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Friday, May 16, 2014

Adoption, Catholics, and Moral Responsibility

Daughter Genevieve at her First Holy Communion in May. Innocent and sweet. She has helped remind me of the beauty of faith, especially in a child, as I struggle with my feelings about the Catholic church's role in blocking adoption reform.

(This is another post from Jenn, Susan's daughter. Susan passed away on April 7th after an 8 month battle with melanoma)

I arrived home this afternoon to find the Catholic Star Herald, the official publication of the Camden Diocese, along with my other mail. I don't always have a chance to look through this paper, but something made me open it today. Because Catholic groups (The Catholic Conference, certain Right to Life groups, the Knights of Columbus) have been among the most outspoken against adoption reform, which would allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, and because my own Catholic faith is important to me, I am always holding my breath, slightly, when I encounter public expressions of the Catholic faith. My mom, an adoptee, shined the light on adoption for me, and I will never be the same. I cannot be silent now in the face of what I know to be untrue. Sealed records are a violation of the adoptees' basic rights as a human being, pure and simple, and they should not exist, anywhere.

Sealed records have also been used to perpetrate and hide horrible crimes over the past century, including Spain's stolen baby scandal (http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2112003,00.html),  Argentina's stolen baby scandal (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-22004491), and, yes, right here in our back yard, the United States' stolen baby scandal (http://www.babythief.com/home.html). Though I have not yet seen the movie Philomena, I hear that this, too, shows the scandal of sealed records, and the role of the Catholic church in promoting them. Spanish journalist Natalia Junquera, who led the newspaper El País' investigation of the baby thefts in that country, said of those who facilitated illegal adoptions: "They honestly thought they were doing the right thing." As difficult as it is to accept, I do believe that there are some who fight against adoption reform who honestly think they are doing the right thing. It's time to stop. Sealed records have never been, nor will they ever be, "the right thing."

After opening the Catholic Star Herald this afternoon I first came across a lovely reflection by Jean Denton called "Discovering God through Christ-like actions," which ended, "When we live the way of the Christ, others discover God." Amen. Two pages later, though, my heart stopped when I saw the commentary on S873/A1259, a bill to open adoption birth records in New Jersey, by Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference: "Adoption law and moral responsibility." Moral responsibility, indeed. Every Catholic, every human being, does have a moral responsibility to consider the effects of unjust laws sealing adoptees' true identities from them forever. This is partly about getting medical information, yes (my mom died from melanoma, which ran in her family, which she did not know, despite her attempts to gain "full access" to her family medical history), but it is also about more than that. It is about the state (or any institution, including the Catholic church) not getting involved in blocking any human being's knowledge of his or her origins. It is about finally reforming adoption to be, first and foremost, about the welfare of the adoptee, the "voiceless party," the innocent child. Thousands of these innocent children, now grown up, have told us what they need (access to their original birth certificates without ever having to go to court to show "good cause"), and that must be respected. And please, leave those adoptees who have said they don't feel the need to search for their birth parents out of it. Had you spoken with my mom at age 30, she would have told you the same thing. But she changed, and when she realized she had no rights, she became an activist. This is the most personal of personal decisions. As my adoptee friend told me, "Searching is the most vulnerable you will ever be." We have a moral obligation to protect the vulnerable.

Which brings me to the claim that sealed records help to protect the vulnerable unborn -- the future adoptee -- from abortion. This argument is false. And there are many people fighting for adoption reform who, despite their own pain, their own lack of rights, wouldn't be in this movement if the argument weren't false. Some evidence even points to the idea that abortions increase when records are sealed because mothers cannot face the pain of a future forever locked away from their child. Certainly, states that have NEVER sealed records (Kansas, Alaska), and those that have passed adoption reform allowing adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates show that these fears are completely unfounded (abortion rates have either dropped, or not been affected). The claim, "Adoption, not Abortion!" (as posted on the Knights of Columbus website) is misleading, divisive, and hurtful. Choose Life! (We'll help you!) would be more truthful, more responsible, and more loving.

Yes, there is a moral responsibility when it comes to Catholics and adoption, but the commentary in this week's Catholic Star Herald is hugely misleading as to what that is. "Thousands of birth mothers placed their children for adoption, relying on the church's assurance of their privacy," writes Brannigan, "...we have a two-part moral obligation to ... establish a robust educational campaign to alert birth parents that New Jersey's law has been changed ... and [we] must make available counseling and other services for birth parents who will be impacted by this significant change in law ...People - mostly mothers - will be vulnerable because of this change in our long-established law."  In states that have passed adoption reform allowing for adult access to the original birth certificate, fewer than 1% of birth/original mothers have filed 'no contact' preferences, so we are hardly talking about thousands of women here. And, in the words of another adoption rights blogger, the women who "don't want to be found" are usually "scarred and scared" -- often from the shame heaped upon them for being unwed and pregnant, and then from the trauma of giving away their child. So yes, counseling might be a good idea, but not in the way it was presented in this commentary. The majority of birth/original mothers want to be found. Many of them have testified on behalf of adoption reform. Those who are scared and scarred (such as my mom's original mother) will not suffer by being contacted by their children. A good counselor would help them realize that.

And one more thing. Brannigan also writes, "Over the years, NJCC [the New Jersey Catholic Conference] message was consistent." This is not true. Those fighting adoption reform these days say they are doing so on behalf of the birth mother, but in the past they argued that it was for the benefit of the adopted child (to protect him/her from the stigma of illegitimacy) and for the adoptive parents (to protect them from interference from the birth parents). The message has changed through the years.

This year, as my mom, a longtime advocate for adoption reform, suffered and died while this public campaign was fought, I was saddened that the faith I needed to turn to for comfort was tainted for me by outspoken members who spoke out against reform. But my faith is strong, and the church community I am a part of is loving and beautiful. Still, it was a struggle. Often at night, cut to the core by the impending loss of my mom, I would turn to the Gospels to try to find the comfort I longed for.  I craved miracle stories, healings, signs of God's love, but I opened, again and again, to Matthew 23: the denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus, speaking to the crowds and to his disciples, says: "Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them." Jesus then has some choice, harsh words for the "hypocrites," and all winter and early spring I wondered what comfort there was in that harshness.

Reading my mom's diary in her closet.
Ultimately, it was my mom's words that showed me that comfort. In the months leading up to her death, I was also preparing my daughter Genevieve for her First Holy Communion. She had retreats and classes each week, and each time I dropped her off, or attended with her, I struggled with my feelings. I did not want to betray my mom, or contribute in any way to the suffering of others (by supporting, through my presence or my donations, opponents of adoptee reform).  But I also saw in Genevieve's retreats, in her devoted teacher, and in the innocent, trusting faces of her entire class, the beauty of the church. The week before Genevieve's First Communion, just three weeks after my mom's death, my sister and I met at my mom and dad's house to go through some of my mom's things. Our hearts ached as we went through her t-shirts, her socks, her beloved bathing suits. After an hour or so, her closet nearly empty, we decided to take a break. It was then that I came across her diary from 1963. She had been 13 years old then. I sat down on her closet floor and read. Descriptions of ice-skating, dancing, visiting her Nana ... I smiled even as my heart broke, missing her. Her love of life, of family, was so clearly there. The entry for Sunday, January 6th, however surprised me. "This morning I took my first communion as I joined my church just before Christmas. To me, it was a very meaningful service and reminded me of Christ's presence with us always. I know that it is an experience I shall never forget." I could almost hear my mom laughing at this, remembering her story about the first time she doubted her faith, when a Sunday school teacher explained to her that Mary was just floating around on a cloud, looking over them, literally. But I also felt its deep sincerity. "It sounds like a boring day but really it was wonderful," she wrote. Her belief in God was real, tender, and sweet. Much like Genevieve's. It was only later that the Scribes and Pharisees got in the way (and I am not talking about that poor, well-meaning Sunday school teacher who told that story. I've said some ridiculous things myself, I'm sure).
"It sounds like a boring day but really it was wonderful"

My mom was able to make peace with her God, and she loved the women's prison ministry she was a part of for many years, but she was never quite able to shake her distrust of the "institution" of the church, which so often seemed to do exactly the opposite of what Jesus preached. She also saw what the institution of adoption, supposedly set up for her benefit, did to her and others, and she said a simple, "No thank you." I respect her for that, and I ask that all well-meaning Catholics, including those who have been outspoken against adoption reform, do her the honor of at least considering, or reconsidering, their views. You might even say we have a moral obligation to do so.

Sweet Genevieve opening the necklace we gave her for her First Holy Communion.






21 comments:

  1. Thank you, Jenn, for this profoundly compelling response to the article in your diocesan newspaper (which is probably in every NJ diocesan newspaper right now). I would like to send your blog to every living Catholic I know.

    After opponents' repeated testimony over decades that there was a "statutory guarantee of confidentiality" for relinquishing parents,at Senate Health Committee hearing in October 2006, the representative of the NJ State Bar Association spokesperson finally admitted to Sen. Weinberg after polite but firm questioning, "There was no guarantee of confidentiality in the statutes."

    Yet after the Birthright Bill was released by Assembly Human Services Committee earlier this year for a floor vote, Catholic Conference of NJ sent an email alert on Feb. 28, stating “for decades, birth parents’ right of privacy was promised by statute and confirmed by the courts.”

    A Catholic staffer in Trenton told me a few years ago, "This is a matter of policy for the church, not a matter of faith." This helps explain why representatives of bishops' offices and individual dioceses in several states have either remained silent when access laws have been considered or been supportive of them. (See http://tinyurl.com/m6yg5yf)

    Why, I wonder, has NJ received "special" treatment for so many years from the Bishops' Conference when it is certainly not universal Catholic teaching?

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    1. Thank you, Birthright Blogger, for your comments. I think it was two years ago when I finally really sat down with my mom to talk with her about why this issue (adult adoptee access to birth certificates) was so important to her, and why it made her so upset. We were at the beach house, and my kids were in bed, so we had all night to talk, and we did. Before that night I was sympathetic but I didn't TRULY understand this for the civil rights issue that it is (for adoptees AND birth/original mothers). That night was when I first read Patrick Brannigan's statement about the NJ Catholic Conference's opposition to this bill (the first time around in NJ). I read it carefully, and asked my mom every possible question about his claims. She answered me patiently, with facts and truth. As I become more and more informed, and I realize that those opposing this bill have had the same information all along that I am waking up to, I am truly dismayed and baffled as to how they can continue to oppose adoptees' rights ... I am also dismayed to see the message from the NJ Catholic Conference change throughout the years and depending on the audience. My mom, when speaking about the people she had met through this movement, always said "The integrity of these people, Jenn, the integrity ... " Pam Hasagawa, among others, amazed her, as she amazes and impresses me. 34 years fighting for justice.
      Yes, I wonder too about the "special treatment" for the Bishops' Conference. I'm going to continue investigating and learning all I can.

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  2. Thank you for this, Jenn. I am a Catholic Charities adoptee who was raised Catholic. I met my husband at the Jesuit college we both attended. My children attend Catholic school now. I have tried so hard to continue entrusting my faith to a denomination that has hurt me deeply.

    This year, I sat in a hearing room listening as the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Harrisburg actively fought against not only the adoptees processed through its own adoption program, but all adoptees born in Pennsylvania. This experience broke me. It had been building for a long time, of course. But I can no longer entrust something as important as my faith to an institution that thinks so little of me. I stopped going to Mass a year ago. Yet I attended Easter Mass this year at the request of my sons. I cried afterward, knowing that I will never go back. I can't go back.

    I am now exploring other options for expressing my faith. The Episcopal Church is supportive of adoptees as is the Presbyterian Church USA. I have also been speaking with a United Church of Christ pastor in my town who is showing me that there are faith communities willing to listen and consider the needs of adoptees. It will take me a very long time to trust any Christian denomination with my faith because of the Catholic Church. But I am going to try.

    Your mom and I never met in person. But we wrote together at Lost Daughters and shared much online. She inspired me. And she will continue to inspire all of us. We will carry her in our hearts as we continue the fight for equality in other states.

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    1. Julie,
      Thank you for this beautiful message. My mom would be so proud to hear you say she inspired you in any way. She loved being able to contribute to Lost Daughters. My husband, too, is a product of Catholic schools all the way through (Christ the King in Haddonfield, St. Joe's Prep in Philadelphia, and Georgetown in DC) and I can appreciate how these schools shaped who he is (and gave him a wonderful group of friends). I became a Catholic later, during a year of volunteering with the Franciscans in Wilmington, Delaware after college. It was working with the poor, the imprisoned, the disenfranchised, the sick -- and also getting to know some wonderful priests and nuns who had dedicated their whole lives to that work -- that had much to do with my conversion to Catholicism. The Catholicism I knew from that year would have worked FOR adoptees - the voiceless, innocent party in the adoption triad (and also for original mothers, who I have since found out are often rendered voiceless in a different way).

      Needless to say, returning to the "real world" after that year was quite a shock. You put it best with, "I have tried so hard to continue entrusting my faith to a denomination that has hurt me deeply." My mom actually brought me to the church we now attend, Sacred Heart in Camden, NJ, for the first time more than 10 years ago. Someone had brought her there because of the beauty and sincerity of the service. Father Doyle, the priest there, has worked for more than 50 years for peace and justice. He is still working. I have seen many acts of beauty there over the years.

      Still, when the cards came out this year to pledge money, and I wondered how much of that money left Sacred Heart in Camden and made its way to the NJ Catholic Conference to fight against what I know to be true and right, I just could not do it. The day before my mom died, a Sunday, I went to church and while there put an envelope in the collection plate explaining why I could not give (along with a paper detailing how Catholic organizations in other states had actually supported adoptees rights). Perhaps it was a futile gesture, but I felt compelled to at least let Father Michael know why our family was not giving. I haven't heard anything since (nor do I know if he actually got the note). Needless to say, I am conflicted. I identify with you crying after the Easter mass.
      Again, thank you for your message, and for all the work you have done for adoptees' rights. All the best, Jenn

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  3. Another wonderful post! I have been "preaching" for years, asking the Catholic powers that be to re-examine their unusual opposition to human (adoptee) rights to identity. Here's one of my first blogs written about five years ago:

    Would Jesus Discriminate?
    An open letter to the Catholic Church on the issue of restored birth certificates for adoptees, by Priscilla Sharp (Mother of Loss ‘64/Search Angel/Adoptee Rights Advocate).

    I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that made me think of your curious stance in legislatures around the country in opposition to restoring access to original birth certificates (OBCs) to adopted persons. I should say, frankly, your unfathomable opposition — in particular, your reliance on the ungrounded argument that abortions will somehow increase if mothers are not promised forever anonymity and ‘privacy’ from the shame of bearing an out-of-wedlock child. Come on! Get real! In the 21st century you insist there are pregnant girls so frightened of being ‘outed’ they will run and get abortions before relinquishing their babies for adoption? This is so ridiculous and ludicrous that it makes the mind boggle.

    And you keep bringing this up year after year, in every legislative hearing, even after we have produced piles of studies from states that have restored OBCs that a) the abortion rate has actually gone down and b) the only reason domestic adoptions have slowed is because more girls are opting to raise their babies with more family and society support to keep families together.

    You also insist that mothers were somehow promised confidentiality, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We’ll say it again and keep shouting it until you hear it: There were no promises given to any mother except the threat of criminal prosecution if she ever tried to interfere in the life of her baby and its new family. For every woman who comes forward and asks for anonymity, we can also bring you hundreds more, if not thousands, who begged for some assurance from the social workers and nuns, and were ‘promised’, that their children would be told about them and could find them some day. None of these so-called promises are in writing and, in fact, they were all lies. The adopters and their minions, the social workers, told the mothers whatever they wanted to hear to pry their babies away and get them to sign the relinquishment.

    Today, adopted persons in most of the civilized world and in six states of the U.S. are able to get their original documents and learn their names and heritage and genealogy. Many of your fellow churches are in full support of righting the unequal treatment remaining in the U.S. states which still bar adoptees from accessing their OBCs —a blatant discrimination in that OBCs are and always have been available to every other citizen who was not adopted.

    So, would Jesus discriminate? Of course not! Why do you?

    © Priscilla Stone Sharp, 2010, All Rights Reserved

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    1. Very powerful, Priscilla. I wish the Catholic Diocesan newspapers would print THIS. I do need to admit that before learning about adoption because of my mom, the thought of women being pressured to give up their babies never entered my mind. I would have read what Patrick Brannigan wrote in the Catholic newspaper and thought, "That sounds reasonable enough." This is what makes me so mad. Patrick Brannigan sat through all those hearings and KNOWS the truth, and he therefore must know that what he published in the paper was a deliberate twisting of that truth. It was a spin job (claiming that "thousands of birth mothers" need to be educated for their protection). I have to wonder why.

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  4. Priscilla, to the Catholic Church: "In the 21st century you insist there are pregnant girls so frightened of being ‘outed’ they will run and get abortions before relinquishing their babies for adoption?"

    If there are any, we can probably blame the Catholic Church for their fear.

    I kid you not, I saw a Catholic quoted somewhere about the Magdalene Laundries scandal, saying that the laundries did those poor young women a favor because if they'd lived as single mothers they'd have been ostracized by society. Guess what? Under the previous religious culture, before Christians came along, the Irish had provision for single mothers in their laws and did not shame them. It's all down to Catholics that single mothers would have had to be ashamed at all. And of course because of the shame Catholics imposed, Catholics then had to step in and take the baby and find it a more proper Christian home. For a sizable donation, of course. God's work ain't free, y'know.

    I was christened as a baby so I guess I'm technically Catholic. Between this and the priest molestation coverup scandal, and my own spiritual journey that's led me to conclude Christianity is mostly made up, I feel no drive to return to the Church. Why should I? So I can set my daughter up to be mistreated too?

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    1. Hi Dana. You wrote - "And of course because of the shame Catholics imposed, Catholics then had to step in and take the baby and find it a more proper Christian home. For a sizable donation, of course, God's work ain't free, y'know " and "...[they claimed] the laundries [in Ireland] did those poor young women a favor because if they'd lived as single mothers they'd have been ostracized by society." Yes, I noticed this sentiment (we were doing them a favor/we were doing the right thing) expressed over and over again in regards to adoption, whether it was the scandals or just plain old regular adoption. It, and the molestation coverup scandal, and some of the more hateful, judgmental sides of Catholicism that I have come across while investigating opposition to adoptees' acess to their OBCs, disgusts and horrifies me. The only difference for me is that I do still believe in the core of Christianity. It would be easier for me if I didn't -- I would just leave without looking back. But I certainly understand why people do leave, and have left. I understand completely.

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  5. These Catholic organizations should realize the double message they are giving to women with problem pregnancies today. On the surface, their message (originating with NCFA) is that a "Birthmother" is a "Good Mother." In other words, her pregnancy is blessed by the Church if she carries it to term and turns it over to someone else. But beneath that message is the one the Church is testifying to at legislative hearings: Giving birth and essentially abandoning your baby to others is such a disgusting, shameful act that you need to wrap yourself in guilt and live in the shadows of shame for the rest of your life. And our church will make sure you stay there!

    Besides the points made here relative to the senseless abortion/adoption argument, there is the reality of baby dump laws throughout the country for anyone who really does feel ashamed and guilty and needs anonymity.

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  6. Jenn writes: "Which brings me to the claim that sealed records help to protect the vulnerable unborn -- the future adoptee -- from abortion. This argument is false." Sealed records and the system of taking infants from their natural mothers just may CAUSE abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Roman Catholic women have the highest per capita rates of abortion. Coercing mothers into surrendering their sons and daughters to adoption is sadistic, morally reprehensible, and does great harm to both mother and child, both of whom are likely to suffer attachment injuries and post traumatic stress injury. This is a wonderful piece. I was impregnated as the victim of predation in the mid-1960's; my child was taken and given to another family to raise. My life, my family, and my capability to have healthy relationships and a family were destroyed. Keeping adoption records sealed protects only the noxious system that resulted in the destruction of many natural families.

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    1. "Keeping adoption records sealed protects only the noxious system that resulted in the destruction of many natural families." Yes. I am so sorry for what you have been through. I continue to wonder about what my mom's original mother went through. She passed away this October, without any of us meeting her, so I will never know for sure, but I think there is more to her story ... She told my mom "not to make trouble" because "no one knew about her" (including my mom's older sister, Carol), but I am wondering what causes a woman to have such worry and shame 50 years after the fact, when she herself was well into her 80s. I am sorry for her (and for my mom, and her sisters) that she was not able to let that worry and shame go ... and I am hoping to someday know more about the full story of what happened ... though I'm not sure how ...

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  7. The baby dump laws are generally not a good idea. The babies will grow up without any record of their origins, just like with the sealed records. Worse, there is no way to know that the baby was given up with the parent(s) consent. It could have been a sibling, jealous partner, vindictive babysitter - anyone!! And because it'll be assumed that the parent put the baby there, there'll be no missing child report.

    Better to provide sex-ed, counseling about where babies come from, and resources for struggling expectant mothers/parents if they would prefer to raise their child.

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    1. Yes, I remember talking with my mom about this too. I think it comes down to, "If you bring someone into this world, you do not have a right to hide from him/her forever." From what I understand the baby dump laws have not really helped save any lives, correct? I saw a bus go by the other day with an advertisement for this law in NJ and it seemed crazy to me.

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  8. I wrote this email to Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference:
    Mr. Brannigan,

    I am figuring here that you are a good guy. That you care about women and children. That you want to help the unprotected.

    I am also figuring you are Irish. Well instead of figuring, I went onto the web and looked it up. Yep, I was right. Irish. (Me too, my mother’s maiden name was Kelly). I found this tidbit:

    Brannigan Family History
    Brannigan Name Meaning
    Irish: Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Branagáin ‘descendant of Branagán’, a personal name from a double diminutive of bran ‘raven’. Compare Brennan and Byrne.
    Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press
    50,292 Historical Documents and Family Trees with Brannigan on Ancestry.com
    19,370 Birth, Marriage, and Deaths
    2,191 Military Records
    3,607 Immigration Records
    12,727 Census and Voter Lists
    12,397 Member Family Trees

    Pretty cool, right? I am so proud to be of Irish heritage and love to learn about my ancestors. I bet you are at least mildly interested.

    I am a 54 year old woman who lost her oldest daughter to adoption because I was unmarried. The mother she got, the stranger, divorced when my daughter was eight so my daughter was raised by a single woman. I was not disposable or replaceable. My daughter cried at night for me. People say crazy things building up mothers who relinquish. “how brave”, “how unselfish”. I hope you know that is all rubbish. Relinquishing is all about being defeated, People think it’s a choice. Ha! Haha! NO, it is the lack of choice. It is being backed into a corner. The vast majority were coerced and betrayed. We do not want to be separated from our children any longer. You do not need to protect us from our children. We love our children fiercely.

    And those defenseless children are now middle aged men that want to go to the internet and type in their ancestors name and bring up interesting facts of where they came from. It’s about civil rights. Give adoptees their birth certificates and don’t hide behind our skirts. We want to have our kids with us.

    Be the good guy that you are. Recant what you said about protecting us mothers who do not need or want protection from our CHILDREN. Yes, we may not have been able to parent them but we are still their mothers and they are still our adult children.

    With all the respect in the world,
    Barb

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    1. Hi Barbara. I love your letter! I wrote to Patrick Brannigan, too. A heartfelt letter in which I told him that my mom, an adoptee, was suffering and dying from a disease that had run in her original family, which - despite having "medical records" - she knew nothing about. I never heard back. I wonder if he reads the letters?

      I like your line: "We do not need to be protected from our children." Someday, Americans will look back and be horrified that sealed records were ever allowed in our country.

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  9. Thank you everyone for your insightful comments. I plan to respond to each one, though did not have a chance this weekend. My dad and I are very moved by my mom's legacy here and plan to continue fighting for justice on her behalf. Again, thank you.

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  10. I feel slightly out of sync commenting here as I left the Church in any meaningful way before my daughter was born in 1966. I can only say that I am glad that I did because in giving up my child I turned to a secular agency in Rochester New York, and was not further laden down with the pieties of the Catholic church of that time, and in particular the proclivities of the parish priest I might have been consoled and counseled by. Nonetheless, the fact that my daughter was raised in a practicing Catholic family made our reunion and relationship much easier than it would have been otherwise. I had asked for a Catholic family if possible, and it was. Fifteen years later when we reunited, there was so much neither one of us had to explain, and I think it made it easier for her adoptive parents also. Because by nearly ever other marker, I was quite different.

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    1. Thank you for commenting Lorraine! I love your letter to Governor Cuomo. I will send your blog to my NY friends. I have met so many former Catholics who think I am absolutely crazy for joining! (and I think my mom always wondered, too, what I was thinking, after hearing the stories of some of her friends) All I can say is that I joined through my experience with the Franciscans (first the St. Francis Inn in Kensington, Philadelphia and then a variety of ministries in Wilmington, DE) Then I went on to have some experiences that make it difficult to just walk away. But I don't know ...

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  11. I am a Catholic. I've been reading adoptee blogs (including your mother's -- hers is the only one I have commented on) for a few years. Since I was a child, I thought I would pursue adoption when I was ready to raise a family and started reading about the experiences of adoptees (and first parents and adoptive parents) as a sort of "planning ahead" measure. It quickly became clear to me that there are many MANY injustices tied up in adoption and the Catholic Church bears a good deal of responsibility for some of the most horrific historical abuses (as well as the continuing injustices like the one your mother fought).

    As a personally unaffected individual, I reached out to your mother because I wanted to share that I (and probably others) are out here reading and looking for ways in which we can stand with adoptees without displacing their voices. I was moved by her voice and I admired her. I have thought of your mother as she was ill and since you shared the news that she passed away. I will keep looking for ways in which I can be an ally to adoptees and I appreciate your continuing to share here. Thank you.

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    1. Julia, Your comment has touched me deeply and I am most appreciative you took the time to write. Susan (and now our daughter Jenn) have worked to be respectful of all 3 sides of the adoption triad while working for the much needed changes in those states who still maintain sealed records.

      I recall your earlier comment and I will dig back to find it tonight, but I wanted to reply to you now with hopes that you will see my "thank you". Comments like yours, both in person, and on the blog, have allowed me to see the impact that Susan's writing has had on so many. I doubt she fully appreciated the full impact her contribution had on the final passage and signing of the Adoptee Birthright Bill in NJ. But I do know she was proud of her efforts when she received responses such as yours.

      Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

      Ty

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