The article about Rev. Lesley Northup's decision to produce a child through anonymous, artificial self-insemination {news story, Dec. 7} is another indicator of the discouraging dehumanizing drift in our society's perceptions of parenthood and family life. According to the current logic, if a child in the womb is unwanted, it is a fetus without any rights. If a woman carries a baby for another couple (as in the Baby M case), she is not a mother but a surrogate. Now we have a father who has become only the donor.

It has been commonly noted that the role of the father in child-rearing has historically been neglected, and since 1973 in our country, the responsibility of the father in the conception of a child has been so minimized that abortion is a "privacy right" of the woman only. The father has no legal say in the decision whether the woman's child is aborted. It is as if the father did not exist.

Rev. Northup follows this logic and says that the only people critical of her decision to bear this child alone are men who seem to be threatened because they have been nearly removed from the process. It seems to me that the person most likely to be threatened is the child. No sociologist or psychologist would argue that a child is better off with just one parent than with two. A child needs both a mother and a father, but in Rev. Northup's home, the word "father" is not allowed -- the father is only a "donor." He is not allowed to know that he has fathered a child for fear that he might become "involved" with the child. The child may never know who her father is and will be denied the security all children desperately need -- that of knowing that her parents love one another.

The desire for a child is undoubtedly mysterious and powerfully strong. But there appears to be a thread running though this story that is all too characteristic of the emphasis on self in our "new age." To quote The Post's writer, Rev. Northup "focused all her energies" first on her education, then on her training, then on establishing her career and now on the fulfillment of her desire to create a child for herself. The faith that the church has always espoused is based on the cardinal teaching of Jesus to deny oneself. But the spirit of our age seems to be: "satisfy yourself."

REV. JOHN W. YATES II Rector, The Falls Church (Episcopal) Falls Church

Lesley Northup believes that she broke no Biblical commandment in choosing to produce a child by artificial insemination from a donor. This may be true, but there is one lesson in the Bible that she may not have considered -- the importance of genealogy. Numerous genealogies from Genesis through Luke seem to underscore the importance human beings place on answers to the questions "Who am I?" and "Where did I come from?" Did Rev. Northup truly consider what it means for a child to grow up with only half a genealogy, not only to struggle with the normal questions of identity but also to wonder always about the lost part -- the missing parent, grandparents, cousins, possibly even brothers and sisters? Has nothing been learned from the insights of adopted children regarding the pain of not knowing who you are?

Rev. Northup seems to regard the objections of several men to her decision as just another male hang-up that enlightened people do not share. However, like many other parents of sons, I would like mine to understand that fatherhood is not simply a biological feat (rather easily accomplished), but a lifelong process of involvement with and commitment to one's children. Can we really instill these values in our young males with "moral" leaders such as Rev. Northup and her "gentlemen"?

I suppose that Rev. Northup is, in a sense, the perfect priest for the religion of today -- the religion which teaches that what one "needs" is of paramount importance, to be placed above all other considerations.


The article headlined "A Need Examined, a Prayer Fulfilled" could give an uncritical reader the notion that the Rev. Lesley Northup's views on parenthood and priesthood are widely held among bishops of the Episcopal Church. But the endorsement of one New York bishop and the silence of the bishop of Washington do not make a consensus.

For Rev. Northup to assert that gratification of her desire to conceive and bear a child outside marriage is okay because coitus did not take place points to a particularly shallow understanding of her church's wisdom. And her suggestion that her male accomplices "were donating something rather than creating something" is astonishing from a priest empowered to solemnize marriages.

Rev. Northup makes a better Philadelphia lawyer than a priest. If all she wanted was a donation, why didn't she just ask for a puppy or a VCR?