Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Children and Other Living Things

I've been thinking a lot about the beauty and concerns of children.  I believe children should be wanted and made to feel so.  I find it sad that some children must grow up scared and confused.  It seems that many people think it is better to have kids regardless of what their life circumstances are.  I am not so sure. Why do we speak of putting horses and dogs out of their misery, but people must suffer until the very last spark of energy leaves them?

Speaking of animals.  If we are just really advanced animals cognitively, isn't it quite sad and unjust the way we "advanced" species treat animals like cows, chicken, etc. I know this is old news to many vegetarians and free roaming supporters, but to an average "faith filled, God gave us the animals to eat" type of American, it's really hit me recently.  How horrifying to live that existence. How do we justify it? Shouldn't our reason bring us to better treatments of the world?

It seems most of the people I know who are the least concerned with the welfare of the natural world are believers such as average mainline denominations. Kind of sad.

It's true, there are many wonderful things about having a large family.  Every one of my children is so unique and beautiful. But, I am so busy that I barely have time to appreciate them, much less raise them in the way I really want to.  I should mention that the fact that our family is so large keeps us separated when my husband must leave for in-state deployment. Most of the families in his unit travel with their spouse. Not us. It's too hard, financially and logistically to manage it. So, because we have been faithful to "God," my children are without their daddy at these times.


Anonymous said...

While I recognize this is your personal blog, and it is where you share your experiences, it seems to me this post misrepresents Catholic teaching regarding family size. I am concerned it may perpetuate a common misunderstanding among non-Catholics that one must have a large family in order to be faithful to church teaching. This is not the case. I am sure you fully understand church doctrine regarding acceptable use of natural family planning to achieve or delay pregnancy, however many of your readers may not. Obviously, this is your story and you are free to share it as you wish. I just find it disappointing that you would not accurately represent the church's position. Although I am a practicing Catholic (convert) I enjoy your blog and wish you all the best.

fRED said...

AJL-I have been pondering this post for several days after multiple readings. The gist of it seems to be a frustration with having a large family. In the context of our time, that is understandable.

I am the first born of 12 children. In my generation, while 12 children was a big family, it was not unusual for RCs and we didn't give it much thought. It just was.

Your post touches on so many issues I am not sure what to say. Let me be clear that I am a proponent of the right to have a large family. I think a large family is beautiful and wonderful. I deeply regret that being divorced resulted in me having only 1 child. I know that he would've liked to have had siblings.

Ironically (coincidentally?), I recently listened to 2 podcasts/mp3 that are relevant to your post. Perhaps you and the readers of this blog will also find them of interest.

"The Ethics of Having Babies" [] consisted of an interview with Elizabeth Kolbert about her NYer article, 'The Case Against Kids.' A contrast was provided by Bryan Caplan, author of "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun than You Think."

Neither of the 2 satisfactorily resolves the issue. While contemplating the issue, I concluded that there is something very dark about the issues revolving around limiting human life. While it is a long standing concern (like good and evil, etc.), there are no black/white answers. Still, it is a subject that requires careful treading to avoid a very slippery slope.

On the lighter side (sort of), is "Eating Ethically" []. This is an interview with Alan Richman about his article in GQ, 'Eat No Evil." It touches on some of the concerns you mention in your post. Again, no easy answers. Mr. Richman's pessimism regarding the ability of the USA to be ethical due to culture has implications for the issue of birth control/family planning (i.e., it's all about ME first).

Life is art. Marriage is about creativity. New life created is the one of the greatest acts. Who knows how it will turn out. Beauty if in the eye of the beholder. This is a whole other subject. Your children are your (you and your husband) garden, they are each songs, pieces of changing art. What treasures you have created. Thank you.

AJL said...

Thank you both for your comments. At "Anonymous," I appreciate your thinking that I was trying to say something specifically about the Catholic Church. I wasn't directly, but indirectly. Yes the Church allows the use of Natural Family Planning. But, what if a couple is extremely fertile, as we are. We have practiced NFP, but haven't been successful with delaying for long because of irregular cycles and, let's just face it, the emotional and physical desire to live as if we are actually married.

I realised that if I, an educated and concerned adult, can barely manage to keep from conceiving for long using NFP, how can we expect impoverished or uneducated women to do it? It is unrealistic. Period. Nice ideal, like so much of faith, but UNREALISTIC.
Most Catholics have figured this out to the point that some huge majority use contraception.

To fRED, I always worried about a slippery slop and so not wanting to

AJL said...

Sorry, I was always worried about a slippery slope, but lately I have been wondering if that is just more fear mongering.

We all need to be careful about the value of life, but if we are so afraid that we don't give people the choice to end their suffering if they so choose, that is just crazy.

People have to get so upset to the point where they will jump off of buildings or worse? I don't know. Seems like there could be a better way. In the end, we may all have the chance to end up in a nursing home in agony from a bed sore, just wishing to die. Or like the poor people at the home I used to work at. They were often completely delusional, and in constant pain, Gtube fed and often lonely. Just seems to suck to me.

Anonymous said...

This is the aforementioned anonymous poster, returning to respond to your comment against my better judgement. I get the sense from your responses to myself and other Catholics who have commented, you do not have much interest in having a dialogue with those who do not share your point of view. I would just like to point out, I never accused you of, "trying to say something about the Catholic Church". I was pointing out that since you have portrayed yourself as a former practicing Catholic repeatedly in your blog, who then made the statement that you and your husband have a large family due to your prior efforts to be faithful to your God, a reader may infer catholic teaching requires everyone to have as many children as they are physically capable of, regardless of ability to care for them. This is simply not the case. That is the only point I was trying to make. I also realize that you may have made an assumption about my level of education, since I am clearly a Catholic that has not "figured it out" in your "well educated" opinion. I am a successful medical provider who graduated at the top of my class. I am in a very happy marriage. I am a woman who has practiced NFP throughout my marriage. I believe women deserve better than choosing between pumping their body full of hormonal contraceptives with the potential to be both carcinogenic and abortifacients, and having more children than they are able to care for. I find your statement about uneducated and impoverished women not being able to realistically use NFP successfully to be extremely offensive. I believe that a woman can be educated and empowered to learn NFP regardless of their educational or socioeconomic status. Not having had access to formal education does not make one incapable of learning. If Melinda Gates, and other well intentioned philanthropists would use resources currently being spent providing contraceptives to women in 3rd world countries to teach NFP, this could be achieved. If a woman is given all the information about the risks of hormonal contraceptives and chooses to use them, I have no problem with that. It is absolutely their choice. Maybe you think it is "unrealistic" for impoverished women to understand patient education prior to taking a medication with serious potential side effects. I do not, and find it unconscionable that these medications are widely distributed around the world without appropriate patient education. By the way, it tends to result in unplanned pregnancies in vulnerable populations who believed they were properly using contraceptives. I am not being naive or unrealistic. This was the topic of extensive research I was a part of in my doctoral studies. I have seen this phenomenon first hand in several countries. I am sorry that you had a negative experience with NFP. I am certainly not trying to invalidate your struggles. I am sharing my own experience to demonstrate that not all realistic and educated Catholics use contraception.

fRED said...

The RC Church’s position on the purpose of marriage is quite clear: to produce children. Their prohibition against birth control is also quite clear.

NFP was a bone thrown to the people to exploit an apparent loophole in Humanae Vitae. NFP allows the RC church to have it both ways.

There is much regarding NFP that could be debated; however, it is merely a minor, pedantic subject for most RCs since we are told that the majority of RC adults are practicing (artificial) birth control, especially use of the Pill.

For me, having a family today is an act of political defiance against the emerging fascist state. The fascist politicians seek to eliminate organized opposition by dividing the masses into individuals. The family is one of their last obstacles.

A traditional family (father, mother, and children) encompasses unity despite differences of gender and age (and economic means). Ripping apart families has resulted in huge numbers of single mothers and their children dependent on the state.

Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, the RC Church has generally been in bed with the powers that be, allowing them to gain increasing power while simultaneously allowing the Church to enjoy its privileged status. However, the politicians are losing patience with those who even hint of opposing their policies and authority. Study the Germany of the 1930s to see disturbing parallels.

The challenge of having a (large) family today is the lack of support. The church is ambivalent in practice about families. Most RCs have only 1-2 children and both parents are working. Thus, a support network for mothers is largely non-existent. The expectation is to give your children over to daycare and, later, public schools so that the parents can return to work so they can support a consumerist lifestyle. The Church largely only asks that you show up to Mass periodically and provide (at least a token) financial support of your “community of faith.”

AJL said...

Anonymous, I am sorry that were so personally offended by my comments.

This is my blog where I state my opinion clearly. And that's all. It is my opinion. I do not claim to have the corner market on truth and I could be wrong. I state reality as I see it after a long life lived as a devout Catholic.

But, I do not question your education level. I am honored that so educated a person takes the time to come read my blog. Thanks. Genuinely.

As far as what I said in response to you and the teachings of the Church, I was responding to this you wrote "I just find it disappointing that you would not accurately represent the church's position." As I said before, I was not trying to accurately represent the Church's position as far as family size, but on my experience using NFP. If people have an issue they can ask. And you did, thanks.

I find it interesting that you, an educated and assumingly not impoverished woman,are offended by my statement about uneducated and impoverished women : "I find your statement about uneducated and impoverished women not being able to realistically use NFP successfully to be extremely offensive." I am not saying that NO one can use it effectively, but that as a general rule, it's not practical.

I would LOVE to read your research that you did with your doctoral study regarding contraceptives. What countries have you visited? I am not closed to the idea. But, I personally do not see it, yet.

May I ask your age and how long you've been married? How many children do you have? How long have you been a Catholic? I know the teachings of the Church are so beautiful from a far, in abstract, and even when people try to live them in the spirit of goodness. They are beautiful. I am not contradicting that. But, that doesn't make them supernatural. That doesn't mean they always work. That doesn't mean they are practical.

I just think of so many other extreme religions... mormon, islam, hindu, pentecostal... these people living them have bought the goods. they are living by faith in hopes that they will receive their reward, that God has a plan (Jer. 29:11).


fRED said...

Regarding NFP, children, and marriage: I encountered an intriguing perspective at:

Now Crisis Magazine is not something I follow. I went there bc one of my sisters sent me an article. It is a pro-traditional RC resource. It appears to have a tendency to be a bit gushy. But I thought the NFP article was worthy of a read and further discussion. It seemed even handed and essentially rational.

AJL said...

Yeh, that is a decent article fRED, but it still BS in it's basic premise that (1) there is a god (2) we are in marriages to fulfill some kind of divine command.

I agree that children need good parental relationships in order to grow into healthy adults. But that's about as much as I can agree to.

Parents need much more in common that children and a belief in God for things to be healthy. Mental health is much more complex than the parameters of religion would like to suggest.

Marry Christmas

Bill S said...

NFP is the proverbial "bone" that Paul VI threw to the faithful, without which his Humanae Vitae would have been even more harmful to billions of people than it actually has been.

Fortunately for me, I never paid any attention to the encyclical or the Church when I learned about contraceptives. I feel sorry for all those lives that have been impacted by such poor guidance provided by a bunch of celibate men. The Church continues to obstruct any and all efforts to control family size and reduce overpopulation and poverty in those areas where birth control is desperately needed.

Bill S said...

How horrifying to live that existence. How do we justify it? Shouldn't our reason bring us to better treatments of the world?

That is scrupulosity. Becoming carnivorous was a critical step in our evolution. Why should we be ashamed at what comes naturally to us? Evolution is not benevolent. What is the purpose of feeling compassion for cows, chicken, pigs, fish, etc. They are part of the food chain.

AJL said...

Good point Bill. But, I think perhaps we should feel compassion for other sentient beings, knowing that we too are sentient beings. Yes, I understand that eating meat has it's part in evolution. But, so did religion. If at some point our minds bring us to a higher understanding of goods, perhaps we should reconsider? I am open to the possibility that it is scrupulous though, wouldn't be the first time. Perhaps at least we should treat the animals with more respect in the mean time?

Bill S said...

I don't understand why so many people are so cruel to animals but they are. Christianity has not made much of an effort to encourage compassion for animals except for St. Francis, of course. I will never be a vegetarian though.

fRED said...

Regarding the treatment of animals while they are being raised for food, I reiterate my recommendation of the article, "Eat No Evil" [] in GQ by Alan Richman. It is not as heavy as it sounds and is actually rather witty (IMO).

An alternative is the audio interview on Radio West []. You can download an mp3 to listen at your convenience or listen online (does anyone really do that?).

AJL said...

That was a very good article. thanks fRED.