Monday, March 9, 2009

Natural law and same-sex couples: a proof for why the N.S.W. Parliament ought to reject the proposal for same-sex adoption

(Note: throughout this post, ‘the proposal’, as in anti-proposal or whatever, refers to the New South Wales proposal to grant to same-sex couples full equality with opposite-sex couples in access to adoption.)

While thinking about how to argue against the proposal, I have always had an intuition that it should be rejected because it offends the natural law, but until the other day I (and the anti-proposal submissions and public hearing interviewees) have been unable to articulate precisely why or how it offends the natural law. Then the other day it occurred to me: the proposal ought to be rejected because same-sex couples are constitutionally incapable of giving their children credible teaching on the natural law. Now I need to begin by making the following definitions:

End: an end is something’s perfection or completion.
Nature: a thing’s nature is its tendency towards a certain end or ends.
Good: the good is that which suits a thing’s nature.
Evil: evil is that which does not suit a thing’s nature.

So the natural law, by which one tells good from evil/right from wrong/moral from immoral, is basically just a matter of respecting the natures of things. Clearly there is nothing in this formulation with which non-believers, whether agnostics, atheists or strict materialists, must necessarily disagree, since ends and natures are empirically verifiable. To give an example: the end of the digestive system is the digestion of food. Now the rectum belongs solely to the digestive system, so buggery is evil: it does not suit the nature of the organ or of the organism.

Now it is a parent’s duty to teach his or her children, by word and example, to abide by the natural law, that is, to teach them right from wrong. Without this instruction a child will tend not to grow up to be healthy and virtuous. But a same-sex couple is incapable of giving this teaching credibly because it is, in its very structure, in open and willing defiance of the natural law. It is in defiance of the natural law both at what one might call the ‘micro’ level and at the ‘macro’ level. It is in defiance at the ‘micro’ level in the sense that the things that its members do to each other do not suit the natures of the organs involved or of the organisms taken as wholes. It is in defiance at the ‘macro’ level in the sense that the primary end of a sexual relationship is procreation, of which a same-sex couple is structurally, and therefore willingly, incapable.

Note two things about this argument against the proposal: firstly, the argument does not depend, strictly speaking, on the sexual (dis)orientation of either or both of the parents—even if one, or even both, of the parents in an opposite-sex couple suffered from a same-sex attraction he, or she, or they, are trying nonetheless to live by the natural law. Note secondly that, whereas in my earlier arguments against the proposal I have had to make sure to invoke the ceteris paribus assumption, it is not necessary to compare an opposite-sex couple and a same-sex couple while holding all else equal—even the most slovenly of opposite-sex couples offers a more credible witness to the exigencies of the natural law than the most well-organised (if that’s the right way to put it) of same-sex couples. (It goes without saying, of course, that couples that would actually inflict evil on their prospective adoptive children will already have been weeded out of the adoption process; here it is a question of teaching evil, whether by word or example.)

Conveniently, the Sodomite’s League itself provides some evidence to back up my analysis. In her much-touted review of various studies on same-sex parenting, Dr. Jenni Millbank reported the following findings from one study:

In 1995, Lisa Saffron interviewed 17 children and adults in the UK who had been raised by lesbian mothers. Saffron states that most of the sociological literature has been focused upon whether there is any disadvantage to having a lesbian parent and that very little inquiry has focused upon whether there are in fact advantages to having a lesbian parent. Saffron reports:
According to the people I interviewed, there may well be meaningful differences in moral and social developments. Respondents suggested that children raised by lesbian mothers have the potential to develop more accepting and broad-minded attitudes towards homosexuality, women’s independence, the concept of the family, and social diversity than children from families which conform more closely to the norm.
(italics in the original,, pp. 43-44)
So this study supports my contention—it suggests that children raised by lesbian ‘co-parents’ are more likely to contemn the natural law than their traditionally-reared peers.

Now what objections might the Sodomite’s League raise against my argument? The only major objection might be that many opposite-sex couples defy the natural law too—they practise contraception and unnatural pseudo-sexual acts, for instance. And no doubt many couples, perhaps even most these days, do indulge in evil of this sort. But this kind of witness against the natural law occurs in spite of the underlying structure of the relationship, whereas in a same-sex couple it occurs because of it; it can at least be said of the former that its structure continues to exemplify respect for the natures of things, whereas the latter will never, in any way, do so.

So to relate this back to the Inquiry into the proposal: will the proposal, if implemented, promote the well-being of children in both the short- and long-term? Certainly not, since a same-sex couple cannot credibly teach its children to observe the natural law. And what if we use the less stringent criterion of whether the proposal, if implemented, would simply leave children no worse off? The answer is still: certainly not, because a same-sex couple’s teaching on the natural law is necessarily inferior to that of an opposite-sex couple.

So I think that we have here a pretty solid confutation of the case for same-sex adoption. Perhaps one day the Sodomites’ League will be able to produce the faintest hint, the tiniest fragment, of an argument in favour of the proposal. Until then, while the empirical findings remain inconclusive let’s stick with the true family, not experiment with a counterfeit version.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Frances of Rome, Widow, A.D. 2009

1 comment:

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