that keeps couples together past the 10-year mark is the lack of possessiveness,” observed two scholars who were also partners, David McWhirter and Andrew Mattison. “Many couples learn very early in their relationship that ownership of each other sexually can be the greatest internal threat to their staying together.” (2)

Second, the unions are very fragile. The probability of breakup is high for lesbian couples. In a 2010 report, the US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, 40 percent of the couples who had conceived a child by artificial insemination had broken up.(3) Lisa Diamond reported in her book, Sexual Fluidity, that “more than two-thirds of the women in my sample had changed their identity labels at least once after the first interview. The women who kept the same identity for the whole ten years proved to be the smallest and most atypical group.” If a woman in a same-sex relationship changes her identity label, the relationship breaks up.

And third, the couple may not necessarily be physically healthy. Dutch research has found that most new HIV infections in Amsterdam occurred among homosexual men who were in steady relationships. The researcher concluded that: “Prevention measures should address risky behavior, especially with steady partners, and the promotion of HIV testing.” (4) Research shows that same sex unions suffer a significantly higher prevalence of domestic abuse, depression, substance-abuse disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases.(5) Should adopted children be placed with a couple at risk of a serious and emotionally draining illness?

What’s the difference between a child adopted by a gay couple and one brought up by its widowed mother? The child of a gay couple is always the child of a father and a mother, whether naturally conceived, or by IVF. If the couple are male, then the child’s mother has been excluded by some legal and financial arrangement from her natural role as the child’s mother, while the child of the widowed mother will always have their true mother, and through her, the memory of their father as one who, with their mother, loved the child into existence, and never rejected them. If the couple are female, the child’s father has been excluded, but that doesn’t mean the child’s biological connection with their father is non-existent.

I well remember a woman conceived by her mother whose father had donated his seed through some kind of international service. While that woman ended up being adopted by an Australian couple who were immensely kind to her, she spent years getting the English legal system changed so she could locate her true mother and then her father. I suggest that a child of gay adoption will always feel the loss of one or even both of its parents who have abandoned it – generally for purely financial reasons. But a child of a married couple will be far better able to live with the loss of a parent who never choose to reject him or her.

Again Rick Fitzgibbons on what a mother (including of course a widowed mother) can bring to her child’s upbringing:

Among the many distinctive talents that mothers bring to the parenting enterprise, three stand out: their capacity to breastfeed, their ability to understand infants and children, and their ability to offer nurture and comfort.

Social science studies confirm this. Numerous reports indicate that infants and toddlers prefer mothers to fathers when they are hungry, afraid or sick. Mothers tend to be more soothing. Mothers are more responsive to the distinctive cries of infants; they are better able than fathers, for instance, to distinguish between a cry of hunger and a cry of pain. They are also better than fathers at detecting the emotions of their children by looking at their faces, postures, and gestures.

Children who were deprived of maternal care during extended periods in their early lives “lacked feeling, had superficial relationships, and exhibited hostile or antisocial tendencies” as they developed into adulthood.(6) Clinical experience suggests that deliberately depriving a child of its mother, motherlessness, causes severe damage because mothers are crucial in establishing a child’s ability to trust and to feel safe in relationships. All cultures recognize the essential role of the mother

If you search the internet for articles critical of gay adoption I think you’ll find more recent materials to fill out what I’ve drawn on here. Very best, Fr Brendan

Replied at 11:29 pm on April 30th 2017