COMMENTARY

Without ‘hostages to fortune’ we are all the poorer

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An eye-catching article entitled "Despite society's expectations, more couples aren't having children" brings to mind the comment of Germaine Greer, an ardent birth prevention advocate.

After a sojourn in India on behalf of Planned Parenthood, Greer stated: "I have gone to India, thinking there were too many of them and returned home deciding there were too many of me." Bemoaning her own belated barrenness, Greer accused Western society of being anti-child.

Married fertile couples who opt for zero population exemplify the philosophy of a secularist culture to the nth degree. They devote themselves to the life of the senses with unashamed enthusiasm. The idea of matrimony as a holy institution of God, a lifelong union of connubial love, whose purpose, along with other purposes, involves begetting children and rearing them to productive adulthood, is anathema to spouses who subscribe to a sybaritic life-style.

This anti-child mentality, endemic to hedonism, is not only anti-motherhood but eventually becomes anti-life. It trivializes the marital couch, makes a joke out of the Biblical phrase "fruit of the loins" and quarantines any church which dares to chastise adherents who deliberately frustrate the life-giving end of marriage.

Worshipping oneself, a total preoccupation with one's needs and one's fulfillment, to the exclusion of God's dominion and providence is an old form of idolatry. Fertile husbands and wives who ignore, deny, or reject God's intervention in their conjugal relationship, in respect to the command to multiply, lose out on one of life's most rewarding experiences – raising children – and deprive society of vital "hostages to fortune."

I am lucky number seven in a happy family of nine children. Life is good. Praise God my parents did not stop at six.

Procreation defines the main purpose of marriage. Despite the rulings of the Massachusetts and California Supreme Courts, the phrase same-sex marriage is an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms.

The very first commandment in the Bible is "be fruitful and multiply." Holy Writ testifies that the sexual intimacy of husband and wife is holy. Why? Because by marital congress man and woman literally become partners with God in the creation of new life. To fulfill the precept of propagation, God made humankind male and female

Homosexual practice nullifies this command. This denial leads to a decay of gender identity. The natural, desirable, and complementary distinction between the sexes is eroded when the homosexual lifestyle becomes a pattern. Parents hope that sons will mature in genuine masculinity and daughters will develop into examples of refined femininity. A boy or girl adopts appropriate roles for each of the sexes when they recognize and wholesomely identify with the potential and blessing inherent in his or her gender.

George Gilder, in his study “Sexual Suicide,” uses anthropology and sociological research to argue the necessity of traditional gender roles to the health of society. When women reject their ability to bear children, and men refuse to accept the long-term perspectives in monogamous, life-long marriages, gender identity and the moral fibre of a country become flaccid.

Presently, 42 states limit marriage to a man and woman. In 27 of these states, there are constitutional amendments that cannot be overridden by judges or lawmakers. Any change in the traditional meaning of marriage should be decided, ruled New Jersey judges, "in the crucible of the democratic process."

Homosexual liaisons are basically anti-child. The secular press, fearful of being branded "homophobic," rarely points to the sterility of same-sex unions as a cause of demographic decline, while it downplays the connection between AIDS and gay sex and rarely calls attention to the sleazy underside of the homosexual sub-culture.

The massive campaign of the news and entertainment industries to portray homosexuals in a favorable light has succeeded beyond all expectation. Sodomy, by an inversion of moral principle, has now become praiseworthy.

Parents may fail as parents in different ways, yet with all their failings, the best department of health, education, and welfare is that basic unit of society: the family. For 2000 years, the Catholic Church has declared, and no sane person can deny, that the sexual faculties of human beings have a primary purpose: to produce new life. Indeed, the shortage of priests in the Church can be blamed, in part, on the reluctance of married Catholics to have larger families.

Demographic analyst Ben J. Wattenberg argues (The Birth Dearth) that the U.S. is on its way to "committing genetic suicide." As he sees it, "depopulation of the West threatens the power of Western industrialized democracies."

To counter this trend, Wattenberg calls for a government family policy that would encourage births with cash bonuses of up to $2,500 annually for each child 16 and under, tax deductions for day-care costs, and forgiveness of educational loans in the case of graduates with babies.

Today the expected 1.8 children from American marriages falls short of the 2.1 needed to maintain the present population level. Less than ten percent of young American women will ever bear four children. Most settle for two. Were it not for the influx of immigrants, the United States, like Europe, would be facing a troublesome and less prosperous future.

Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero pithily presents the pro-child sentiment: "Of all God's gifts to the human race, what is sweeter to parents than their children?"

Rev. Joseph L. Lennon, O.P. resides at St. Thomas Aquinas Priory, Providence College.