Endgame: Murdered Babies Labeled Suicides And Assailants

Date: 1997-05-01

Endgame: Murdered Babies Labeled Suicides And Assailants

By Eugene Narrett

How could nice, upscale 18 year olds from suburban New Jersey toss their newborn in a dumpster? How could an expectant mother in Canada, days from giving birth, insert a rifle into her body and shoot a pellet of compressed air into the head of her infant, who then was delivered with severe brain damage? How could a court find no grounds on which to charge her? How could an au pair, almost 19 years old, apparently batter an infant to death against a bathroom floor?

What else could this be but the end?

It is not quite the end, not yet, just the background information for a thesis I defer until parish dances instead of using fake IDs at the rock clubs and the tattoo and body-piercing parlors?

When going "on a trip" meant packing up for a summer CYO camp?

When no one would have snickered if the teacher called Zorro or Scaramouche a "gay blade"?

When a celebrity stating that he "was raised a Catholic" did not mean that he was looking for more authenticity in a diatribe against the Church?

When people made spiritual bouquets?

When posing for their college's admissions brochures was not the only time that Jesuits wore their clerical collars?

When parents would not have thought twice about letting their sons go on an overnight trip with the priest in charge of the school's debate team?

When the young Catholic men who drove hot cars—GTOs and Impalas and the like —would wedge a cross of blessed palm behind the St. Christopher medal on their sun visors?

When there were no security reasons for not leaving the back door to the parish school auditorium wide open on warm spring days?

When everyone, including Jewish men, would smile faintly when a nun in full habit entered a public bus, as if in recognition of one of the pleasant vignettes of city life?

When there were Communion railings? (A large section of the Communion rail where I received Communion as a boy is now the bar rail in a back-alley gin mill in Queens. I kid you not. They sold it as part of the parish's liturgical updating.)

I remember. And the comparison does not make me feel good about what has happened to us. I don't think it is just nostalgia talking.

describing a recent piece of relevant evidence. The human context is an anticulture of various service providers, psychologists, lawyers, and, last but not least, upscale professionals trying to buy a perfect life. Exhibit A is death, the death of a two year old. Was it murder, or suicide?

Barring additional legal maneuvering, the case of Renee Polreis will soon go to trial in Greeley, Colo. In February, 1996, rescue workers arrived at her home to find two-year-old David Polreis, Jr., near death, his head and body covered with bruises. His father was on a trip in Houston at the time, and the child had been alone with his mother all night. Doctors described it as one of the worst cases of child abuse they had seen.

Not so fast. Polreis' lawyer claims that he can prove that the child battered himself to death in a rage prompted by "attachment disorder" which supposedly afflicts some adopted children. Some psychologists now affirm the existence of this "disorder." At an "attachment center" in Evergreen, Colo., Renee Polreis consulted with therapists who reportedly confirmed her belief that David, Jr., could not grow up to be "a normal, moral adult."

A friend of Polreis reported that the accused seemed obsessed that her adopted baby "would be without morals, wouldn't be capable of reaming morality." She is said to have called the two year old "a criminal personality" and to have confided to a counselor that "if she ever started hitting David, she would not stop."

One would have thought it was the role of parents to exemplify and to guide, lovingly, patiently, and with gentle firmness, their children toward morality, and, especially for babies, to suffuse all with the loving warmth that is the basis of a moral sense. But, no, like all those unable or prevented from speaking for themselves, the murdered toddler now must be criminalized to justify the latest theory of the psychologists and the "child-care providers industry." The former will write doctoral theses, teach classes, and found private practices expounding the theory; the latter will reap government funds ministering to murderers claiming to be victims.

An example of this crowd is Julie Haralson, director of the Colorado Adoption Center, who, in an interview with police after David, Jr.'s, death, more than 30 times referred to the child as "that unattached, crazy kid." Thus, she described a two year old who allegedly beat himself to death while, assumably, the mother was unable to stop him. What's next? Will the dead toddler posthumously be charged with intimidating and abusing his adoptive mother? With threatening to "batter" Haralson?

It may come to that, if society swallows the theories of Dr. Eileen McDonagh, a professor of political science at Northeastern University, Boston. McDonagh has authored Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent, which argues that a woman must not be "coerced" into giving herself to a child she has conceived. According to the press release for the book, McDonagh argues that a baby "is not the result of pregnancy, but the cause of it. The consent thesis focuses on what the baby does to the woman, instead of what the fetus is." A pregnancy may proceed only if the woman consents, McDonagh argues. As noted in The New American, this thesis gives a fetus the status of robber or potential murderer whom the woman may kill in "self-defense." If we are ready to define a preborn infant as a potential murderer, why pause at thus defining a two year old who may then be killed pre-emptively, while psychologists and lawyers rush in to label the murderer a victim?

McDonagh's new-minted, feminist definition of consent is not yet a legal or medical consensus, but neither was Roe v. Wade, at first. "It's preposterous," a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital commented about the claim of Polreis' lawyer. "It's fabulation.... I'm not aware of any behavior we could call suicidal in two year olds," said Dr. Eli Neuberger. "There's a lot of quackery in attachment theory." Donna Clauss, director of Denver's Rainbow House international Adoption agency, also denied ever hearing any reports of such a syndrome.

But lack of evidence is no bar to those pushing new categories of syndromes in a culture whose law increasingly mimes the hysteria, the vague, pervasive guilt, and desperate stratagems of those who have kicked themselves free of coherent moral law. The notion of "consent" being pushed by academic, psychiatric, and legal cadres like McDonagh follows from new definitions of "rape" which may be applied retroactively even to marital love with a husband weeks, months, even decades after the fact. Thanks to "repressed memory syndrome," lack of evidence for such claims is held to "prove" they occurred because those who make such accusations have been "in denial" as are defendants who deny the charges. In the age of sexual politics lack of evidence is considered a proof of guilt. The innocent are criminalized; the guilty are excused, "and all best things are thus confused to ill."

The same irrational "reasoning" was used by New Hampshire's governor, Stephen Merrill, when he pardoned a woman who shot her sleeping husband in the head. Eight years later, June Briand claimed she had been "in fear" that her husband would discover she had been taking money from their joint account to divorce him, so she shot him preemptively, as David Polreis, Jr., was killed at age two because his mother had decided that he had "a criminal personality."

The federal government pretends to be disturbed by such events. No less an expert on justice than Attorney General Janet Reno just told Congress that she wants a constitutional amendment guaranteeing "victims' rights." But the class of victims may be oddly defined. Those 84 people the government killed at Waco, for which Reno belatedly took semantic "responsibility," will not be included. Nor will those 1.3 million human beings destroyed each year by numerous methods of "planned parenthood" as the nation forges past the frontier of choice toward the brave new world of "consent." And what about the large and growing number of men and women like Kelly Michaels of New Jersey, imprisoned for years by testimony based on "repressed memory," a tactic Reno pioneered when she was the attorney general of Florida, contaminating the minds of many children with concocted stories of sexuality and sex abuse?

"Inclusion" in the realm of Reno and her kind has an absurdly partial definition, as does the concept of rights. Apropos matters noted above, Charles Fried, the new chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, just sent the Amiraults back to prison in the Fells Acre Day Care case. Although he admitted that there had been numerous errors in the presentation of evidence, he declared that "the public's right to finality" trumped the Amiraults' right to a new trial and due process. Scholars are still combing the Constitution for the public's "right to finality."

There have always been laws against murder, assault, robbery, and rape, with punishments to match, and strict standards of evidence to evaluate guilt and innocence. But when entitlement replaced obligation, and impulse became right, meaning began to drain from language and law like water from a tom vessel. We thirst, turning to social workers and psychologists who gladly ladle out the salt water of trendy theories which enrich and empower them at the expense of society and life.

With effort, hope, and prayer, justice may yet be done in the death of little David Polreis, and some sanity might return to law and shape to the family. But a different epilog was suggested at his funeral, where the mourners were asked to write checks to the "attachment center" whose therapists had branded the child a nascent criminal. And behind them stands Dr. McDonagh, eager to brand babies as killers while they are still in the womb.

The fitting emblem of a society moving "from choice to consent" is Janet Reno who, like Tennyson's Kraken, after millennia of sodden, visionless sleep has risen to the surface, roaring in a fiery and incoherent cataclysm.

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