In Praise of Catholic Motherhood

This is a week for celebrating life. In Washington D.C., the March for Life continues its long tradition of marking the anniversary of Roe v Wade with a massive demonstration in remembrance of the unborn. Appropriately enough, Pope Francis set the week off by affirming the Church’s stance on artificial contraceptives on his visit to the Philippines. (This of course was followed by the “rabbit” kerfuffle. I was still feeling good about the contraceptive statement, so I did myself a favor and didn’t read the cunicular details.)

Many of us are too young to remember Roe v Wade, or any time before it. It can still be interesting in this “week of life” to reflect on the origins of our own pro-life convictions, and the impact they have had on our lives as a whole.

I first started thinking about abortion during the run-up to the 1992 election. I was assigned to research the topic for my middle school civics class. Together with three other students, I was asked to prepare an informative presentation for the class. I had no views on abortion at the time, and even though my church and parents were both pro-life, I don’t remember feeling “obligated” to take a particular side. (This might partly reflect the fact that neither church nor parents had really discussed the issue with me before that time.) I read the arguments as someone ready to be persuaded.

One of my fellow group members was also a longtime friend. When I asked her opinion, she answered straightforwardly that she believed that abortion was murder. “Just because fetuses are tiny doesn’t mean they’re not people,” she opined. “We should still want to protect them.”

I was impressed by this speech. After some consideration, I decided that I agreed. Interestingly, my friend changed her mind a week later. I didn’t. Twenty-two years later, I’m still pro-life.

Commitments held for that many years can have a deep impact on a person’s life. Sometimes we ourselves can’t fully trace the connections. What is the relationship, for example, between those early reflections on the preciousness of life, and my decision thirteen years later to accept the sacramental graces of the Church? Or my decision to marry a Catholic man, with a full understanding of what obligations that entailed? (At that time I was working through a competitive doctoral program, and some of my fellow students were quite astonished when they realized what I took marriage to involve.)

It’s hard to say with confidence how our lives might have been different if we had never explored a particular argument or read a particular book. But reading missives like this, it’s hard not to wonder: where did I become acquainted with basic realities that this person has obviously missed? At what point in our moral development do we grasp the preciousness of life, and the seriousness of our obligations to it? More importantly: why do some people not?

This, at any rate, was what I wondered when reading Margery Eagan’s lament. Eagan (who is the “spirituality columnist” for Crux) was “devastated” by Pope Francis’ affirmation of what has long been Catholic teaching on artificial contraceptives. She “had hoped for so much more from this man.” Who knew that he could be so backwards and confused?

Eagan finds the Church’s position on contraceptives baffling and offensive, and she offers two major reasons. First, sex is a good and beautiful thing, which is needed by “real people in real marriages.” Second, the Church’s position presumes that “the highest calling of married women is sacrificing all to rear children, as many as come along, no matter those women’s talents or skills or dreams.”

You’d think we could at least choose one or the other. If sex isn’t important, what need to sacrifice all (or anything for that matter) for the children? On the other hand, if women have devoted themselves entirely to their offspring (as many as come along!), we should at least be quite free to enjoy, as she puts it, “the beauty of sex.”

I already know, of course, that we live in a society that respects every woman’s work-and-family choices, except the ones it doesn’t. It might still be nice if “spirituality columnists” (at ostensibly Catholic publications!) would get to know one or two non-contracepting women before drawing such rash conclusions about them. On the issue of enjoying sex, I will only say that my Catholic friends and I have occasionally enjoyed some good laughs at the lengths to which some will go to stimulate some romantic feeling towards their spouses. These adventures in libido-enhancement sound to me like a bad sitcom episode. (And lest you draw unflattering conclusions about my marriage… I’ll just say that we’re expecting our fourth child this coming spring.) Maybe a bottomless supply of (literally) fruitless sex isn’t quite the unqualified good some imagine it to be? Who’s really missing the beauty here?

On the second charge, I would start by observing that rearing children (even many!) is by no means a trivial way to invest one’s energies, regardless of “talents, skills or dreams.” At the same time, the Church does not sentence Catholic women en masse to total maternal martyrdom. Making sacrifices for love is certainly an element of parenthood, and for that matter of any well-lived life. But very few are asked to “sacrifice all” for family or children. The only reason anyone would imagine that is because she herself harbors a razor-thin conception of what the successful, fulfilled life should involve.

As a PhD-holding Catholic mom, I get questions from time to time that betray a similar sort of narrowness. Do I find motherhood fulfilling, or do I sometimes wonder “what else I might have done”? Is my education “being used?” In some people’s eyes, educated Catholic moms necessarily appear as semi-tragic figures. They “threw it all away” in obeisance to the backwards teachings of an abusive, patriarchal Church.

It’s tempting to get a little snide in these situations. “Yes! The regret is unbearable. All I do now is nurture children, teach university courses, write articles, cook, garden and play Fantasy Football. Imagine what I might have done if I hadn’t wasted so much time bringing unique, precious new humans into the world. Maybe I could’ve had a pretty nice office by now.”

I don’t actually say these things, because I know how fortunate I am. For some people the trade-offs are more agonizing. It’s quite hard, for example, to be a world-class concert pianist while raising a large family. And I always have a sympathetic ear for women who are seriously working through these questions. But how many people become concert pianists? How many, by contrast, fritter their lives away in vicious distractions and empty entertainments? The truth is, the fertility-embracing women I know have a remarkable range of skills, talents and accomplishments. In a world filled with vice and loneliness, they seem to live in a veritable tornado of meaningful activity, surrounded by people who love and value them. Don’t cry for us, Margery Eagan.

In general, people who waste pity on open-to-life mothers probably just don’t know very many. At the same time, reflections like this display a more radical deficiency in understanding. Though ostensibly an expert in “spirituality,” Eagan magnificently fails to grasp what matters in life. She looks on large families with their abundant joy and energy and potential, and all she can see is the loss of (presumably conventional and secular) “talents, skills and dreams” on the woman’s part. It’s even worse when she moves on to discussing poorer women, because she seems not to grasp that the poor (which is to say, the people liberals are perpetually eager to sterilize) are especially likely to focus their whole lives around children and family (and faith!), since these can bring joy and meaning to an otherwise grim existence. This same callousness is replicated throughout our progressive culture of death. Abortion is celebrated, while marriage and children become ever scarcer, and more and more people find themselves alone.

Apparently I wasn’t the only person who found this column appalling. The torrent of angry reactions led to this follow-up, in which Eagan forgives her readers for being such philistines, but also takes heart from the kindred spirits who recognize, together with her, that Pope Francis expects all women to be “brood mares.” Maybe time to stop digging?

The March for Life is first and foremost about remembering the unborn. But we also know that a society in which the unborn are protected will look very different from the one our culture presents to us as glamorous and desirable. As Eagan suggests, it will indeed involve more personal sacrifice. That’s because it will also have so much life, love, and meaning that some modern people might not be able to bear it.

Editor’s note: The image above titled “First Caresses” was painted by William-Adolphe Bouguereau in 1866.

Rachel Lu

By

Rachel Lu, a Catholic convert, teaches philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota where she lives with her husband and four boys. Dr. Lu earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at Cornell University. Follow her on Twitter at rclu.

  • St JD George

    Those that do I know would scorn praise because they are answering a calling that they lovingly and humbly respond to in serving the Lord. In this increasingly hostile world they deserve it though and so much more as the foot soldiers on the front lines. There are few things that depress me more than the disdain I see in society by those who express contempt for the beauty of maternity.

  • ForChristAlone

    It’s strange but true that all of us – even the contracepts – know in our hearts that those who are open to life, those who are open to having children, those who march into church with a line of children behind them are, in fact, the envy of all. The only difference between the contracepts and the others is whether you’re willing to admit your envy or not.

    At the end of life what will have mattered are not the number of tweets you have made, not the number of text messages you sent or the number of facebook “friends” you’ve made but the legacy of children. As scripture tells us: “You children will be like olive branches on your table.”

    • S.Jewett

      When you use the disdainful term “contracepts” in referring to people who use birth control, you are insulting 98 percent of Americans, including Catholics. Do you really believe that all of these people envy Catholics who “march into church with a line of children behind them”? If so, you’re delusional. “Everybody secretly envies me” is a defense mechanism used by a particularly pathetic type of bitter social outcast.

      • “When you use the disdainful term “contracepts” in referring to people who use birth control, you are insulting 98 percent of Americans, including Catholics.”

        So? If you do the deed you get the name, like troll.

      • Martha

        I believe ForChristAlone is correct, but only for those of us who still have a shred of decency somewhere in our psyches, those of us who have not had it completely crushed out by the worshipping of the secular leviathan god, hedonism.

      • M

        As one who “marches into church with a line of children behind them,” I have to say I agree. Self-congratulatory arrogance and the imputation of envy to others are signs of narcissism.

      • asmondius

        ‘…you are insulting 98 percent of Americans…’

        Since approximately one half of all Americans are males, and not all American females are fertile, your statement can not possibly be true. If you’re going to snipe, at least say something which is rational.

      • ForChristAlone

        I still disagree with you. How else could you explain the nasty comments people feel compelled to utter to the parents of many children? Envy that seethes from every pore.

        And if you thought I was referring to myself, you’re wrong. I have two children.

      • JP

        If God forbids an action upon pain of Hell and 98% of the world (even those who believe in Him) ignore what is forbidden, do you think that insults are the least of their problems? Artificial Birth Control has been forbidden in the Church for 2000 years. But, in the last 40 years Catholics think God is wrong. Do you see a problem here?

        • egalitrix

          Catholics who use contraceptives aren’t using them to spite God, they have to take the word of the celibate priesthood and think they may have gotten this issue wrong.

    • St JD George

      I know where your heart lies so I’m entirely sympathetic. I know of some couples who are at their wits end unable to conceive and it has caused them great pain and difficulty. It’s not for lack of want or trying through modern medicine and my heart goes out to them. Still others I know have answered that challenge by adopting and I am full of praise for their truly unselfish act. Lastly, I am fully aware that there are many in our society so self absorbed that having children might just possibly be the worse thing they could do … of course, it could also be the blessing that brings them closer to Christ too.

      • ForChristAlone

        I had a father who, on the surface of it, anyone could have rightfully judged that he’d have been better off not to have had children. I would have to disagree with them – not because he was a loving father but because I knew better the kind of father I would want to become. I can’t imagine a world without my two sons and four grandchildren. “Thanks, Dad.”

        • St JD George

          Truthfully, we all have scars of some kind from growing up and some are deeper than others, and we all have imperfect parents. My Dad was a decent man by any altruistic measure, but at best he was an agnostic his whole life. As I mentioned to Jesse though, harboring grudges and bitterness is like a cancer that eats at one’s soul (my Dad had some from his childhood) and puts a barrier between oneself and Christ. I’m far, far from perfect, but I try not to live my life that way. I agree with you in saying to mine also “Thanks Dad” when I appreciate my own family … even if Rachel’s column today is about motherhood.

    • Tamsin

      After you have even one kid, when you see a mother with a line of orderly children behind her, you think: she’s a veritable concert pianist.

  • lifeknight

    Thank you for another great article that strengthens my own life-choices! It has been a wonderfully gratifying privilege to stay home and school my brood. For me, this vocation (the schooling part) will end very soon after 24 years. Now I can go back to the professional rat race I left to raise our family…… NOT!

    How does one convey the joy of being there for that first step? or the first sentence? the accomplishment of a high grade in Math? Eagle Scout status? (before being ruined).

    It is a different world at home……one that the people most important to you will always remember.

    God bless you. Hoping #4 is a girl…..THEN you will know true sacrifice. Haha.

    • “Now I can go back to the professional rat race I left to raise our family…… NOT!”

      Work is a four lettered word. Calling it a career is putting lipstick on a pig.

    • Rachel Lu

      Thank you, Lifeknight, and bless you for everything you have done for your family and the Church! But… so… you’re saying girls are *harder*?

      • Vinny

        My Mom says and I believe it’s true – girls are easy when they’re young and really tough when they’re teens while boys are tough when they’re young and easy when they’re teens.

        • Lip Balm

          I think this depends on so many variables. We have three girls and three boys, and so far, the girls (now nearly 18, 17, and almost 14) have been far easier than the boys as teens.

          So I always tell mothers (and fathers!) of girls–don’t go into it with preconceived notions that those girls are going to be harder. Sometimes they might be, but sometimes it might just be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      • Martha

        Estrogen, Rachel, estrogen! Emotions, hurt feelings, kid gloves, you know the drill. Boys get into a tiff, punch each other in the arm, and are friends again. Girls, not so much!

    • fredx2

      Shame on you. Don’t you know you should be dropping your kids off with strangers to spend the day? Don’t you know that you have become a stunted drone by staying home? You should be going to a place of work where you can be treated like an adult – by being made to sit in a cube all day staring at a computer screen. Now, that’s living.

  • Vinny

    I’ve always wondered how people who simply by having been born, get to decide that others will not be.

    • Tamsin

      absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      • David

        And corrupt absolution powers absolute corruption.

        My point: say something that actually makes sense instead of worn out cultural memes.

        • Tamsin

          win-win!

          My point: I said something that made sense to readers, and you said something that made sense to readers.

    • The tyranny of the post natal.

  • Miranda Attridge

    The author of this article proudly starts by announcing that she avoids reading information she disagrees with (a close-mindedness that doesn’t bode well for her credibility). But the issue raised by the Pope which she wishes to avoid must be dealt with. Catholics who breed mindlessly like animals, bringing more children into the world than they can give adequate attention and decent lives to, are sinners.

    • St JD George

      I’m curious if you actually know of any Catholics who breed like animals irresponsibly, or is this just an abstract talking point for you? All the Catholics that I know who have large families could not be happier. I will grant you that there are those who do have little regard for the act of sex and do bring children into the world with no conscientiousness, but those are mostly suffering from not having a relationship with Christ.

      • Jessie

        I come from a large, miserable Catholic family. My parents had more kids than they could handle. There was never enough of anything to go around, including attention and love. If all the large Catholic families you know are blissfully happy, you must not know very many.

        • St JD George

          I am aware of situations like yours Jesse, a branch of my wife’s family was raised by one who might even be called possessed and I see the lasting scars on them. They may be rare, but there are stories of saints and saintly people who have risen to greatness from similar circumstances. The Mom in this case who endured perhaps the greatest protecting her children had the faith of a mustard seed that was a immovable mountain. I don’t know your circumstances but my advice for what it’s worth is to go forward and not be bitter as it is like a cancer that can destroy your soul. Be the light that will draw others to a loving relationship with Christ.

        • Susan

          If the faith was practiced in your family and you still consider your family life was miserable, you missed the point. If you believe the teachings of the catholic faith presently and still see your growing up years as miserable, you need to turn your gaze toward a crucifix and ponder…. You might find yourself giving thanks…:)

        • What part did you play in that misery or what it just your brothers and sisters that intruded on your happiness. Which ones would you “off”?

        • fredx2

          I too come from a large family, very fun, very happy. Those who claim all large famlies are miserable are so far off base that it is funny. If families are miserable, it is because the family has serious problems, not connected to its size.

        • asmondius

          Yes, yes, I’m sure you anecdotal evidence is applicable to everyone else in the world.

        • ForChristAlone

          So of all your brother and sisters, which one(s) would you wish were eliminated?

        • JP

          Don’t worry. Your family would have been just as miserable with just one child.

      • Lip Balm

        I grew up among orthodox Catholics and graduated from one of those small orthodox Catholics colleges, so I do know (and am related to) a lot of large Catholic families, probably far more than most people. Among friends nad family, 9-10 kids is not at all unusual ,some has as many as 14-16. While I would not characterize all (or even most, to be completely honest) as super-happy marriages, I very much bristle at the suggestion most of them are thoughtlessly breeding like animals. On the contrary, most of them have tried to use NFP and/or ecological breastfeeding to reasonable space and regulate the number of births. Some have been more successful than others. Some have failed miserable at controlling their fertility by using NFP. I only know one or two couples who were so messed up as to continue to have children on purpose in very bad circumstances while thinking that they were doing a wonderful, holy thing. That is a very rare exception (really, the few I know likely have diagnosable psych issues that have never been treated) and not at all the norm.

        Most of these Catholics are trying to do the right thing. It’s offensive to think we (I have six myself) are now going to be judged as irresponsible even by fellow Catholics, just because we couldn’t get our fertility under enough control to avoid being compared to rabbits.

    • Bogdan Szczurek

      You’re right if a child is a problem, another mouth to feed or inconvenience. You’re profoundly wrong if a child is a gift.

      What does it mean “adequate attention”? What does child need the most? Is it “adequate attention” or love?

      What does it mean “decent live”? Is “decent live” determined by ability to spend the summer holiday in resort of one’s choosing? Is “decent live” designated by having a smartphone or laptop? Or, perhaps, to heave a “decent live” it is sufficient to not to be hungry, naked or cold? And when some people are not able to achieve this minimal level of “decency” isn’t the blame on us, who could fare with a bit less of “things”?

      • Tess Oliver

        Miranda Attridge didn’t refer to people having children they couldn’t afford. She spoke purely in emotional and psychological terms, not materialistic ones. All children need love and attention. Those from some large families don’t get them because the parents are too worn out. I know this from my own experience. You unfairly trivialize the discussion by pretending that Miranda’s comment was abut laptops and cell phones and vacationing at resorts.

        • Bogdan Szczurek

          I’m afraid you missed my point and it is not about “laptops” 🙂

          Questions about what does it mean a “adequate attention” and what does it mean “decent live” are to establish a focus. They still stand. What does it mean?

          And now another question—perhaps even more general—was added. When does one can afford a child?

        • L

          I came from a large family too. It’s taken me a while to understand that it is NOT the size of the family that determines the level of love and care but it IS about the emotional/spiritual health of the parents. Just in case people try to throw in the notion that if my own parents would have been better parents had they stopped at 2 or 3 then they would be very mistaken. Us younger ones somehow had it better . Misery has NOTHING to do with the number of children and EVERYTHING to do with parent’s heart and soul.

          Yes! There are some children who are feeling the weight of “poverty” today as they cannot keep up with their classmates in terms of possessions.

          • St JD George

            Beautifully said. I was thinking that too but didn’t articulate it. My honest experience is that those have the least are usually the happiest, particularly at a young age. Sadly as the innocence of childhood melts away and the transition to living in this world begins – many measure their worth by what they have materially relative to others, and not on what they have spiritually relative to others.

        • fredx2

          Again, the notion that parents in large famliies cannot give enough love or attention to their children is patent nonsense. I know quite a few small famliies where parents constantly hover over the one or two children and the children are not allowed to develop their own ideas and personality. Helicopter mothers are a nuisance.

          • ForChristAlone

            In fact, parenting becomes EASIER the more children you have. Know why? If you’re a good parent, you teach responsibility -meaning that as children get older they help take care of the younger children. They learn skills that will put them in good stead for when they become parents. The contracepts just don’t get this idea.

            • St JD George

              Excellent point – for all families and particularly large. I couldn’t agree more to it’s importance in raising well rounded adults. The youngest even benefit because then grandchildren are plentiful.

        • asmondius

          It is always easy to spot someone who is speculating because they have no real experience or knowledge.

          Love and attention are not finite commodities that require a zero-sum set of circumstances. The birth of a second child does not reduce emotional attachment by one half.

        • ForChristAlone

          Hard work is difficult. But, as they used to say, “Hard work never killed anyone.” Large families are a blessing.

        • Inattention has nothing to do with family size. I’ve seen “only” children treated as vanity acquisitions by parents who are always to busy. One such individual was most grieved my the fact that his father was wagering on harness racing when he was born.

          I am reminded of this classic:

          A child arrrived.. not several…
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUwjNBjqR-c

        • JP

          I came from a large Catholic family. And most of my friends came from large Catholic families. One family had 9 children. I never once knew of one not getting love or attention. As a matter of fact, today’s children (usually with only one sibling) are some of the loneliest people I have ever met.

          • ForChristAlone

            My son married an only child. She has little idea about how marriage should work as well as motherhood. “Sharing” as a concept eludes her. I have told both my sons to warn their children against marrying only children. Instead, they should encourage their children to marry spouses with as many siblings as possible. They’re less likely to be selfish narcissists.

        • John200

          “I know this from my own experience.”

          You know a thing that is false. I say this as the oldest of 9 children.

    • Susan

      Dear Miranda,
      If only you knew! If you could just try to open your heart and mind once -without any pre-conceived notions- to the message of Christ and then truly meditate/ contemplate His truth, your whole being might be altered forever toward a more refined thirst of knowledge; a knowledge that nourishes your entire being because you will come to realize both intellectually and spiritually that Christ’s message is simple yet infinitely profound: By loving God Almighty above all else (living the standards of the Ten Commandments), and living your neighbor secondly, the truth becomes logically evident: where there is real love, there is real peace.
      Your statement on large catholic families could not be more erroneous- I come from a large (8 children) catholic family and grew up knowing others, and know even more now in my adult life: there is so much to be learned from large catholic families who truly are founded on, and embrace Christ: it is a life long journey of thanksgiving to God for the gift of life and the never ceasing acknowledgment of the strength, humility and perseverance of good and caring parents; so much so that it ignites a fervor to try one’s best to pass it on to our own children. It’s all about getting to know Christ. Try it and pass along it along!

    • Rachel Lu

      All I’m going to say is, this was an offhand remark made in an interview, not a detailed discussion of moral philosophy. It’s not a Must-Read. When Pope Francis writes an encyclical “On Not Breeding Like Rabbits”, I promise to read it.

      • St JD George

        Indeed, I am growing weary of replying to off the cuff (if indeed they are) remarks from our pontiff. I’m happy to wait for more formal doctrinal discourse.

      • L

        I read the Pope’s whole comment last night. It’s not as offensive in its context but was a poor choice of words. Kind of judgmental as if large Catholic families are breeding like wild hares and over consuming everything in sight. It also seemed a tad judgmental when he admits to having scolded a women for 7 c-sections ( I do understand the risk of uterine rupture with a history of c-sections ). Does he scold women that have abortions? We can’t know. His judgement seems a little off in many seemingly small ways. I just don’t “get” him.

        • ForChristAlone

          Don’t fret. Pope Francis doesn’t get Pope Francis.

        • Lip Balm

          And why didn’t he scold the husband, too? Takes two to tango. At least the woman was only putting her own life at risk. In my book, while it is admittedly bad to take risks with your own health and life, it’s a far worse thing to put your spouse’s health and life at risk over and over while you blithely plow ahead (pun intended) with life and health intact.

          So much for shared responsibility in childbearing choices.

        • lifeknight

          I, too, felt the comment about the woman having c-sections was at the very least uncharitable. This was more revealing than the rabbit comment. Disappointing. Filter, Holy Father, filter.

        • David

          Francis on Gays: “who am i to judge”.
          Francis on the women with 7 c-sections: judgy Mcjudger pants.

          The message is being heard loud and clear.

          • Tamsin

            “judgy McJudger”? dude, if you are new to a forum and you feel like saying something nasty to a girl, that she should “say something that actually makes sense instead of worn out cultural memes”, you might just hold off a little.

            I actually liked your “corrupt absolution powers absolute corruption”; I’ve been reading about the Reformation in England.

      • JP

        Offhand remarks have become a major part of Francis’ reign as Pope. And his remark was made in light of the fact that the Catholic Church outside of Africa and a few places in Asia is an aging Church. We simply are not breeding; we are most certainly not breeding like rabbits.

        • Has he heard about all the cities where most baby boy rabbits are named “Mohammed”?

          • JP

            In both the UK, Norway, and Germany Mohammed is the number one name for newborn boys

            • Oh that’s right, we are supposed to say nothing negative about the cult, just quietly slip into Dhimmitude.
              The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.

        • David

          This was my first thought as well. The problem in most of the world, including among Catholics, is SUB-REPLACEMENT fertility rates. This means shrinking populations. So yeah, breeding like rabbits is not a concern, and to even let that term leave his lips, no matter how anyone wants to try to spin it… was a grave mistake with implications for future generations. Absolutely shameful.

    • fredx2

      Apparently you are obtuse enough to believe that the Pope just said that all who have large famliies are “sinners”. This is a bizarre interpretation of what he said.

    • asmondius

      Who exactly determines what ‘adequate attention and decent lives’ consist of?

      The good Lord, who blesses us with children….or you?

    • ForChristAlone

      god has spoken

    • Augustus

      Don’t misunderstand what the pope said. Or, for that matter, what Dr. Lu said. No one is advocating irresponsible parenthood. But nothing that either of them said justifies the use of artificial contraception. So, not only does his off-the-cuff comment in an airplane have no binding authority, even if true it does not contradict anything Dr. Lu said in her column.

    • JP

      What sins are they committing?

      • Offending a judgmental troll’s highly irritable viscera and sense of aesthetics.

        • JP

          They form this cartoonish idea in their heads of Catholics. In this case, of married Catholic couples “mindlessly” having sex 24/7 while their infant plays in the mud, their 4 year old starves, and their 8 year old plays with loaded Dad’s 6-shooter.

    • Anglicanæ

      You mean like the mindless non-breeding of the self-absorbed liberated western woman? Enjoy the cultural apocalypse.

  • russell snow

    I was teaching at a major university at the time of the push for abortion “rights” began and at our faculty coffee table, we would discuss the issue. Interestingly, the discussion was not about religion, but about whether or not the fetus was human, which seemed self-evident to me, who was not a Catholic at that time. In our on-going group there were two biology professors, one of whom was an embryologist, who argued that the fetus was human on the basis of scientific knowledge, others refused to accept the argument. Naively, I offered the analogy of the acorn and the oak tree. Destroy it and you destroy that particular tree. Others argued that the fetus only became human when it developed a mind and consciousness. How so? It turns out, because they said so. What has become apparent over the years is the Gnostic mindset of those whose fundamental beliefs were not open to critical and open minded scientific inquiry. The idea that you have to convince someone of a self-evident truth everyone knew until the 20th century is beyond my comprehension, but not difficult to understand in a society and culture which is suffused with Gnostic thinking.

    • St JD George

      Put another way … we are slowly and collectively losing our minds and our souls.

      • russell snow

        well said

    • Captain America

      Good post.

    • Jdonnell

      Without supporting the argument, I think that the debate is usually not about whether the fetus is “human” but whether it has reached the status of a person.

      • asmondius

        Please show me a human who is not a person.

        • Jdonnell

          I am not necessarily supporting the argument that a fetus in its early stages in not a person, even if it is a human fetus. That is a position that even Aquinas held. And, it will not do to say that he didn’t have the benefit of modern science, since his view depends only on the realization that a fetus develops in stages of growth and not on anything more.

          • St JD George

            Sean is wondering why all this discourse is taking place over here today in Rachel’s beautiful column on Catholic motherhood.

          • asmondius

            Human beings develop physically via stages of growth right through early adulthood. Of course intellectual, emotional, experiential, and spiritual growth continue over the entire mortal lifespan.

            • Jdonnell

              The comment doesn’t address the issue of fetal personhood, nor, for that matter, end of life alternatives.

              • asmondius

                It was said that the determination of a human as a ‘person’ could be based upon a particular stage of human growth. As human growth involves many stages, to seize upon one particular stage is clearly subjective and prone to bias. Trying to separate a human life from ‘personhood’ is strictly a convenient rhetorical excuse for killing, whether it involve a fetus or an unresponsive adult.

                • Jdonnell

                  As I said in my initial comment, I am not saying that I agree with the argument this argument by presenting it.
                  Your comment tries to muddy that argument by referring to “many stages,” when it would obviously be a matter of some early stage in determining personhood. In muddying the issue, perhaps you are the one making the rhetorical “excuse.” Aquinas did more than make a rhetorical argument.

                  • asmondius

                    Once again – you wish to focus a death sentence without appeal for human beings of just one stage. This is logically no different than promoting the execution of troublesome adolescents or cranky toddlers. Logic is not rhetoric. DNA is not rhetoric. Human life is not rhetoric. Murder of the innocent is not rhetoric.

                    • Jdonnell

                      Those who approve of abortion as the killing of a fetus they believe has not yet reached personhood disagree. It is entirely different from killing an adolescent or anyone else. Logically, they are correct, if their assumption is accepted. If your assumption is accepted, then things are otherwise. As for rhetoric, your comment here is filled with it, from the false comparison to phrases like “death sentence.” So, is your opening “you wish,” since as I have said repeatedly, this is an argument that I don’t necessarily accept.

                    • asmondius

                      There are no assumptions or ‘false comparisons’ at all in my comment. There is no objective difference – the individual is human, has the same unique DNA, and is alive at each and every stage of development. Those are well established facts. If you can justify killing a fetus you can just as easily justify infanticide. There is no magical process that adds a layer of ‘personhood’ onto a human being. ‘Personhood’ is merely a subjective label like ‘legal adult’ that changes in meaning and purpose from place to place and from time to time.

                      To be accurate, I actually said abortion is a’death sentence without appeal’. The fetus obviously did not ask to be killed and is offered no chance of reprieve from the decision to terminate. This is an accurate description.

                      Thus far you have not offered any logical or factual challenge to what I have written, you seem to simply dismiss facts that make you find uncomfortable as ‘rhetoric’ or ‘assumptions’.

                      Human life is either meaningful or it is not. Once people begin splitting hairs based upon some criteria the inevitable horror begins. In terms of taking human life, the American abortion industry makes Adolf Hitler look like a piker.

                    • Jdonnell

                      If you don’t realize that importing language from other familiar contexts and applying them here isn’t rhetoric, you don’t know what rhetoric is. Same with the Hitler references in your current comment. As for DNA, it is just as factual to observe that it exists in sperm–all the DNA, and yet the sperm is not human. I have offered what some of those who support abortion offer, and given their assumptions in contrast to yours, their position is arguable and logical. Of course, they would also agree that human life is valuable and insist that they are not splitting hairs but making crucial distinctions. Other life areas that involve making distinctions include end-of-life decisions about pulling plugs, withholding hydration, etc. Some would argue that those situations involve hair splitting; others know better.

                    • momofmany

                      Sperm only have half the DNA of a human being. It is a haploid gamete, not to be confused with a human (embryo, zygote, fetus, baby, toddler, etc) which contains a full set of chromosomes. One cannot argue that a sperm or ovum can be compared to a human on the basis of having DNA alone. A full set of DNA (and in special cases the slight alteration of these chromosomes) result in a human. This little human is in a stage of development that can and should be permitted to grow and guaranteed the right to life until natural death. In contrast the gamete will die within a 5 day span as it is not capable of further growth or development without the complementary gamete.
                      Asmondius is correct, that abortion kills a human, one with with a full set of chromosomes.
                      Sperm are ‘of humanity’ but not humanity itself. To imply otherwise is a distortion of fact.

                    • Jdonnell

                      A fetus is surely more than a sperm, even though the sperm has human DNA. It takes two for this tango. You list “embryo, zygote, fetus, baby, toddler,” each of which consists of a separate category. One might use the list to distinguish a fetus from a zygote and to distinguish one or the other from personhood, however human.

                    • asmondius

                      Well, you see, you are confused on some basics of human reproduction. The fetus is an individual not simply because he or she has DNA, but because their DNA is completely unique. Let me say again – ‘completely unique’. That is not true of the DNA in sperm cells or any other cell in the body.

                      I’ve given you three incontrovertible facts . Please feel free to deny any one of these as a mere ‘assumption’:

                      1. The fetus is alive
                      2. The fetus in a woman’s body is human
                      3. The fetus is a distinct individual with unique DNA

                      Give it your best shot, don’t be afraid.

                    • Jdonnell

                      Defenders of abortion are as aware of that as you and I are. That doesn’t make necessarily for personhood, they will reply. Your best shot has simply ignored that fact.

                    • BillinJax

                      It is clear the “hood” in personhood for you is to shadow it from the light of truth and reality as so well defined in scripture. “The child within me leaped for joy at the sound of your voice”

                    • Jdonnell

                      You’re being silly. Scripture is not meant to be scientific. Will you next quote the passage about the world being created in six days to support a view?
                      Second, even using this passage, it is obvious that a baby stirring or “leaping” in the womb involves an advanced pregnancy.
                      Your comment is otiose and simply gives your opponents away to dismiss you as a credible voice.

          • JP

            You’re grasping at straws. The Roman Catholic Church has been against abortion from the very beginning.

      • JP

        What is the difference between a human and a person?

        • John200

          This is an old word trick, played by the desperate abortion advocate. It does not work.

          You might have fun with it, if you get a pro-abort to play the game with you.

          • Jdonnell

            Aquinas makes the distinction in allowing for abortion.

            • John200

              A VERY old word trick. Not persuasive among literate orthodox Catholics, such as Crisis Magazine regulars.

              Have fun.

              • Jdonnell

                The trickery is in those who deny differences. Aquinas makes careful distinctions at many junctures. Dismissing distinctions as a “trick” simply implies a lack of any real argument. Why not simply deny the difference between a fetus and a baby? It’s possible to do that too, but not without being in state of denial, as pro-abortionists–and many others–would see.

    • fredx2

      Also very convincing, in a more direct way, is viewing pictures of the torn bodies of the aborted fetuses. When you look at them, you say “Ooh – that’s a human being”. The response is quite instinctive, and is more persuasive than mere argument.

  • Susan

    What continues to keep the liberal minded in the dark, is not (wanting) to receive truth when it is offered…
    [Benedict XVI offered … a memorable phrase to express the idea that being pro-peace and pro-life is one organic whole: “If we want peace,” he said, “let’s defend life!” […] (For the record, the phrase is not exactly new. Pope Paul VI’s message for the World Day of Peace in 1977 was titled, “If you want peace, defend life.”John Paul II used a slightly more complicated version of the same idea during a 1999 speech in St. Louis: “If you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, defend life. It you want life, embrace the truth, the truth revealed by God.”)

    • St JD George

      I was listening to a reflection site this morning on the way into work this morning that said essentially the same thing. Those who are the most stressed and unable to reconcile the inner conflict of accepting the false premise of their beliefs are the ones who cry out the loudest in protest of Christ. The contrast was of course with those who have the deepest faith in Christ who are at peace knowing it is his will that will be done.

  • Captain America

    I think fatherhood and motherhood both call on us to act better, to be better, to maximize the good within us, and develops our human abilities of empathy and love.

    We simply appreciate the world better, through the work of parenthood.

  • Jdonnell

    Republicans keep on bluffing Americans in pretending to be opposed to abortion. Once elected, they take no meaningful action. We are reminded of that in today’s news, which reports that the Senate–with its new Republican majority–has decided to drop discussion of an abortion bill. Catholics who vote for them are suckers. They would be better off voting for Democrats–despite their faults–as more honest about the issue and for their support of fetus’s outside the womb, that is, after children are born, which is when Republicans stop showing any interest in them by voting down or watering down all sorts of measures to feed, house, and protect them.

    • St JD George

      Maybe we should take this “fight” (ha, laugh J) over into Sean’s dominion today and leave the Rachel’s beauty of motherhood at peace here.

    • fredx2

      Great bit of thinking – vote for the people who directly oppose what you want, because they are honest about it.

      You must have attended Georgetown to come up with thinking like that.

      • St JD George

        Don’t know whether to laugh or cry at that last remark, but I did get a chuckle out of the former.

      • Jdonnell

        Your comment is its own “great bit of thinking” in its fallacious if sarcastic logic. Vote for people who don’t try to bluff you is preferable to voting for those who do, especially when those who claim to be anti-abortion are faking.

    • Augustus

      The only Supreme Court Justices who favor overturning Roe v. Wade were appointed by Republican presidents. The only pro-life legislation that has past through Congress was passed with a majority of Republican support. The vast majority of pro-life legislation restricting abortion at the state level in recent years was passed by Republican legislatures. Just because some Republicans are afraid of the issue because they think like Democrats does not mean all of them are. Your attempt to dishonestly defend the Party of Death shows that you are more interested in partisan politics than Catholic teaching. The assertion that Republicans don’t care about people after they are born is a Democrat Party talking point and thus a lie. If only the Republicans were less supportive of profligate spending the nation would be much better off. Now that is an area where they are open to criticism. They may say they are fiscal hawks but their voting record shows that they support government growth though perhaps at lower rates than the Democrats. And there is nothing in Catholic Social Thought that says that Catholics are required to fund irresponsible government spending. The State is not our god, thought it appears to be yours.

      • Jdonnell

        Your reactionary remarks are as full of bluff as the Republican pretense of stopping abortion. Nothing in their legislation has slowed it. As for your response to my point that Republicans stop caring for the fetus upon birth, you only bluster and deny it because of its source. That sort of false logic characterizes your comment.

        • Define reactionary, give it some meaning than the worn out 1960’s left-wing political invective that it ordinarily conveys.

          It is both ironic and disingenuous coming from the rabid left, since leftist politics largely involves itinerant reactions to visceral indignations. Look, this guy has money. We must do something. This one has guns. We must do something. This one is fat. We must do something…

        • JP

          So, what is a fetus “upon birth”?

        • Augustus

          I offer facts. You offer lies. Now you move the goalpost. Now you say Republicans are not sincere because abortion has not been outlawed in the U.S., as if it’s all up to them. Even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the states would decide and how many of your beloved Party-of-Death Democrats would favor outlawing it in New York or California? Are you going to blame Republicans for Democratic inaction? You would rather abandon the unborn in order to aggrandize the state and enlarge social dependency on government largess. What does that do for anyone except make them slaves? Tell me one welfare program for children that a Republican-controlled Congress ever abolished. Democrats can’t win unless they lie because people are not stupid enough to think that the socialism you offer will do them any good. Here’s another fact: abortion rates have declined in recent years. But I’m sure you will not give credit to the pro-life movement or it’s Republican allies. Facts don’t matter to you. It’s all about power and you’ll lie to get it. After all, the ends justify the means. “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan.”

    • BPS

      That’s a lie Jdonnell, democrats don’t support born children, they only pretend to. They support making as many people dependent on the government as possible, but that doesn’t promote human flourishing. If they wanted to promote human flourishing, they’d be for school vouchers so parents could send their children to religious schools instead union controlled government schools which teach children situational ethics. As one teachers union president said, “I represent the teachers, my clients are in no way the parents or students”. If democrats were pro-child, they’d be against homosexual marriage and adoption, which deprives children of the even the semblance of knowing parents of both sexes, which is the right of every child, exposes children to a balanced view of life. If democrats were pro-child, they’d also be against abortion, which not only is bad for the child being abortion, but bad for the teach role that the law plays in society. It teaches the most susceptible in our society, poor black males, that life is cheap. If a boy sees his girlfriend, sister, mother killing his son or daughter, nephew or niece, sibling because it’s inconvenient to bring them into the world, then why not take out of the world the other boy in the neighborhood who’s made his life inconvenient.
      Your democrat party has embraced evil as the means to political power.

  • Says everything I think, too, about motherhood.

  • fredx2

    Margery Eagan is, one hopes, continually learning. She seems to be hooked on the writings of various gurus, methods, teachers, etc. She leans to the New Age sort of stuff, but at least she is currently engaged in traditional Ignatian spiritual exercises. One hopes this takes hold and leads her away from the various “consciousness” gurus she typically espouses. Perhaps the Ignation exercises are merely a cover she uses so she can claim to be Catholic when mostly what she espouses is New Age stuff where Jesus is your own personal psychologist. .

    She is a victim of the media’s hype that Pope Francis was a secret progressive, determined to stamp out all conservatives in the church. She believed this distortion, and now she is upset the that Pope is not as smart as she and her friends are.

  • Vinny

    Good ole Republican Party strikes again. Pulls their pro-life bill on fetal pain. Politics? Yes, but politics is also LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Go to the Constitution Party for your politics.

  • kag1982

    So are Catholic men asked to sacrifice anything to raise children? No.. Okay then.

    • ForChristAlone

      We are talking about motherhood silly. Men are not mothers.

      • kag1982

        So men shouldn’t have to sacrifice anything for their kids.

        • Anglicanæ

          No, why?

          • kag1982

            Because that is what being a parent is.

            • Anglicanæ

              Oh, then why did you ask? Anyone who reads sacred scripture knows this answer.

              • kag1982

                Because it seems to me that the Catholic Church demands that women sacrifice everything for children and men sacrifice nothing.

                • Anglicanæ

                  Hmmm, I didn’t get that impression at all. Men are to be Christ to their wives and the chief model of sacrifice. Maybe you have an example of the Church teaching otherwise?

                  • kag1982

                    So you are comparing men to God?

                    • Anglicanæ

                      Ephesians 5:

                      22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

                      25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.a 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

                    • kag1982

                      Which means that a husband gets to boss his wife around… I thought that was only the fundamentalist Protestant idea of marriage but I guess many fundamentalist Catholics are adopting it as well.

                    • Anglicanæ

                      Staggering.

                    • John200

                      … more bumbling than staggering, as I see her.

                      I hate to pile on here, but you (Anglican and FCA) are arguing with a moral idiot. Margery Eagan and kag1982 are together in pursuing this form of barbarism.

                    • kag1982

                      Ohh… Good to know that I’m a moral idiot. I didn’t know that the fundamentalist Protestant concept of “headship” was a Catholic Truth.

                    • I have some sour news for you: Protestants didn’t invent the theology of the family.

                    • kag1982

                      I didn’t know that Catholics took the idea of submissive wives so literally but thanks for letting me know.

                    • Your most welcome.

                    • ForChristAlone

                      stay stay from Catholics and their websites for your own good

                    • Funny. Notice how little you know about Catholicism but how much traditional Christians know about leftist demagoguery?

                      Here’s a clue: Christianity is rich, textured, nuanced, holistic, profound, life-giving, and true; “progressivism” is beggarly, flat, monochromatic, shallow, deathly, and false.

                    • kag1982

                      Yes.. I agree with that. I don’t think that Christian fundamentalists whether of the Protestant or Catholic flavor get the nuances.

                    • “Fundamentalist”: In leftist speech means, “People that take seriously and consistently their faith.”

                      Here’s another bit of revelation: you’re a modernist fundamentalist.

                    • John200

                      You knew you were a moral idiot before I told you. Here you go, sing along, your song is coming around on the guitar, jump right in.

                      Trolling, trolling, trolling,
                      Though their thoughts are stolen,
                      Idiots keep on trolling,…

                      Raw- Hide!

                      Don’t try to understand them,

                      Their thoughts will all be random,

                      Soon we’ll …

                      let you fill in the rest. I have the completed song at my disposal, but that is all you need from me at this time.

                      Best wishes on your journey.

                    • kag1982

                      Oh.. Neat there is a song for it. So do you think that a Catholic woman should “Get Married and Be Submissive.”

                    • Oh, no! The “submissive” word! Run! Run! Run!

                    • kag1982

                      So you don’t think that strict gender roles are kindergarten theology? Quick question… Does the Bible state that women must be stay at home mothers?

                    • Even if the Bible *did* say it, I’m guessing it wouldn’t mean anything to you, am I right? It’s not like you’re saying, “Please, I’m wanting to know God’s will regarding women, what does God’s word say?”

                      What it sounds like you’re saying: “Anyone who says differently than my modernist fundamentalism is to be rejected out of hand, and I need someone to say that’s their position so I can apply my fundamentalism.”

                      But for the record, nowhere does the Bible say any given woman *has* to be a mother. Some women are called to celibacy.

                    • kag1982

                      But married women have to be stay-at-home mothers who submit to their husband’s headship. Is that correct?

                    • Here’s a better question: what would compel a woman to leave her children to the clutches of the state? Who ought to be raising their kids?

                      Again, I don’t think you’re interested in the biblical answer, you just hate it.

                      But just in case you missed it the first time: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”

                    • kag1982

                      So you think that women shouldn’t be allowed to have careers and shouldn’t be interested in things other than having babies and keeping house? You also don’t think that husbands should be more involved in raising kids?

                      And Paul also said things approving of slavery. Let’s read him in the context of the 1st century, not the 21st century.

                    • ForChristAlone

                      That’s correct. Now will you go away?

                    • kag1982

                      Good to know.

                    • ForChristAlone

                      All men are created in God’s image.

                    • kag1982

                      But somehow God made men more equal than women?

                    • ForChristAlone

                      woman as created from the side of man in order to fully complement the man…it has nothing to do with equality at all

                • ForChristAlone

                  Another one of your erroneous ideas.

        • ForChristAlone

          I said we’re talking about mothers here , silly. Stay focused.

  • hombre111

    Just heard a thought provoking discussion on public television about paid maternity leave. Turns out that the U.S. is the only industrialized country that does not take such a thing for granted. Interesting, only days before our annual march against Roe vs. Wade. One of those form vs. substance sort of things, I guess. Repealing Roe is unlikely. In the meanwhile, what about giving women who don’t choose abortion the kind of support they need? I guess I would begin by wondering how many dioceses and other Catholic institutions offer such a thing to their employees? The women interviewed were an inspiring bunch, frankly discussing the huge obstacles a pregnancy presents when it simply comes to making a living. Oh. Does Crisis have females on its staff? Do you offer paid maternity leave?

    • JP

      You raise a straw man, as the nations with the most generous maternity leave have the lowest fertility rates. Almost all full time working women already get maternity leave. Many wish to remain at home and be full time stay at home moms

      • hombre111

        “Almost all full time working women already get maternity leave.” You should have listened to the report.

        • ForChristAlone

          What does your parish do to help working woman. Do you supply free day care?

          • hombre111

            Unfortunately, we do not. The pastor, who is new here, weighs that option, but he has to go one step at a time. See you at the Cathedral tomorrow.

            • ForChristAlone

              You should forfeit your salary to provide for this day care. Then you’d be placing your money where your mouth is.

              • hombre111

                Did you see me a the Right to Life Mass at the Cathedral? The place was jammed and the bishop, who is a so-so preacher, hit a homerun.

    • ForChristAlone

      The solution: stop watching public TV. Your mind is perverted enough without any help from the atheists. Spend that time in prayer.

      • hombre111

        Actually, public TV is the only brain friendly place I know of. If you want to wither away, keep watching FOX.

        • ForChristAlone

          I am not wealthy with other people’s money; I cannot afford and do not have cable.

          • hombre111

            Same here.

  • Just Me

    I feel that many more women would love to bear more children. But truly it is more than a difficult choice to remove oneself from the workforce or what you love simply because the society in America, at least, is not friendly to mothers and their children. Perhaps real feminist movement would look more like embracing the natural strength women have of giving life and bring that gift to full force in the work force and daily life. More families and communities ought to support and uplift the role by supporting it. Doing that by making the workforce more mother and child friendly. Why not more help with the daily care of the children from family and friends and why not make the streets, stores, businesses more open to children. I have to pay for child care to do any sort of hobbie within a group setting. To get a babysitter is the most difficult thing and I do not want to ask too many times, god forbid. Well, the real work should be in forming environments that are stable and equal for women in all stages of her life. Not just in her youth, and singleness, and her old age.

  • John200

    Relax, ladies and gentlemen. The key point is, Margery Eagan writes for Crux, a Boston Globe Media website.

    The rest follows naturally. She is what she is. She thinks what you would expect her to think. She feels what you would expect her to feel. She writes as you would expect her to write.

    And no better.

  • James

    What I have found is that people like Margery Eagen are either stuck in the 1950s or deeply fearful of returning to it.

    People like Eagen believe Catholic Church dooms women to having a baby every year and no career, because the old rhythm method didn’t work and their mothers couldn’t have careers in the 1950s. That’s the logic. The presence of educated working mothers who **gasp** like being mothers and enjoy their careers simply doesn’t fit in to the way they see the world. The idea that NFP could actually work is impossible. It makes no sense to them because would have made no sense in the 1950s.

    (I find the same sort attitude toward liturgy: Any hint of Latin in the mass and the mean old nuns are going to come back to start swinging their rulers at them.)

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