Sunday, 12 January 2014, 09:31 , by Michael Asciak
Our local bishops are being taken to task because they have dared to declare what is manifestly evident from a moral and anthropological perspective: that homosexual couples should not regularly have the same facility to adopt children as heterosexual couples. Contingency is another matter but, as a rule, it is not in the best interests of a child to be raised by two people of the same sex when they may be raised by two people of opposite sex. Many sociological studies show this to be so, although there are conflicting results in other studies which show, even more, that on this issue it would be better to move with caution. The position of the bishops is a result of the application of natural law morals, and the Catholic Church has based its non-revealed moral stance on natural law for a very long time now.
In a nutshell, natural law is our rational grasp of eternal law. The emphasis is not on nature, which can play a part, albeit it small, in the formulation of natural law, but on our natural predisposition to use our reason to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Natural law, accessible to everyone with right reason, allows us to use our rationality to grasp the eternal order created by God.
There is no way that using our rationality (practical reason) to distinguish right from wrong can lead us to doubt that the basic good of a child is necessarily best served by being raised by a man and a woman rather than by anybody else, homosexuals included. Ideally, a child needs the input of both male and female attributes to be raised in a proper developmental balance. What the contingent messiness of life sometimes dictates in the regard to the best interests of the child may, unfortunately, be otherwise. However, this no way means that the best interests of the child are served by being potentially raised equally by heterosexual and homosexual adoptive parents!
Law has a pedagogical dimension and what the law should generally be built on is the rule, the norm – not the exceptions. The rule here is the best interests of the child. There is never a right of the potentially adoptive parents to adopt. The best interests of the child should be the only factor that determines adoptions, together with the particular circumstances surrounding the child’s circumstances to be determined by social workers, psychologists and other professionals responsible for the adoptive process. There is no place in a civil union bill for talk about equal rights to adopt! They simply do not exist! The only thing that the inclusion of so-called “adoptive rights” in a civil union bill manages to achieve is that, in an ever more increasing way, it equates civil union to marriage.
Here again, there is a moral and anthropological issue at stake. Marriage between a man and a woman can never be equated to the civilly recognised relationship between two men or two women. The unitive and procreative potencies are just not there! As a result, the basic good achieved in the special relationship in marriage between a man and a woman can never be equated to that in a homosexual union. Thereby, natural reason shows us that the two may not be equated and any effort to equate them would be morally wrong as it would contradict human reason and the evolution of human anthropology during the eons formed by human society.
The current bill before Parliament simply equates civil homosexual unions with marriage in anything but name. It is therefore immoral and unethical, and the bishops are right again here. The issue of whether the state should legislate in favour of homosexual unions is easier to settle morally. According to natural law, the practice of the homosexual act itself is an objective immorality. Reason tells us that it is not ordered to a rational end of a basic good and therefore in itself it is an unethical choice. The sexual act has to be one of both an emotional sharing and also one open to procreation in the long term. The homosexual act itself can never be both these together.
However one sees here two caveats. First, St Thomas tells us that not everything that is immoral should be illegal, but only that which is in the interests of the common good and social order. In effect, the state is surely within its rights in seeking to recognise and register homosexual unions.
The second issue deals with the case ethics of every homosexual act. The moral act itself, as opposed to the moral object, is ever cognizant of circumstances and intentions as well as the moral object itself in the determination of guilt. Therefore, different individuals in a homosexual relationship cannot be judged the same as to the nature of the moral act in consideration. Not everyone has the same sexual or even homosexual urges and not everyone can psychologically live alone or control those urges equally! Therefore it is not externally possible for one to judge the moral acts of other individuals when one is not in possession of basic facts which are practically only available to the individuals involved in the relationship themselves. One cannot judge here, and one should respect the choice of others. It is one area in which the state itself should not become involved when considering the legality of homosexual behaviour (or otherwise).
In my opinion, the state is right in wishing to regulate homosexual unions. It is wrong in seeking to equate homosexual unions with marriage and it is wrong to include any perceived “rights” to adoption in legislation establishing any civil union. Minister Helena Dalli is on record as saying that we will all still be here after the bill on homosexual union and adoption becomes law. Yes, but will we all be living in a better world that we bequeath to our children? The next “right” that will now naturally be claimed is the one to procreate with anyone and anyhow! Natural law has much to say about that as well!