As States around the Country sign more civil rights bills into law designed to protect the rights of LGBT women and men, certain stumbling blocks ostensibly appear to be placed in the path of the work of some social-work agencies that have religious ties. Such is the case with Catholic Charities, the Roman Catholic affiliated nonprofit organization that provides, among other services, adoption and foster-care placement services. The seeming conflict is between the new laws and Catholic teaching. But is there really a conflict there?

Most matters that arise concerning Catholic teaching related to marriage and children have to do with procreation, more specifically a married couple’s openness to procreation as it pertains to the “marriage act” (i.e., sex). The conversation in this regard tends to be very act-oriented and doesn’t necessarily address the question of a non-act-based concern about the rearing of children already conceived and born. It seems, from my rather quick review of the discussion, that most arguments from a Catholic perspective are founded on inference more than explicit teaching. By which I mean that because the Church does not support same-sex unions (or any context for sexual acts outside of heteronormative marriage), some argue that children without families are somehow better off without family placements over being placed with loving gay or lesbian couples or even a single parent.

Other arguments that I have read stem from the catch-all qualifier of “natural law” or “order.” The reason I include quotation marks is that generally, as one looks over the theological tradition, one sees that “natural law” is often based on a conception of the created order as understood philosophically (as in rooted in Aristotelian hylomorphic metaphysics) and scientifically (insofar as one can anachronistically apply the term) from the standpoint of the thirteenth century (think Thomas Aquinas) or earlier. There are also presumptions made about gendered complementarity and influence of affective gendered difference on the rearing of children, thereby making an opposite-sex couple more fit to raise children than a same-sex couple.

Yet, I’m still curious about the actual church teaching as it pertains to adoption. Note that in this recent article about the Rockford Diocese’s Catholic Charities office includes references to the nebulous “Church teaching” but fails to cite the precise teaching.

Catholic Charities wanted to be allowed to refer unmarried or gay couples to other agencies, as it has for years.

Diocese officials said that allowing such adoptions or foster placements would violate teachings of the Catholic faith.

“The law of our land has always guaranteed its people freedom of religion,” diocese spokeswoman Penny Wiegert said. “Denying this exemption to faith-based agencies leads one to believe that our lawmakers prefer laws that guarantee freedom from religion.”

To be fair, the concluding paragraph mentions that, ultimately, the Catholic Charities policy that is invoked has to do with placing children in households with unmarried couples. “Catholic charity groups place children only with married couples or single people — not with couples living together. They consider couples in civil unions to be unmarried and therefore not eligible to adopt or provide foster care through their programs.”

So would Catholic Charities place a foster child with a single gay man or lesbian woman who was in a relationship with someone of another mailing address? I’m not sure that this argument really works, and, of course, now it certainly cannot work with the law including civil unions in the category of legally recognized marriage, hence the dispute.

I wanted to share this reflection with you to offer a forum for some thoughts. Do you have another perspective on the relationship between Church teaching as definitively defined and the matter of adoption and foster care? I am grateful to a reader who brought this recent article to my attention and I ask that you be respectful in posting your comments below.

What are your thoughts?

Photo: Keith Haring, “Family”

20 Comments

  1. Vehemently disagree with the idea; however, if I were to concede on the “rights” of civil union “couples” to “raise” or care for the sake of the child, so be it (but there is also socio-psychologic issues with which to content at a later point). However, for the government to force Catholic Charities or any other religious affiliated organization to “accept” something that goes so against their tenets, is above and beyond! It is akin to forcing devout and practicing Catholic medical professionals to perform an abortion against their will and conscience. Or, to force a Quaker or a Franciscan to take up arms and serve in the military (going to war). Or even trying to force a Catholic College to include birth control in the healthcare (RE: Belmont Abbey about year ago). If there is such a huberis demand on behalf of the LGBT community, then let them seek a different organization.

    1. All the Church has to do is stop receiving government money (also known as taxpayer money of all religions and faiths) and they can do as they wish.

      1. Then, I guess I can stop paying taxes for abortions and mandatory sex education, which in many cases does not include any respect or dignity of the person or relationship, but only concentrates on “safe” sex. Oh, but it will include things like “my two daddys”! Everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too! The “government” et al, wants charities to help with situations, because it certainly cannot do it all itself; however, because some of these institution may receive some assistance, the “government” feels it “right” to dictate how the money is spent. Like I said, I would gladly sacrifice my tax burden/share to these charities, and like the rest of special interests fund whatever they want. Unfortunately, that will never happen and caesar will always want more than its fair pound of flesh.

  2. @Matthew: Maybe I read Dan’s piece wrong, but the point was that there doesn’t seem to be any specific church “teaching”, or in your case tenet, that this practice goes against.

    The simple fact of the matter is, there is absolutely no irrefutable proof that having two dads or two moms in any way hinders the development of a child. In fact, one could argue that consistency exists far more often in same-sex parents than in opposite-sex parents. From a front lines perspective, I know my wife would tell you (as an adoption social worker) that not only do same-sex couples make wonderful parents, the comparative ratio of opposite-sex couples fostering poor parenting environments is far greater.

    I’ll quickly digress a minute and bring up one of my LEAST favorite religious based constitutional arguments: the first amendment provides freedom of religion, not freedom FROM religion. To think that our constitution was implemented with the idea that government could impose religion on citizens, but the citizens could choose to ignore it, is completely ludicrous.

    We’re walking a VERY fine line here using the “just go somewhere else” argument. Where do we draw the line between basic civil rights and government imposed bigotry?

  3. The more I think about this policy, the more complicated it gets. If unmarried couples living together are not allowed to adopt, what about a couple where one of the partners is divorced and remarried? According to Church teaching, the marriage is not valid (assuming no annulment). What if the couple is not Catholic, and their marriage is accepted in their own church but not ours? What about atheists? Can they adopt through Catholic Charities? I would think an atheist (heterosexual) couple might be more damaging to a child’s spirituality than a believing gay couple. I fear that all of this feeds into the criticism that the Church is more concerned with children before their birth than after.

    1. @Karen, these were my thoughts, as well. I’m generally of the opinion that so long as a position stands up to theological (and just plain logical) scrutiny, then by all means, carry on with the religious exemption, whether or not I still feel its discrimination or have a different theological position.

      It’s the ‘it’s against our teaching’ without explication that I find bothersome. Be clear about why. If it’s marriage recognition, then apply it across the board. If it’s concern about the spiritual upbringing of the child, apply it across the board. If it’s ‘we don’t believe gay people should be parents’ well, then just come out and say it, but please tell us why, too.

  4. I think it’s often lost in the argument that heteronormative couples don’t always raise children correctly. I’d love to see a research study on the incidence of abuse in straight families versus LGBT families.

    1. It’s not exactly the kind of study you’re looking for (it’s mostly a ‘there isn’t one’ acknowledgment) but the APA notes in a report on LGBT parenting that in one of their longitudinal studies, not a single lesbian couple abused their child. My sense is that it was a study of lesbian motherhood, so there isn’t a comparable statement on gay male parents (though, they note the research that gay men are not more likely to abuse children than heterosexual men).

      http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/parenting-full.pdf page 12.

  5. So many issues, so may questions …. first thought – did this Catholic Charities also refer out for couples who had civil but not sacramental marriages, essentially analogous to civil unions? I also think this really highlights the tension of religious organizations wanting special treatment to participate in governmental programs. As far as I am concerned, if a religious agency wants to participate in a government program, they have to abide by the laws of that government. This Catholic Charities has made its decision – it is not being forced by the government to participate in anything. They have, sadly, opted out of the adoption process.

    That being said, I think it’s pretty messed up. Dan highlights many of my concerns – especially that children are somehow better off languishing in foster care than in a stable, loving family that happens to have gay parents. Also, the whole “natural law” argument of gendered “complimentarity” in marriage … there are huge presumptions made about the role of “male” and “female,” and that these roles are somehow inherent and unchanging. My marriage may be heteronormative, but the parties involved don’t fit so nicely into those boxes!

    Also, regarding the psychological and social well-being of children raised by same-sex couples, the research that has been done shows that there is no negative impact from being raised by a same-sex couple – the quality of the relationships, not the sex of the parents, are the key factors in mental health: http://www.rsu.edu/faculty/RBoughner/courses/Intro/Alternative%20activities/Children%20of%20gays.pdf

  6. @Jen: Great point. I can only speak from the relayed experience of my wife, who has facilitated adoptions for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples since graduating in 2004. In addition to adoption, she has been a case worker for families looking to regain custody of their children after negative circumstances. The experience she has had with same-sex couples is overwhelmingly positive, where as heteronormative couples present far more frequent cases of abuse or neglect. To be fair, there are obviously a considerably larger amount of opposite-sex parents, but when looking at it from a ratio standpoint, the difference is clear.

  7. Dan – I really appreciate your willingness to post this and invite discussion.

    My assumptiion on this is that the Church – and, thus, Catholic Charities – is reliant in this instance on the teaching – reaffirmed in the mid-1990s in Pope John Paul II’s Vatican – that homosexuality is a an “objective disorder”.

    I wholeheartedly disagree. (For the record, I am straight).

    But, given that declaration by the Church, to knowingly place a child in a home in which the parents are both “objectvely disordered” and “untreated” (based on my presumption that a gay couple’s desire to adopt would be an outgrowth of their intention to live an integrated and complete life as a couple), would be to place to children in a home that is intrinscically unhealthy. When the Vatican and the Church define homosexuality as an “objective disorder”, they ally themselves with the thinking in the old days (40 years past) when the mental health community officially categorized homosexuality as an objective “disorder” (my use of the qualifier “objectve” grounded here by the medical criteria by which the disorder was diagosed). Thus, I think it is not a stretch to say that (while I would money on it that most Catholic Charities social workers probably reject the foundational thinking that leads to this working policy), on paper, placing a child with an openly sexually active gay couple is tantamount to placing a child with an actively and untreated personality disordered couple. Framed that way, well, hell no, kids should not be placed in those homes.

    That framing is, of course, pure nonsense and, again, I think most Catholic Charities around the country do not have social workers who share that belief system. Rather, my guess is that most simply fight the fights they can win and they have decidedthis is not one of them. Social workers need to feed their families and often choose to abide by these kinds of Catholic policies – while making the referrals to non-discriminatory agencies – rather than risk their job security. In this case, that alternative route to non-discriminatory services is encoded in policy and public statements as above. When it comes to reproductive health, Catholic social workers are superbly skilled at referring Catholic Charities, etc., female clients to non-problematic agencies that are known to provide referrals to excellent full-service agencies. That skill in information and referral – a hallmark of the social services field – is how many Catholic workers respond to discriminatory practices in Catholic agencies so that they may maintain their social work ethics, the CST-grounded ethics and their relationship with the Church and employer.

    If an agency accepts federal funding to provide a service, my belief is that the agency is obligated to provide that service in a way that does not violate federal non-discrimination laws. If that agency does not want to provide the service in a law-driven non-discriminatory way – if, in essence, the agency does not want to provide the service for which the federal government is contracting – then the agency does not qualify for funding. Period. The agency can offer the service in a limited way with funding that is not subject to non-discrimination laws. As a longtime social worker who has worked for public, private non-profit and Catholic agencies, it seems that basic to me: 1) individuals and agencies cannot accept funding for a product or service that they refuse to provide; 2) individuals and agenices do not have to provide any service that violates conscience; and 3) the way to accomplish #2 is by acknowledging, accepting and abiding by #1.

    The Catholic Church is up against something big in all of this. the Catholic Church – through the work of its Religious women, particularly – built the hospital and charity system in the US. That reality has been a jewel in the RCC”s American crown. Those days are past and the RCC is rushing its fall from prominence and power by this kind of sandbox behavior (“I’ll take my toys home”) if you do not allow me to use the taxes of all Americans to discriminate against some Americans.

    Having worked throughout a more than 20 year career with children in foster care and the often very troubled adults they become, I find it repugnant that any agency able to place children in forever homes would refuse to facilitate that placement based on foundations that are almost univerally rejected by the psychiatric, psychology, medical and research communities. I have yet to meet the child who would prefer foster parents over a home and a family of their own. Kids want love and need love and, as long as the sex stays in the adults’ bedrooms where it belongs (whether the home is straight or gay), kids don’t care what is hanging – or not – between their parents thighs. They care that they have adults who belong to them, forever. And there hundreds of thousands of them waiting; the tax dollars are there to facilitate those loving homes; and it is nothing short of a tragedy that some Catholic Charities are refusing to help when they have the capacity to do so. But if they will not, they will not. And tax payers are not obligated to fund services Catholic Charities will not provide. That there is even a real debate about whether the RCC should be funded to fulfill a contract it is not willing to fulfill is, on some level to this social worker, just plain obnoxious. This emperor is wearing no clothes in this meeting and, thankfully, some of the people around the conference table are beginning to say so. Jean

    1. Just a couple points of order. The use of term “objective disorder” is not correct and does not tie to previous behavioral science classification of “disorder”. It is “disordered” per the CCC and the teahing of JPII and Theology of the Body. It is akin to anyone who over indulges (pick the vice) as a disordered lifestyle.
      Second, current behavioral science has voided itself from God or “higher power,” (e.g. psyche = soul), since Skinner in the early 70’s. Therefore, while all the behavioral scientists may continue to believe the “I’m o.k. you’re o.k.” “theology”, it is still only the study of behavior and might as well be intense anthrolopology. And while “intellectuals” may continue to confuse the issue with slanted studies, one cannot and should not separate man from God — effectively recommitting the huberis original sin.

  8. Matthew – Thank you for directing me to JPII and theology of the body so that I can understand your understanding of “objectively disordered” per CCC.

    Your apparent understanding of “current behavioral science” as comprehensive of all the work that stands against your position is reductive. To reduce the foundation of near universal rejection of this teaching by scholars and clinicians to “studies” is to misunderstand the process of human relationship – God’s commadment, after all – that led to the debunking of the homosexuality as disordered teaching of the Church. Interestingly, I hear your formulation of the “objective disorder” of homosexual relationship as very behaviorist and reductive of both man AND God. I hear a focus on behaviors ticked off like hatch marks on the lab record of an observational study, behavior isolated from context, from motivation, from meaning, from identity, from the soul, from relationship God, self and other. And, interestingly enough, I understand the modern sciences understanding of homosexuality as the assertion of the importance of context, of motivation, meaning, identity, the soul. The very opposite of Skinnerian science.

    A sincere question triggered by your explanation of what “objectively disordered” means per JPII’s Theology of the Body, though I know it will sound smart-alecky: are homosexual acts okay if one simply indulges as opposed to overindulging?

    Many who disagree with your overall premise might agree with you here, Matthew, including most of my gay and lesbian friends, most of whom are in decades’-long, tax-paying, actively Jewish and Christian partnertships. An “overindulgence” would be promiscuity or a pattern of “serial monogamy” not for the sake of seeking a partnership but for the sake of a tidied-up promiscuity or the pursuit of self-centered sex with a partner, the kind of the sex that amounts to using the partner for selfish self-indulgence. Indulgence would be loving sexuality in the context of committed, monogamous, love relationships that are founded on mutual respect, support, friendship and connection to the larger world of meaning and community through the relationship.

    Same for heterosexuals.

    I will read JPII’s Theology of the Body, Matthew. I would like to suggest that you read Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson’s “In The Eye of Storm: Swept to the Center by God”, with a particular attention to his first few chapters. Also former Jesuit theologian and priest, John J McNeill’s book, “Homosexuality and the Church”, with particular attention to his chapters on Scripture and Church tradition re: homosexuality AND his chapters that address healthy and unhealthy living by homosexual men and women.

    You will find, I think, solid agreement from these two men (and many other theologians, priests and Religious) solid agreement with JPII and yourself re: the damage done to the soul and relationship God, self and others when sexuality becomes a “behavior” devoid of context, meaning and the whole self (a la Skinner) rather than a means of loving communion and communication with God for relationship with God, self and other.

    And I am confident that the only “‘I’m okay, you’re okay’ theology” you will find from those writers – and from most Christians who disagree with about homosexual relationship – is that of the New Testament and Christ’s promise of love no matter what. Wasn’t there a song back in the days of the “I’m okay you’re okay” book: “Jesus is Just Alright with Me” by The Doobie Brothers? Read the lyrics: the basic Gospel message and the same message – the same faith – the same Good News you will find in the books by Fathers Robinson and McNeill.

    Peace to you, Matthew.

    Jean

  9. Thank you for the comment. To be quite honest, I will probably not read the authors you mentioned at least not in the near term; however, will keep them on the long list after first the Early Church Fathers, St. Augustine, et al. However, more than likely, my thesis (eventually) will be dealing with this topic in context of Theology of the Body and other works.
    My comment IRT pseudo-psychology was based on the premise that many of the sciences void God from their investigative research (study). Whereas the Church recognizes the need to “separate” God to discover more about temporal human condition, there is ALWAYS an underpinning of how it all fits into the higher purpose or great understanding of God’s plan (which first of all is impossible, but we continue to try).
    As for loving, long-term relationships, I have no doubt they are good people and have chosen to live “their” lives according to “their” beliefs, I will respect. However, the challenge now comes down to the imposition of “their” belief system upon me (family) and those who are opposed their “choice” of lifestyle. Which leads to the root irreconcilable difference between the two camps: nature v. nurture. Just using the terms, the progressive side believes in a “gay” gene, that one is born a certain way, whereas the traditonal viewpoint is that it is environment and more a choice. I do believe that there is possibly a more neutral level at birth and certain en-gendering must occur, which is also supported by Dr. Nicolosi et al and NARTH. Also Father Groeshel and the late Father Harvey have written as well on this subject. While there may be more nurturing (the feminine quality) than the provider/protector (masculine quality), or vice versa, does not mean the child is gay, but is comes down to the affirmation and direction from his parents, interaction with peers, etc, and how he/she copes with all those socio-psychological issues.
    Now, with that in mind, those who face this particular challenge in the context of the human condition, are no different than any of us trying to live a chaste life, either in a religious or married life, or to the extreme case a sober addict.
    That aside, the only thing I believe to be certain, which is according to the Holy Mother Church, is that we are all created in Imago Dei, and therefore inherently good. From the moment of conception — Ruah of the Holy Spirit and our earthly parents as co-creators — we are as perfect as humanly possible, then “life” happens. Conception occurs naturally, in the confines of a union ONLY between a man and a woman. Of course Man has played with it, and in his hubris becomes god-like, but it is still the only truly natural wonder left, that requires the base element of maleness — sperm, and the base element of woman — egg. Then enter in centuries of the human condition — baggage and all — dumped upon us, and we have to learn to cope with, seek out, find that relationship with God — original solitude.
    The endstate, whatever our beliefs, struggles or choices, we will never know exactly, God’s true plan — but that too in itself is a great and wonderful mystery. PAX et vivat Iesus!

  10. Matthew – I appreciate your lengthy response.

    It would me to know more about why you believe your family would be your family would be harmed by the requirement that federal funds be used according to federal non-discrimination laws by federally funded agencies that place family-less children for adoption with married couples who meet criteria for adoption.

    Maybe that would help me in my effort to understand the conflict, which – in my mind – is one I believe Catholic agencies willfully and knowingly impose on themselves when they argue the right to federal funding for services they are not willing to provide according to federal law.

    As a Roman Catholic, I am deeply troubled by the Church’s position – so much so that I ended my discernment of vowed religious life as a consequence; it was not tenable that I should make vows when I knew I would be speaking and woking and praying, with Scripture, against this teaching of the RCC – and I do not object to the Church refusing federal funding when the Church is committed to not abiding by the federal law that determines the use of those funds. I respect taht decision on this matter for the same reason that I respect my own decision to refuse vows because of this matter. God so loved all of us – individuals and communities – that our free will remains intact.

    But I do hear, from you and consistently from other orthodox Catholics (my dearest priest/confessor/spiritual director and my closest spiritual friend are Roman Catholics and would wholeheartedly agree with you on almost all these points), that this will harmyour families. I sincerely want to understand more about that position. I cannot make sense of it but am open to continuing to listen.

    I would add only these few notes.

    1) Gay people may or may not be “good people” just as straight people may or may not be “good people”.

    2) Spending time with happy, healthy, longterm committed couples and the children they are raising may be helpful to you in that the discussion will no longer be strictly abstract theologically or scientifically and could, instead, exist within a context of the “table fellowship” Jesus practiced.

    I would suggest families with children school age or older so that the child’s development (moral, sexual, identity, intellectual, social, psychological, physical) is not speculative as it would be with families with infants.

    A great place to start the search for a fellowship with some of these families would be many of the Christian churches in your community.

    I deeply appreciate your last paragraph, Matthew. I have faith that the “endstate” will be overflowing with God’s eternal love for his children, sinners and all.

    Jean

  11. Just to follow-up to your direct question. I would humbly submit that harming the family so to speak is not a “direct” threat like terrorist or criminal per se, but more an indirect threat, much like communism/socialism is a slow, methodical warfare, which destroys the fabric of independent thought, liberty and free will. Now, of course I am being overly dramatic for effect, and in no way comparing those who have chosen to live an alternative lifestyle as criminals.

    Let us agree that our basic human instinct is survival. And, if we tie ourselves to our Judeo roots — rememberance. So, how is one remembered? Through our families. And, how are those families created? By a man and a woman co-creation of children. And, what is the definition or identity of a family? Not the moderist definition, but a group of people related by blood that share a common belief, values, principles (Religion/Faith being the basic of these). So in short, with the current shift and the constant bomardment, many of us worry about our way of life. When scripture tells us that following the path would pit mother against daughter, etc, it referred to the member turning towards the Godly, life-giving life, and not the other way around. However, a recent Archbishop mentioned that we should not worry about such trival things, and that we should just have faith that God’s plan and the Holy Mother Church will prevail over all of modernity.

    Now, I fully understand that good people are out there who are willing to take care of the many “unwanted” children. But, to the question at hand, if Catholic Charities would refuse Federal funding, then who does THAT really serve? Could the government agencies handle the added case load? I doubt it. And if at all possible, perhaps through increased taxes, those would then be taked away indirectly from the charities, because who of us could afford both.

    Now, for the last millenia, until the last several decades, the “traditional” family has been the foundation of civil society. I realize that progressives will always pull out exceptions, but in the end, those societies have collapsed into ruin. What then happens is the confusion of the young people. A 5 year old being “indoctrinated” about the normality of “my two daddy’s” in a public school. No should have to explain that to kindergardener!

    Finally, IRT to my “reaching” out to the “community”: My question is to you. Do you believe in the consecrated and real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Do you believe then that this Holy Mystery can only be done by a ordained Catholic or Eastern Rite priest? If you answered yes to this, then do you “participate” in other faith tradition “communion” services? And, if you say no, then you will understand why it will be impossible for me to expose myself or family to civil union couples (I assumed you used the term “married”, which for me is also a mistake).

    Overall, this is a very complex issue, too much to writeout on a blog post. I pray that your faith and vocation in serving God’s people, stiff-necked and broken, is continues according to His will and plan.
    PAX et vivat Iesus!

    1. Matthew, I enjoy reading your responses to the questions above. I noticed that you ask: “And, how are those families created? By a man and a woman co-creation of children. And, what is the definition or identity of a family? Not the moderist definition, but a group of people related by blood that share a common belief, values, principles (Religion/Faith being the basic of these)”. I am married in a hetero-sexual relationship and have adopted a son. By your reasoning above, it seems as though you would oppose all adoption, not just adoption by same-sex couples. There is not a blood connection between my son and I, but so what?

      1. Jared, that is a fair question. Adoption has been an accepted form with Biblical ties and is in keeping with the teachings of the Church. St. Joseph was the “foster” father of Jesus, and as such is held in great esteem. Seriously, can you only imagine being the foster of the Son of God?!?! It is daunting to even think about it. Then to be the protector and provider for the Holy Family and the Our Lady?!?! (I know that God provided, but the humanity had to effected St. Joseph all the same.) Perhaps I misspoke IRT “blood relation”: It was made to make the point, as the traditional family “unit” has only really been under the modernist restructing for the last century, especially the last sevearl decades (coincidentally, with better abortion techniques and it’s acceptance, and contraception). But I digress. Your adoption was within the confines of a traditional marriage per se (not knowing it you have a blended family, or you both called to adopt a child).
        I am by far no expert, but s fellow sojourner on this Faith journey, to discover the authetic truth and a closer relationship with God, trying as humbly as a can, to be open to His grace. PAX et vivat Iesus!

    2. Dear Matthew – I agree that this is too complex for blogs and, yet, I am so grateful for the way all of us here have made this impossible discussion possible on some level.

      I do believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Roman Catholic Eucharist. I don’t actively participate in the communion rites of other faith traditions, though I do feel comfortable being present during others’ celebration of their own faith traditions. These are not sacred experiences for me but they do help me understand other traditions and I never experience anything profane or destructive or threatening.

      I do not understand the connection (to my suggestion) you are trying to communicate to me through these questions.

      Perhaps I confused things by suggesting that local Christian churches might be a place to seek opportunities for “table fellowship” with nontraditional families. That was a condensation of several thoughts and, clearly, as written, not a possibility for you. Given your beliefs, i can certainly see that it would be untenable for you to invite your own family along for such a gathering. What I had in mind was more along the lines of coffee, a walk in the park and just you with a family. Jesus with Matthew and his friends.

      Thank you for your prayers and for all of this dialogue, Matthew. My own thoughts and prayers are richer for it. Jean

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