Today @ CatholicExchange: The Faithful, Wounded Heart

Have you ever felt the sting of a wounded heart years after love’s counterfeit has passed from your life? Most of us — unless we married our first love, and early in life, can relate to this.

In her book The Night’s Dark Shade, Elena Maria Vidal explores this subject through an unexpected perspective: the Cathars of 13th century France. Check out my review of the book posted today at Catholic Exchange. Vidal, whose novels Madame Royale and Trianon have already gained her a loyal following, especially among Catholic history lovers, will appreciate this glimpse into another era of Church history that bears uncanny similarities to our own.

If you’d like to order the book, you may do so through Amazon.com or autographed copies through the author’s website.

Single Moms: Are Your Kids in Danger?

In an article posted today at CatholicExchange.com, How Co-habitation is a Sin Against Social Justice, Dr. Jennifer Robuck points to co-habitation as one of the greatest dangers to the physical and spiritual well-being of children, particularly when children unrelated to the partner are living under the same roof. Morse writes:

“…we know that a cohabiting boyfriend is the person most likely to abuse a child. From British child-abuse registries, we learn that a child living with his or her mother and a live-in boyfriend is 33 times more likely to be abused than a child living with his or her biological married parents. From a study of inflicted injury deaths in Missouri, we learn that children living in households with unrelated adults were 50 times more likely to die of inflicted injuries than households with both biological parents present. In 82% of the cases, the ‘unrelated adult’ was the mother’s cohabiting boyfriend.”

The issue is not primarily the fact that the man is biologically unrelated (as is clearly demonstrated by the fact that so many couples choose to expand their families through adoption). But when a couple lives together without the sacrament of marriage, the instability of the partnership has a profound affect of the children living within the home.

I would add a caveat to Dr. Morse’s observations, however.  A single mother must consider carefully — and as objectively as possible — the type of man she is dating long before the question of marriage (or co-habitation) is raised. The sacrament of matrimony is not a magical panacea.  An immature, selfish wolf won’t turn “sheepish” just because you put a wedding band on the fourth finger of his left hand.

In my article “Marriage and the Single Mom,” I address some of the red flags that can creep into a relationship, signaling that the man in question is not a suitable spouse.

I don’t need to look any farther than my own family circle to show what can happen to children when their mothers make an ill-advised match. (Thankfully, my sister and her daughter managed to escape her abuser, and she chose much more wisely the second time around.)

The mutual self-donation that is part-and-parcel of a sacramental union is made by the husband and wife for the benefit of their children — whether or not those children have a biological connection to their parents.  If the woman’s future husband is willing to love her children without reservation, out of love for Christ, well and good.

If their mother has any doubts about this, however, she is wise not to risk the wellbeing of her children by tying her future to a man she cannot trust to love her children as his own.  Her highest responsibility is her children, and her happiness is inextricably tied to theirs.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you will be alone for the rest of your life. Every life has its chapters and seasons, and the time may come when God brings the man who is worthy of your family into your life. Or, if you ask Him, He may also bring other people into your life who can give you the kind of encouragement and support you need right now. 

Have you asked Him? Today?

Montana Supreme Court Hands Parental Rights of Woman

Today at CatholicExchange.com I came across this sad story, in which a woman who had left the lesbian lifestyle to marry and raise her children was forced to relinquish custody of her adopted children to her former lover.

At every level, this makes no sense — the woman who was granted sole custody was not the legal parent of the children.  Nor was it in the children’s best interest, as they have now been denied not only their mother but their best chance to have a father as well.

Please pray for this family. These poor kids are going to need all the prayers they can get!

Montana Supreme Court Hands Parental Rights of Woman’s Adopted Children to Former Lesbian Lover

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School Daze: What’s Best for Your Child?

apple schoolToday at F&F I posted a short reflection about how to handle the pressure from friends and family to choose a particular educational model — public schooling, private schooling, or home schooling — for our kids. As I observe there, today we celebrate the feast of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine (who was always at the top of his class!). She never forgot that a mother’s most important job is not in front of a chalkboard, but on her knees.

Today CatholicExchange ran my article on charter school education. This is a hot topic, especially among Catholic educators who regard these public “alternative schools” with suspicion and concern about what their increasing popularity means for the future of parochial education. However, as our children’s first and primary educators, we need to consider ALL our options, knowing that sometimes the unpopular choice is, indeed, the best one.

What do you think?

A Father’s Right: National Putative Father Registry Bill

I know the timing on this is a bit strange — it being Mother’s Day weekend and all — but an article that appeared on Today’s Catholic Woman really caught my attention. “My Son the Matchmaker” is about a woman who got pregnant — then kept the baby’s father in the dark about his paternity.

The story has a happy ending — the couple winds up married and raising the child together. More often than not, such stories are not tied up so neatly. But it does raise an important issue: the right of a child to know both his mother and father.

Now, I understand why a woman in a crisis pregnancy might be tempted — after having sex with someone who seems to be an unsuitable father — to keep the truth from the man. However, this short-term decision can have lifelong consequences for the child, who needs a mother AND father to thrive.

NCFA recently published a notice about a piece of legislation that was recently introduced in the Senate: “Senator Landrieu (D, LA) Introduces Protecting Adoption and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Act.”  This involves S939, a national putative (potential birth) father registry, which would facilitate securing the consent of birth fathers before the finalization of an adoption plan — something that is in the best interest of the child (who needs a permanent, stable family as quickly as possible) as well as potential adoptive parents (who are vulnerable if the adoption process is not conducted thoroughly and systematically).

Thank you, Senator Landrieu!

Gardasil: Wait

This week I came across this article by Mary Beth Bonacchi about the dire side effects surfacing among girls who were recently vaccinated with Gardasil. She did not address my original concerns about protecting girls in the event of sexual assault (Bonacchi contends that girls are “100% safe” if they remain chaste before marriage to an uninfected partner).  However, I do agree that in light of the 29 reported deaths (see link below to the CBS report on this), regular medical screenings for those exposed to HPV may need to suffice until a safer and more effective vaccine may be found.

In 2007 I wrote an article on Catholic Exchange that expressed concern about parents (especially parents of older teens) who refuse to have their daughters vaccinated as a way to ensure they would remain chaste before marriage. Because of the prevalence of sexual assault, because men can carry the virus without being symptomatic, and because the vaccine has to be administered before the woman becomes sexually active — before pregnancy is a concern — at that time I felt that parents could make a prudential judgment in favor of the vaccine.

However, in light of  this CBS report about the many girls who have now died or experienced life-threatening conditions after receiving the vaccine (whether or not it could be proven that the vaccine was the direct cause), I can only conclude that the wise parent should wait until a safe alternative to the Merck Gardasil vaccine is found.

I still believe that if we do our job as parents, and teach our children about the benefits of remaining chaste before marriage (including not only “technical” virginity but the importance of safeguarding the heart as well), a safe vaccine would not undo that. To me, it would be like giving my daughter self-defense lessons — a safeguard measure, to protect her from situations beyond her control. 

But until the vaccine is as safe as kick-boxing or tai kwan do, I’ll wait.

Treading on Sacred Ground: Why NOT IVF or Embryonic Stem Cell Research?

Last week my friend Denise published on Catholic Exchange an account of her IVF experience, which is entitled “Treading on Sacred Ground.”  If you’re considering this type of assisted reproduction … or are still on the fence with how you feel about embryonic stem cell research, this article is for you.

One line in the article that gave me pause  was the obvious pain the author felt over venturing beyond the ethical boundaries the Church has established for family life — in this case, satisfying the desire to conceive a child.

As I wrote to Denise in the comments:

[You wrote in your article,] “My husband and I talked about it later. We had come face to face with the earliest moments of our children’s lives. We had peered into something that only God should see. We didn’t deserve what blessing might come despite our serious sin.”

I’m sure you must realize the sin was not in the looking … the looking was a kind of grace, for it gave you an opportunity to contemplate the seriousness of your actions. And in the contemplation, to express the lesson in words that even now may change a life.

“[God makes] all things work together for good…” the Scriptures tell us. By walking as closely as possible to truth, we spare ourselves untold heartache. And yet, in our failures we often catch an unforgettable glimpse of the mercy of God.

We were made for love, to participate in the divine and creative love of God. But for every true and good gift, the evil one conjurs a deceptive counterfeit. Your story shows just why the Church is right to speak against these kinds of assisted reproductive technologies. The cross of infertility is both real and painful … but perfect love always works according to God’s design, not our own.

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