Saturday, May 7, 2011

11-05-08: 3rd Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts of the Apostles 2:14,22-33 / Psalm 16 / 1 Peter 1:17-21 / Luke 24:13-35

I was thinking recently of quitting my job and running for president. For completely selfish reasons, of course, since I wouldn’t be very good at making instant decisions or bargaining deals in Congress. I’d just want Donald Trump, or some like-minded birther, to challenge the bureau of vital statistics so I could see my original long-form birth certificate. I’ve tried – but to no avail. They won’t release it to me as an adopted person; but with the likes of The Donald, they might give in just to shut him up.

Mother’s Day seems an appropriate time to bring up the delicate situation of privacy rights in regard to birth. Obviously, for Trump and the birthers, there’s no right to privacy when talking about birth sites vis-à-vis the presidency – everyone has a right to know. But, in the case of the adopted, original long-form birth certificates are sealed from view – even from those to whom the document pertains. Please don’t misunderstand: I do have a long-form birth certificate, an “amended” long-form birth certificate. What “amended” means in this case is that once my adoption was finalized by the court, an “amended” birth certificate was produced recording my birth surname as “Brosnan” and recording my adoptive parents as those who gave me birth. As far as I know, the time of my birth (3:00am on January 10, 1953) remained the same. And, as for the place of birth, that must have remained the same – Misericordia Hospital, then located on 86th Street east of York Avenue - a place, I think important to note, that my adoptive parents never set foot in. I know this fact was not changed since it was primarily that piece of information, a detail my adoptive parents hadn’t been told, which enabled me to locate my birthmother not long after I began my search. But who’s to say what might or might not be changed – I mean “amended” – by either order of the court or by some lazy or playful scribe. In the early seventeenth century, for example (an example not wholly irrelevant to my story), when the King James Version of the Bible had been completed and printers (pretty new to their trade) were turning out copies, someone – by mistake or design – removed the small but crucial word “not” from the sixth commandment, giving the world (at least until it was hurriedly corrected) the divine command to commit adultery.

It seems such basic facts, these very vital statistics, can be changed if there’s a supposedly good reason. In the case of the adopted, the purported reason is to protect the child from the stigma of illegitimacy. In effect, however, it has become a ploy to assure prospective adoptive parents a “guarantee” that there will be no interference from previous parents. This must be the logical conclusion of such a practice since the original birth certificate is sealed even from the person to whom it most pertains. The adopted remain the only American citizens who are denied the basic right of seeing the record of their birth and thus of knowing the identities of the parents who gave them life.

Because this practice is so widespread, it is obviously a practice that has many supporters, especially those who do not want adoptive parents to be put in a bind. But I believe that “amending” my original birth certificate - that is, deliberately altering the facts - that is, lying - not only robs me of my right to see my original record of birth, but insults my adoptive parents as well, placing them without their consent at the heart of a lie; a lie that has gained official approbation because the document, a work of fiction, is produced by an official government agency.

Over the past three to four decades there has been slow progress in overturning these offensive practices which legalize the telling of lies. Tennessee, Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire have recently allowed the adopted to retrieve their original birth certificates, but the majority of states’ legislatures have steadfastly refused to even allow to come to a vote any such measure to overturn existing practices. Important to note that the majority of Catholic bishops, especially in the northeast, have been some of the staunchest defenders of this abhorrent practice of secrets and lies. Indeed it has long been the practice of Catholic bishops to imitate the state and “amend” baptismal certificates as well. The effect, in some cases, is to issue “amended” baptismal certificates, having deliberately changed the baptismal name of the person baptized. It seems bishops (as evinced in the recent sex scandals) have a penchant for keeping things hush-hush. One can only wonder why.

I am not a birther; I do believe President Obama was born in Hawaii. But neither am I confident that government officials, nor even Catholic bishops, are as committed to preserving vital facts – adhering to basic truths – as you would want and expect them to be.

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