McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Elizabeth Agnew Cochran
Catholic Theology, Childhood, Children, Family, Kinship, Parenthood
This dissertation argues that the presently influential Catholic theological account of parenthood is indebted to an essentialist theory of gender and the system of sexual ethical reasoning it produces. In consideration of the family, Catholicism tends to favor the differentiated gender roles of the father as the primary financial provider and the mother as the primary caregiver. Though such thinking is often justified as natural or traditional, it relies heavily upon a post-Victorian social context. This gender complementarity is often accompanied by an idealization of the autonomous biological-nuclear family. This family is autonomous in granting parents alone direct responsibility for the household and certain rights to privacy; biological in assuming continuity among genetic, gestational, and social parenthood; and nuclear in centering on a married couple without essential bonds beyond the parent-parent and parent-child relationships.
Importantly, this theory of gender and human sexuality appears not only to reject voluntary participation in placing children with same-sex partners, but so privileges the biological family that it may undermine Catholic participation in, and theological reflection on, adoption more generally. This approach produces a constricted theology of parenthood which governs thought on childrearing, yet does not meaningfully engage the Catholic Church's long and diverse history of orphan care and does little to integrate contemporary social scientific studies of child wellbeing.
Kohlhaas, J. (2015). Beyond Biology: Bases For a Child-Centered and Functional Account of Parenthood (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/764