Recently, a newspaper article brought to the attention of the public a rather unusual request made by an Orthodox believer to his bishop in Romania. The believer asked the bishop why the Church is not doing anything about the situation of the thousands of orphaned and abandoned children in the country. The believer even proposed a practical solution: to establish a sacrament of adoption as a precondition for receiving ordination. In this way, part of the problem would be solved. The hierarch answered by pointing to the philanthropic activity of the Church already in place and the difficult process that has to be followed for adoption, and for financial reasons, he excluded the possibility of linking adoption with ordination. The young family would not have the material resources to adopt a child straightaway.
Now, pause for a second and try to move beyond whatever you might think about the answer of the bishop or the initial impression of awkwardness the proposal elicits. The hierarch is right to reject conditioning the ordination on adoption, although for reasons other than the one he mentioned: not only that any sacrament should not be forced on anyone, but also that forcing someone to adopt a child to obtain a position might lead to instrumentalizing the child, and this would not necessarily improve the life of the little one. Still, there is much to be appreciated here. The proposal comes from a good place, burning with the care and compassion characteristic of the Christian ethos ever since the first centuries, when Christians adopted the disabled children abandoned at the side of the road by the pagans. There is also some truth in the assumption that if adoption were a sacrament, the practice would receive more visibility, and more Orthodox faithful might be encouraged to assume it. But, more importantly, the author of the letter invites us to reflect on a fundamental question: Is there any reason against considering adoption a sacrament? From the perspective of systematic theology, I am tempted to say no.Continue reading