Saturday, January 14, 2006

Mother knows best

More on the Carmelites and their vocation director, Jason Martin, who fathered a child then abandoned the mother in 2004, and was subsequently made vocation director of his order: The Carmelites, facing a lot of bad publicity, have paid back child support in the amount of $2,000 and pledged $213 a month until the child turns 18. Thank God that's over with!

Of course, it's not. Here, clearly, is one of the weaknesses of an all-male celibate priesthood. Women, whether clergy themselves or wives of clergy, would not have allowed a man to skip out on his obligations in the way Martin has, nor would they have "rewarded" him with such a high-profile position in the community. Add to this that $213 a month is a pittance--these men clearly don't know just how much it costs to raise a child--and we are still left with a big mess.

In light of my first post on this subject, a friend who placed a child for adoption said she could at least understand Martin's decision. I defer to her judgment on this, but I also think that women should be the ones to make such a decision since they bear the bulk of the burden. It's women who actually carry and give birth, women who are primary caregivers, women who disproportionately bear the physical, financial, and professional "costs" of childrearing. They should get final say, as far as I'm concerned, on whether to place a child for adoption or raise it, and the father of the child should have to accept the mother's decision. (Incidentally, I'd be far more comfortable with the legal and religious restrictions on abortion if women were the primary architects of both.)

I guess I've never really understood why biological fathers get equal claim anyway, especially those who have not made the legal (and/or religious) commitment of marriage to the women with whom they father children. Their "contribution" seems miniscule in relation to women's.

I don't want to downplay the importance of actual "fathers"--as opposed to sperm donors--especially since my own has been so faithful and dedicated to my family. But when it comes to difficult decisions related to pregnancy, adoption, etc., I think women should make the call.


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