At the March for Life, Speaker of the House John Boehner reminded us that “human life is not an economic or political commodity.” Tragically, too many treat it as such, seen most recently by the ban on American adoptions of Russian children put into place by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The ban was instated as political retaliation against the United States. Yet, it is not the United States government that suffers, but the innocent Russian children who have been pawns of a government which disregards human life.
As a Church, we have consistently affirmed the “inalienable dignity of each person, from conception to life’s natural end” (Pope Benedict XVI to the Colloquium “Culture, Reason, and Freedom”). Critics of the Catholic faith claim that this concern for life seems to be only for the unborn and ends at birth. Certainly, our first concern must be to preserve life itself, especially as it is under constant attack by the abortion industry. Yet we must also affirm the life of each human person, especially those who are in need, like those young children who are without a family and at the mercy of the state.
My family of ten (as well as our extended family) has particular reason to be outraged over the shameless attempt to reduce Russian orphans into mere commodities. Ten years ago, we welcomed four children into our family from south western Russia. Those kids are now teenagers and young adults and they can’t quite imagine where they would be if this ban had occurred a decade earlier.
My eighteen year old sister says her first nine years seem as if they were another life, which, in many ways, they were. Like any teenager, but especially as one adjusting to a new culture and new family, life hasn’t been without its challenges. Yet as I have watched her receive college acceptance letters, socialize with friends, play with my baby son and talk about her future, I see a young lady whose life is valued and who has come to value life in return. Most importantly, she, just like my other three adopted siblings and three natural ones, are in a family which loves them unconditionally.
Both within my own family and also from many other family and friends who have adopted, I see the pro-life attitude to which we are all called. Mrs. Eileen Ackerman is a mother of seven, three of whom were adopted. When asked what prompted her and her husband to adopt, she told me, “God!! I really feel like he placed adoption on our hearts and after several miscarriages and difficulty getting pregnant, it seemed like God was calling us to adoption to add to our family.” My mother, Kathleen Forst, sees adoption as a vocation, the discernment of which began with “my search to discern what God wanted of me. Once I asked that question, He began to create an intense desire to be open to life in a new way, that is, adoption.” This is not to say that every person is being asked to adopt, but rather that those Catholics who do adopt often see it as a particular affirmation of life to which they were called.
Like any act of love, adoption does not only dramatically change the life of the children who are adopted, but also the family who adopts them. The same could be said of the mother who chooses life for her unborn child, the adult who takes care of an elderly parent and those who volunteer their time at homeless shelters.
Mrs. Street, a mother of six children, four of whom are adopted, says, “Adoption has changed my life from the very beginning, when we started the journey of adoption. It truly pulls at your heart strings when you watch movies about children needing families. Most importantly, the children are “my kids,” they are an integral part of my family. We don’t go around saying these are my adopted children; they are my kids, no matter how they came into our family. Adoption has given me a keen sense of awareness of how children need love and families.” My mother related, “Adopting four children in less than a year immediately changed not only my own life, but the entire family’s life in a dramatic way. Our youngest biological child became a big sister of four younger siblings who all spoke Russian. Our older children were teenagers and young adults were actively involved with helping with the new children. We have had a lot more baptisms, First Holy Communions and Confirmations and of course birthdays to celebrate. There has been a lot of drama of course, but also much love.” We don’t just give when we respond to God’s call, we receive a hundred-fold.
My heart breaks when I think of the parents in the middle of the process of adopting Russian children who will never welcome them into their home. It breaks for the children who are so hopeful that they will finally have a loving family.
I consider this anti-life ban on adoptions a call to action. We need to pray for Russia (as our Lady of Fatima asked us to) and to pray for the hearts of political leaders to be converted so that they recognize the sanctity of all life. Secondly, as Christians called to affirm and love life, we need to continue to be open to the vocation of adoption. Whether it is through adopting children ourselves, heroically choosing life in a difficult situation and giving a child up for adoption, or through supporting families and organizations who facilitate adoptions, we can all stand up for the lives of these children.
Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for Us!