Romania’s Pro-Life Week 2014: A Sociological and Anthropological View on Adoption


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The roundtable organized on March 26th, 2014 at the Sociology Department of the Bucharest University was held in family, having as guests two university lecturers who are husband and wife: Associate Professor Cristi Pantelimon and Lecturer Corina Bistriceanu, both from “Spiru Haret” University in Bucharest. They explained things from their own parenting and family experience, not just from… books.

Another pleasant surprise was that they shed light on many historical and anthropological aspects of adoption and family life. They talked about the status of the adopted child in the Greek-Roman Antiquity, about the roles played by each sex in the archaic families, and about old rites of passage in the Romanian popular culture.

The roundtable, moderated by Alexandra Nadane, president of the pro-life students’ association Studenti pentru Viata, was a dialogue of the guests with the attendance, who asked questions.

Adoption as spiritual filiation in Roman Antiquity

Explaining that adoption has deep cultural roots in Romania, Corina Bistriceanu mentioned it was also practiced in Antiquity: “The people of means needed sons to carry further their name and therefore they would adopt a deserving heir. The practice was especially to adopt male descendants. If the natural son was not worthy, the father looked for an adoptive one. The first Roman emperor had been adopted. It was beneficial both for the city and the family whose name was carried on”.

Corina Bistriceanu also explained adoption in ancient Rome involved a true spiritual ritual, the adopted son being introduced to the family gods, put in relation with the ancestors. It was foremost a spiritual adoption.

Old links between Romanian popular culture and Roman antiquity

This can be related to popular practices of archaic origin. Romanian popular culture also had rites of passage by which, at birth, the child was introduced to the ancestors, a symbolic act of adoption by them.

Corina Bistriceanu explains: “The family’s midwife, who was the eldest woman in the father’s line, would receive the baby and integrate it into the world. There is a study by ethnologist Romulus Vulcanescu saying the Romanian word for elder, “mos” is actually derived from its feminine form, “moasa”, and not the other way round. The latter means “midwife” and it designated a sort of feminine priesthood, with its roots back to the Neolithic Age, since administering birth and babies was exclusively a feminine task.

The midwife integrated the baby in the family group and also in the ancestors’ lineage, by raising the baby and symbolically touching its head by the beam, where “the measures” of those passed away were kept. These were ropes with which the last dwellings (coffins) of the ancestors were measured”. Thus, the cult of the ancestors, similar to that of the antique Roman lares (protective gods of each family, made of the forefathers), is officiated in the Romanian popular culture by a woman!

Corina Bistriceanu mentioned that in small, more cohesive communities, persists to this day “an informal culture of symbolic adoption: in the provincial towns, to this day children are supervised by the whole residential building community and the neighborhood. “Parents are not concerned: community is the one that protects, in a collective form of adoption”.

Spiritualized parents, not rich ones. The poverty trap

Based on these observations, Cristi Pantelimon says today children should be adopted, just the same, “not necessarily by rich parents, but by spiritualized ones”.

The associate professor went on to say: “We’ve got three children. An unmarried friend of mine once asked me how much it costs me. I told him I had no idea”. He believes the poverty menace has become a trap, while the reality he can see is that, in actual life, “the difference between one and three children is like in marginal utilities calculation – lesser and lesser”.

“Having more children also means richness. The greatest challenge is to go beyond the false idea that there isn’t room for everybody”, Cristi Pantelimon added.

The father’s role, the mother’s role in ancient cultures

Talking about the roles of the family throughout history, Lecturer Corina Bistriceanu showed the women’s job was to give birth and raise the children, while the fathers always had the role of social parents, conferring identity to children.

Cristi Pantelimon also mentioned an interesting differentiation of the masculine sex in traditional philosophies: “The man’s role was manifest as viria, a term derived from the Sanskrit language, exclusively describing masculinity as a channel which captures solar and cosmic elements”, establishing the relationship with the skies. Thus, man was seen as a priest and a planter of the spiritual seed. This means phallic symbols don’t have erotic meaning – they only designate man’s solar force of projection and leadership, while the woman, who gives birth, is seen as more related to the earth, as a receptacle that transmits the cosmic seed from men to children.

Role differentiation in the natural family compared to the homosexual family

If we look at family from this age-old anthropological perspective, the homosexual family could not transmit these differentiating elements, says Cristi Pantelimon. And this would result into cutting all ties between macro-universe and the human micro-universe.

“Virility is fundamentally the capacity to plant into a woman the cosmic seed, not just the biological one. If this stops, all ties between God and the world are severed”, the associate professor adds.

Corina Bistriceanu, looking from the socio-psychological point of view, sees same-sex families are disorganized on the conjugal diagonal. “Natural family is based on differentiations and it lasts exactly because it comprises well-defined roles”. The confusion between the status of the woman and that of the man only disintegrates family. Same-sex couples claim access to a form of family organization that is alien to them and impossible to be adopted by them due to their very ontological status. The result would be just an imitation of the natural family, an (ideological) colonization which would make natural family collapse.

Cristi Pantelimon stated that “there is an adoption crisis because there is a family crisis”. If we try to solve the adoption problem, we need to also try and improve conditions for the natural family: “As we speak of tradition, we see it as something long overdue. Yet, it’s not like that. Tradition is all-encompassing, it embraces us. And adoption problems will be solved in parallel with solving the problems of the family. If the latter is suffering (as it is attacked today, when some claim it holds back progress and it restrains the individual and his freedom), the first will be affected, too: we’ll be confronted with unfortunate engraftments which won’t bear any fruits”.

Corina Bistriceanu also added that, although family is powerfully integrative, paradoxically, it also allows the strongest manifestation of individualities. “How can we equate a man and a woman? The woman is not defined by what she does in the men’s world. One cannot equal things of different essences. You can only put the equal sign between common features which don’t define any of the two parties (man/woman) – which makes you abandon exactly what defines each of them”.

Women’s empowerment and the true women’s supremacy

Corina Bistriceanu criticized the actual feminist view on women: “The feminist movements hide what the woman has superior, all her strong points in comparison with the man, all her mystery and secrets which are not accessible to man. The woman had cult-like, quasi-religious supremacy – but within the family, not on public level. Woman supports and illustrates the values of stability and fertility. Germination, birth and death – only women could control these processes. That is why they were much more familiar than men with sickness, suffering and death. Regarding these aspects, men are somehow more anxious than women, who better integrate into this type of events”.

That is why, the lecturer believes, “woman has never been strong outside the house. When she wants to get empowered, by entering man’s territory, the woman loses her assets by performing activities she wasn’t programmed for”.

In the end of the discussion, the two guests reaffirmed the necessity of defending family values and explained to what degree this affects the problem of adoption in Romania: “It’s an alarm bell that we have so many adoptable children. It shows the families’ incapacity to keep their children or to adopt other – both related to the incapacity of having stable, close and direct relationships”, Lector Corina Bistriceanu said. She reasserted her urge towards young people to build strong family relationships based on the experience inherited from old generations, as explained in the dialogue herby rendered.

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DISCLAIMER: condamnă instigarea la ură şi violenţă. Dar, după cum confirmă şi CEDO în cazul Handyside vs. UK (para 49), consideră că dezbaterea onestă şi libertatea de exprimare pe subiecte de interes public – printre care se numără şi avortul sau atracţia pentru persoane de acelaşi sex – trebuie să aibă loc în mod democratic, fără a fi cenzurate de ameninţarea că vor fi interpretate ca „discurs al urii”.

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