Deconstructing the family

Deconstructing the family

Garrison Keillor may be a bleeding-heart liberal but he’s on target in this article on self-centered parenting, whether it be gay parents or parents who treat their kids like status symbols or pets (or who treat their pets like one of the kids). The subtitle says it all: “Nature doesn’t care about the emotional well-being of older people. It’s about the continuation of the species — in other words, children.”

That’s the point: Children are no longer appreciated in and of themselves, but only in relation to how they make the adults feel. Witness the older single woman who insists on in vitro fertilization because she wanted to have a career first, but now wants to feel fulfilled by being a mother at her convenience. Husband and father? Feh! She doesn’t need a man for her fulfillment. Never mind that the child might like a dad who’s more than a genetic donor. Monogamous, stable man-woman relationships (since you can’t just say “marriages” nowadays and have everyone understand what you mean) meant that children could be raised in safe environments of emotional and developmental stability, where their own needs were not sacrificed in the name of narcissistic self-actualization.

The gay family

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  • Well, I think the overgeneralization can be overdone, which is not to say caution is advisable.

    Why? Because for a few years I knew a older gay couple who were foster and then adoptive parents of a boy. The boy, an ethnic minority, had been in rotating foster homes for his post-infancy life. He was failing, and no one wanted to have him on a foster or adoptive basis. He did not thrive in institutions, either. The couple were, as I understood it from a laywer friend of mine, the boy’s last shot.

    The couple were older – younger and older 50s (the older had just retired from ministry in a Boston-area.

    They were very disciplined with the child. The child tried running away, but they provided structure and responsibility and things that the child had utterly lacked.

    Within a year, the child petitioned the court to be adopted, which the couple did not prompt – it came as a bit of a surprise to them.

    Over the following years, the child matured into normal high-functioning teenagehood. Joined sports teams, dated girls, got ready for college (at that point, I lost touch as my friend who knew them moved).

    I understand what the Church says as an objective matter here, but subjective evidence is not nugatory in considering concrete cases. I cannot universalize, ignore the concrete varying cases, without rendering the truth incomplete here.

  • <<sarcasm on>>

    The word “family” is just so…passe.  I prefer the term “microcluster of structured role expectations”. 

    <<sarcasm off>>

    I don’t remember where I first heard the term, but it seems to capture the ethos of this chaotic mess so much better, no?

  • On just how is this supposed to provide not only the critical stability and continuity for children born or adopted into these freakish circumstances not of their own making, but for that of our society?  What comes of this during the next couple of decades is a further erosion of morals, ethics and normality that can only lead to an unprecedented upheaval of all we now know but see passing.

    Man, of all creatures, is graced with a free will that he so often throws away on the most transient of mindless behavior.  Societies, like individuals, come and go.  It appears that ours is one that is moving off the main stage. And waiting in the wings with sheer numbers, history, motivation and patience is another that has been around, and powerfully so, since the 7th Century.

    Global warming, so called, may be the least of our concerns.  Within decades, the world as we know it will be in a state that many will come to curse this blight of toleration for the consummate immorality that now plagues us.

  • “Well, I think the overgeneralization can be overdone, which is not to say caution is advisable.” —Liam

    Dearest Liam:

    I am unsure what this sentence means though from what follows seems that you recognize that rain does fall in the Sahara every now and then.  But 99.9% of the time, it is quite dry.

  • I think we are at a turning point with this mess. I’m glad someone is sticking up for families. Garrison Keillor has taken a lot of heat for this article, he knew he would. When you’re a husband and wife with a young family your focus is one the family, you can’t be campaigning and lobbying all over the place to protect the definition of marriage.

  • Liam – is it possible that the “violence” done to the child of which you speak is that he (like you, it would seem) is now of the mind that the Natural Law has no validity?

    For your part, you seem quite willing to ignore the fact that this “couple” flouts the Natural Law, principally because of the seeming good result for the child; I would tend to believe that the child himself feels the same way.  This “the end justifies the means” thinking is destructive to society and to the individuals who rationalize behavior based upon that thought.

    The Church teaches that the placement of a child into a home such as the one you describe “does violence to the child.”  The violence does not have to be immediate or even visible for it to be real and lasting.

  • His clarification did not address the substance of what I posted about, namely self-centered parenthood, but two sentences that listed gay stereotypes. I don’t see what his clarification has to do with anything I’ve written or what thoughts of Keillor’s I based this post on.

  • Dom

    I didn’t say it did; I just thought it was relevant to construing his intent. Geesh.

    Fr. Jim

    I am not rationalizing the loving care of a child who was in desparate need, so I am no rank materialist. That said, eliding what may be called the “e pur si muove” factor does not help make the Church’s teaching more understandable to people, and can make it less credible, even if the issue of its credibility is not up for discussion, as it were. I am not expecting to persuade anyone on this point. But I thought it might help someone here to get a sense of what there is to contend with; that was my main purpose. End of point.

  • Liam – the problem is not that you noticed a child who received the care he had desperately needed; rather, the problem is that you (and he, most likely) think that care mitigates the damage done to him.  In reality, it increases the damage done to him.

    You are right, of course, that merely noting the error does nothing to make the teaching understandable.  I’m not sure if I can grant that it may make the teaching less accessible (I’ll not use your term – credible).  But I am absolutely certain that juxtaposing a temporal “good” (i.e. care of a child) with a moral evil so as to make the moral evil appear less so will NEVER make the teaching of the Church more accessible, and will ALWAYS make it less so.

  • Fr Jim

    The problem would be easier if it were merely obviously a “temporal good” but it is virtually impossible to exclude the sens of supernatural good as well – this was hardly a couple doing this for their selfish jollies to make a point. This was a minister who thought he was responding to the Gospel call, and that is how a number people would not only think about it but experience it spiritually. That’s the sticky wicket that tends to get elided – perhaps for valid prudential reasons – but that elision may explain why ground is shifting here at an ordinary level.

  • Hmmmm . . . how about “A child needs a live-in mother and father like a fish needs a bicycle”? Not catchy enough?

    I think the situation that Liam mentioned goes under the heading “exceptions that prove the rule”.

  • Liam, how is that any different than the unmarried man and woman who fornicate because they want a child that they can love and cherish and raise? They may indeed have good intentions and think they are following Jesus’ command to love and all that, but it doesn’t overcome the fact that the foundation is built on sand.

    The ends do not justify the means.

  • Dom

    It’s different because that couple would be creating the problem to solve, as it were, as opposed to sensing that they were the only solution to an existing problem. At the experiential and discernment (subjective) level, that’s a *big* difference, which may help explain why people think there’s a lot more than merely vices to avoid here; the problem arises because people believe they are called to live a virtue or group of virtues, as it were, and not merely a hedonic experience rationalized as a vice (parenting a special needs pre-teen to teen is not likely to produce a net balance of hedonistic pleasures….). So, for these folks, saying no to the challenge to adopt the child would have been like saying no to God’s call for them. That dimension of this issue is – as best I can tell – rarely if ever addressed in the apologetics and witnessing I have seen going round. And I do not pretend to have a good answer for it. But the notion of simply telling someone that the problem is illusory is in all likelihood a great way to get them to ignore what they are being told. Unless and until someone validates – and not in a vague, perfunctory way – what good is being heard as a call by such putative care-givers, those folks are likely not to react the way one would expect. They (well, at least folks like this minister, as I heard him) are likely to see themselves as following the challenge laid out in the parable of the Good Samaritan (which involves, at least as understood by audiences of the day, triaging a variety of spiritual imperatives in ways that favored immediate care of neighbor over, for example levitical purity and perhaps even Temple sacrifice duties (which were the supreme religious duties imaginable at the time)).

  • A Good Samaration would seek a married household in which a child in need could be fostered and perhaps adopted.

    There is no shortage of such households who have shown interest in adoption.

    The issue has been recruitment of qualified adoptors. The various obstacles that exist are surmountable if the priority was on combining fatherhood and motherhood in service of children in need.

    Of course, as society increasingly treats nonmarriage as marriage, the effort to recruit will turn away from the distinction. In fact, as participation in marriage declines, due to the lack of preference for the conjugal relationship, more problems are created—including more obstacles to recruiting from an ever shrinking pool of married households.

    Start at the beginning: the family founded on the conjugal relationship. Prioritize this and strengthen the overall preferential status of marriage. This serves society as a good in itself.

    The deconstruction of family is an injustice that adversely ripples throughout society.

  • Wow, talk about ducking the issue.  I just read the second post by Keillor.  He said the first article was satire?!  I went back and read it…didn’t read that way to me, at least not about the major point of the piece, i.e. marriage is for children.

    He was definitely back-pedaling to limit the wrath of they-who-must-not-be-questioned.