St. Thomas would support California bill for defining a child as having "more than two parents"? Not.

Dianne N. Irving
July 5, 2012
Reproduced with Permission

Calling all genuine Thomists (if there are any left)!

It all started with a recent article in the Sacramento Bee explaining how California State Senator Mark Leno, San Francisco, is pushing a new bill (SB1476) in the state that would allow a child to have multiple parents.1 Leno argues that this bill will "bring California into the 21st century, recognizing that there are more than Ozzie and Harriet families today." Surrogate births, same-sex parenthood and assisted reproduction are changing society by creating new possibilities for nontraditional households and relationships.2

Under Leno's bill, if three or more people who acted as parents could not agree on custody, visitation and child support, a judge could split those things up among them. "SB 1476 is not meant to expand the definition of who can qualify as a parent, only to eliminate the limit of two per child. The big problem is that when adults fight over parenthood, a judge must decide which two have that right and responsibility" the article explains, thus complicating and burdening the judicial system.3

Examples provided of three-parent relationships that could be affected by SB 1476 include:4

The key factor is supposedly a child's best interest, "SB 1476 does not force judges to do anything, it only provides them with discretion to recognize multiple parents if doing so not only is beneficial, but is required for a child's well-being," Leno said.5

In support of the bill, Attorney Catherine Sakimura of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a co-sponsor of SB 1476, said judges would be required under the bill to consider a child's stability in awarding custody and visitation. Ellen Pontac, a Davis gay-rights activist, said she and her wife, Shelly Bailes, each had two children when they began their relationship 38 years ago. She understands how someone can function as a child's parent but accrue no legal rights. "Government should accommodate changing times." Pontac argues, "I just think that people should be able to create their own lives."6

Opponents counter that the issue is complex and that allowing multiple parents in one section of law inevitably raises questions that could spark litigation in other sections. "Tax deductions, citizenship, probate, public assistance, school notifications and Social Security rights all can be affected by determinations of parenthood," notes the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists. "This bill, in our opinion, if passed, will cause significant unintended consequences," said Diane Wasznicky, the group's president and a family law attorney in Sacramento. Assemblyman Donald Wagner, an Irvine Republican who opposes SB 1476, noted "it could spark litigation, say, in a case of a wrongful death of a child with four potential parents and determining who has a claim." Karen Anderson, of the California Protective Parents Association, said the legislation "could result in a child being bounced among multiple adults in a bitter family breakup." "It's hard enough for children to be split up two ways, much less multiple ways," she said. Most perceptively, Benjamin Lopez, legislative analyst for the Traditional Values Coalition, blasted Leno's bill as a new attempt to "revamp, redefine and muddy the waters" of family structure by a leader in the drive to legalize gay marriage."7

In another response in opposition to the bill, Rod Dreher writing in The American Conservative, points out the devastating moral implications of the bill.8 As Dreher puts it, "If the law is a teacher, both embodying and conveying particular moral stances, what would this proposed California law teach us?" Dreher argues that "this bill is really just an attempt to accommodate the radical irregularities in modern childbearing practices (surrogacy, etc.)." What would this law teach us? "That there is no such thing as the natural family - that family is whatever we say it is." Dreher relays other responses he has received, e.g., that "The ultimate goal is to redefine the family in line with what Carle C. Zimmerman would have seen as the ultimate in atomistic families: a collection of unrelated people, adults and children, who just happen to live together and forge a voluntary relationship with each other for an unspecified length of time." Another similar response was, "Picture the poor California child being shuttled from birth father/stepmother to birth mother/stepfather to previous stepmother from her birth father's earlier marriage to her long-time stepfather's parents (her step grandparents), all of whom have won the legal right to be considered her parents."9

But more to my point here, the above response by Dreher elicited a rather strange and unexpected reply from very active social justice and LGBT advocate Bryan Cones in his article in U.S. Catholic10. Going after Dreher, Cones questions if Dreher overreacted and didn't really read the bill correctly before commenting. Noting the examples of court problems listed in the Sacramento Bee article, Cones pointed out that, "Considered in light of these situations, the last of which I imagine could be quite common, one begins to see the purpose of the law, which simply put is to protect the interests of the child." Cones continues, "Dreher worries that such a law would diminish the church's ability to 'teach' what a natural family is; I on the other hand agree with Thomas Aquinas in arguing that the primary purpose of the law is ensuring justice -- in this case, protecting the child." Cones concludes that this is why it makes sense to allow people to create legal families that don't fit Dreher's 'natural' two-parent form."11

Shock enough to see a major Catholic organization sanctioning and promoting the proposed California bill legalizing more than 2 parents for a child (and thus also sanctioning a dozen other unethical actions such as IVF/ART -- and by definition human embryo research --, some human genetic engineering, biological and gestational surrogacy used by the single and gay communities, etc.). As a "Catholic" Cone must surely realize that the ends don't justify the means, and that there are myriad alternative and ethical legal solutions to the examples of legal "dilemmas" and conundrums purported in that bill (e.g., just call interested others "representatives", "guardians", etc.). There is no need to call them "parents".

The fact is that this bill is not really for the supposed purpose of "assisting the courts"; nor is it really "in the best interests of the children" (whose inherent dignity as human beings has already been profoundly damaged and negated by the situations they find themselves in -- due to others' "lifestyle choices"). When one observes such absurd battles over legal "language" then one is really looking at some alternative hidden agenda to be achieved by means of "legal loopholes" created by such selective use of "language" (e.g., legalizing "marriage" for those other than the natural biological parents, legalizing "gestational surrogacy" for a host of hidden agendas, including genetic engineering, transhumans, etc.). Let's call a spade a spade, for a change -- and for the best interests of the millions of already damaged children involved.

But the real shock is Cone's appeal to Doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas' supposed philosophical theory of "social justice" (one that Aquinas never in fact had). Which "translation" of Aquinas is Cones reading? What Aquinas meant by "general justice", or any other subcategory of "justice", in no way constitutes what passes today in many quarters as "social justice". "Social justice" so concocted is simply "American Catholic" pop language for "liberation theology". It violates every major tenet of Thomas Aquinas' philosophical natural law theory, the very basis for most of the Church's teachings in moral theology.12 In case American Catholics were never taught, "liberation theology" has long been formally refuted, rejected, and identified by the Catholic Church as nothing more than Marxist communism by any other name.13

I have formally studied Platonic Thomists, Aristotelean Thomists, Neoplatonic Thomists, Scholastic Thomists, Kantian Thomists, Process Thomists,, and Existential Thomists, but this is the first time I have ever seen this new category of "Liberation" or "Marxist" Thomism concocted by the very dissident "American Catholic" Church (aka, "Cultural Catholics"). Even Marx would have thrown this California bill in the trash.

1 Sanders, "California bill would allow a child to have more than two parents", Sacramento Bee, July 2, 2012, at: [Back]

2 Ibid. [Back]

3 Ibid. [Back]

4 Ibid. [Back]

5 Ibid. [Back]

6 Ibid. [Back]

7 Ibid. [Back]

8 Rod Dreher, "If the law is a teacher ... ", The American Conservative, July 3, 2012, at: [Back]

9 Ibid. [Back]

10 Bryan Cones, "A child with three (legal) parents? Don't blow a gasket yet... ", U.S. Catholic, July 3, 2012. New Ways Ministry, whose website uses the mantra, "Building Bridges Between the LGBT Community and the Catholic Church", quotes Bryan Cones in its article, "Support for U.S. Nuns Spreads Quickly Among Catholics and Others": "Bryan Cones, managing editor of U.S. Catholic offers an insightful Support for U.S. Nuns Spreads Quickly Among Catholics and Others analysis on the magazine's blog. His conclusion: 'When you boil it all down, the CDF's complaints are trumped up, giving the U.S. bishops the excuse to act against a relatively independent Catholic voice that they don't like - and a warning to others (perhaps such as Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association) not to offer an alternative Catholic voice in the national debate. Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK said it best, I think: 'I think we scare them.'", at: [Back]

11 Ibid. [Back]

12 See, e.g., Austin Fagothey, Right and Reason (St. Louis: The C. V. Mosby Company, 1963), especially on the Natural Law, pp. 124 ff. [Back]

13 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Certain Aspects of the 'Theology of Liberation", August 6, 1984, at: [Back]