In France, a controversy has arisen as the nation’s Catholic bishops have opposed legislation which would allow lesbian and single women to receive treatments to promote their fertility.
“In an eight-page statement published Sept. 20, the bishops predicted that liberalization of the law also would lead to the social acceptance of surrogacy, the rise of eugenics and the notion that children were commodities to please adults.
“They said opening medically assisted procreation to all women would remove biological and social references to fathers from the family and ‘would undermine the good of the child, who would be deprived of his reference to double parentage, whatever his mental abilities of adaptation.’
” ‘The legal suppression of the father would socially encourage the reduction or even the eviction of the father’s responsibilities,’ said the statement, ‘The Dignity of Procreation.’ “
All of the French bishops signed the statement.
The article explained that currently “. . .French law limits assisted procreation solely to adult heterosexual couples. . . ”
The statement shows that the bishops are concerned with many technologies that make procreation possible outside of heterosexual intercourse between a married couple. They are concerned, too, that the spread of these technologies would make children in to commodities.
They should, however, be equally concerned with the treatment of all people equally and with respecting the freedom of lesbian women to decide how to have children. The bishops argue that a stable heterosexual marriage is the “optimal environment for procreation and the reception of a child.” But research has shown that families headed by lesbian couples are often the most stable and nurturing environments among those studied.
I respect that the bishops are concerned with diminishing the role of the father in society, but I do not see how preventing women from fertility treatments will defend or enhance the role of the father in a family. It takes a lot more than providing genetic material to be a father (or mother, for that matter). And providing genetic material does not guarantee that a father’s role in the family will be either strong or positive. I don’t know the situation of the role of the father in the French family, but if it is anything like the role in the U.S., genetic relationship will have zero effect in enhancing that role. Only love, commitment, sacrifice, selflessness, compassion can enhance the role of the father. And those can enhance the role of any parent, regardless of gender or gender identity.
Another way to enhance the position of the father in families would be to promote legislation allowing for paid parental leave for both parents so that fathers could be more present in their children’s lives. Similarly, laws that provided opportunities for alternative working hours would also be helpful toward this end. Providing equal pay for women would also allow mothers to become the family’s main source of income, letting fathers take a greater role in child-rearing.
“In their foreword to their statement, the bishops said they were intervening because they wished to offer an ethical perspective on the forthcoming debates, based on reason and in the spirit of dialogue.”
It is good to see bishops preface a statement about public legislation which such a gracious offer. I hope that they made this offer to dialogue with full awareness that dialogue means being open to the position of your dialogue partner. At the very least, they should be willing to listen with respect.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, September 29, 2018