Kids Are People Too

I remember well Whitney Houston singing on the radio when I was a kid, “I believe the children are our future; teach them well and let them lead the way.”  And I didn’t just hear this sentiment from pop culture.  I heard it plenty of times in church, too:  “You kids are the church of tomorrow!  You’re the future!”  This is why I was so struck by something the priest said at the Mass we attended last Sunday outside Orlando while we were on vacation.  At this particular Mass, the parish’s candidates for Confirmation were recognized and prayed for.  This was great to witness in and of itself, and the priest had many good things to say to the candidates and to the congregation in general about the sacrament of Confirmation and the need for continual conversion.  The thing he said to the teenaged men and women Confirmation candidates that really stood out for me, however, was this:  “You are not the Church of the future—you are the Church of today.”

The priest’s message to the young people of his parish was dramatically different from what I got as a kid.  For me at least, being told that I was the “future” meant that my “present” really didn’t matter all that much.  And the effect of this, I think, is similar to the effect Nikki discussed in her last post of telling mothers that they simply have to endure the “present” of motherhood to get back to “real life” again at some point in the future:  it’s demoralizing and corrosive.  It’s demoralizing because telling a kid they’re “the future” means there’s something incomplete about them right now and implies that they’re somehow less than full people worthy of respect at this moment.  It’s corrosive because the teenage years are difficult ones, full of all sorts of nasty temptations that can set a kid going down the wrong road, and telling them they’re the “future” makes it sound like they don’t have to worry about the call to holiness until they’re grown-up “real” people.

Now, I certainly can’t claim that there aren’t any Catholics who talk of kids as “the future.”  There may very well be lots of Catholics who use that silly language.  But Catholicism does not lend itself to talking of children in this manner as easily as Protestantism does.  I believe there are several reasons for this, but here I’m just going to talk about one:  the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception.

Keeping artificial contraception on the table as a morally acceptable choice necessarily means that a fertile couple is in complete, 100% control of if and when they conceive children, just like they’re in complete, 100% control of if and when they buy a new dog or a new car.  Speaking from my own experience as having at one time believed it was OK to use artificial contraception, I can now see that this belief of mine very much bled into how I viewed children.  And it meant that it was easy for me to see a new child as more like a new dog or a new car than like me.  Certainly, they weren’t “full” people.  If they were “full” people with value independent of whether I “wanted” them or not at a particular moment, that would suggest there was something wrong with using artificial contraception to begin with.  So, once a child was born, it was easy to relegate their significance to the “future”—when they would be like me and could “control” things themselves.

When it comes down to it, the contraceptive mindset is all about control, and it’s based on the premise that the very essence of being an adult or being a “full” person (as I’ve been using that term here) is the ability to control things—such as your own fertility, your own bank account, your own car, etc.  And isn’t that what all the talk of the “future” church is about, too?  When people say things like that, what they really mean is, “You young people will get to run this someday.  Isn’t that exciting?”  That, of course, rests on the notion that there’s something really, really, really special (and superior)about getting to control stuff.  We know where that notion comes from, though, (don’t we?), and it’s not good:  “But the snake said to the woman, . . . ‘[Y]ou will be like gods.’”

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Artificial Contraception, Jason and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Kids Are People Too

  1. Pingback: Kids Are People, Too | The Roman Road | « Kids|diapers|children fashion|child clothes – Supply of a wide variety of children's clothing

  2. Pingback: Kids Are People, Too | The Roman Road |

  3. Very good post, and I don’t want to be a boar, but contraception is not 100%. I work for http://www.goodcounselnetwork.com a Catholic Pregnancy Centre in London, and most of the women we see are using contraception, but are pregnant anyway. Also thing like the Pill cause very early abortion. God bless all your good work

    • Jason says:

      Great point. Contraception only gives the illusion of 100% control. Satan never delivers what he promises.

      Thanks for the kind words, Stuart. God bless you in your important work!

  4. Brydon says:

    If “natural family planning” or the “rythm method” are acceptable for Catholics, don’t Catholics also take “control” of when children will be born? If so, would not that lead to the same view of children you claim Protestants have?

    If Catholics accept natural family planning or the rythm method, then the issue is not whether we should try to exercise control over when we have children. It would merely be the method of doing so.

    • Jason says:

      This is a question Nikki and I struggled with, so I completely understand where you’re coming from. Having been on both sides of this issue, I can only say that NFP is a whole different animal from artificial contraception. First, the Church teaches that married couples must remain open to life, period. So using NFP as “birth control” is off the table. NFP, however, is permitted for “grave reasons”–not just to avoid having children because it’s inconvenient. And, when the only licit method available is NFP, it does ensure that folks search their hearts regularly to determine if they have grave reasons or not for not conceiving in a given month. I never felt that way when we used artificial contraception–there was no constant examination of my motives. Also, artificial contraception involves zero sacrifice on the part of either partner (well, that’s not entirely true, as the news stories regarding the bad health effects of the Pill confirm–and there’s bad effects associated with other chemical contraception and vasectomies as well). With artificial contraception, each partner says to the other (in effect): “I’m not willing to give all of myself (including my fertility) to you right now. I’m going to hold that back.” With NFP, each partner gives themselves wholly to the other, as they are at a given moment.

      Bottom line (for me, at least): God made sex, and sex is obviously very important to Him. Ephesians 5 says that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church. And, just like I don’t want anything manmade or artificial coming between Christ and the Church, I don’t believe anything manmade or artificial should come between two spouses in the marital act.

      One last thing: Protestants and Catholics agreed on this issue until 1930. I’ll go with over 1900 years of consistent Christian witness on this, rather than what folks in the last 80 years came up with.

      There’s lots of good material out there on this subject, in particular “Humanae Vitae” (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html) and Blessed John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.” I’m happy to provide more references.

      Hope the new year is off to a good start for you and your family.

  5. Brydon says:

    I understand why the Church would prohibit contraception for convenience, but allow NFP for health or psychological reasons. I do not understand why, in the case of a health or psychological reason for birth control, the Church would regulate the means of birth control.

    Suppose a woman has a condition where a pregnancy is highly likely to result in the death of the woman and child. Why wouldn’t the Church allow the couple to use the most effective method of contraception? It would be like denying a sick person medicine or surgery.

    • Jason says:

      I think we would agree that there are licit and illicit ways of reaching a moral objective. For example, getting money by working is morally acceptable, while getting money by stealing it is not. Similarly, if it is morally licit in a particular circumstance to try not to get pregnant in a given month, the Church teaches that there is one licit way of accomplishing that objective: NFP. This is because all other methods pervert the marital act by preventing a total self-giving by both spouses, as they are in a given moment. As a consequence, the Church does not consider artificial contraception to be analogous to “medicine” or “surgery.” The purpose of true medicine and true surgery is to restore normal health. Thus, for artificial contraception to be just another “medicine” or just another “surgery,” getting pregnant would have to be some kind of disease. It’s not–even though I’m sure you’re aware (as I am) of many folks in both Protestant and Catholic congregations who treat it exactly that way. If Scripture is clear on anything, though, it’s that conceiving a child is a blessing from God. The stories of Abraham, Hannah, and others make no sense otherwise.

      On the practical side of all this, I think you’d be amazed (as I was) that there are NFP-only OB/GYNs out there who can help couples, who find themselves confronting difficult medical situations, handle them in a manner consistent with Church teaching. Jennifer Fulwiler, a convert to Catholicism from atheism, was told by her docs not to have any more kids for health reasons, but she would not use artificial contraception. She talks about this in her story here: http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/conversion-stories/atheist-converts/item/103-atheist-convert-jennifer-fulwiler.

  6. Brydon says:

    My son is recovering from a sprained ankle. Although walking and running are healthy things to do and are not diseases, he has had to avoid those activities. He’s used crutches and a cast to protect his ankle. The Church would seem to be saying just hop around on one foot.

    I understand what you are saying about contraception in general. I just do not get why the means of contraception are important if the Church’s conditions for allowing contraception are met.

    • Jason says:

      For your analogy to work, your son’s “diseased” ankle must somehow be analogous to the conception of a child. It’s not, though, as I’ll try to explain:

      The Church says (and I believe) that a sprained ankle is a bad/unhealthy/non-normal thing, so using manmade techniques (such as a cast and crutches) to try to heal it is morally fine. Under no circumstances is it considered “good” to have a sprained ankle.

      With respect to conception, the Church does NOT teach (and I do NOT believe) that getting pregnant is a bad/unhealthy/non-normal thing. As a consequence, manmade techniques (such as chemicals, surgeries, and physical barriers) used to prevent pregnancy are not “medicines” or “medical procedures” like your son’s cast and crutches, and so cannot be justified on that basis. The primary effect (and goal) of those techniques is to prevent the conception of life. For a Christian, I can see no basis in Scripture for the conclusion that the conception of any life can ever be considered a bad/unhealthy/non-normal thing, in and of itself. (Although I do realize that the conception of children can present health risks for mothers–that’s why I sent you the link to Ms. Fulwiler’s story.)

      Also, the methods involved in healing your son’s ankle do not in any way affect his fundamental relationship to you as his parent or to anyone else as his relative or friend. Artificial contraception, however, goes straight to the heart of the most intimate human relationship and act that there is, which also is the way God designed for new people to come into this world. I think you’d agree with me that our moral system needs to treat sex more carefully than ankles. They’re simply not moral equivalents: nowhere in the Bible is the relationship between Christ and His Church compared to the relationship between a man and his ankle.

  7. Brydon says:

    In my analogy, physical activity = child and the sprained ankle = medical condition that makes pregnancy life-threatening.

    Once a couple engages in NFP, they are withholding fertility from each other. The intimate human relationship is being affected with NFP. To my hypothetical couple, the Church is saying it is ok to avoid preganancy, but they’re not allowed to do everything they can to protect the woman from death.

    • Jason says:

      I think I see what you’re saying. I think what it comes down to is that there are morally licit, and morally illicit, ways of achieving the same licit objective. And the Church teaches that, when it comes to sex, injecting manmade/artificial barriers into the marital act dramatically changes the character of the act so as to make the use of such barriers morally illicit. With NFP, while it is true that the couple abstains during the fertile time, each and every marital act itself involves the full giving of the person, as they are at that moment in time. During the non-fertile time of the month, there is no “withholding of fertility” because, during that time, there is no fertility to withhold.

      I again come back to the relationship between Christ and His Church. There are times that union is more fruitful than others, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom–let alone explain. But I know this beyond all doubt–there’s no way it’s a good thing to inject something manmade and artificial into the mix of that relationship. And, for the same reason, I’m fully convinced it’s not a good thing to inject something manmade and artificial into the sexual relationship between a man and his wife.

      To your last point, there are things I think you and I would agree a Christian cannot do to avoid death. In other words, the motive of “avoiding death” is not a license to do whatever I want. For example, I can’t deny Christ to avoid death; I can’t unjustly kill another person in order to avoid death myself; etc. And, yes, I fully recognize how hard these decisions are for folks who have to confront serious medical issues. My heart and prayers go out to Ms. Fulwiler (and others) who’ve had to struggle with this on a personal level, and I’m thankful Nikki and I haven’t had to confront this particular issue ourselves.

  8. Nikki says:

    Just glanced through these exchanges for the first time and wanted to point out that the “rhythm method” is so not in use anymore. NFP is way more accurate (like super accurate when used correctly) to avoid pregnancy in grave situations where pregnancy should be avoided. It takes patience and sacrifice, though. A birth control mindset leads people to believe that they are entitled to sex whenever they want it. Not sure where that is in the Bible… Using NFP involves needing to be willing to sacrifice the physical aspect of your relationship at certain times if pregnancy needs to be avoided. That can be revisited on a regular basis, though, unlike birth control which tends to be more permanent. There is no sacrifice or reflection about motivation involved w/birth control. And lets face it: most people use birth control becaue they don’t want more kids, not because they’re on the verge of death. Just my $.02.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s