15) POPULATION AND LIFE.
James V. Schall, S. J.
In many ways, the issue of human life and population is the most important one of our time. I have written three books on these general topics: Human Dignity and Human Numbers (Staten Island: Alba House, 1971); Christianity and Life (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1981), and Welcome Number 4,000,000,000 (Canfield, OH.: Alba Books, 1977).
Here I will include essays: 1) "Population and the 'Future of Humanity'"; 2) "Confronting the Moral Decadence of Our Time"; 3) "Humanae Vitae Twenty-five Years After"; 4) "The Nation's Burden of Conscience"; 5) "The Large Family: The Ultimate Counter-Cultural Position"; 6) "Alternatives to the Family," and 7) Bibliography of other essays by author on this topic.
James V. Schall, S. J.
POPULATION AND THE "FUTURE OF HUMANITY"
The efforts of the Vatican to counteract, at the U. N. Cairo Conference, the dominant positions about population control, coerced family planning, abortion, homosexuality, and versions of women's rights that are harmful to women are well-known. The positions of the Holy Father and those of Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the papal spokesman on this subject, as well as references to statements of John Cardinal O'Connor and Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, have been reported in the International Press.
Clearly, the Holy Father represents a "minority" opinion in many circles in the United Nations as well as in the influential press throughout the world. The fact is that the Holy Father is not alone in his views. This worries the advocates of the Conference policies who seem rather oblivious to the intellectual strength of the criticism leveled at their positions. The Vatican thus is said, almost sinisterly, to have, as one writer put it, "waged in recent years a concerted diplomatic campaign to influence international policy."
No doubt, there is absolutely nothing wrong to make every effort to counter policies and positions that are thought in clear reasoning to be humanly destructive. The Vatican is not forbidden by any principle of ethics or custom from using, like everyone else, the normal human means of public opinion and diplomacy to make its views known. However, supporters of the Cairo proposals think that they far outnumber those who might agree with the Vatican. This outnumbering may well be the case, though the Holy Father has undoubtedly alerted more support to his view than anyone could have anticipated. The validity of the Holy Father's views, however, do not depend for their truth on whether they are agreed with by large numbers of people.
None the less, the Pope, as a minority of one, is always a dangerous opponent. Within the heart of Catholicism is the memory of the Gates of Hell not prevailing against him on fundamental issues of human and divine good. Indeed, it is the Holy Father's very function to alert mankind to a major threat against its own well-being. Moreover, on this central issue of population, we find, in its proportions and implication, two contradictory concepts of civilization to be ranged against each other. In the Vatican's view, the Cairo conference presents itself as a crucial challenge to Christianity's most fundamental doctrine on the sanctity of life as it is to come to be and exist in the family.
Put in these dramatic terms, the opposition to the Church's position sounds like the subject matter might easily be analyzed otherwise, that the Vatican is merely being stubborn with no fundamental issue at issue. But the Vatican did not make up this challenge to the dignity of human life that it sees in the proposals of the Conference. The positions advocated by the Cairo Conference, as any fair-minded person can judge, do challenge the fundamental doctrine of the sanctity of life and the family. The effort to establish the Cairo's views as the dominant ones in all political societies is what the conference is about.
The Holy Father in perceiving this dangerous content of the Conference proposals is not merely defending a sort of odd Catholic view about life and family. He is in fact pointing to the key issue that does indicate what future humanity has before it to choose. This issue of human life and population does undergird all others. A false step here leads to a general disorder of civilization itself. A small error in the beginning leads to a large error in the end, as Aristotle said. This error is precisely what is at issue here.
The Holy Father has spoken a good deal about courage in recent years, particularly the sort of courage that, more than that of physical death, confronts the Pope himself and the bishops. This is the courage to face ridicule and ostracism, of being put into extremely unpopular positions because of the challenge to the central issues that lie at the foundations of human life and of the Christian revelation. An entire culture that held that the right to life was "self-evident" now wants to reject this fundamental principle in every sphere of life.
Recent assertions by American, United Nations' officials, and by liberal Catholics in the United States and elsewhere would attempt to compromise on what the Conference proposals really meant. A studied ambiguity is often evident in these proposals that would apparently allow contradictory interpretations of what is meant by them. The Pope, however, is insistent in these matters to understand exactly what is said, to comprehend exactly what is meant and carried into practice. The modern world is full of benignly worded legislation or court decisions that have resulted in lethal actions against human life. The Pope cannot be faulted on his insistence that words be not used to confuse or deceive on this fundamental issue.
The Vatican is especially attentive to the dubious use of words and language that would imply only verbal agreement but leave the door open by judicial or legislative interpretation for all the practices to which the Vatican objects. On this issue, there is little room for obscurity or surface agreements that do not catch the importance of what is involved. When papal documents state that "The Holy See is well aware that the future of humanity is under discussion", this affirmation will seem to many who do not think profoundly on the issue to be something of an overstatement, an overemphasis that closes the door to rational compromise.
Nor can the Vatican's position be seen in any sense to be one in opposition to the rights of women around the world. The presumably popular "rights of women", unfortunately, have become an expression for pro-abortion and anti-family positions. They seem to have he field all to themselves, as if there were no other or superior statement about the "rights" of women that is in contradiction to these Cairo and American proposals. What is missing in the public forum is the profound understanding of the real meaning and rights of women that the Holy Father has carefully elaborated in so many fundamental documents on this subject.
If we sort through the various issues at controversy in the question of population, we see that they continually come back to human life, the conditions of its coming to be, its growth, and its purpose. What are the principles that stand behind the Conference thinking about population control, the means to achieve it, and the nature of human life subsequent to accepting these means? First of all there is said to be, however much disputed on empirical grounds, a world population crisis. This growth of population indeed is claimed to be "runaway". In this doubtful view, the need to control populations becomes the paramount ethical and political issue in the light of which everything else is seen.. World population is to be set at some such figure as seven and a half billion. Since this figure is said to represent, the "carrying capacity" of the earth, something itself purely arbitrary, this end justifies the means to achieve it. Controlling population becomes the new moral mission which takes on the hue of necessity, not freedom or morality..
Human beings then, on this hypothesis, cannot be expected to live by the fantastic ethical laws that the Pope, following natural law and reason, proposes and insists on. However noble such proposals might sound, they cannot, it is said, deal with actual human beings. Actual human beings, as we know them, it is implied, are not really ruled by moral criteria. Consequently, they must be dealt with at the level of means or consequences.
The reproductive acts of human beings, it is claimed, will go on and on, no matter what. To control these "necessary" acts, we will need to impose a widespread system of control of their consequences. All reproductive activity that results in children is subject to political scrutiny and if needs be force. All essentially sterile acts, on the other hand, are said to be relatively insignificant. Homosexual or lesbian activity, contraceptive or sterilized acts, all are viewed in a positive light because they have no visible consequences. Sex becomes literally insignificant. The social and political freedom of homosexual activity is thus rooted precisely in its lack of any real existential purpose or consequence. Only sexual activity that has potential consequences in the conception of a human child has any political importance. And this activity is what must be limited and controlled as much as possible by the eugenic state.
This theoretic position has its own prior logic. Its premise is that there is no nature or principle of morality that is not subject to the state. The state cannot be itself limited by anything except necessity. In a remarkable statement, the Holy Father affirmed: "'Thou shalt not kill' is as valid for the embryo as for the individuals who are already born." Since the proposals at the Population Conference want to use the killing of such embryos as a means to achieve their political ends, they must deny the validity of the Holy Father's premises, a premise not based on the Holy Father's will but on the nature of things.
The advocates of population control by such means must, contrary to all scientific fact, usually deny that a human embryo is human. Or if this is admitted to be human, they must claim that the power of the state extends even to human life so that the definition of who lives and who dies is not based on the prior existence or sacredness of a human life in any of its forms, but on the political will to control human population according to a questionable theory of world resources and human needs. Ironically today, it is the Church that primarily upholds the scientific fact of the true reality of the human being of the human fetus in all its forms.
Thus, the Holy Father is quite right to see at work in this Conference a series of principles that do undermine the whole position of revelation, human dignity, and natural law as they have been understood in our tradition. For him to be silent would be unconscionable. This Conference did alert the Holy Fathers to see in it and bring to our attention an effort to make man, as he is given in nature, to be subject in his very being to human and political will. To give the very definition of man over to the will of the civil societies of the world is dangerous in the extreme. These political societies and their leaders are themselves bound by certain principles that many of their own constitutions and political theories have clearly understood -- life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.
These principles affirm that life is sacred, that human enterprise and freedom can provide for human needs, that personal disorders of ethical life are the major causes of the political problems claimed to be countered by the principles of the Cairo Conference. The Holy Father represents another way, a way that looks not to consequences but to causes. He understands, along with Plato and our whole tradition, that a reform of society must begin in a reform in the heart of the individual and an accurate understanding of the worth of each human life.
We live in a society that does not like to name accurately what it is about. The Vatican insists on looking behind words and promises to see what was actually being proposed and done. In a sense, especially on these population and life issues, we live in a dishonest age. We call abortion everything but what it is. The Holy Father cuts through this verbiage and calls it an evil as heinous as killing any other human being. This blunt talk sends a shock wave through the highest ranks of our civil societies because many of them have been busy, by their laws, precisely in killing our kind and calling it something else.
Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo suggested that if the principles of this Cairo Conference are enacted and carried out, we shall see "the most disastrous massacres in history". How could he say such a thing? It is not simply because of numbers, though it is true that abortions world wide do represent already the greatest systematic slaughter of mankind ever known. It is also a disaster because human beings killed before their births have brains, brains that are, as the Holy Father recognized in Centesimus Annus, the ultimate source of the wealth needed to meet human problems. The very capacity we have to meet our needs of whatever population depends on the freedom and enterprise of vast numbers of human beings using their brains in freedom. If we cut these off before they are born, or if we do not allow them to be conceived, born, and raised in a proper family, we will deprive ourselves of the very means by which the goods of the earth become our goods. This reality is what the Holy Father clearly recognizes.
When the Holy Father devotes so much attention, even "acerbic attack", to use one writer's words, on the principles of such a Conference, it is not because he enjoys the fray, or that he is making a mountain out of a mole hill. It is because, as he says, "the future of humanity" is at stake. The Holy Father has received widespread, if sometimes begrudging, praise for his role in the dismantling of Marxism. He has more than amply answered Stalin's question about how many troops the Pope had. He had more than enough to help undermine Stalin's empire.
In this case of population too, which may well be more dangerous for our kind than Marxism itself ever was, the Holy Father is alert and attentive precisely to the core issue that our political and cultural leaders do not want to face. This is the fact that they cannot create by their own wills what is right for mankind to do to face its own problems, problems caused most often by our own failure to observe the moral law.
If the Holy Father is largely isolated and alone on this issue, as many would have it,, it may well be that the reason is that modern thought and politics have embraced on a large-scala principles that cannot enhance human worth and destiny. If the Holy Father is free enough and courageous enough to stand firm when everyone else compromises with the essential dignity of man, it must mean that something more is going on here than a mere exercise of political will. Civilization is at stake. We would be foolish to see in the Cairo Conference anything less.
CONFRONTING THE MORAL DISORDER OF OUR TIME
We look back to 1989 with the momentous changes in the Communist world. We have almost begun to forget why the Communists were a threat. These changes were difficult to explain by the ordinary run of social sciences, presumably capable, as they think, of seeing social movements in their "causes". No one, in fact, predicted these transformations in any really convincing sense. Everyone acknowledges, sometimes reluctantly, moreover, that the one player in this event who influenced it most was John Paul II. The actions of unique individuals, as personalist metaphysics understands, always come unexpectedly, surprisingly from outside the theories. Not infrequently, the Pope warns of a "reductionism" in scientific method which implies, improperly, to be sure, that if something is not covered by a theory, it cannot exist. "No statistic aiming at a quantitative measurement of faith ... will get to the bottom of the matter," John Paul II told Vittorio Messori in Crossing the Threshold of Hope (Knopf, p. 102).
In Centesimus Annus, the Holy Father gave us his account of these extraordinary days. "The events of 1989," he wrote, "are an example of the success of willingness to negotiate and of the Gospel spirit in the face of an adversary determined not to be bound by moral principles. These events are a warning to those who, in the name of political realism, wish to banish law and morality from the political arena" (C. A., #25). We ask: "For whom do these events" serve as a warning about the dangers of banishing "law and morality"? Surely, the answer today must be mostly for ourselves.
We like to think that the end of formal Communist power in Europe made it clear to everybody the validity and possibility of the moral and political relationships that must exist for human well-being to flourish. Paradoxically, mankind, when confronted threateningly with extreme tyranny, often sees more clearly how it ought to live than it does in peace and prosperity. We cannot but be struck, however, with the quietness with which Communism ended, something almost more surprising than the fact that it went at all. Till its end, we ourselves were almost convinced, perhaps by Communist propaganda itself, that the only way to overcome violence is with violence. The events, however, did not confirm this expectation.
What has happened in the meantime, on the immediate way to the Third Millennium, is that we have not learned the right lessons about ourselves, or perhaps, it is better to say, that we have not chosen to learn the right lessons. We live in an era of the primacy of political will over reason and science. Ideas that subsequently undermined basic human institutions and goods, particularly the family, have flourished in democracies, wherein, ironically, they were chosen, not imposed by any alien power. Indeed, we are at a point wherein various forms of legislative, executive, and judicial rulings, passed in accordance with due constitutional procedures in almost every free country, have commanded into existence a concept of man that is, in its pre-suppositions, thoroughly anti-Christian and anti-natural law. No written constitution has proved itself capable of withstanding the subverting forces of modern relativism, no matter how firmly its principles were said to be rooted in unchanging reason or nature or nature's God.
The seeds of this increasing "democratic tyranny," as the Holy Father has frequently called it, were already in the logic of modern European thought before Marx ever came on the scene. In retrospect, it begins to look like the significance of Communism, with its dire military threats, was that it served as a kind of temporary brake that prevented subversive notions of man, family, and the state from having their deleterious political effect. Now that this brake or restraint is gone, we are free to carry out schemes of population control, abortion, euthanasia, fetal experimentation, homosexual "marriages" and adoptions, and general moral hedonism on a scale never before imagined. Whether we do this "experimenting" under the banner of ecological doom, overpopulation, or simply a concept of freedom related to nothing but itself, we choose to see no natural order or direction to anything in human nature that would indicate what it is and how it best functions. Since we have no criterion of what is "the good" for mankind, we consider ourselves free to experiment as we will. We wish to produce a man who will be "himself," autonomous, in whom nothing exists that is said to be "imposed" or "willed" from a source outside of himself, particularly by God.
The frequency with which the Holy Father has pointed out the extent of martyrdom in this declining century, right up to the senseless, brutal murder by Muslim extremists of the seven Trappist Monks and one Dominican Bishop in Algeria in May and August of 1996, should not pass without notice. The Pope wishes to update the Martyrology to include the martyrs of the 20th Century, perhaps the most bloody Century in human history -- something that always shocks us, when we realize that it is our Century.
Christians themselves seem indifferent to the persecution of their fellow Christians throughout the world, almost as if they have ceased to think either that brotherhood binds or that their own religious liberty is important or connected with that of fellow believers in other lands. Cultural relativism has led many to think we ought not even to be trying to propagate Christianity, for that implies, it is said, that some "cultures" are not complete in their given historic dimensions. Pluralism is often taken to mean that there are many paths to salvation that do not need to be open to or altered by the Christian revelation in any manner. Hence, there is no need for a missionary Church.
Both the Holy Father's Redemptoris Missio and Ut Unum Sint are directed to differing aspects of this same perplexing problem: How to recognize the truth in other cultures and religion? How to present what other polities, cultures, and religions do not have in a free and honorable way without being subject, in turn, to civil suppression and popular pressure or without being accused of trying to "impose" something alien on others? No obligation or opportunity at least to listen to the claims of revelation is acknowledged. The "Good News" is denied religious liberty.
A culture increasingly intolerant of the basic truths of Christianity, of even allowing them to be accurately and freely stated, combined with an indifference to what happens to Christians elsewhere in the world, explains the Holy Father's emphasis that freedom of religion is and must remain the first duty of the state to define accurately and protect. Thus, in his response on receiving the Credentials of the new Ambassador to the Vatican from the Republic of Egypt, the Holy Father stated: "The Holy See cannot state strongly enough that the right to religious freedom, and the corresponding juridically guaranteed respect for this right, are the source and foundation of truly peaceful coexistence. Moreover, it is not sufficient that the commitment to ensuring such freedom be expressed: it must influence in a real and practical way the actions of political and religious leaders, and the behavior of believers themselves" (O. 4, 1996; OR, English, O. 9, 1996, p. 5). The Holy Father is aware that almost everyone claims to respect religious freedom as an abstract position but very many deny it or fail to allow it in practice. He is aware of mobs that close down churches and schools or judges that make practice of religion severely circumscribed by the state.
Almost from the beginning of his pontificate, the Holy Father has been preparing for the Third Millennium. His Tertio Millennio Adveniente, in 1991, is a more immediate preparation for precisely what the Holy Father takes to be a religious event in the order of salvation history, and not merely a secular changing of dates from the 1000's to the 2000's. While all the current intellectual confusions variously known as modernism, post-modernism, deconstructionism, cultural relativism, doctrinal pluralism, and their various cross currents have dominated the visible intellectual scenes, John Paul II has steadily and carefully accumulated a wide-ranging and coherent body of teaching that, remarkably enough, represents the precise antithesis of the cultural movements of our era. Every significant aspect of Christian teaching and practice has been clarified, ordered, and presented in a coherent form, accessible to anyone willing to think on it. This papal thought shows itself familiar with philosophy of the ideologies or systems that are arrayed against or critical of it. Likewise, as the Holy Father mentioned at the publication of the General Catechism of the Catholic Church, this coherent presentation of what the Church holds of itself was intended "for every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us and wants to know what the Catholic Church believes." The Church wants to be properly understood by those who seek to know what it stands for, something it believes possible for everyone of normal intelligence and good will.
The significance of this remarkable body of teaching, reflection, and discourse ought not to pass without notice. The two documents that penetrate to the heart of the disorders of modern civilization to place the Church at odds with it are Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae. That is, the Holy Father precisely directs himself to the denial of truth as a principle and to the claim that human life, who lives and who dies, is subject solely to human will. As the precise opposition between Catholic teaching and secular practice has become more visible and acute, such that so many basic human decencies are rendered meaningless by practice and law, it is well to ask if it is possible for our era to pass without great violence and persecution, if present anti-life and skeptical trends continue? Can, in other words, there be another "quiet" revolution that, almost by a change of heart, is capable of addressing itself to the terrible practices that we generally refuse to call anything else but by the noble name of "rights"?
We must reluctantly realize that the noble word "right" in many contexts today can be a most dangerous word. Pretending that this word has no intellectual ambiguity to it causes enormous civil confusions. With some historical and philosophical care, no doubt, the word "right" can be given a valid theoretical and practical meaning. The Holy Father uses the word with care, but finds himself constantly having to explain what he does not mean by the word. Nine times out of ten, however, as the word is used both academically and popularly today, it does not have a recognizably legitimate meaning, however much we might like to think it so, as it can be a useful word.
The word "right" does not mean what we normally think it does in Catholic circles wherein it is a claim to or an aspect of something intrinsic to human dignity, say, life, property, or speech. Rather the word "right", as it is used in practice, comes from at least Hobbes. "Right" in this sense basically means, "what I want," or, in a civil context, "what the state wants." This "what-I-want" is what the word means for most people and evidently most legislators and judges. This will-aspect of the word "right" is also why there is no "argument" about it. If "right" means "what I want" and I "want" something, then this "what-I-want" is the content of my "right." For this reason, it is perfectly coherent for people to speak of a "right to abortion," something that seems simply contradictory. To "respect" the "right" of another, then, simply means allowing one's own "will" to achieve its object.
We can be appalled at this usage of the word, of course. But it should not surprise us that this terminology is a perfectly logical phrase if we root "right" in "will", as has happened since the word came into early modern usage. Clearly, "the right to life" and the "right to abortion" are contradictory positions from a natural law viewpoint. Yet, there is nothing contradictory in a "will" based position. One day we will the position that "right to life" is inalienable. The next day we will the opposite, that it is not. Since law is what we "will" collectively, nothing unusual appears, no contradiction is visible. In this system, both "life" and "abortion" are "rights." What decides which will prevail is not some criterion of reason or what is, but what is willed at the moment. We appoint the state, as the locus of our will, to make the decision. So, on the basis of this theory, we have no basis, other than our own opposite and equally arbitrary wills, to object to a law that decrees a certain class of human life, say, the unborn or the old or the deformed, can claim nothing of their own intrinsic reality as a limit on the will of the state to act against them if it chooses.
Is there any way back to an understanding of will that sees it as a principle of the object, of the good that is simply there? A useful way to see the main issue is, for the sake of argument, to take the Holy Father at his word, in his repeated teachings. Namely, let us ask ourselves what his opposition to this anti-truth or anti-life movement in contemporary law or practice means? Let us take the teaching on abortion. What does our society look like if what the Pope teaches is true? We understand that on the "will-rights" theory, the exercise of the "right" to abortion has nothing to do with what happens in an abortion. The unborn child is treated as if it does not exist. What matters is the "right" of the one that wills.
The Holy Father, it is well-known, has taught a thousand times that each human life is sacred from conception. Each human life came into existence by the direct hand of God. As such it lies outside of human moral power to do anything but protect and foster it. Civil law and individual moral virtue should converge to protect and enhance this life. We also know that, in principle, no child should be born except within a family, of a father and mother, who will love it and take care of it. We know this preferred condition is not in fact always the case. When it is not, institutions and procedures as closely allied to the normal situation, often arising from supernatural energies, should be in place. Each human life so begun at conception is protected, even in abortion-ridden societies, by the commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." This prohibition is the foundation or first minimal step in any coherent "right to life" and any just civil order. Prius est esse.
However, we all live in societies in which, for the past quarter of a century or more, hundreds of thousands and millions of human beings have already been legally and systematically chosen to be killed each year. This killing of unborn infants is protected by the force of law; it is not "illegal", however immoral. People have a "right" (a "will-right") to abortion as defined by the state. Practically every political society, with varying degrees of limitations, follows this practice. To point this situation out is simply to state the facts. We regularly kill unborn human beings and, in several jurisdictions, we begin to allow doctors to "assist" the old to kill themselves -- something that Paul VI already saw in the logic of the anti-life position.
In terms of the Holy Father's firm statement about each life sacred from conception, what do these facts of so many human killings mean? At first sight, it might mean merely a controversy about the definition of life. To some degree, the issue has been argued in these terms, as a kind of moral puzzle. But from the point of view of science, we must state that the Pope is quite right, not religiously but simply scientifically, when he affirms that human life begins "from the moment of conception." There is no conflict between the Church and science here. The only conflict is between the Church and science on one side and, on the other, a voluntarist politics that claims not to be bound by any limits but its own contrivance. The only human lives that will be protected by the state are those it chooses to protect, however it chooses. The state no longer protects or claims to protect "all human life" simply because it is human life.
What this means is that de facto we live in a period of great and widespread legal slaughter of our own kind. The fact of this widespread human killing is a simple thing to document, as is our wide-spread moral indifference to it. Regimes that permit and foster this killing of the most innocent of our kind, however, bear a great and accumulated moral guilt in the souls of its leaders and individual citizens who select them. Indeed, we must sometimes ask ourselves, what is the meaning of this great slaughter and suffering of millions killed before birth? It cannot simply be a nothing. God perhaps forgives, but He does not forget until He forgives. Nor should we. And forgiveness is not possible without an explicit, clear acknowledgement of what it is we have done.
The reason why this killing continues is that we do not choose to cease doing those things that make abortion an option. Technology may very well, with various deadly pills or lasers, reduce the numbers of abortion after the first few weeks. Making abortion more invisible, less an industry, would possibly reduce the political issue. Yet, we recall that the widespread use of, say, condoms or other devices, was supposed to reduce abortions also. Evidently, it did not do so as the number of abortions per capita has remained almost constant, a fact that should lead us to suspect that what causes abortions is not "mechanical" or "medical" in the first place. Very few pregnancies today occur because the begetters did not know how to prevent them by artificial means.
In the course of the past half century, most modern nations have on their collective consciences the accumulated guilt of tens of millions of abortions, of terminated human lives. Really there is no way to deny that this slaughter has happened. Each of our societies is missing hundreds of thousands and millions of human lives, potential sources of knowledge, generosity, wealth. We can either continue killing or stop it. If we continue it, as we seem likely to do, we must convince ourselves that this slaughter is nothing serious. To kill an unborn infant is, it is said, to do it a favor, to prevent it from being "unloved" or "poor" or "unwanted." Ironically, it is the Church that primarily teaches that each child should be "loved", "cared for", and "wanted." It is, no doubt, a serious thing to go about bringing children into the world without these expectations being looked into. But we cannot love, care for, or want what we kill.
To confront the moral disorder of our time, we must admit to ourselves what it is we do. We need to be reminded, gently but firmly, of our deeds. This living, moral clarification is one of the services that the Holy Father has provided to our era. Beyond this, we must see that what we do is brought into reality by our choices. This source means that it can be likewise willed out of reality by a reversal of our choices. The first step is to know, the second to acknowledge, the third to repent and restore the right order. The Holy Father's persistent calmness before Communism and his patient teaching of the truth about life are based on his confidence that, ultimately, evil has no force, that it is a nothing, that it can quietly disappear if we choose the truth, as he says in Veritatis Splendor, if we choose life, as he says in Evangelium Vitae. Such choices can make us free and enable us to bear the terrible civil burdens that we refuse to acknowledge to have resulted from our choices.
HUMANAE VITAE AFTER TWENTY-FIVE YEARS
Humanae Vitae, the Encyclical on Natural Family Planning, was published on July 29, 1968. I was at the time teaching in Rome. I came to think, as I listened to the almost frantic criticism of the Pope that something terribly wrong was behind the intellectual opposition to this teaching. To explain why I so thought, I subsequently wrote Human Dignity and Human Numbers (1971), and later Welcome Number 4,000,000,000 (1977) and Christianity and Life (1981),
The stark logic of the papal teaching itself, it seemed to me at the time, was what was so powerful, a logic the denial of which has formed the basis of the anti-life and anti-family, yes, anti-eros atmosphere of our time. The "logic" became somehow prophetic, just as we might expect of it if. Though contrary to all the presumably great minds, this logic was still in conformity with revelation.. We worried about the bedroom in 1968; we worry about civilization itself in 1993 because of what has happened there largely contrary to the teachings of the Church.
However, what I want to do here is to reprint, if I may, some paragraphs of a short essay I wrote in November, 1968, in the English Jesuit journal, The Month ("What Is At Stake? The Long-Range Significance of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae"). In retrospect, subsequent history has, it seems to me, pretty much demonstrated the dire consequences of denying something the Church, for some unexpected reason of its own, insists on teaching. The long-range significance of the document is a testimony both to the wisdom of the Church and the courage of Paul VI.
That it is still a minority opinion, I know. But our social disorders arise, it seems clear, from disorders following from faulty teaching. They are becoming more out of control the more we deviate from the essence of the papal teaching. What practices they have been teaching even our small children in New York City, we can hardly bear even to hear of. Abortion is an established public policy, indeed, to the President, a "moral right." Homosexuality is held to be a "normal" way of life. A disease epidemic, perhaps the worst in the history of the world, can not even be spoken of frankly in its causes. All of these disorders and more are directly rooted, in a kind of divine ill-humor, in the denial of a principle and a practice found in this encyclical.
I was talking to a young Jesuit priest the other day, moreover, about Janet Smith's forceful book "Humanae Vitae": A Generation Later (The Catholic University of America Press, 1991). He told me that his lately deceased uncle was an Augustinian priest, who gave this topic of the clerical response to this Encyclical considerable reflection. After watching religious life in its well-known crises during these past decades, he came to the conclusion that the major reason for the disruption of religious life was what followed from not supporting the Church on this issue. Communities divided themselves over it and agreed not to talk about the topic. Meanwhile, the dissenters, always the publicly popular group, went right ahead teaching the dissenting view throughout the country. This divisiveness, never fully addressed, effectively undermined religious authority within communities and its example spread to all areas of loyalty to the Church.
Let me then re-present these remarks some twenty-five years after they were first published in England. "The pressure on science welling up spontaneously from the demands of the sexual community," I wrote bravely in 1968, in language that sometimes is politically incorrect today,
is to produce a secure, safe method of birth control which allows the natural act to be the natural act. All scientific progress in this area has in fact been in this direction anyhow because what man instinctively, that is, naturally prefers in his sexual relations is either the natural act itself or, this lacking, something that approximates it as closely as possible. In essence everyone admits the natural superiority of the sexual act as it is received from nature.
In other words, no one wants to use birth prevention means and in fact no one does (use them) except when constrained by some other (specific) reason. Birth control is in practice used only to prevent disease or birth when these motives are strong enough to overcome the natural desire not to interfere with the sexual act. All acts of contraception, then, are taken against what the participants prefer with regard to the consummation of the act itself. Contraception means the limitation of the act is preferred by many to nothing, but it is not preferred to the act as it is found in nature where this is available. The act as it is given by nature is always selected when the choice itself is given.
This point can be seen better in this manner. If we list the known or proposed means of birth control according to their degree of deviation from ... natural sexual activity -- i.e., infanticide, abortion, sterilisation, contraceptive devices (IUD's, condoms, jellies, diaphragms), the "pill," vaccine immunisations against the sperm, withdrawal, and rhythm -- it is clear that the 'reason' for the invention or development of each new means was in some fundamental sense the unsatisfactory results with means that either attacked life, interfered with the act of intercourse, or made it inconvenient. The most 'desired' means seems clearly, if this kind of approach is valid, to be the one that allows and forms a normal female cycle that is both known, certain, and safe so that the natural act can be the natural act.
Each new scientific improvement, then, seems clearly designed to foster the human desire to allow the unimpeded natural act, which is the essence of the papal position. The condom and the diaphragm were means (designed) to avoid the necessity of abortion or the distaste for withdrawal. The 'pill' was invented to avoid the inconvenience and interference of the condom and diaphragm. The injection, sterilisation, and the IUD were invented or perfected to avoid the side effects and sophistication of pill usage. All of this seems to suggest that science is itself in fact headed in the traditional direction and that the invention of a secure rhythm system will not only prove immensely profitable but will be simply carrying to its logical conclusion a scientific progress that began with the rejection of infanticide as a legitimate means for birth control. Thus, it is strange but science itself seems somehow to attest to the unacceptability of the present preventative means. We can be practically sure that all the present 'means' will soon be little more than historic curiosities because mankind simply does not like them in its sexual activity.
This way of setting up the problem, moreover, makes it clear that human life is in some basic sense always involved in this discussion and that everyone must draw the line somewhere at the means of birth prevention in the name of man. Infanticide, as Will Herberg once vividly pointed out to a very startled Protestant audience that refused even to consider his most valid point, is still the 'best' means of birth control because it at least allows society to take a look to see whether what is killed is defective or not. Abortion on the grounds that a fetus 'might' be malformed or it 'might' harm the mother is hardly so rational or even humane. The line must be drawn somewhere, then, in a continuum of life potential or actuality.
That some connection between abortion and contraception exists is strongly suggested by statistics in those countries where abortion laws are very liberal. Here the curious fact presents itself that illegal abortion still continues on a disturbingly large scale even among those who have all the contraceptive means available and the knowledge about their usage. This suggests that at the moment of intercourse such people, even though they have no moral scruple about the subject, prefer not to use preventative means and that, once conception has taken place contrary to their desires, they have little hesitation in ridding themselves of what is conceived as it was not desired in the first place and that the symbolic meaning of the act did not include the mutual commitment to what was its product. Not everyone who fails in contraceptive practice, of course, automatically resorts to abortion, but this consideration makes it evident that a connection between life and responsibility to the fact of intercourse does exist.
However, even broader issues are here at stake. To state this problem in its most extreme form: what is ultimately at issue is the very nature of a being in two sexes. This will seem a bit preposterous to the average person, but any familiarity with proposals for genetic experimentation and control or any analysis of the philosophical positions of homosexual and lesbian theory will soon reveal that it is precisely heterosexuality and its implications in love and the family that are at stake.
The question is this: Is man a certain kind of being who was established by 'nature' so to speak in a better form (that is, in two opposite sexes) than man could produce himself? Can we, in other words, improve on sexuality and still keep it? These two issues -- genetic control of human life and the meaning of perversion -- lie behind the defence of the natural act in marriage.
Too few people today are aware of the serious proposals being put forth in certain areas of the scientific community. Briefly, it is now possible at least theoretically to suggest -- and let us not forget it is being suggested -- that the two-opposite-sex marital relationship which does in fact produce children should be used only by the few for experimental purposes, that better genetic health could be produced by clonal generation rather than by sexual mating, that eugenic selection of offspring should replace the present system where every man and woman has a right to form his and her own family, that the same genotype or only a few should form the whole of the human race, that everyone should be his own 'twin`, that children need no longer be conceived or developed in the womb of a woman, perhaps even that all people should be of the same sex.
Implicit in many if not all of these positions and proposals is the notion that sexuality and its implications is the cause of the ruinous condition of the race and that it is not biologically necessary for the production and preservation of man, except perhaps as a kind of indifferent pastime that has no consequence in the empirical order. It is in defence of man as a being of two opposite sexes whose dignity rests in large part upon the 'naturalness` of man as he is received from nature that makes this encyclical important. Man's natural system of reproduction is ultimately superior to any scientific or perverted alternative -- the Magisterium has rightly, I think, taken its stand at this point.
This same conclusion is also implicit in the scriptural and traditional rejection of perversion as a normal form of human life ..., or as a superior way of life for man. What fundamentally distinguishes 'perversion' -- that is, basically, homosexuality, lesbianism, and bestiality -- from the two-sexed condition is its fundamental unrelatedness to the transmission of human life and its subsequent sense of natural frustration. In the broader context of these issues, together with some of the totalitarian implications of population theory which the encyclical rightly referred to, the papal document does do a basic service in suggesting that these are dangers in our intellectual and political environments that do strike at the very structure of man as we have known him. The issue, then, is somehow, as most of the criticisms of the encyclical have suggested, that of the nature of human love and its 'natural' exigencies.
If we look only to the narrow terms of the problem as somehow only pertinent to the pill or to contraceptives, we will miss the real threats to human life that do abound in modern society. These threats cannot be totally disassociated from the theory and practice of contraception. Population fear, genetic control, and perversion do, furthermore, contain serious implications to the nature of man that we can no longer ignore. Perhaps the biggest weakness of the encyclical was its failure to note these broader problems and their relation to the nature of human life.
Consequently, it seems to me that much progress can be made if we attempt to see this document in the larger context of the trends of scientific development of birth prevention, the meaning of genetic control of man, perversion, and population fear as a means to justify any action against human sexual dignity. Taken out of the narrower basis upon which it is read in Catholic circles, it becomes clear that serious life issues are here involved whether we like it or not and that the trend of the document is in conformity both with scientific development and the dignity of human sexuality which is really what is at stake.
There is a serious danger to sexuality in the modern world and I greatly fear that we are failing as a civilisation to see its nature and proportion. It would be both sad and supremely ironic were an elderly pope to be the main defender of sexuality itself. I sometimes think God would like to play such a joke upon our pride and intelligence. What Paul VI has said is surely foolishness to the wise. The lesson of the next fifty years will be to see if the present wisdom of the wise turns to foolishness, for what greater foolishness would there be than to sacrifice sexuality itself in the name of sex? That we are in some danger of doing this is paradoxically, one of the great realities of our time."
On re-reading this essay half-way to the "fifty years" it spoke of, we can notice that legally or socially we must call "perversion" just another form of normalcy today. Indeed, politically, we are not even free to use the term. We recall too the thesis of Joseph Sobran about why gay politics are interested in grammar schools and adopting children, that is, because they can have no children of their own. Acts of sodomy, furthermore, by definition are infertile and therefore constitute a radically different kind of reality than that created by heterosexual acts. We are not surprised to learn of the extraordinary numbers of "partners" that homosexuals often have. I once heard of the editor of a famous journal actually propose "homosexual marriage" precisely on the grounds that it was needed to curb such uncontrolled promiscuity. No doubt this changeableness and lack of permanence is because, ultimately, such acts on which homosexuality is based are, to recall some words of Aristotle, "in vain," contrary to nature. In order to prevent us from saying that acts can be "unnatural," we respond by denying there is such a thing as nature.
We are well aware of the peculiar silences around AIDS and its causes, that we are spending billions of dollars on care and research as if somehow practicing gays have a natural "right" to their activity free of threat of such disease. We know too about RU-486 that kills invisibly as an afterthought. While we can no longer politically call homosexual acts "perverted," that is, turned away from their natural objects, we can, nevertheless, call nature itself "perverted" for allowing the disease to happen and thereby interfere with a "natural right" to be homosexual. We are not allowed, in any case, to call it a scourge of God, merely a sickness for which we are searching for a cure. Pointing out the fact that AIDS can be prevented in all cases simply by following what Christianity has always considered the only moral solution in any circumstances, that is, abstinence and self-discipline, results in an attack on Christianity for daring to say such things.
Furthermore, we allow born babies to die of starvation because of botched abortions or deformity, that is, we practice infanticide. We know that in several cultures girl babies are also aborted or even killed because of family preference. We see that euthanasia is with us, with generally the very same arguments used to justify abortion. We notice that the state controls more and more of the families, especially the poor ones, and the children, both in their begetting, in their early care away from their parents, and in their education.
We see that sex while still around, when completely protected against life becomes itself insignificant and sterile, as Paul VI emphasized. We are curious that the present Pope, in spite all the intellectual and political opposition, says the very same thing that Paul VI did. We notice that what was once presented as "private" is now in the coercive hands of the state.
On the other hand, the concern I had twenty-five years ago with a more secure and simple rhythm or natural family planning method seems to have come about -- I think of the program of the Couple-to-Couple League. From many sides, from health to security, from aesthetics to fidelity, from the nature of love itself to its relation to children, natural family planning methods seem on every level superior to any of the other contraceptive or abortive systems. We practice and promote these artificial systems in our effort to avoid the basic understandings and principles that are really found in the commandments and the tradition.
Let me conclude, as to the ultimate wisdom of it all, with the following remark of Flannery O'Connor, written about a decade before the publication of Humanae Vitae (June 27, 1959):
The Church's stand on birth control is the most absolutely spiritual of all her stands and with all of us being materialists at heart, there is little wonder that it causes unease. I wish various fathers would quit trying to defend it by saying that the world can support 40 billion. I will rejoice in the day when they say: "This is right, whether we all rot on top of each other or not, dear children, as we certainly may. Either practice restraint or be prepared for crowding."
In retrospect, this spunky lady may have had it right -- the most spiritual doctrine of the Church has to do with what at first sight appears to be one of the most material sides of creation, precisely where body, spirit, and life meet in their tininess.
Need we be overly surprised if this is really what the Incarnation is about, the way our spirit suffuses what we really are? Is it not shocking that what we are is really better, infinitely better, than any of the alternatives science or politics have come up with in the meantime to resolve issues really caused by disordered souls? Twenty-five years after Humanae Vitae the Church maintains the same spiritual teaching as it did in 1968 and as it did through another old pope in Casti Conubii in 1931, when the Church began first to treat the technical proposals in this area.
At the same time, the world falls more and more into familial and moral chaos by the logic of its disagreement with the Church on this very point. Never let it be said that the infallibility of the Church does not have its finger somehow uncannily fixed, contrary to the wisdom of the world, on the crucial point that alone, it now seems, will protect us in our very bodily being and teach us to remain what we are.
Yes, it is ironic that elderly popes are the main defenders of sexuality itself in the modern world. God alone would have it that way. No doubt as our civil and personal disorders grow apace, He is trying to teach us something. If we continue as rapidly down the same "logic" that we did during the first twenty-five years after , surely not merely good human life will be in jeopardy but all human life itself. Some think the end of our civilization may come from nuclear weapons. It begins to look rather alarmingly, however, as if it may come because we refused understand the long-range implications of Humanae Vitae, taught to us by old popes in their sober ways.
THE NATION'S BURDEN OF CONSCIENCE
The lead Editorial in the Wall Street Journal (August 1, 1996) called "abortion rights" the liberal movement's "Alamo". I take this comparison to mean that, on evidence, the liberals will inevitably lose this battle. "Abortion rights" present defenders, largely in control of the Democratic Party, however, will go down fighting to the death in favor of a principle they cannot intellectually or morally defend except in terms of raw will, except in terms that radically violate not only the most basic principles of human right and personal dignity but also violate both the letter and the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. I suspect that such abortion warriors will not be remembered as the Alamo was remembered, that is, as a noble defeat that inspired victory later on. They will be remembered rather as the man who died in the bunkers of Berlin is remembered. This perhaps unexpected editorial reference to the Alamo, however, does give me occasion to reflect on another aspect of this analogy occasioned by the reference: namely, what happens, I mean in this life, when the present defenders of abortion finally realize in their souls, as they surely must begin to realize is the case, that they have no more arguments, no more defenses to justify what they do other than raw power and contorted will to continue their awful acts?
Two days previous to the Wall Street Journal Editorial, Mackubin Thomas Owens wrote in The Washington Times, a very clear and forceful comparison between the arguments used to justify slavery and the arguments used to justify abortion. Anyone who has read this essay or Hadley Arkes' brilliant account of the same issue in his First Things will know that in logic it is simply impossible to maintain that the intellectual grounds used to defend slavery are different from those used to defend abortion. Both rise or fall on the same argument. The principle that human life is not present and sacred in all its forms, including in its beginning and in its end forms, is impossible to defend rationally, scientifically, or morally. It can only be defended by naked political will.
Recently, I came across a reference to a Letter from a self-acknowledged abortionist in the New England Journal of Medicine (5,1998, p. 1267), in which he stated that "conception is defined as fertilization of the oocyte (female's egg) by a spermatozoon (male sperm cell) to form a viable zygote. In nearly all mammalian species, fertilization occurs in the oviduct a few hours after ovulation takes place." This passage is worth citing to eliminate any suspicion that it is the Catholic Church alone, blindly arguing from faith, that maintains that individual human life begins at conception. On this issue, the Church and science are in total agreement. The conflict is not between faith and reason, but between politics and what faith and science agree on, with politics gaining the upper hand through its manipulation of law and police power.
At the other end of human life, Dr. Jack Kavorkian said that Christ died an ugly, grizzly death on the Cross, with wood and nails, but that it would have been much more "humane" to have killed Him in his van. Kavorkian affirmed this, I believe, at the National Press Club. After playing the tape of Kavorkian saying these awful things, Rush Limbaugh, that voice of sanity, remarked that Christ was being executed, that His death was not voluntary but forced upon Him. It was forced on Him by the state, in fact. He was not committing suicide or asking for Kavorkian's "merciful death". In making this analogy to Christ, Kavorkian implicitly admitted what he was doing was executing people. At the beginning and at the end of life, we are faced with the same arguments and the same principles, as modern Popes, those prophetic men, have seen from the beginning. These events, the Kavorkians, the scientific abortionist who knows perfectly well when life begins, the Popes who have described where these things would lead and have now led us, make us wonder about what is in fact the great, unspoken truth about us? What is the truth that we will not face?
What seems to be new about the 1996 election is that both candidates, in principle, agree that abortion is all right, one in many cases, the other in fewer. One might still argue the lesser evil, but, as James McFadden said, our political choice may already be so bad on key moral issues that we will have to sit this one out. We have forgotten that there are regimes so bad that the only moral alternative is to drop out, -- however much this goes against the optimist and activist philosophy that we have been bombarded with from all sides. We simply refuse to imagine that our democratic regime, in the person of both parties, can choose corruption and give that corruption to us as our only choice. No wonder the Holy Father worries about "democratic tyranny." Jack Kavorkian in the same speech even accused the Holy Father of running the Supreme Court from Rome! All we can say, not unlike when Al Smith was supposed to be taking instructions from the Vatican, is that if the Holy Father is running the Supreme Court, he is certainly doing a terrible job of it.
Joseph Sobran remarked the other day in The Washington Times, that Mr. Dole is busy looking for the "middle ground" on the abortion issue, but that "there is no middle ground," something the too eloquent Allan Keyes has seen from the beginning -- I say "too eloquent" because no one can answer or, if he has taken any pro-death position, even bear to listen to Keyes. Keyes combines in himself both the anti-slavery and the pro-life issue, as well as the eloquence of an educated, experienced man. The listeners to Keyes remind me of those who, like Alcibiades, finally have to put their hands over their ears to avoid hearing Socrates, lest they should be persuaded by his arguments, which they choose in advance to reject.
"In 1996," Keyes said,
it is very likely that Republicans cannot win the presidency so long as Americans fail to recognize the connection between politics and morality. Bill Clinton's lack of moral character is his chief political liability. A solid majority of Americans believe that he is a liar and a philanderer. Yet many of those same people believe that this conclusion is irrelevant when deciding on his fitness for office. This is the political consequence of rampant moral relativism. ... If Republicans adopt in our politics the language of moral relativism, we hand Clinton a pass on the character issue, and very possibly a free ride to victory in November (Washington Times, August 5, 1996).
For many people, it is more important that both parties promote abortion, rather than that there be a genuine choice within or between the parties. That way the practice of abortion will be politically unchallenged.
By now, most people know the story of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the former abortion leader, who himself performed many hundreds of abortions. He finally realized in horror what he had done and simply repented. Nathanson, I think, is a kind of symbol for what I want to talk about in connection with what the Wall Street Journal called the "liberal movement's Alamo". That is, I will be frank here, we are a nation that has committed terrible crimes against the lives of our kind, the tiniest of our kind, begun, human lives. No honorable or scientific or moral way can be found to deny that we have, all too many of us, done or approved of this slaughter. We have killed our kind with relatively ineffective opposition, an opposition itself now more or less successfully marginalized. We are not able to admit the truth of what we are doing, what we have done, what we evidently choose to continue to do. We will not read even our own Declaration of Independence honestly, about the right to life, let alone Scripture or our science books.
We choose not to listen or take account of what we have done because it means that those awful pro-life people were right in their basic principles all along. We cheer the man who attacked the guard taking the prisoners to a Nazi death camp, but we arrest those who peacefully protest this slaughter of our kind, of those we need, of those we miss every day in our economy, if we would only calculate correctly the cost in terms of loss of workers, loss of income, loss of brains, loss of dignity.
We have spent enormous volumes on wondering how the Germans could bear their guilt. Can we bear to wonder how we can bear ours -- not that the present Germans are not doing much the same thing to their own? Those, such as Professor William Brennan, who have studied the history of medicine in Germany, have told us authoritatively that the principles that justified what the world watched with horror were already largely in operation before Hitler. Wasn't Germany a democracy? Are not many of these principles being practiced among us today? Just the other day I saw that in Arizona there is a suit against the state law banning medical experimentation on the human fetus, a suit posed in behalf of people suffering from, I think, Parkinson's disease. Someone proposed that we should be able to take the organs of living, severely handicapped individuals, who would not need or miss them.
What does all this mean if not that human life is not sacred or its own, but that, once the state allows it, one human being is at the total service of another? This being at the total service of another was the classical definition of slavery. We are in fact reintroducing a form of slavery by forgetting the arguments about why we should get rid of slavery in the first place, that is, because each individual is a human being, whatever his form or condition, with a dignity that does not come from civil law or from our subjective wills.
But still, my concern is with ourselves. What happens when the arguments that we concoct to justify our killings of our own kind are exhausted, as they are. When we ask, for instance, why President Clinton vetoed the partial-abortion ban -- that clearest of all examples of what we are about -- he did so with an excuse, as he always does in his indefensible actions. This ghastly procedure is justified because it is quite clear that the abortionist position cannot yield one inch of principle. No matter how horrible to anyone, the advocates of abortion clearly see that they cannot admit even the slightest opening to any mitigation of abortion practice because granting the principle that some lives, at least, are sacred and cannot be touched because they are human means that the principle must be granted to all human lives. Here in partial-abortion (full infanticide) we have perfectly normal babies, completely formed, with no reference to any reason, except the life of the mother, a case that never happens, being killed before our very eyes. It cannot be banned. The people who do not want it banned know perfectly well what they are doing. They are protecting themselves from ever having to admit in principle what they are doing, therefore of never having to acknowledge before God or men the depth of their guilt and immoral actions.
What was it that the American Cardinals told the President on the occasion of their letter (April 16, 1996)? To the President's excuse that reasons of political necessity "forced" reluctantly him to sign the partial abortion ban veto, the Cardinals wrote, with considerable eloquence, "At the veto ceremony you (the President) told the American people that 'you had no choice but to veto this bill.' Mr. President, you and you alone had the choice of whether or not to allow children almost completely born, to be killed brutally in partial-birth abortions." We should not underestimate the significance of this letter of the American Cardinals. It represents their finally realizing the extent and depth of the problem both in itself and in the problem caused by their not clearly and effectively challenging what has step by step been happening in this country. Notice that the Cardinals are here definitely "pro-choice"! They do not allow a politician to deny his personal responsibility. He cannot blame anyone else. He stands naked before God with his choice.
Speaking of the literally hundreds of documented times that President Clinton has changed his position, mind, and memory, Paul Greenberg, the Editorial Page Editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in Little Rock, wrote:
But if the president is an artist at the phony, what beliefs is he being false to (in changing all the time)? What political standards is he betraying (if he has no standards)? Can anyone be sure? Not really, for after a long and successful career of pleasing any and all, William Jefferson Clinton may no longer have an identifiable core of political belief from which to deviate. The most unsettling thing about the political personas of Bill Clinton is not their number and variety, but the suspicion that after all the masks are gone, they reveal nothing. Which raises the disturbing possibility that he is, yes, truly, reflecting us (Washington Times, 5 August 1996).
Bill Clinton was elected to office, that is, chosen. That is to say, if Greenberg's analysis is correct, we are all bound to the choices the president makes. We participate in the public corruption.
The notion of "corporate guilt" is a long and dangerous one. As John Paul II has often said speaking of what is called "social sin" that it cannot happen except through previous personal sin. This is why the Cardinals were very precise to say to a president ever bent on excusing himself, yet again, that he had a "choice". The purpose of a politician, just like everyone else, is to choose good and reject evil. To decide as the president did, he must have deliberately chosen not to argue on the evidence at hand. He chose instead another "principle" that would allow him to choose as he did. Human freedom means that we are free to do this, but we are not free to escape the responsibility of our choices.
On a very vast scale, not all are involved, we are a people guilty of immense slaughter which we deny to ourselves. Every political and propaganda effort is made to prevent us from admitting the responsibility and what it implies -- that we free and democratic people have chosen for ourselves the greatest slaughter of our kind in human history. It is a terrible fact that is there relentlessly before us. Continuing on this road is destroying gradually our lives, our political parties, our president, our moral fabric. The first and essential step that can and must be taken is the one stated in the sentence I cited from the American Cardinals to the President -- you, Mr. President, had a choice. This principle applies up and down the line.
However "compassionate" we may wish to be in mitigating the responsibility of some, the fact is that abortion rests on the personal choice of hundreds and millions of our fellow citizens and those in other countries that imitate us (we seem initially to have imitated the British). To choose to perform these acts is in every instance an objective evil that will not be repaired or go away. It can only be first acknowledged, that is, stated for what it is, second repented, and finally repaired. For the essential problem, that of choosing something evil, there is no other sociological, psychological, political, or economic solution. This acknowledgement and repentance must come first. This is the burden of conscience almost too horrible to acknowledge to prideful men, that they could do such a thing in a democracy. But it is done and it was chosen.
The end of communism came quickly, at least to the outside observer. We do not compute the contribution of suffering, sacrifice, or prayer into this event, for that would imply that the world is ruled by something other than ourselves. We now admit that this web of evil and disorder could not sustain itself because it was against human nature, that it did not work. Yet it worked for seventy years and is still at work in China, one of the most efficient of all societies in history at killing off its own kind. The end of abortion will probably come equally as fast. Calling it good or advisable is simply a lie about what is happening, about what we do. No doubt for this lie to be acknowledged on the widest scale, we not only have to see what we are doing -- as we could see quite vividly in the partial-abortion operation -- but also we have to see at fault abortion's relation to the whole complex of individual rights and liberties with no responsibility except to ourselves that justified this result.
The outlines of the counter doctrine are already clear enough: 1) every human life is sacred in all its forms, 2) every child has a right to a mother and a father who are married in a stable family, 3) everyone is responsible for his own choices, 4) duties to others define duties to ourselves, 5) thou shalt not kill innocent life. These are principles which we want for ourselves when we are the ones threatened. The key to all of this national burden is the elementary catechetical statement of the American Cardinals to the President of the United States on his signing a bill to permit killing and excusing himself: "You and you alone had the choice...." Once this choice is made, its consequences are no longer in the order of choice. We cannot undo what we have chosen. We can obstinately proclaim that we are right and make our own world on the basis of our own principles. Or we can acknowledge what we have done and bear the burden of our choices. We can repent and amend. There is no other way, no other alternative.
We can thus say, in conclusion, that the Alamo of "abortion rights" has already taken place. The bodies are all killed and neatly disposed of, millions and millions of them, soon to be followed by the elderly, no doubt themselves conned or shamed into choosing their own slaughter in a sanitized Kavorkian style. This fact is a terrible, unyielding, present truth that took place in our time, in a democracy that proclaimed that we have from our Creator certain inalienable rights, among which is that of life. Every time we refuse to acknowledge our choices, the lie gets worse and leads to greater horrors, the evil more and mor extensive, inexorable. We once had two parties against abortion, then we had one, now we have effectively none. Behind evil, Augustine said, is nothing, though in the case of moral evil, nothing but our choices. Once we are clear where the issue lies, there is hope. This is why things can suddenly change because we can see, if we will; we can choose, if we will.
THE LARGE FAMILY: THE ULTIMATE COUNTER-CULTURAL POSITION
Let me begin with four deliberately provocative statements, each of which has something to do with the family, especially the large family:
1) "From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way because man is the only creature on earth that God has 'wished for himself' and the spiritual soul of each man is 'immediately created' by God; his whole being bears the image of the Creator" -- Il Dono della Vita, #5, (The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, February 22, 1987, The Pope Speaks, #2, 1987, p. 141).
2) "Working wives are earning 28 percent of total family income these days. That is just about the size of the average family's total federal tax bill. In other words, the wife is working just to pay off Uncle Sam, no more" -- Karl Zinsmeister, (Washington Times, June 14, 1989).
3) "France will be a Muslim country by the turn of the century. Muslims, who are very pro-life, know that they can conquer the world with patience and with children. As Iranian Atifa Dawat has stated, 'The more children we have, the better. When there are enough Moslems in the world, then we will have world victory.' If 'Christians' continue to hold convenience as the highest good while aborting their children, and if Muslims continue willingly to sacrifice in order to have large families, then the religion of Islam deserves its 'world victory'" -- Brian Clowes, Social Justice Review, December 1993, p. 222).
4) "Those married couples who have a large family have a right to adequate aid and should not be subjected to discrimination" -- Charter of the Rights of the Family, (Presentation of the Holy See, October 22, 1983, 3c, The Pope Speaks, #1, 1984, p. 82).
We have here, in other words, issues of geopolitics, of the intrusion of the state, of the dignity of each human life, and of the value of the large family. The large family is what I call "the ultimate counter-cultural issue," for it is the one we hear least about in a positive manner, the one that is most likely to be blamed for the world's ills by a certain kind of ideology.
A graduate student of mine and his wife have a single child, a very beautiful little daughter of about six. She is a bright and alert young lady. I am quite fond of her. I told her father the subject matter of my talk to you here about the large family with the kidding remark that he would probably have nothing to contribute to the subject.
"On the contrary," he told me laughing, "I have something that you might find quite useful." "What is that?" I inquired. "It concerns Amelia," he told me. "Do you remember a couple of years ago when those ads used to appear every once in a while about lost children?" I vaguely remembered seeing some. "Well," he continued, "when at about three or four Amelia, who has always wanted a brother and sister, finally figured out what these advertisements meant, she asked me to go out and buy her one of those lost children."
A second story seems fitting. Another young woman came in to see me a couple of weeks ago. She was a friend of friends from the South, a freshman at school. She told me that she was the eldest of six children. Naturally, I asked her if she had any reflections on the topic of a large family. She laughed happily and told me that a large family "was a wonderful experience." She recounted how her mother is frequently stopped and sometimes accused for having so many children. Her mother responds by telling the critics that she did not plan them; "they just came."
The girl proceeded to tell me how nice it is when her little brothers call her up to tell her how they did at the football game the week before. I asked her if she had learned to take care of the little brothers and sisters. "Certainly," she said, "but they know that I am not their mother and frequently bring the question of the location of essential family authority to my attention. 'You are not my mother! each insists.'" I was myself an oldest child so I remember that sort of situation well.
Let me continue with a few initial propositions: 1) There is a difference between a large family and a large number of children, while a large family like a small family can be well or poorly directed by its parents. 2) Large families uniquely contribute to the overall well-being of human society; they are not opposed to it. 3) The ultimate wealth is not property or land but the human brain. 4) Poverty and population are not necessarily correlated; some of the most populated countries are the richest; some of the most sparsely populated countries are the poorest. In this context, I like to recall the surprising words of Rousseau in the Social Contract:
What is the goal of the political association? It is the preservation and prosperity of its members. And what is the surest sign that they are preserved and prospering? It is their number and their population. Therefore do not go looking elsewhere for this much disputed sign. All other things being equal, the government under which, without external means, without naturalizations, without colonies, the citizens become populus and multiply the most, is infallibly the best government. That government under which a populace diminishes and dies out is the worst (III,9). And lastly, 5) Brothers and sisters, in some sense, ought to have brothers and sisters.
The subject of the large family, the topic of this lecture, arose from an Address Pius XII gave on January 20, 1958, to the Directors of the Large Family Association of Rome and Italy. I do not know if this organization still exists, but it seems important initially to note, in the light of the remarks both of Rousseau and of Muslim population increases cited above, that Italy has now reached the lowest population rate increase in Europe. Perhaps it is not out of place to remark that the low birth rates in Europe have at least something to do with the need of these countries to import labor from elsewhere.
We need to recall also that President Nixon, I believe it was, who once advocated the two child family as an ideal. To this point, in a remarkably perceptive essay entitled, "You Can't Have Too Many Kids," Jo McGowan, an American woman who has lived in India, wrote:
One of the unfortunate side effects of having small families is the ease with which one or two children can be tucked into the parents' lives. In such families, the children are not the parents' reason for existence; they are merely one part of it, right along with careers, mortgages, and adult friends. They will be taken care of, and very well; but beyond a certain point, their interests will not be given undue importance. The child will adjust.
A family of six or seven is obviously in a different situation. Seven children are a force to be reckoned with. They simply cannot be dealt with neatly or easily. There is always one who is sick or furious or sad, always one who needs a shoe tied or a story read or a bottom washed. Parents cope because there is no choice and the more they have to manage, the more they can manage. Their own needs come last. (U. S. Catholic, March, 1991, p. 36).
This latter mentality, as Mrs. McGowan remarked, goes against so much of our own culture, and yet she points out that it is strangely in conformity with notions of life, sacrifice, and generosity that are found in revelation.
We know, moreover, further to clarify our thinking on this topic, that in China no one is allowed to have more than one child. Politically coerced abortions are the law of that unhappy land. The whole political culture and coercive force of the largest absolute left on earth are aligned against the very existence of any second child. The stories on this score coming out of China on this score are some of the saddest of human history.
Likewise, at George Washington University, we read of scientifically cloning human cells to produce multiple and identical human embryos to be put into existence eventually under a wide variety of circumstances. That is, science is more and more separating begetting from the direct relation of husband and wife. Science is taking control of incipient human lives for a variety of purposes -- precisely what, far ahead of anyone else, was a concern of the Papacy about this very topic. The separation of children from an actual sexual act has begun a world in which actual human beings will have no known or responsible father or mother. They were conceived in science not in love. We already want to know if they can be used for commercial or experimental purposes. It is the Church that says no on both scores even of test-tube or otherwise scientifically begotten human children.
"The value of the testimony offered by the parents of large families," Pius XII on this same occasion remarked,
lies not only in their unequivocal and forceful rejection of any deliberate compromise between the law of God and human selfishness, but also in their readiness to accept joyfully and gratefully these priceless gifts of God -- their children -- in whatever number it may please Him to send them (The Pope Speaks, 4 [Spring, 1959], 365).
Notice that there are several points here -- that parents of large families bear a testimony, a testimony that the laws of God and human selfishness are somehow involved in this issue, that children are essentially priceless gifts, that parents can also look on the number of their children as something pleasing to God.
"But is it right or wrong to have a large family?" someone might ask. We should not forget from the beginning that the Church, while recognizing that not every family will be numerous in offspring, still has a good word for large families. The new General Catechism says explicitly (#2373) that "Holy Scripture and the traditional practice of the Church see in large families (familles nombreuses) a sign of the divine blessing and of the generosity of parents" (see also GS, 50,2). You won't find that exhortation in Glamour or Cosmopolitan or The New York Times, of course. The Catechism goes on to note, thus showing its awareness of the whole human situation, the "suffering" of couples who find themselves sterile but assures them of the true dignity of their lives (#2374).
More and more, however, as parents of such families testify, large families are popularly considered to be wrong. They are pictured to be violators either of the environment or women's or children's rights. Again, there is a conflict between the Church and the culture here, one that reveals, as every such conflict does, an issue of the profoundest import for understanding what human life is really about. Uncannily, in these matters, the Church, as Chesterton often remarked, is most right, when it is popularly and scientifically considered to be most wrong. How should we think about this controverted topic?
Peppermint Patty, who has something of a crush on him, is seen in the living room phoning Charlie Brown. She had just forgotten to give her teacher some flowers as Marcie did, but that put something in her mind. Thus, she asks Charlie, "Hey, Chuck ... Guess what Marcie did yesterday... she brought the teacher some flowers ... Sweet, Huh?"
On the other end of the line, in the next frame, we see in his living room Charlie, alias "Chuck", responding, but not wanting to get Patty's point. "Yes, that was very thoughtful," he hesitantly answers. The third frame shows a very disappointed Peppermint Patty. She replies dejectedly to this indifferentism, "Thanks, Chuck." The final scene reveals Charlie forlornly sitting on the floor, phone in hand, clearly realizing what Patty was getting at. He says to himself, "How can I say the right thing and the wrong thing at the same time?"
Might I suggest to you that this most counter-cultural topic, the large family, will necessitate my saying right things that will be understood by many people to be wrong things. So be it. The fact is that there is a case to be made for large families but not a case for a large number of children. The word family makes all the difference in the world.
Moreover, I recognize that many couples cannot have any children, or cannot have more than one or two for a variety of very good reasons beyond their control. I recognize also that some couples with large numbers of children think they have too many children, though they would be hard pressed, if asked, to decide which of the existing ones they would not want. Just because a family is large, it still needs a lot of discipline and order and parental authority. This is not always the case.
Too, we cannot forget that there is such a thing as polygamy in which one father might beget forty or seventy or even a hundred children by many wives. I once knew a wonderful young Chinese woman who was the twenty-second child of her father, who had two wives, thirteen children by each. The adulterer and the fornicator, classic types, moreover, can "father" many, many children known and unknown. Abortion statistics alone suggest the dimensions of what we might be dealing with here in terms of numbers.
Pius XII reminded us, however, that St. Robert Bellarmine came from a family of twelve, while St. Catherine of Sienna was one of twenty-five children of one mother and father. That is no doubt near the maximum number of children one woman can bear; though now with science, we can speculate that some technician, in the name of science, might try to fertilize all the five hundred or so ova that a single woman produces in her lifetime. He might try to do this with a different sperm for each ovum, or all five hundred from the same sperm source. If it can be tried, someone will no doubt try it.
We also know that sperm banks make it possible for one man may to impregnate thousands of ova in vitro or by artificial insemination. We know that profligate men have fathered again many, many children who did not form any family whatsoever. We are rapidly coming into an era, in other words, in which the difference between a large family and a large number of children becomes very significant for the very structure of society and mankind. We may be losing in fact any relationship between children and families.
In any case, January 20, 1958, the date of Pius XII's Address, was my thirtieth birthday. My mother was one of fourteen children, my father one of eight. I have innumerable cousins. My parents had four children, three boys and a girl. My mother died when she was thirty-three, so I presume I would have had other brothers or sisters or both had she lived. In fact, my father subsequently married a lovely widow who had two daughters of her own, so that our family was one of six. I do not recite this family history to establish myself as any sort of authority on the subject, but the issue is not entirely abstract for me. My existence, in fact, depended on large families.
I have often been struck by how the Church states the reality of what each human child is and what is its origin. In a recent Address, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, affirmed that "children have the right to be conceived and to be born into a family, into a stable home, by a responsible act of true love" (L'Osservatore Romano, English, 1 September 1993, p. 5). In principle, any other form of child begetting and rearing is wrong, however much it might happen. This axiom that each child has a right to be born into a stable home having been conceived in an act of true love is true of large and small families, of course. Those children who are begotten and born in any other fashion are, by that very reason, being deprived of something naturally owed to them. All our substitutes for this best situation such as adoption or foster homes or orphanages, however worthy, are still not what the child would want if it could have it.
But the principle stated remains a striking one for it does not originate from the point of view of the parents but of the child. Whether it does so or not, each begotten child, by the mere fact of what it is, has the right to have been begotton in a true act of love and born into a family. Even in the myriads of times we fail in our duties to the child's right, this remains what the child had a right to simply by its very being. Looked at from this angle, we can see the terribly serious responsibility that arises from our actions.
The General Catechism clarifies a further point that is sometimes misunderstood about our relation to children themselves:
The child is not a right, not something that is "owed", but a gift. The most excellent gift of marriage is a human person. The child is not to be considered as an object of property, that to which would conduce the recognition of a pretended "right to a child." In this area, only the child possesses true rights: that "of being the fruit of the specific act of conjugal love of its parents, and also the right to be respected as a person from the first moment of conception" (#2378, from Donum Vitae, 2,4).
Most justifications for experimentation and in vitro fertilization come from claims to aid infertile couples as their end. This principle that no one has a "right" to a child, either singly or in couples, however, remains a fundamental one.
I would add, because the Church does, that each human child is destined for eternal life, no matter at what stage it is cut off by natural or human causes, whether at the moment of conception or in advanced old age. Heaven today, as it were, is being populated by many unlived human lives destroyed by our own hands.
We should never forget that that large numbers of children not born into stable families from particular acts of responsible conjugal love, as is their right, are nevertheless ordained to the same supernatural destiny as any other lived human life. They do not form, as it were, a sort of second-class citizenry in the City of God. These lives that never appear above the visible human horizon are not eternally lost, whether they cease by natural or human means.
For me, the best place to begin to think about the significance of large families, that is true families that understand the meaning and purpose of conjugal love in its relation to children, is with the above-mentioned China policy of only one child with coerced enforcement of anything further. This policy, no doubt, is presented in the name of equitable justice and scarce resources, both dubious principles in this area.
By virtue of both their economic and political policies, however, the Chinese have failed to understand or to put into being the simplest notions of a productive economy. The logic of their family planning policy follows from the logic of their economic and political policies. The charge of Genesis to "increase and multiply" was related to man's dominion over the earth, which dominion in tern was related to the notion of man's intelligence. The ultimate wealth is precisely the human mind so that there is some correlation between increased population and the increased knowledge of knowing how to support it. Brain power is not itself a scarce commodity unless we take steps to prevent it from coming into being or fail to use it when once it has arrived.
"Gone is the view of a thermodynamic world economy," George Gilder has written,
dominated by "natural resources" being turned into entropy and waste by human extraction and use. Once seen as a physical system tending toward exhaustion and decline, the world economy has clearly emerged as an intellectual system driven by knowledge. The key fact of knowledge is that it is anti-entropic: it accumulates and compounds as it is used (Microcosm, p. 378).
The fact is that what is more likely to prevent the possibility of our taking care of ourselves is too few brains, not too many. We speak too often of too many mouths to feed, instead of in terms of not enough brains to flourish.
I say all this here briefly only to suggest that the argument against large families on the basis of population or environment or scarce resources does not really hold. I do not wish to go into this topic here except to suggest that there are reasonable, intelligent, common sense arguments in this matter that indicate that this oft-heard reason against large families as such are not valid. In so far as a large family is a locus of stable and normal life, it is one of the primary loci for developing precisely those talents and that energy that will enable us to use the riches of the intelligence we have been given in our very coming to be.
What interests me about the China policy, however, is a remark I once heard from Dr. Herbert Ratner. Ratner suggested that by every criterion of logic and human health, it would be far better for the Chinese to change their single-child laws to read that we will forbid four out of five families from having any children at all, but we will let the other families have five or six children so that the Chinese can have some experience of what brothers and sisters are like.
The Chinese principle is one based on a curiously rigid view of commutative justice, one for one. But the social good of China is undermined by the one child families in which there is no humanizing experience of older sisters or younger brothers, or families of all boys or all girls, or any of the many varieties of age and gender combination that nature produces. The birth of twins or triplets, for example, must be a terrible dilemma in this philosophy. Ratner was speaking ironically, of course, but his point was one of remarkable insight about the principle involved. To deprive a society of large families is to deprive it of one of the basic social goods in which the deepest experiences of human living are naturally realized.
It is perhaps not so strange that this sort of thinking takes us to Plato and Aristotle. In The Republic, Plato proposed that for the rulers, the family should be abolished. He proposed that numerous children should be begotten for political and scientific purposes, mainly by allowing only the abstract best to reproduce. Parents should not recognize their own offspring and children should not recognize their parents. This would, supposedly, be disruptive and distract the rulers from their main duties. Every citizen would be called father or mother, every one would be called brother or sister no matter from what parent. In today's ideology, we probably could not even call each other brother or sister. Thus, the whole polity was to be modeled on a family. The increase of children, of common brothers and sisters was at the expense of real parenthood and brotherhood and sisterhood. Children were to be begotten eugenically, the "best" parents producing the "best" children. To this proposal, Aristotle, in a rather acid remark, stated that he would rather be Plato's cousin than his brother or sister. He is eternally right.
There is some controversy, of course, about whether Plato meant his proposal seriously. He was after all responding to Aristophanes' "The Parliament of Women." It does seem that this proposal of Plato can be taken to mean that he was warning us not to follow the proposal in Book Five of The Republic. The destruction of the family was too great a cost and too contrary to human nature, so that Plato was warning us about the dangers of idealism. In any case, the proposal that everyone be brother and sister to everyone else, every one parent to everyone else could only serve to dilute the intensity of family relations on which much of the highest things depend. In other words, the truth that Plato was getting at had to be found not by abolishing the family but by keeping it.
Let me conclude by suggesting that the tradition of the large family has rather more to be said for it than we are wont to grant until we begin to spell out the alternatives. Very often today, we cannot see that something is wrong until we spell out what happens when we follow a wrong course. We have not ceased to have a large number of children, especially if we include aborted lives, as we should. But we have ceased to have authentic families with large numbers of children. Children belong, for the most part, in the latter form of institution. At least some are beginning to suspect this counter-cultural proposition: there is no alternative to the family and to the large family if we are to be responsible to our faith, to our common sense, to our love of the particular human beings we find ourselves to be.
The best thing that parents can give their children is brothers and sisters. That is to say, each child has a right to be conceived in an act of love between a married man and his wife into a stable household wherein there is the liveliness and variety of human life that is reflective of the abundance in which this world was created.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE FAMILY
A family begins with the Sacrament of Marriage, in which the spouses give themselves to one another and actually accept one another, promising life-long fidelity, love and respect, in good times and in bad. When this promise is exchanged, the spouses also commit themselves in a certain sense to their children. Indeed, the promise of the reciprocal fidelity is also made to them. The children will rely on it and, from the experience they have of its daily and preserving observation, they will learn what it means truly to love one another and how much joy can be found in mutual and unreserved self-giving.
One striking way for me to begin this reflection on alternatives to the family is to recall that I myself live in one of the classical "alternatives" to the family. The clerical life is an alternative life to the family. It is not, be it noted, a rejection of the family, as if the family were somehow a flawed institution, nor is it a replacement of it. Without families, clerical life cannot exist. But the clerical or monastic life is a choice not to live in the basic domestic institution. The new recruits to monasteries or convents do not arrive as natural offspring, as with the family.
Thus, I suggest that there is nothing wrong with the family, nor is there anything disordered about clerical or monastic life because it is different from the family. Indeed, rightly is it said that unless the clerical life is in order, the family live will be likely be in disorder. Too frequently, the corruption of family life historically follows from corruption of clerical or monastic life or from the intellectual life in general. Disordered dons lead to disordered hearths.
The monastic way of life -- common life, common brotherhood, common property -- is then an exceptional life; it is not for everyone. It is not a substitute for or protest against the family, but rather something else, a way of reminding us that the manner of life of the family itself reaches towards something beyond itself. The monastic life, however, is dependent on the family life. Monastic life, as I mentioned, does not naturally reproduce itself. It requires both grace and will. We can have family life without monastic life, but we cannot have monastic life without family life. The monastic life is a graced form of the celibate life, to be lived within very carefully defined terms. There are eunuchs from nature, those who have made themselves so, and those who are so for the Kingdom of God, as Scripture tells us.
To broach this topic in another way, let me recall a theological problem I once came across in Peanuts, in a question that Linus asked of the ever blunt Lucy. I believe, as a matter of fact, that the only case in which Linus' question was in fact ontologically correct was in the case of the Holy Family, but Linus' question, as we shall see, has vast implications. The scene begins with Lucy pertly sitting in front of the television set with the most serious of looks on her face. Linus comes up behind her and says, as if asking her permission, "I have a question." Lucy moves nary a muscle. Linus is next seen by himself, arms in the air with an expression of utmost earnestness on his face. He asks Lucy, staring indifferently into the television set, "What would happen if there were a beautiful and highly intelligent child up in heaven waiting to be born, and his or her parents decided that the two children they already had were enough?" Such is the moral condition of our polity that Charles Schulz may be the only theologian among us brave enough to voice such a question.
In the third scene, both Linus and Lucy gaze into the television set. She answers him off-handedly and impatiently, "Your ignorance of theology and medicine is appalling." In the fourth scene, Lucy continues unchanged before the television set. Linus turns away, with a look of lingering perplexity on his face, and says, to himself but out loud, "I still think it's a good question." Indeed it is a good question, one almost prohibited from being seriously posed except in comic strips.
Lucy is right, of course; we Christians do not believe in pre-existence and reincarnation of souls as the explanation of reality; we do believe in the resurrection of the body, the reunification of the whole person, body and soul. We hold that body and soul are created from nothing, but the soul survives death, is immortal. It is, however, always intrinsically related to the body. To postulate "pre-existing children" is, in fact, ignorant theology, as Lucy maintains. And medically, as John Paul II keeps telling us, we begin from the first moment of conception; we do not linger in heaven waiting to be born, though the Creator capable of bringing us into being simply exists.
Science and the Pope say the same thing. Yet we do know that the enormous, astronomical multiplicity of ova and spermatozoa present in human sexual exchanges indicates the possibility of vast numbers of other children that "might" have been conceived but were not. Evidently, our particular existence was actualized while other possible human existences were not. We have to wonder, why? In this sense, Linus' question was a legitimate one.
Linus is right in another fashion; parents can be selfish, can prevent what perhaps ought to exist, from coming to be, such is their power. Linus' question is a good one with which to begin, with the wonder whether parents always accomplish what they ought to do, the wonder about what happens, if not to possible, not-yet-existing souls, at least to the myriad of fetuses with definite souls who are conceived but not born, either because of natural deformities or because of abortion. These already incipient lives are each destined to life with God, just like any other human being. Likewise, all children born of aberrant beginnings, whether from personal disorder in the lives of their parents, say adultery, or from scientific experimentation, are destined to the same eternal end. The Church's teaching is quite clear on this point.
In the case of the Incarnation of Christ, the one case in which Linus' question does in fact apply -- the Word to be made flesh is from eternity -- the Church has always taught that this event in our redemption did depend on Mary's will, her acceptance of Gabriel's request, her "be it done unto me according to they word." The Word in heaven, to be sure, did not have a pre-existing human soul or body. Christ's human soul is created just like everyone else's. But the Word did exist, the Second Person of the Trinity. In this sense, Linus' question has an uncannily perceptive truth connected with it.
The best book on the family in the twentieth century was written near its beginning, in 1910, by G. K. Chesterton. The book was called appropriately, What's Wrong with the World. The book's title was not posed in the form of a question. It argued that what is wrong with the world relates directly to how we think of man, woman, child, of home and work. If we get these things wrong, the world will go wrong. Families at the end of this century are, by every testimony, in much worse condition as families than they were at the beginning of the century, mostly because we have rejected one after another the principles that ground the dignity of the family, principles that Chesterton carefully spelled out in his own memorable fashion. Things did go wrong. We might have assumed, of course, that, as we would become richer, our families would become more stable and healthy. The very opposite seems to be the case. We did become economically richer and our family life became under concentrated attack; its cohesive principles were everywhere rejected or not practiced. We have sought to justify and live with the alternate principles that would substitute for the family. The fact that these substitutes do not work should cause us again to wonder why.
To comprehend the meaning of the family and its alternatives, what we need to indulge in here is some real "free-thinking." Chesterton remarked in What's Wrong with the World, that "the only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past. He cares as little for what will be as for what has been; he only cares for what ought to be." This last "care" of the truly free thinker, the thinker free from all the fads and prejudices, that is, the care for what ought to be, is of course the first requirement. But we cannot ask what ought to be without also thinking about what ought not to be. Both what ought to be and what ought not to be exist among us. Things that ought not to be, like, say, adultery or divorce, do exist, a perplexing fact that requires us both to correct what ought not to be and to find ways to deal with the good that supports the reality of what ought not to be.
The what ought to be, when examined or seen in isolation by itself, does not always seem so majestic, so rare, so logical, or so coherent. Those in the best circumstances often do not know that they are in the best circumstances; they may have nothing with which to compare themselves. We begin by comparing the best circumstances -- the sort of life we would want if we could have it -- with the alternatives that we have chosen but perhaps do not want. With this comparison, we begin to suspect that what ought to be is in fact much better than what we have put in its place. The penalty for not living the good life is, in truth, precisely the not living the good life, the carrying out of our faulty choices in reality. Once chosen, we must live out to its end what we select in place of the good. The first step in restoring the good is to acknowledge the disorder. This sets the groundwork for any forgiveness by reestablishing the right understanding of what is good in the first place.
The best way to understand the importance of the family is to spell out, in all their spectacular variety, the alternatives to this same family. This is, as it were, an intellectual exercise, worthwhile pursuing if only more clearly to see the issues before us. Let us, if we can, in logical and inter-related order, see just what might replace the family. The place to begin, however, is with the family itself, at its best, so that we will have something with which to contrast it. Both philosophy and experience have given us many alternatives to the family, alternatives that we can either actually see or easily imagine.
In beginning with the family at its best, I do not mean that such a family as I shall describe exists or exists often. We are a fallen race in some sense. We know that the fact that we do not observe the Commandments, for example, does not mean that there is something wrong with the Commandments. The fact that we do not observe the Commandments means rather that the Commandments give us a pretty good idea of what we ought to do. We would not be better off if we encouraged everyone to go about breaking them, doing what is opposite to their injunctions..
Let me begin, then, with what ought to be. I am going to proceed from both the revelational and philosophical traditions. What is it, in other words, that any human child, in love and justice, ought to be able to expect, if we can imagine, as we can, a child expecting anything? We can, to be sure, which is the same exercise, imagine God demanding something of us in the name of what He creates as a human child. At bottom, a child should be born of a sufficiently mature and responsible father and a mother who are formally married to one another, who love one another, who want and will to accept children begotten of them, to care for them, raise them, and educate them. Spouses' faithful love and intercourse alone should the proper way in which a child ought to be conceived.
This father and this mother intend to stay together till death do them part. Their love in its mysterious unity and diversity is the proper environment, indeed the only proper environment, in which a child should be conceived and born, and in which it can flourish. The child needs both father and mother willing to exercise that sacrificial love with which Christ has loved us. Here, I am not saying that such a relation always, or even often, exists. I only say that this is what we would want ourselves for ourselves if we could have it.
We hear much talk of "family planning" but no child as such, in his particularity, is properly speaking "planned." Parents, a husband and a wife, do not know whether they will in fact conceive.. If they are, through some physical defect totally lacking the organs of reproduction, they cannot even marry. Marriage implies at minimum the capacity to perform the marital act. And when they do conceive, parents have no idea how they caused the particularity of this child that turns out to be Suzy or Sam. Parents only know that what is begotten of them is theirs and that their continued relationship is the primary one that provides the child the proper opportunity to grow to adulthood in their care.
A man and a woman also know that the very possibility of a child is not something that they somehow make up themselves. Their capacities are given by nature. Man and man, woman and woman, cannot conceive, cannot marry, cannot indulge in any act that will result in a child. This is by nature. Such same sexual relationships are intrinsically "in vain", designed for nothing, to use Aristotle's phrase. A civil law permitting such a relationship does not change the fact that the relationship is "in vain," has no natural purpose.
Conception is what can and sometimes does happen when human beings of opposite sexes unite in a particular act of intercourse. Since each person, husband and wife, is a rational being, each should know what each is doing, what happens between them. The openness to life is what guarantees the uniqueness of the relation of man and woman in marriage and makes it different from all other relationships. The Church, interestingly enough, will not allow as morally right any other form of human begetting except that between wedded man and woman in a proper act of intercourse between them in the context of their marriage. What the Church is protecting here is precisely the relation of marriage to child, through protecting the exclusiveness of the relationship of husband and wife. Any scientific infertility programs to aid in conception must retain these two purposes, the exclusive marital relationship, its relationship to begetting. Human life is never for experimentation, either at the level of the couple or that of the child. Experiment itself to aid fertility is only legitimate when it fulfills the purposes and integrity of the act itself in some remedial fashion.
We can acknowledge, of course, that today very few children are born in such conditions in which they are begotten in a stable and loving family that has accepted as a principle its permanence through openness to life. We know of divorce and its frequency. We know of adoption, of foster homes, or orphanages. We know about abortion. We have heard of frozen embryos. We have also probably heard of polygamy or even polyandry. Certainly we have heard of in vitro fertilization, sperm banks, and surrogate motherhood. We know scientists who would like to monitor full human fertilization and gestation outside the womb of the mother, as if scientific knowledge were itself a sufficient reason to attempt these things, as if individual human lives can be sacrificed to some higher knowledge. We can classify these alternate relationships from the aspect of the act of begetting or from the aspect of the child once begotten.
Scientific conceptions are based on a separation of child begetting and the intercourse of its genetic parents. Intercourse is to be left to the couples provided that they beget nothing, whereas actual begetting is to be turned over to science. Ova and sperm are collected outside of intercourse. The "contraceptive mentality", the absolute separation of intercourse from the openness to conceiving life, has this in common with the scientific project: the separation of begetting from intercourse and its conditions. That is to say, we have heard of many differing situations in which children can be and are begotten, can be and are cared for. We can acknowledge that the begetting of children as the initial step in human life is performed under a number of differing conditions. We want to inquire about what is the best condition and, when this best is not fulfilled, what happens to human life; what do the alternatives, in other words, entail?.
One thing to remember, however, is that the Commandment, "thou shalt not commit adultery", does not mean, should a child be conceived in such a relationship, or in a scientific or other morally disordered manner, that the begotten child as such is evil, that it should be destroyed or even be unwanted. Any begotten child, as the Holy Father remarks, has rights, is the object of duties of others to its well-being. We generally accept that a child without known and acknowledged parents will have no natural protector. It needs to find one in law and charity. This principle that the begotten child is good even if the means of begetting were disordered likewise holds for human children produced in scientific laboratories of unknown or unacknowledged parentage. On the other hand, such a situation cannot help but mean, by its very circumstances, that the child so conceived was not placed in the best circumstances for it to grow and flourish. The object of begetting a child is the child itself, not some scientific or human purpose aside from the child's good. There is a consequence to personal disorder of soul that directly affects the begotten child, with its natural right to two parents in a condition to take care of him. Hence, such is our intimate relationship with one another that our aberrations touch more than ourselves, even when we admit the disorder we caused.
Besides in fornication or in adultery, children can be begotten in institutions of polygamy and polyandry, which assume normal acts on the begetting side of the relationship. These latter are historically legal or customary institutions, having the stability that the previous two relationships, fornication and adultery, generally lack. The notion that so-called "unwanted children" can be aborted, incidently, is often the direct consequence of a lack of any real sense of commitment that is endemic to these two usually passing relationships (adultery and fornication), or else it is a kind of revenge that an anticipated permanence was betrayed. The traditional objection to polyandry, one woman married to several men, was that there was uncertainty of fatherhood. A woman with several legal husbands would, presumably, unless carefully monitored, not be sure which child belonged to which father. The certainty of parental line would be obscured. Behind this objection is the assumption that certainty of parenthood is itself a good that belongs to the child's general good.
Polygamy was practiced in the Old Testament and elsewhere, even today. Muslim law, I believe, allows four wives. Many still argue that the Reynolds decision of the U. S. Supreme Court, outlawing polygamy among the Mormons, was an unjust decision. That is, they would argue that polygamy is a good institution. In polygamy, fatherhood is certain; but with a multiplicity of wives, there is a multiplicity of half brothers and sisters. There can be as many as hundreds. This system obviously dilutes the meaning and capacity of fathers for personal attention to their children as well as incorporates a general system of injustice to the various wives and children.
In the cases of adultery and fornication, what is lacking is the stable and intended atmosphere, with two parents, a father and a mother, in which a child ought to be born, wherein its reception into the world is properly provided for, where parentage is clearly identified. Adultery usually involves injustice to other spouses and children. We have today, in addition, many children who have only one parent in their lives. It is well established that good-intentioned welfare policies have often fostered this abnormal situation. This single-parenthood usually entails an elaborate state-run system to supply what is lacking both in terms of finances, emotional support, and authority, something in fact the state cannot supply.
Irving Kristol, I think, puts his finger on why.
On its family series and soap operas, television portrays the ideal father envisaged by the liberal imagination. He hugs his children, assures them that the loves them, guides them through their homework, is actively involved in all their extracurricular activities, etc. These fathers, of course, are generally upper-middle-class professionals, with the ability to share "quality time" with their children. Such fathers, when they exist, are to be treasured. But in no sense are they "ideal" fathers, against which all other versions of fatherhood are to be judged. Too many fathers are exhausted and/or distracted by their work, or simply lack the requisite gregarious personality. But they can be, and usually are, "good fathers."
A good father has two characteristics. First, he is there, a loyal member of the household. Second, he works to help support his family. The fact that his wife may also work, part-time or full-time, is irrelevant. While she may work, he must work, because fatherhood and work go together. Whether he spends "quality time" with his children, "nurturing them," loving them, is of far lesser importance. We do not live in a unisex world. Children may adore their fathers, but if it is love they seek, they will usually prefer to go to mother.
Something of the same problem is the result of divorce, which is generally an attempt to replace an unsuccessful marriage with a so-called successful one. This leaves the children or spouse of the previous marriage to deal with the first family. The very principle of divorce undermines the intended long-range stability of a marriage required both for the children and for the friendship of the spouses. In many cases, divorce is a serial form of polygamy or polyandry, in which time replaces place as the locus of temporary unity or utility. Divorce and remarriage, polygamy, and to a less extent polyandry at least attempt to imitate the family in some form but allow the unjust side effects to be tolerated or ignored. More and more studies are indicating that divorce has dire long-range consequences to the children who see in divorce a rejection of their own being in its cause.
Allan Bloom, in his remarkably blunt discussion of divorce in The Closing of the American Mind, put the matter clearly:
Children may be told over and over again that their parents have a right to their own lives, that they will enjoy quality time instead of quantity time, that they are really loved by their parents even after divorce, but children do not believe any of this. They think they have a right to total attention and believe their parents must live for them. There is no explaining otherwise to them, and anything less inevitably produces indignation and an inextirpable sense of injustice. To children, the voluntary separation of parents seems worse than their death precisely because it is voluntary.... The important lesson that the family taught was the existence of the only unbreakable bond, for better or for worse, between human beings.
Again, I cite these lines because they reveal that an institution that we have become so used, an institution that at bottom teaches something at variance with what ought to be, when looked at honestly and objectively, is something that really ought not to exist. When it does, it will cause untold damage in one form or another. Allan Bloom, in other words, merely repeats what we read in another form in the New Testament about adultery and divorce.
The interesting thing about all of these systems, if they can be called that, is that they are all somehow related to a very ancient discussion, that of Socrates in the famous Fifth Book of Plato's Republic, wherein it was proposed that ideally there should be no family at all but rather a communality of wives, children, and property. This communality was proposed as the best arrangement for begetting and caring for children, the best way to foster philosophy and order. This discussion in Plato must also be seen in the light of Aristotle's response to it in the Second Books of The Politics and to some extent to Aristophanes' play The Parliament of Women, to which The Republic itself is a response. This classical discussion is useful for us to look at because it does not have any overtones of the revelational tradition. It is proposed as a philosophical project for the proper way to live. Aristotle's rejection of this way of life, something that St. Thomas followed, is likewise proposed as a philosophical conclusion.
The argument in Plato, however, is for our purposes here the more interesting discussion, though Aristotle is more correct. In a sense, we do not, even in our own time, have any more radical proposal than that of Socrates. The communality of wives and children as posed by Plato remains something even the most radical modern thinkers do not dare to propose in its entirety. We find one or other aspects of Plato's proposals offered separately so that we do not always see the relation to the whole alternative. This is why Plato remains important to us because he describes the outside limit of what is possible to propose. Even the proposals that come to the fore under the heading of genetic engineering are, in principle, I think, already contained in one form or another in Plato.
What needs to be remembered about Plato's discussion is the current controversy about Plato's actual intent in proposing the communality of wives and children, about whether he was serious in this proposal, as Aristotle thought, or whether he intended rather to suggest that this arrangement was an extreme form of life to which the principles of justice in logic pushed us. Once we see what this extreme form of a perfectly just life entailed, that is, the destruction of the family, any reasonable person would reject it as both impractical and even perhaps as immoral. It was intended, in other words, to warn us not to do certain things. It was intended that we keep the traditional structure of the family, as Aristotle had defended it.
This same warning is thus found in the more practical Aristotle whose arguments against the communality of wives, children, and property have become the standard common sense responses to the extreme ideological manipulation to which the institution of the family and the begetting of children can lead us. Aristotle in effect, as St. Thomas well understood, gave us a picture of the family which, with some exceptions, is closest to the picture of a stable marriage that I outlined in the beginning, the one recommended in revelation. Aristotle thought that the secure identity of parenthood and the particular care that definite parents gave to their own particular children best provided for the well being of the members of the family and best understood what it was in all its variety.
This being said, let me recall the proposals of Socrates in The Republic. The first thing to be noticed about this discussion is that it was spoken very cautiously by Socrates. Socrates had earlier remarked that "friends had all things in common". The young potential philosophers with whom Socrates was talking remembered this curious phrase; they wondered if this commonality included wives and children, a truly shocking position. At the end of Socrates' discussion of justice in Book Four, Socrates had established the need of what were called military and intellectual guardians, those who were well trained and well disciplined, who would not be swayed by greed or envy so that they could devote all their attention to the good of the republic. This proposal certainly sounds like a noble project.
Socrates held that most rulers and intellectuals were corrupted by two things in particular, envy and greed. He thought that if these things could be controlled, that a republic could live in peace. The problem was most acute in the most talented and most attractive of the citizens. In order to control this tendency to greed and envy, Socrates proposed that each guardian should have a very modest house for his own family. We still have private property and family. But the guardian should only have the bare necessities, nothing that would smack of luxury. He should not have anything in himself or in his wife or children that would cause others to envy them or want to steal from them. This austerity meant something of a Spartan existence, but it still at the end of Book Four, it implied that there was marriage and children and property.
In Book Five, however, the young men insisted that Socrates tell them what was really on his mind in this regard, especially as he had really not said much about marriage laws and relationships which, as everyone knows, can cause such turmoil in any community. Thus, much to their astonishment, Socrates, in a very private manner, as he knew how explosive these proposals would be, explained to the young men his project for the communality of wives, children, and property in the republic. What is to be noted is that this proposal was meant only for the city that Socrates was building "in speech"; that is, he was examining what the pursuit of justice meant and where it would ultimately lead. He thus removed marriage and property from his guardians for what appears to be a noble purpose, a purpose that would come up again in another fashion in the New Testament, when Christ told the rich young man to go sell his property, give the proceeds to the poor and to follow Him. We must be curious about the relation of such proposals. They lead us to look for what is true in Plato even when it appears outlandish.
Plato's proposals for the family remove from it any relationship between eros and begetting. It is to be noticed that modern science makes this separation between eros and begetting also as does the theory of contraception. These are the two things that most need to be kept together in the case of the family that is what it should be. What is to be begotten in Plato, however, is to fall under the control of the state. The state proposes who is to beget and when. The man and woman who beget are instruments of a scheme to improve the race, a scheme modeled after the scientific breeding of horses and cattle. The best are to be united with the best on some impersonal basis.
There is a sort of genetic engineering aspect to Socrates' proposals, that idea that moral problems come not from will but from genes. It almost seems that it would be better if mankind could avoid the inconvenient necessity for intercourse at all -- something that appears in more current scientific proposals for begetting. Who is chosen as a father and who as a mother are under the control of the intellectual guardians, ultimately the philosopher-king. All of this, be it noted, is designed to improve the state and to make its citizens happy and virtuous. Plato does, of course, also have a disciplined program of moral training for the young, even when genetically perfect.
Children are not to recognize their parents, nor parents their children. Every one of a certain age is to call older persons father or mother. They are to call every one their own age brother or sister. The children are not to be raised by their natural parents, but in state centers which look like a combination of orphanage and 24-hour day care center. The state is to control the content and context of rearing from the very beginning. In The Republic, Socrates recognizes the destructive nature of eros which seems to want to concentrate on the particular person. Plato also holds that when fathers and mothers desire to know the particular child born of them, it implies a disorder in the polity.
This classical alternative to the family, then, has separated begetting and eros, parents and children. If children are begotten outside the rules of the state, they are to be aborted or declared illegitimate. When Aristotle said that it was better to be Plato's cousin than his brother, he meant that Plato's brotherhood is so diffused in affection and care that no one was really concerned with anyone else. The enormous care that each parent gives to each child, of course, is dissipated in favor of professional child rearers. In a system wherein everyone was supposed to take care of everyone, however, no one took proper care of anybody, including the children.
But this lack of individual care was what was intended in Plato; that is, parents were not supposed to take care of their own children, the state was. The family and parental love were looked upon as causes of inequality and difference when what was wanted was sameness and uniformity. In Plato, we thus have proposed a system of substitute state controlled nurseries and schools that take total responsibility for the begetting, education, and care of children. Children are not supposed to know their paternal or maternal origins which are looked upon as destructive of the sort of unity that the state ought to have.
We find versions of this same thing in various ways in recent times. We have a lessening and destruction of the family, with the subsequent growth of state-supported child rearing agencies. Joseph Sobran once put the same problem in its exact and most contemporary terms. Speaking of abortion, welfare, and a concept of general compassion that replaced particular love, Sobran wrote:
What is strange -- at least at first sight -- is that this callousness about the unborn should occur in a society where we are forever hectored to show "compassion" for others. Even as enlightened voices sternly urge us to take responsibility for unseen strangers, they soothingly release us from responsibility to our own children. If these two positions seem inconsistent, they can be politically harmonized: we can discharge the duties of "compassion" through politics, while the state relieves us of our nearer duties. Since this form of "compassion" is brokered by the tax-collecting and wealth-distributing state, the reasonable inference is that what we are headed for is the totally politicized society, in which relations among citizens replace relations of kinship.
To put it simply, we are required to love, and provide for, our neighbor, and our neighbor's neighbor, and our neighbor's neighbor's neighbor, but not our sons and daughters. This has quite literally given a new meaning to the word "compassion," which now implies a strangely politicized form of love; a highly unnatural love, at the expense of more natural kinds. The duties of the taxpayer begin to look more absolute than those of the parent.
This description is a contemporary version of the Platonic proposal. All particular love is replaced by a vast compassion that is controlled not in the particular domains of the family but in a vague and weakened concern for everyone else but those of our own who need the intense love and concern that alone can take care of actual human beings in families.
These reflections, in conclusion, serve to establish what I take to be the obvious lesson that the various alternatives to the family really demonstrate, namely, that there is nothing superior to the family. This result is something we should expect if we examine the positive side of the classical and Christian teaching about the sacrament of marriage and the nature of the family. At whatever point that an alternate institution deviates from what the family is, at that very point there will occur in the world disorders that adversely affect real people involved in the situation as well as the general society itself. One of the major causes for the expansion of the state in our time, something that ought not to exist, is precisely the breakdown of the family and its ability to provide what is needed to the spouses and their own natural children. The state has become itself an alternate to the family. We live in very Platonic times, in this sense.
Practically all of the results of the breakdown of the family can be traced back to a rejection in theory or practice of one or other principal element in the definition of the family in the first place. If we thus line up everything from fornication, adultery, divorce, polygamy, and polyandry to the modern scientific substitutes for begetting or its elimination in abortion, in the form of frozen embryos, surrogate motherhood, sperm banks, to systems of child care outside the home, we will see that each of these practices are proposed as an alternative to the integrity of the family and its proper tasks.
My conclusion is very simple, that when spelled out, all the alternatives to the family suggest nothing so much as that the family as it has been presented in common sense and revelation is quite the best institution that we could possibly invent for ourselves if we want to love and keep one another in our begetting, rearing, and living together. None of our alternates to the family, none of the alternative institutions or methods that the human mind has proposed for itself really work.
What does work, what does seem best, comes from revelation addressed to our reason and common sense, something that we find in Aristotle most of all on this topic. Linus' question can suggest something else, to end these thoughts, namely, that in fact up in heaven, waiting to assist us in our births as human children, was a wisdom that instructed us about what was best for us, for our children, for society. Somehow, we are better taken care of in what is most important for us by a wisdom that is not something that we have chosen for ourselves in our customs and legislation about divorce, abortion, and what constitutes a family's well-being. The lesson of the alternatives to the family is that we can do nothing better to help ourselves than to return to what the family really is at its best. This is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. In the Holy Family, the mother had to chose to accept God's will for her in order for God's will to be done. Nothing less happens in its own way in every family if it is to be what it is.
1) "Some Intellectual Origins of Population-Environment Theories," in Population in Perspective, Proceedings of the Guild of St. Luke, SS Cosmas and Damian Conference, Wairakei, New Zealand: Dunedin, New Zealand: The Tablet, 1971, pp. 128-43; 2) "The Reach of Finite Intellect," The Patenting of Recombinant DNA, ITEST Conference, St. Louis, MO., 1981, 20-34; 3) "On Taking Possession of the Whole Universe," Christianity and Politics; 4) "On the Causes of Hunger," Religion, Wealth, and Poverty; 5) "Religion and Capitalism: On the Spiritual Origins of Wealth," Religion, Wealth, and Poverty;
6) "The Problem of Poverty," World Justice, (Louvain), V (December, 1963), 197-207; 7) "Christian Political Approaches to the Population Problem," World Justice, (Louvain), VIII (#3, 1966-67), 301-23; 8) "What Is at Stake?" The Month, (London) N.S. 40 (October, 1968), 245-51; 9) "The 'Yellow Peril' Reconsidered: Unorthodox Considerations on Declining Populations," Vital Speeches, XXXIX (July 15, 1973), 581-86; 10) "Issues of Population and Ecology," American Ecclesiastical Review, 167 (May, 1973), 353-60;
11) "The French Abortion Dossier," The Furrow, (Ireland), 24 (November, 1973), 47-53; 12) "The 'Conditional Right to Life," The Furrow, (Ireland), 26 (August, 1975), 455-61; 13) "Human Destiny and World Population," The Thomist, 41 (January, 1977), 92-104, [in The Politics of Heaven and Hell]; 14) "Population: The Bomb That Will Never Go Off," Homiletic and Pastoral Review, LXXVII (June, 1977), 46-54; 15) "Conservatism and Development," Cultures et Développement, (Louvain), IX (#2, 1977), 315-34;
16) "Population Policies," Respect for Life, Washington, USCC, 1978-79, 30-33; 17) "How to Think about Louise Brown," Social Survey, (Melbourne), 27 (September, 1978), 241-49, [in Christianity and Life]; 18) "The Rarest of All Revolutions: G. K. Chesterton on the Relation of Human Life to Christian Doctrine," The American Benedictine Review, 32 (December, 1981), 304-27; 19) "Life and Anti-Life: On the Gift of Being Human," Fidelity, 1 (April, 1982), 10-14; 20) "The Family: The Oddest of All Institutions," Homiletic and Pastoral Review, LXXXIV (March, 1984), 45-52;
21) "Born to Die: The Alternative to Ideology," Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, Annual, 1988, 40-50; 22) "To an Untrained Eye," All About Issues, 11 (November-December, 1989), 16-18; 23) "On 'Abortion on the Way Out'," Social Justice Review, 84 (March/April, 1993), 45-49; 24) "The Large Family: The Ultimate Counter-Cultural Position," Social Justice Review, 85 (May-June, 1994), 76-79.