Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dialogue: The Anti-Child, Contraceptive Mentality, Large Families, and Spiritual Revivals Past and Future

  By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong (3-24-12)

This is drawn from lively discussions on my Facebook page, first with Steve Kellmeyer (prominent Catholic author, social analyst, and apologist), and then Arlene B. Muller (also Catholic, active in many valuable activities of service in the Church). We disagreed some (enough to make it interesting!), but not as much as it may seem at first. I appreciate the excellent discussion and intellectual stimulation and thank both of them for their input. Steve's words will be in blue, and Arlene's in green.

* * * * *

Today's America is France in 1785, Russia in 1915 or Germany in 1928. We're ruled by an elite whose world-view doesn't match reality.  There's a price to pay for that, and we're going to pay it. If the social issues aren't solved, the economic issues will get worse. Again, this is a very simple problem, a problem that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats nor the Libertarians want to solve. The United States is not pro-natalist. That's the source of all problems.

As long as we aren't having babies, as long as we promote sterility whether by homosexuality or contraception or whatever, any change in economic policy is just moving deck chairs around. We can only pay illegals to have our babies for us for so long - at some point, they will stop coming in because there isn't any advantage to having babies here versus having babies in Mexico or Central America or wherever. As soon as they stop providing us with children, we're dead.

But you neglect to see that the pro-life trend is upward: with a majority now identifying as pro-life, and growing all the time. Good laws are being passed. All we need is a real Catholic revival to bring about some profound change: and the possibility of that happening and huge societal changes that would result is evident throughout history. If it doesn't come, I agree, things look very bleak, but who's to say it won't? God's hands aren't tied. I'm not convinced we are beyond all hope. I've said for years that I believe that revival will come, or start to, anyway, when I am an old man (which will be in about 20 years).

If we Catholics and like-minded Protestants who believe in children have lots of kids, then demographics is destiny and things can change. We gotta share the faith (and the message of pro-life). And that is exactly what I devote all my working time to doing . . .

Uh-huh. You neglect cultural inertia, social inertia, government inertia. Look, the Catholic Church fought dueling for a thousand years before it finally fell out of common social usage. She condemned the joust in the 1100s and was still answering dubia about duelling in the 1860s. It wasn't until the culture changed from being honor-based to being money-based that duelling stopped.

It didn't stop because the Church condemned it or because people became anti-duelling. It stopped because people stopped valuing honor so highly they were willing to kill to preserve it. Duelling was a consequence of living in an honor-based society.

Same with being pro-natalist. The country isn't anti-natalist because it hates babies. It is anti-natalist because it doesn't see the money-value of babies. That is, when given a choice between making a baby and making a buck, most people choose the avenue that will turn them the buck. Even when women choose to stay at home, many of them choose to do so because it is cheaper than earning that second income, getting taxed on it, and paying for the child care.

The time-value of money is now higher than the time-value of a baby, and this culture cares about time-value. So I don't care how pro-life people get in their survey answers. They aren't going to have babies because they are too busy trying to earn the next buck. The money is worth more than the baby.

Revival can change all that. You neglect history and the faith that God can bring about change, no matter how bleak it gets. He could; but we may indeed be ripe for judgment.

Look at how William Wilberforce got slavery outlawed. Slavery wasn't making much money for England as a whole, but it was making a lot of money for a small, entrenched government interest group. That group successfully blocked all direct anti-slavery legislation. Wilberforce finally beat them by passing an obscure shipping regulation which bled the money out of the trade. Now, if English culture had held slavery to be actually valuable, that law would have been amended to allow slavery to continue, and Wilbeforce's success would have been very temporary. But, since slavery wasn't held to be socially valuable, the small, entrenched pro-slavery group was unable to get the law amended. No one else cared enough about the issue one way or the other to actually change the law.

The same is true here about babies. The problem isn't with pro- or anti-natalist legislation. It's that no one cares enough about babies to actually have any. And, given the growth of technology, are people becoming more or less self-involved? Let's put it another way: isn't Facebook primarily the quintessence of self-involvement - superseded only by Twitter? I don't see how this fight takes less than several centuries. It took the Industrial Revolution to destroy dueling. It will take a similar revolution to turn society away from valuing money as the highest good.

I don't deny that the society is anti-child (I've been nothing that for 30 years); only that it will be indefinitely. I follow one of the dicta of Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon: "the worst centuries are invariably followed by the best ones." Since the 20th century was the worst ever, in God's providence the 21st will be, eventually, one of the great ones, of revival. The century's still young: we're only 11 years + 3 months into it. Still got almost 89% of it to go.

If you look at everything apart from God's providence and His supernatural power, I agree, there would be little hope on a human level. But blessedly, we serve and worship a God Who brings about revival. He did it with the ancient Jews; He can even with us, too. It requires faith to believe and see this.

I'm not saying there is little hope. I'm just pointing out that it took a millennium to get rid of dueling. It took close to two millennia to get rid of slavery. And these two things are really only gone in Christian countries. Muslim countries are still both slavery- and honor-based societies.

Now that Christianity is becoming the minority, I don't see how it takes less than centuries to change this. If Santorum gets elected President and if he stays true to pro-life principles then maybe we have a hope of seeing this change in the next 50 years. But if Santorum does not get elected, then the electorate is not interested in the pro-natalist tag that is being hung around Santorum's neck (much to his chagrin). And that means America is going to the dogs. God says Catholicism will triumph. He never said America would.

And Santorum's chagrin is why I ultimately don't trust Santorum. The press is trying to paint Santorum as (horrors!) an orthodox Catholic. In his interviews, Santorum keeps denying that he is, in the sense that he denies social policies are an important part of his agenda. That means even he thinks he can't win on a pro-natalist platform, which means America loses this time around, no matter who wins. We lose because we don't want to win.

Well, now you are placing hope in a mere man: Rick Santorum, whereas I am placing my hope with God Himself. You contradict what you stated above: "I don't trust any of the candidates. . . . Santorum can try to talk around the Specter issue all day long, but I'm not sure I believe him".

We play our part by being faithful Catholics and having lots of kids. Demographics is destiny. The orthodox Catholics have lots of children, and properly disciple them in the faith, who in turn have lots of children. It doesn't take long. The whole society need not join in: only enough good Catholics and other pro-natal Christians.

Santorum downplaying faith elements in loaded, agenda-driven secular contexts doesn't mean he is ashamed of them. He knows full well how the liberals are trying to paint him as a religious fanatic, and that plays into that. I downplay certain things with certain audiences in my apologetics all the time. It has no relation to being "ashamed" or "uncomfortable." Rather, it is the Pauline "being all things to all men that I might by any means win some of them."

Of all the candidates, Santorum has boldly proclaimed social traditionalism. He's the last person who should be blasted as being ashamed of that. He didn't backpedal even on the wrongness of contraception (I saw it myself in a Chris Wallace interview).
Moreover, Santorum doesn't deny that he thinks social issues are important; he only denies that he talks about them, relative to other issues, as much as he is being portrayed to have done. 

Exactly, Dave! Why deny that unless you think you can't win on it? By denying it, he agrees with the liberals that this is not a winning issue. Both he and the liberals realize that you can't afford to be publicly pro-natalist. That's why this is an issue he has to deny in order to win. If this is the pro-life movement winning the war, I'd hate to think what losing looks like.

He's fighting the propagandistic efforts, and knows exactly what the liberals are trying to do with that.

No, it doesn't mean he's ashamed of them. It means he doesn't think he can win with them. If he can't win with a pro-natalist policy - and he clearly thinks he cannot, because he keeps repudiating the idea that contraception is a major part of his policy platform - then America doesn't want a pro-natalist policy.

Clearly, no matter what Santorum personally thinks about these issues, he doesn't publicly think he can win with them. Which tells us that, in his estimation, the American public is anti-natalist: which means we are, in Santorum's estimation, doomed.

In 1972, McGovern lost to Nixon in part because McGovern was rumored to be pro-abortion. In 2012, Santorum will lose to Romney in part because Santorum is known to be anti-contraception. And you tell me that we're winning?

Of course he can't win, by running on a no-contraception platform. No argument there. I have not argued that we are pro-child. We clearly are not. I'm contending that the society can eventually be more so (and pro-life trends support that) by the pro-child folks having lots of children and raising them as good traditional Catholics or Protestants, and by the grace of God, Who ultimately grants whether revivals and societal transformation are to occur or not.

But we can play our part by our prayers, observance of Catholic morality, and having children, or promoting the infinite value of more children, if we can't produce them ourselves. God always works through His people as vessels.

You distort what I have been saying. Positive trends are a different thing from "winning." They do not reflect so much the current climate as the possible or likely climate in the years to come. We have a long, long way to go, but there is hope. There always is with God. I don't follow your gloom-and-doom pessimistic scenario because I believe in a God Who can do anything, and has done so in the past. It's not just a pipe-dream because we can point to past occurrences where there was extraordinary revival and change.

After a millennium of struggle, we won on dueling. I point out that we may take a few centuries to whip the anti-natalist dog, and suddenly I'm a gloom-and-doomer. Why is it gloom and doom to point out that the mills of God grind slowly, when we both agree that they grind exceedingly fine?

I say you are gloom-and-doom because of your own statements. You wrote: "Today's America is France in 1785, Russia in 1915 or Germany in 1928. We're ruled by an elite whose world-view doesn't match reality. There's a price to pay for that, and we're going to pay it." You didn't qualify or make it speculative. You said "is" and "we're going to pay [a price]." Maybe you express it badly or emote where you should include more reason, but that is an essentially pessimistic outlook of having given up all hope on America and western civilization as a whole.

So I started talking about God's role in all this, and what we can do to change it, and how things have changed in the past: not over a thousand years, but much more quickly. I'd like to provide several examples from Chesterton. Those are facts, not speculation and doomsday moaning.
These two Chesterton quotes that express it a lot better than I ever could:
I suspect that we should find several occasions when Christendom was thus to all appearance hollowed out from within by doubt and indifference, so that only the old Christian shell stood as the pagan shell had stood so long. But the difference is that in every such case, the sons were fanatical for the faith where the fathers had been slack about it. This is obvious in the case of the transition from the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation. It is obvious in the case of a transition from the eighteenth century to the many Catholic revivals of our own time . . . Just as some might have thought the Church simply a part of the Roman Empire, so others later might have thought the Church only a part of the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages ended as the Empire had ended; and the Church should have departed with them, if she had been also one of the shades of night.
(The Everlasting Man, Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1925, 250-252)
At least five times, . . . with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist sceptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died.
(Ibid., 254)

It didn't take a thousand years in any of these cases. Major change came about within a century's time. That is the record. You can ignore it if you wish. I appeal to faith, God's providence, and actual history. You appeal mostly to the status quo, as if nothing can change for a thousand years.

We can massively change our society fairly quickly by having lots of kids. Just look at what is happening in Europe. The Muslims increasingly take over simply by having lots of kids and continuing on in their faith. Catholics can do that, too: take a cue from the Muslims and "demographics is destiny."

We could. That's what I am saying. I am not convinced that it won't happen, because far stranger things already have. It could be that some horror like a nuclear war or complete economic collapse unlike anything ever seen will bring about the revival. We can do it the easy way (have lots of kids and disciple them) or the hard way (waking up after an existential catastrophe: like what was usually required with the ancient Hebrews).

That's just commentary on America. Big deal. During that thousand year struggle against dueling, dozens of countries disappeared. At least one, Poland, entirely disappeared and then reappeared. So what? The Church is not America. America is not the Church. I'm just pointing out that America is dying. That says nothing about the eventual triumph of the Church.

As for your Chesterton reference, it's the unusual heresy that dies out in less than a century. Indeed, Arianism, Alibgensianism, Humanism, Darwinism... all the heresies Chesterton refers to lasted more than a century. Indeed, Darwinist eugenics is still quite strong right now. Just ask any Down's syndrome parent. Chesterton was a pleasant man, but he doesn't say what you think he says.

We cannot massively change the society very quickly by having lots of kids. If simply having lots of kids were sufficient, we never would have gone through the demographic transition to begin with. The kids have to be trained not to accept the current culture. 

Which is, I think, why I said (about three times at least) that they had to be discipled, too, not just born.

Apart from homeschooling, that won't be easy. Now, as colleges fall apart, this will get easier. But that won't happen overnight.

Homeschooling makes that much easier, but is not absolutely necessary, as long as parents closely monitor education and make sure it is supplemented with spiritual and theological education. We home school (just for the record). Our children (20, 18, 15, 10) are all rock-solid Catholics, with no sign whatever of being anything different. It is possible, even today. You simply reject the nonsense that is occurring in society today and teach a better way, and teach why Catholic tradition (theological and moral) is far superior in every way.

It would be a huge shift if Catholics would learn to not vote for childkilling advocates (usually Democratic candidates, but not always). It would seem to be elementary, yet every election year we go through this. I've yet to meet a Democrat in thirty years of discussions about pro-life, give a rational, sensible reason for why any Christian should vote for people who want to keep childkilling and child torture legal.

Protestant evangelical voters are far smarter and more morally consistent. If Catholics alone understood this we wouldn't have had a Democrat President since LBJ (unless the party was forced by polls to change its childkilling platform, which would have been quite possible if they lost the Presidency repeatedly).

I don't think Catholics and other moral conservatives necessarily have to have large families. The decision regarding family size is between them and God. If God calls a couple to have a large family, then they should obey God's will--and God bless them for their generosity and help them to teach them properly. But I've always thought that more important than generating more Catholic people is evangelizing and catechizing the people who are already here!

By the way, I am a happily celibate 58-year-old never-married single woman, a currently unemployed teacher of preschoolers with special needs, a woman active in various Church ministries and community, and a free lance writer and beginning blogger, so I'm trying to make a positive difference in the world by means other than having children. We all have different gifts and different callings.

Yes; I was speaking generally, and totally agree with you. I'm the first to say that we have different callings, as Paul taught. Catholics are not required to have huge families. I am saying that a pro-child outlook means that the average number of children should be way way more than 1.7 or whatever miserable figure it is now. Lots of variables are involved in individual cases. On the whole, Catholics ought to be having lots more children than they have been . . .

The beauty of discipling through childrearing is that it is a golden opportunity to profoundly mold and shape a Christian life by the love and attention that goes into that. We can and should also go out and evangelize and share the faith, and that will bear fruit (I do it as a profession), but it's not possible to have the personal impact that a parent has with their children.

I've often pondered how I could show love in tangible ways in my outreach efforts. All I can really do is serve by writing, as a teacher, and try to extend Christian love on a personal level, as opportunity arises. But it's a lot different with words on a screen, compared to real-life personal interaction.

I'm glad you agree that we have different callings and that Catholics are not required to have large families. I don't see anything wrong with a couple having only one or two children and even some couples not having children. I think that there is definitely a special bond for discipling in the parent-child relationship but I think that friends and colleagues can influence each other.

There is supposed to be a sufficiently serious reason to avoid having more children (financial, health, emotional, etc.). Deliberately deciding to have no children as a Catholic married couple (minus serious considerations) is contrary to what the Church teaches.

I think most people these days cannot afford to have large families and that most times both husband and wife need to be working and that these days many women have careers. So most people have a financial reason not to have a large family. And I think that in the later years (ages 40 until menopause) there are risks involved in having a child. Some people have the temperament to handle a large family but for many it would be too stressful. So I think that most couples have legitimate reason to practice NFP and that it should be the norm unless the couple feels that they have a special calling and grace from God to trust Him beyond what is considered reasonable. I would agree that the Church wants all married couples to be open to having children and that a decision not to have any children would have to be for a serious reason and that if that is what they decide they probably would have to have longer periods of abstinence (not just NFP) by mutual consent. I think that there are serious risks involved with having a child if the mother is over 40, so couples who marry after the age of 40 would most likely not have children. Couples who don't have children can "bear fruit' in other ways by service to the Church and commitment to various ministries and good works outside the home.

Like I said, there are several legitimate reasons to space or limit children (we had all three main ones in our own case: finances, serious post-partum depression, and physically difficult pregnancies; my wife Judy also suffered six miscarriages).

Humanae Vitae states this, and I believe everything that the Church teaches. But the problem, of course, is that people are very quick to conclude that the reasons to not conceive outweigh the ones in favor. The societal tendency is anti-child and an overwhelming contraceptive mentality that has tragically led to abortion, that has obviously infected Catholics to a large extent, since our birth rates are scarcely any higher than the general public.

As for affording "large families," we are also far too quick to conclude that it is too difficult to do so. The problem often is that we value excessive materialism more than children, and because of that think that children are too big of a financial burden. Sometimes this is indeed true, but often not.

Our family is a case-in-point. We have four children, and my wife homeschools. I'm bringing in the only income, yet we manage to make it with a yearly income so low, no one would believe it if I said how much it was. We're paying our bills (including a mortgage), have good credit, rarely use credit cards, and take a decent vacation every year (camping to save motel costs, cheap food, free things to do, etc.). It can be done.

If it weren't for Obama and the economy, we'd be doing remarkably well, since I was doing as well as I ever have as an apologist in 2008, before everything went to pot in the economy. Now we're struggling a bit, but it's not due to having four children: it's because we have an incompetent, clueless socialist in the White House and the slowest recovery from a recession since the Great Depression, as a result.

That's not to say that there is not sacrifice. There certainly is, but it comes down to what is most valued: family or material possessions and riches that are extraordinary by world and historical standards.

I'm not trying to condemn anyone. I'm not being legalistic or callous to reality. I'm simply trying to state what the Church teaches, and to render a Catholic opinion as to why birthrates are alarmingly low. If we don't analyze this and try to do something to change it, then things will only get worse. Societies that stop having children inevitably decay and die out, as Steve Kellmeyer and I agreed, in our little debate above.

I think that any couple who has borne and is doing their best for children has done their duty as Catholics. Again, I think that it is between the married couple and God (and other members of the family who are involved) to discern how many children they should have. And I believe that if a wife/mother has a career there should be a way in which this can be worked out (perhaps part-time, perhaps working part of the time from home) so that family can come first but there will still be some room for the career. Not every woman is called to be a full time homemaker. Some are called into various professions that take time (e.g. doctors).

I don't think we essentially disagree in any way, Arlene. I suspect that you may think we disagree on some issues where we actually don't, but maybe not. You say things that I agree with (almost totally); we just have slightly different goals in the points we are making. I thank you for your insightful comments, and also Steve. It's been a very good dialogue, I think.

One thing: I'm curious, Arlene. Do you agree that an average of 1.7 children per couple or whatever amount it is now, is too low, and indicative that Catholics (i.e., those lacking serious reasons to limit children) have largely caved in to a contraceptive mentality? Or do you think it's just not financially or emotionally possible for most (or a majority) couples to have more than two children?

This is my main emphasis: to say that the society is anti-child to such an extent (with contraception and even abortion) that couples (including Catholic couples) are deliberately having far fewer children than they used to. I'm not talking about particular situations where there are obvious legitimate limitations, but making a sociological observation from the traditional Catholic perspective. 

I personally opted to remain single and celibate because I wanted to be able to focus on a career and avoid marriage and having children and all the sacrifice and responsibility involved (I hate housework), and I do not believe that married life is for me and vice versa. I know that if a woman marries and have children, the children need to come first and I didn't want either to have to put family before career or cause a family to sacrifice on account of a career. I'm an only child, and my Mom always has been a stay-at-home mom and she also helped my grandmother. I admire her dedication, love my Mom dearly, and Mom and I have a lot in common and are very close, but I wanted a different life for myself. 

Marriage never really appealed to me. Perhaps in a way I am selfish, but at least I know myself, and although I didn't achieve the career or success I had originally intended, I have found a lot of fulfillment in Church ministry and Christian community, I am close to my parents (who live a 5-10 minute drive away from me), I was able in mid-life to work with preschool children with special needs (a career I had originally intended but wasn't able to work out when I was younger), and I have cultivated my gifts and tried to use them for God and for good purposes, serving God and other people in other ways. 

Perhaps I have absorbed some of the anti-child, selfish mentality that exists. I am pro-life and oppose abortion. My personal feeling about contraception is that it is a "gray area", subject to conscience and religious beliefs. I don't think that contraception is a terrible thing. If I had chosen to marry I would have done my best to follow Church teaching and would have followed NFP because I believe in being obedient to the Church. If anyone were to ask me whether or not to practice contraception I would advise them against it, but unless someone asked I would consider it none of my business, as opposed to abortion, which is the taking of a human life, for which I would try to exercise my best efforts to ensure that no one I knew would get an abortion.

I recently have learned that certain forms of contraception are abortifacient and I have learned more about how Pope Paul VI prophesied that contraception would lead to abortion, domestic violence, increase in the number of divorces, etc., so that gives me pause. I think that for the Church to call upon married couples to practice NFP instead of contraception seems to be enough of a sacrifice and a fair and reasonable sacrifice: actions have consequences and the consequence of the sexual act can be pregnancy, so if you are not ready for a baby or if you believe that you have completed your family, then don't have sex during the fertile period. God still has the final say and if there is an "oops" baby, that child needs to be welcomed and loved and can often be a special blessing, once the family has made the adjustment. (My Mom was unplanned and she wound up being a wonderful asset to the family and the person to whom everyone turned for consolation. She is now 82 years old and still a great blessing to everyone who knows her.)

I personally don't think it is wrong for a couple to have only one or two children, as long as they don't have an abortion and I believe that if they are Catholic they should try to obey the Church's teaching and not use contraception. I think that nowadays a lot of Catholics use contraception in spite of the Church's teaching. When I did date and the subject came up, the men I dated (even an otherwise good Catholic who was active in the Church) would have wanted to use contraception but I stated that I would not want to do so. In some areas it is difficult for people who don't want to practice contraception to find a marriage partner willing to cooperate with Church teaching in this area. There are some people who feel called to have large families, but I think that these are in the minority. I believe most couples want to have a life and have lots of pressures on them and probably don't even desire to have a large family, especially if the woman wants to be able to go back to a career once the children are in school.

I don't think that there is a problem unless abortion or contraception is involved. Abortion is totally wrong. Contraception is a matter of conscience but a "gray area" and it is better that a couple do without it. To me having anywhere between 1 and 4 children is enough and the norm. If people feel called to have more and they can handle having more, either via their temperaments, finances, desire, or enormous trust in God--God bless them! That is THEIR calling and God bless them for their generosity, faith, and trust, but I don't think that this should be imposed on others who do not feel so called. There are some good Catholic women on FACEBOOK who have large families who would have a different point of view, I am sure. 

Thanks for sharing from your heart, Arlene. I have no problem with anyone being single if they are called to it (maybe some folks do, but I don't at all; no need to justify yourself to me). My oldest son appears to have that calling. We all need to follow our vocation from the Lord, and that includes consecrated celibacy, which is a very honorable state indeed, allowing fully undistracted attention to the Lord, as St. Paul plainly states in 1 Corinthians.

I do still wonder what your answer was to my three related questions about 1.7 average children per couple (not even replacement levels), though. :-)

I must say, too, in my duties as an apologist, that contraception is not a "gray" area in terms of how firmly it is taught by the Church. It's prohibition is infallible teaching in the ordinary magisterium, as I have written about.

I meant to say earlier that it is quite curious that we have more material wealth and luxury (even in the current relative crisis) than any culture in the history of the world has ever had, yet more and more couples seem to think that they can't afford more than two children (sometimes only one), and that it would be financially and emotionally disastrous to even consider doing so.

That's simply not true, and most of human history shows that it is not, even before we get to the Bible and what it says about the blessing of children: even a "quiver full" (Psalm 127:3-5).

I agree completely with Steve that the idol of materialism has replaced the love of children on a very wide scale. I can't determine if this is the case for particular people; that is God's place to judge their motivations and hearts, not mine, but I can say in a general sociological sense that in a culture that averages 1.7 children per couple, it is largely due to an anti-child, contraceptive mentality and the idolatry of luxury and excessive materialism. I don't think that's even arguable. This has all basically come about since 1960 and the Introduction of the Pill, followed by the sexual revolution and the outrage of legal abortion and 50 million legally murdered children: just a little over 50 years.

Steve and I didn't disagree on that main point that he wanted to make; only on how soon it is likely to change, if ever, in our own western culture. I thought it could possibly change a lot sooner than he thinks, if there is a revival, but it may very well not, and we may be rapidly descending into the ash pit of history. We're certainly well worthy of being judged and annihilated, based on abortion alone. If God wiped us out tomorrow, no one would have the slightest basis to complain about it. It would be perfectly just: much more than just for God to do so.

The fact that we have not yet been wiped off the face of the earth for our unspeakable sins is testament to the extraordinary mercy and lovingkindness of God. I think the fact of non-judgment is itself an indication that God has in store for us a huge supernatural revival, so we can get back to some remote semblance of a life-affirming, children-loving Christian culture again.

. . . there are people who strongly disagree with having large families and often give women who choose to have large families a hard time.

I note the high and astonishingly hypocritical irony of folks giving large families a "hard time":

1) as if it is any of their business in the first place,


2) as if it is consistent with the supposed rhetoric of everyone being free to do as they please.

I think it's obvious that large families threaten some people precisely because it is in effect a rebuke to their own "anti-child" prejudice and inclinations. They don't want children, and their antipathy runs so deep that they appear to not want anyone to have a large family, lest such an indescribable, unspeakable horror should catch on in society . . .

Note what this idiotic, immoral outlook entails: killing children in their mother's womb is well and good, to be encouraged and touted as a "right" -- but daring and being silly enough to have lots of children!!!! My heavens, that is the most outrageous thing imaginable and good radical feminists must oppose and mock it at every turn. Lots of children are evil; whereas fewer being conceived, and lots being eliminated through torture and murder is a great thing that ought to be enshrined with the sanction of law, complete with highfalutin' language about "rights" (of one person to the exclusion of the other), and the supposed callous indifference and oppression of those cruel souls who oppose childkilling, and so forth . . . 

I thought that I had answered your questions in the body of my comments. We have lots more people in the world than we did years ago, so I don't think we need to multiply as much as we did in ancient times. So I don't think that it is necessarily a bad thing that the average married couple has only one or two children unless they have had an abortion. I think that there are various reasons why couples have fewer children, and perhaps the reason varies per couple. I think that having smaller families (i.e. 1, 2, or 3 children) is the social norm and that even a family of 4 is a kind of social anomaly. This could be related to a contraceptive mentality. I think that there is a lot of stress in this society so for many it is probably more difficult to handle the stress of raising a large family. It was much easier for people who live on a farm, because then the children help with the chores and contribute to the family's livelihood and both parents are working from the home. Families like the Waltons lived on very small means during the Depression and they worried about the bills, but the family business was at home and everyone took turns milking the cow, etc.--very different from one or both parents commuting to work, working long hours in the city, and commuting home and then having to help with homework, cook dinner, get ready for the next day, etc. In some ways our world is a scarier environment for children and in that sense parental responsibility and stress are greater. Our lifestyles generally are not sacrificial and to live like people in the neighborhood is expensive, even for people who will make certain sacrifices--and these days families are learning to make more sacrifices--sacrifices they originally were not prepared to make--to cut costs and keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Tuition costs a lot more. Catholic grammar school when I was growing up was $15 and Catholic high school tuition was $475. My yearly tuition for Marymount Manhattan College was $1950 for the year, which was easily paid for by Regents scholarship, a grant from the school and working during summers and intercessions. Nowadays Catholic grammar school costs more than one year of college! I think that there have been cases of child abuse when couples had more children than they could handle emotionally--so maybe people are more cautious in determining the number of children they can handle emotionally. I think this world has more material expectations but also more stress. I would say that there are probably a lot more people--including Catholics--practicing contraception. In fact, prior to Humanae Vitae I think a lot of Catholics believed that the Church would change its position; in fact, I read that Pope Paul VI had a commission of lay people advising him to change but--to what extent it was the Holy Spirit and to what extent it was a matter of not wanting to change a long standing tradition--Pope Paul VI chose not to do so. I think, though, that there are good Catholics not practicing contraception who still choose to have small families, and NFP is a lot more accurate than the old rhythm system.

I think that these days people want to be in control of our lives. That's probably the bottom line. I know that personally I like to be as much in control of my life as possible. It is a mystery--on one hand, God is sovereign, and on the other hand, we have to take responsibility for our lives. Something goes against the grain to think of just trusting God and letting what happens, happens. It feels like a lack of self-control and lack of responsibility. Ironically, in terms of sexual immorality people are engaging in out of control sexual behavior and then looking to contraception and abortion to avoid the consequences--and that is absolutely wrong. I believe in self-control rather than birth control.


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