When Notre Dame chose President Barack Obama as its commencement speaker and the recipient of an honorary degree – despite his deplorable record on foundational issues of grave importance – many were confused about how to respond. The office of president carries with it certain privileges, and yet so does the integrity of an institution founded to advance the truths of our faith. Intricately related to that decision was the choice offered to Mary Ann Glendon, nominated for the distinguished Laetare Medal (and who would share a podium at that event). She ultimately chose to decline her honor in order to clarify her disappointment about the school’s tribute to the president.
In recent remarks concerning those events, she explained her actions by noting that “choices last.” How very true. Furthermore, she impressed upon her audience that every individual decision we make concerning moral concerns carries great weight, collectively shaping society. “Either we are advancing the cause of life or we are cooperating with the culture of death.” Without such vigilance, “how easily today’s atrocity can become tomorrow’s routine.”
A few recent stories in the news underscore these points, as Montana became the most recent state to sow confusion about the nature of parents and the legitimate needs of children. Two women engaged in a lesbian relationship expanded their “family circle” to include two children and collaborated in raising them for ten years. The relationship subsequently ended and the woman who had legally adopted the children entered into a marriage with a man who offered to stand in as their father.
The shunned lover sued for her parental rights and now the children will have three adults to contend with for the remainder of their minority – for although Montana hasn’t recognized same-sex unions as commensurate with traditional marriage, this case offered the requisite landscape in which motherhood and fatherhood as staples of healthy child development could be picked off like so many squirrels on a fence.
Another newsworthy scenario was found in the lives of twins – the product of an anonymous sperm donation purchased by a woman who felt an overwhelming need to give flesh to her motherly proclivities. The children have exhibited some grave symptoms of a congenital nature, and now she needs the man’s medical records and would like her girls to know their father.
To her great distress, owing somewhat to her confused understanding that the donor would be accessible to his offspring, she discovered that she has no such rights to either demand. Realizing now that purchasing babies as a commodity places them in a horrific no-man’s land of tenuous ties and indifferent legal structures, she is suing to prove that hers and all such babies “have the same fundamental needs as any other children, and that their interests should be regarded as just as important.”
The Church would agree whole-heartedly with the mothers in both of these cases. Despite the lamentable choices leading to their current circumstances, each woman came to see the overwhelming good in their children knowing a father. The first woman married a man for that purpose and the second has brought her children’s plight to the media in the hopes that their father would volunteer himself despite the shadow provided by a combination of lab and legislature.
And women looking on as these and similar events unfold are reminded by their stalwart sister in faith that “choices last.” Indeed. And the tragedy of fatherlessness has become a mundane issue in a bureaucracy that simply numbers their cases and sends them across the desks of indifferent judges. Routine in all but the mind of God.