Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Rethinking family

From scripture scholars Candida Moss and Joel Baden: something I think the synod of the family bishops and cardinals should consider as they continue to so narrowly define what "family" means ...

Why we need to rethink parenthood

An interesting though obscure discovery hit the headlines this month -- in the medical community at least. According to researchers at the Fundacion Instituto Valenciano de Infertilidad and Stanford University, mothers who use donor eggs to have children pass some of their genetic material on to the child. Researchers suggested the findings lend weight to the idea that the womb is more than just a home to an unborn child but may actually have a "reprogramming effect on the embryo, fetus, and adult."


The reality is that family today is not simply about biology. In fact, it rarely ever has been. Among the elite of the Roman world, for example, adoption was often privileged even above biological procreation. And although Julius Caesar had a biological child with Cleopatra, it was his adopted son, Octavian, who was understood to be his legal heir. Issues of inheritance and legal status outweighed genetics. Back in 18th- and 19th-century India, court eunuchs created networks of kinship among themselves and their servants through formal ceremonies and rites of symbolic naming.

The inability to prove paternity was actually a fact of life throughout most of human history. This in part explains the widespread cultural anxieties regarding female virginity and fidelity. But it also means that until the modern era, the very concept of "parenthood" was not, and could not be, exclusively or even primarily biological. Families have always been built on more than genetics. And yet too often today we maintain the illusion that kinship somehow comes down to a biological fact rather than social realities ....


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