This news story brought my own choices in the relinquishment of my son to mind.
It was 1970. I’d recently graduated from a Catholic high school in my home town–a town so Catholic there was no public high school or public grade school there. Underneath my cap and gown was a well kept secret. So well kept that no one knew that I was pregnant until later that summer–six weeks before the baby was born. I confided in my mother. We told my father and my boyfriend (the father of the baby) and not another soul.
I was fairly certain than I was damned. Yet when it came time to sign the adoption papers, I specified that I wanted my son to be adopted by a Catholic family.
A year or so afterwards I viewed my wishes for a Catholic boyhood for my son as evidence of a sort of Stockholm syndrome. I was a captive of Catholicism, hobbled by the constrained morality of my town and my church so that I could not endure the shame and scandal of raising my son myself, yet I handed him over to be indoctrinated with the same narrow-mindedness.
While it’s true that my son was adopted into a good and loving home, religion is no guarantee of that. And while there’s a bit more leeway in the Catholic Church these days, it seems that the mother of the child, if she is identified, will be lucky not to be charged with a crime. A church is not considered a safe place to leave an infant, according to the Minnesota Safe Haven Law .
Certainly I have the same wish that most readers of the story will have. I wish for the baby to be loved, to be safe, to be given the opportunities in live that everyone deserves. But I also think of the woman who felt so trapped by her circumstances, that she (or someone she had implored to help her) had to climb the Cathedral steps that winter night with the almost insurmountable task of leaving that baby behind.
I also wish that the priest had spoken up for the mother. That he’d beseeched those hearing of the story to put themselves in the mother’s shoes and to ask what the Church has done over the decades to encourage the throwing of stones at women in circumstances like hers. And that he’d invited her to contact him and offered her the support to help her raise her son.