"Australian Men take newborn baby from Indian mother"

Well, that could have been the headline. In fact, it wasn’t, although it would have fitted the facts well enough. The real headline in this morning’s edition of The Age was “Indian surrogacy for gay couples at risk”. As I read the article, I thought: how come we are blind to the other side of this story? Yes, you can see it as a good news story in which a gay couple have “fulfilled their wish for a child”. OR: you could ask yourself: what gives a couple of men the right to take a new born baby away from its mother only days after its birth? What gives these men the right to make the decision that this boy – who has a mother – will be raised without a female parent? What gives these men the right to remove a child from the culture and life of the land of his birth? And on a much more basic level (which men don’t often think about): what gives these men the right to deny this baby the breast-milk of its mother and instead raise it on artificial substitutes? There are times when you wonder why the feminist voice isn’t raised to heaven over issues like this.

Let me be quite clear: this has nothing to do with the two men in question being gay. It would be no different if they were two brothers who wanted a baby brother, or just two single mates who didn’t want to get married but still wanted to have a son in the junior football league. The fact that the two men who took this baby from its mother are a homosexual couple is an entirely different issue from the one that I am arguing here.

True, you could say: would it be any better if it were a married childless male/female couple who took young Noah from his mum? Answer: no, not much, although at least there would be the possibility of a female parent in the equation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions surrogacy in terms of a “surrogate uterus” (CCC 2376) – the “use” of which is “gravely immoral”. The same paragraph says that a child has a “right to be born of a father and mother known to him [or her] and bound to each other by marriage”.

But, you say, what about adoption? Surely the Church isn’t against adoption. No, it isn’t. It would be strange if a creed that bases itself on our “adoption” as “sons of God” were not also open to adoption in the human realm. But it seems to me that planned removal of a child from its mother before birth is not what the Church has in mind when it speaks of adopting children – nor that the Church would approve of adoption arrangements that involve removing the rights of the natural mother [and, less plausibly, but certainly possibly, the natural father] to have knowledge of and access to her child if she so wished. The only reference to adoption in the Catechism is in paragraph 2379: Childless couples are encouraged to “give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children [my emphasis] or performing demanding services for others.”

In every case of adoption, it seems to me that paragraph 2378 of the Catechism must be kept in mind:

2378 A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The “supreme gift of marriage” is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged “right to a child” would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents,” and “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception”169 [CDF, Donum vitae II, 8].

Whichever way you cut this news story, it seems to me that the action of these two Australian men in taking a newborn child from his Indian mother is not right. It is, in the words of the Catechism “gravely immoral”.

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