Of Dave Ramsey, Babies, and Birth Control

“Well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money … if what you want to do is make a lot of money.”
~ Mr. Bernstein, Citizen Kane (1941)

Dave Ramsey is all the rage, especially among Christians. His Financial Peace University seminars are regularly advertised at churches, and his books are bestsellers at Christian bookstores. I’ve no doubt Dave has helped lots and lots of folks, and his no-nonsense approach to money is both refreshing and reasonable.

But I’ll be blunt: Dave Ramsey’s system is not for Catholics—or, rather, it’s not for childbearing Catholic couples who take the teaching of the Church seriously. At least that’s what we found out.

Several years back, we read through the Total Money Makeover and made a valiant attempt to implement its recommendations—baby steps, emergency fund, tight budgets, debt snowball, the whole shebang. We even had a family celebration when we let the kids cut up all our credit cards. Somewhere in the recesses of one of our discarded hard drives there’s a snapshot of the kids surrounding a cake decorated with Visa and MasterCard and other plastic fragments. (We meant to send the picture to Dave, but never quite got around to it.)

Anyway, for a brief time—an extremely brief time—we were debt-free, except for the mortgage. We had become “gazelle intense,” in Ramsey parlance, and we were on the road to becoming totally debt-free! But then God blessed us with another baby. And then another. Suddenly, our “financial peace” went out the window, and we were scrambling to replace those shredded credit cards. I can surmise what Dave would’ve told us if we’d contacted him during that period because of the advice he gave “Karen” on his show a while back. A mother of seven, Karen called in to ask if Ramsey’s approach could work for her big family. Dave’s reply is revealing:

The program doesn’t change one ounce. What does change is—and you already knew this long before you met Dave Ramsey—when you choose to have seven children, that is called a lot of financial burden. It’s not a criticism; it’s just a mathematical fact.

You’re not going to be fleet of foot and run from the cheetah because you’re carrying too much.

Ah, there’s the rub—and in two parts. First, the Church teaches us that whenever a husband and wife engage in marital intimacy—every time—they must remain open to having another baby. Pope Paul VI famously clarified this for the “free love” generation in his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae:

The Church … in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.

In other words, contra Ramsey, Catholic couples with lots of kids don’t always choose it that way—we can’t! Dave’s whole approach is based on planning, and you simply can’t plan when you don’t use birth control, because God always gets a say.

Contrary to popular belief, Humanae Vitae wasn’t new stuff, and Paul VI wasn’t just seeking to put the brakes on twentieth-century Catholic libido. Instead, the Pope had merely updated the Church’s articulation of ancient Christian proscriptions regarding birth control, much as Pius XI had done for a previous generation in Casti Connubii (1930). The reiterations of this most counter-cultural of doctrines go back a long way, and emanate from all branches of the Christian family tree.

And it is still the teaching of the Church today, no matter how many Catholic couples choose to ignore it. The Church isn’t naïve—everybody knows that Catholics contracept at the same rate as non-Catholics—but the truth is the truth, even when it’s inconvenient. In fact, Humanae Vitae itself was addressed to “all men of good will,” not just Catholics. It enshrines a glorious reality that’s lost in our sex-obsessed world: namely, sex is about babies. It was designed that way.

That leads to the second part of the tension between the Church and Ramsey—illustrated by his reference to larger families being slowed down because they’re “carrying too much.” Carrying too much? What, like too much consumption? Too much drain on cash flow? Too much, maybe, humanness? From the Church’s point of view, slowing down in this sense is the whole point.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, reflected on this in a recent essay about the pastoral care of families:

Today’s mentality is largely opposed to the Christian understanding of marriage, with regard to … its openness to children. Because many Christians are influenced by this … there is a lack of desire for marriage in accordance with Catholic teaching, and there is too little socialization within an environment of faith.

Note that Müller simultaneously diagnoses the problem among Catholics (ignoring Church teaching) and its etiology (inordinate influence from an anti-life culture). Like the broader culture, Ramsey promotes building wealth and seeking the “good life,” although, admittedly, he’s encouraging a more prudent, rational approach than most. Still, once wealth and the good life are the goals, then children become columns on a ledger sheet instead of irreplaceable, infinitely valuable images of the Divine. Nothing adds more “wealth” to a family than another child, no matter what the amortization tables say.

A similar idea cropped up in a WSJ interview with Alan Greenspan of all people, the former Fed chairman. Originally a dedicated numbers guy, Greenspan changed his tune after being challenged by none other than objectivist Ayn Rand:

Mr. Greenspan then believed in analysis based mainly on hard science and empirical facts. Rand told him that unless he considered human nature and its irrational side, he would “miss a very large part of how human beings behaved.”

That seems to be a pretty accurate picture of the tension between Ramsey’s approach to family finances and the Church’s approach to family: Ramsey posits planning and control that revolves around money, whereas the Church advocates abandonment and surrender revolving around generous openness to new life—something that doesn’t always make sense on the spreadsheet. And, like it or not, that abandonment, surrender, and generosity can’t be budgeted for nor planned. It’s not math; it’s more like falling in love.

Even the Pew Research Center gets this, as demonstrated in their study on parents and kids. “When it comes to feeling happy,” the study concludes, “time with children … beats time at work.” Does this create a paradox for those trying to follow the Ramsey way? You bet! Dave would have those parents out working a second job in order to pare down their debt and work toward a life of leisure in the future. But what does our gut tell us? Second or third job? Naah. Instead, follow Pope Francis’ advice: “Waste time with your children.” And, indeed, welcome another child while you’re at it—the more the merrier!

Irresponsible, you say? Imprudent? Perhaps. But you can’t plan for every contingency, and since Catholics—i.e., Catholics who choose to follow the teaching of the Church forbidding contraception—can’t exactly plan ahead anyway, why not throw caution to the wind, and lean heavily on the Providence of God. If He decides to bless you with another child, then it’s His problem to help you make ends meet.

Besides, there’s no capital like human capital. “Openness to life is at the center of true development,” says the Pope, because, among other things, life-oriented families are where the vulnerable, the weak, and the fragile are protected and supported.

And money? Will I sound terribly juvenile and foolish to assert my confidence that God will provide? He will, although it’s certainly not likely to materialize in a form akin to ones neighbors. Relative poverty, in material terms, is bearable when one is surrounded by a riotous brood.

Besides, even the high priests of the Dave Ramsey realm side with the Church when it comes to the relative value of having more kids—like when an article on Humanae Vitae in the Business Insider last year stated: “Human progress is people.” The authors even went on to assert that it is “a good idea for people to be fruitful and multiply.”

Hmmm. Sounds like God in Genesis. Did He mention anything about a budget?

Editor’s note: This essay and other writings by Mr. Becker can be found on his blog “One Thousand Words a Week.”

Richard Becker


Richard Becker is a husband, father of seven, nursing instructor, and religious educator. He blogs regularly at God-Haunted Lunatic.

  • AcceptingReality

    Regarding children as “financial burden” does seem a little offensive.

    • Mary

      Sure does! However, there is a financial burden that comes with children right? Which is why it is prudent and good to plan for that burden.

      • guest

        Mary, thank you for saying the above. Financial planning and family planning go hand in hand under the banner of prudence and responsibility.

  • Bryan

    I would have to say I completely disagree with this article. I’m not a fan of Dave Ramsey, however, this article seemed to be saying that you cannot live without debt and be a Catholic. As someone who is debt free (even our mortgage) at age thirty making roughly $40,000 per year with four children I will tell you it is possible to live without debt and be a faithful Catholic.

    What does our life look like? Well for one thing my wife is a stay-at-home homeschooling mother who gives birth at home. We purchase all our clothing at a thrift store, go out to eat once per year (on our anniversary), and only drink wine on the Lord’s Day. We do not own a television, have the Internet (we do use wi-fi on occasion, and I always check Crisis Magazine!), or cellular phones. But we do have a lot of love and joy for one another and our family. We purchase all our clothing at the thrift store and our books too. Our children are being taught to avoid debt, because, we’re attempting to train them to be content with what God has given them. God hasn’t given us a lot of money, a fancy house (although, I will say, it isn’t a bad house), or the latest glam but he has given us love for one another and that is sufficient. To paraphrase St Basil the Great: I’d rather have a multitude of children call me papa than have a multitude of coins jangling in my pocket…

    I never went to college (and this, in my opinion, is where I can trace our success) so I never had any student loans. We have no monthly payments, no car payment, live frugally, and can make it with four children on $15,000 per year total. We save a portion of our income, give another chunk away, while doing what we can to live within our means.

    Only in America (and cultures influenced by our materialism) is it viewed as necessary to have a large family and sustain debt in the process. This isn’t Catholic teaching, however, it’s using the heresy of Americanism to justify living beyond one’s means in order to be faithful to Catholic teaching.

    Why not be faithful in both?

    • Blah Blaah

      Very interesting and inspiring ‘testimony.’ I was particularly struck by your reference to the fact that you didn’t go to university and thus didn’t have any student loans and didn’t enter into adult life deep in debt. And yet one argument you hear ALL THE TIME against having more than one or two children is, ‘You won’t be able to afford college for all of them.’ (Does everybody NEED to go to an expensive, private college?) Why does nobody stop to think of the millions of people who never went to college and manage to have a family, pay the mortgage, drive a car, etc.? Ah, but they are not the ones with the voice in the media saying, ‘You can’t afford to have kids’ and ‘it’s irresponsible to have more kids than you can send to college.’

      • Art Deco

        The political economy is much less friendly to families and young adults than it was sixty years ago, and the bloated means of labor market signalling we have devised is one of the principal reasons. Improving secondary education, allowing the return of paper and pencil tests for screening prospective employees, and replacing the baccalaureate degree with briefer and more vocationally oriented tertiary schooling should be imperatives. Likewise, we need to stop direct and indirect public subsidies to higher education. Either all institutions should be fee-for-service on the open market or there should be a class of voucher funded schools subject to a global budget and not permitted to charge tuition juxtaposed to the fee-for-service sector.

        • Adam__Baum

          Much of the “curriculum” of, and the atmosphere that attends the typical undergraduate program, experience is quite frankly NOT learning, rather it is indoctrination.

          The academy has always had its share of miscreants and cretins, but they have now thoroughly infected it. The extraordinarily high unemployment rate and search times among recent graduates is in part due the economy, but also because those individuals are not able to bring value to employers.

          Colleges and Universities have been extraordinarily successful and building business models that place extraordinary demand on students (backbreaking debt loads), parents (who feel compelled to start saving at birth, because of the escalating target) and taxpayers (through a dizzying array of direct and indirect subsidies).

          If the education complex was private, there’s be funds set up to short their stock, because extravagent building programs, licentious college “experiences” and courses that import anarchy, nihilism, radicalism as intellectual development are fraudulent.

          • Art Deco

            Just to quality one thing.

            I believe 73% of all students at baccalaureate granting institutions attend schools in-state. About 70% of 4-year enrollments are in public institutions. About 85% of those enrolled in what are properly called ‘universities’ are in pubic institutions and about 45% of those in colleges (e.g. master granting institutions, baccalaureate institutions, &c) are in the pubic sector. Private universities I believe number 60 or so and enroll about 800,000 students; not all of these places carry a whole lot of cachet, though I suppose that’s subjective. Private colleges with a certain amount of cachet (Sewanee or Amherst or Bates) have a sum of enrollments which is indubitably smaller still. I believe the census of those in 4 year colleges is north of 10 million.

            Ambitious haut bourgeois attempting to give their children ‘the best’ are a problem, but not the principal problem in higher education. (Though, to be sure, you can find unremarkable private colleges just as expensive as the marquis institutions)

      • WSquared

        I will agree with you to an extent: not everybody needs to go to an expensive, private college. I would actually suggest a solid Catholic liberal-arts college or a state school for undergrad. It really depends on what you’re interested in and who can teach you to be the best of whatever it is. We need to look beyond brand names here.

        But it is also true that nobody should be going to college just to get a job, either, even though one will obviously need to make a living. Moreover, education is a gift to be used for God’s glory. Some people don’t belong in college, but we also need to beware of those who do, or that if our kids want to go to college, we need to help them enable themselves to make the sacrifices necessary to get there; to help where we can, which does not mean paying for everything. That might be a good thing for them to learn regardless of whether we as parents can afford to send them all to college and pay the whole ride.

        Also, don’t forget fellowships, grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid. That’s an incentive for diligence if there ever was one, and who says those aren’t gifts from God, too?

        While I get it that the cost of a good education can be outrageous, I am just as outraged that many an American Catholic, no differently from the average American, sees an education almost primarily as some sort of more frivolous and overpriced ticket to a bourgeois, suburban, middle-class lifestyle. That feeds directly into a kind of anti-intellectualism one gets from the political and Christian right in this country, and as Catholics, we don’t need to be right in there with them: especially when the assumed “reality” among non-believers as well as many “Christians” is that faith is a matter of private conscience and is separate from reason. Catholicism is a smart tradition. Our young people need to know that before we do any more ballyhooing about liberal professors luring Catholics away from their faith in college when we ourselves have fed them nothing but Coloring-Book Catholicism in our homes and in our parishes.

        • Art Deco

          But it is also true that nobody should be going to college just to get a job, either,

          I think the community colleges have pretty much swallowed up vocational training in this country, so not practical. (They often have distribution requirements too, so you get arts-and-sciences whether you want it or not.

    • Rick Becker

      Thanks, Bryan. I think it’s great that you’ve been able to cobble together domestic arrangements and a lifestyle that allows you to live debt-free. Obviously, as you yourself are demonstrating, it is indeed possible…for now.

      You’ll recall in my story that we were able to achieve debt-free (except the mortgage) status for a period of time, but then we were blessed with additional children. Even if we had “planned” those children and had adequately budgeted for them, we couldn’t have foreseen the fact that our Nicky would require open heart surgery.

      Nick, our sixth, also has Down syndrome, and before his birth, we had previously resisted applying for Medicaid to avoid being on the dole. Now I’m incredibly grateful to the social worker who urged us to enroll after he was born, because, even with good insurance, the co-pay for his heart surgery a year later ran into the tens of thousands. We would’ve been sunk.

      So, government assistance, credit cards from time to time, personal loans from generous friends and family — we get by. Yes, we’re in debt and on the dole, but the bottom line is this: The world is a better place because Nick is here. And his little sister, Katharine. Like you, I’d take a full quiver over a full bank account any day.

    • lifeknight

      Kudos to you and your family! My only “concern” is the home birth idea. Sometimes complications occur even in the confines of a hospital. Those are magnified and tragic if at home. Please consider augmenting the birthing plan to include medical professionals

      • M Green

        Yes, sometimes births go horribly wrong, but the rate in which they do tend to be higher IN hospitals than out of them. Also, midwives ARE medical professionals. There are good ones and bad ones, just like OBs. If there is a medical issue at a home birth or birthing center, midwives are generally competent to see it and get a woman to a hospital quickly. So, homebirths DO include hospitals when needed.

        • lifeknight

          Please site the study that shows the rates you mention. Anoxia, lack of oxygen, can result in severe brain damage or death for the baby. Even if a medical issue is noted at home and emergency measures are taken to go to the hospital, why risk it?

          • M Green

            Certainly: http://www.bmj.com/content/330/7505/1416; http://www.livescience.com/37438-home-birth-risk.html
            Also, lack of oxygen that causes injury or death is possible in a hospital setting as well.

            Why try a homebirth? Because of the repeated routine use of pitocin when not needed–which can cause fetal demise, the unsanitary conditions that are inherent to hospitals (it IS where we keep our sick), the higher c-section rate due to impatience and unnecessary intervention, and the rate of post-partum depression.

            I’m by no means saying that homebirths are for everyone. Some people simply feel safer in a hospital and others simply NEED to give birth in a hospital because they are high risk. BUT to force anyone to undergo unnecessary procedures is wrong. Home births give an option to avoid this while providing other benefits that hospitals currently don’t support.

            And, yes, I’ve have 3 hospital births and one home birth. All were vaginal. However, the first one I did need to be in the hospital (I had pre-eclampsia which was managed poorly). The second two had no issues, however, recovery time from the unnecessary procedures were much longer–12 weeks–than my homebirth–3 weeks. I was also much healthier under midwifery care than under OB care. I gave birth in 3 different hospitals in 3 different areas.

        • musicacre

          That is a HUGE thing to say that births go wrong more often in hospitals, not backed up by stats. I had a doctor who delivered my fifth, and he told me stories (while we were waiting for the arrival of Gabriel, my baby) of his days in England when he was a young doctor; his job was to be part of a type of ambulance crew that solely took care of botched home births. He said he attended hundreds in just 5 years. I have a homeschooling friend who was lucky enough to have the last few at home, but I say lucky because it is impossible even for a doctor to predict how a birth will go. Just yesterday my friend and her husband didn’t make it on time to their daughter in Virginia, who was having her first. It was breach at the last minute and she underwent an emergency Caesarian. My first was complicated and at the last hour they said she was in fetal distress and had to manually remove her under a general. What if I had not been near a hospital? We have two midwives in our town (still operating) that delivered a home-birth baby that died while it was in the birth canal. The parents were outraged of course and sued. It was proven the midwives botched it somehow but they got off on the newly defined reason that only the head was showing so it was’t a human. No kidding. That precedent was set for BC at that moment. (the inhumanity of a baby) Thank you midwives, what a legacy. They hid behind the lie that what they were delivering was not human and got off scott free and are now operating a lucrative business. I lost my taste for midwives after that….
          It’s wonderful to bond with your baby, but don’t do it at the expense of their lives. I’m extremely bonded with my six, they didn’t get any less cuddling and breastfeeding being born in a hospital!

          • M Green

            Here’s the problem with what you’re saying: you’re freaked out that problems can happen with a home birth (not once did I say they DIDN’T happen), but you’re completely ignoring the fact that babies and mothers DO die in hospital settings or are severely injured while in labor and afterwards–and it happens frequently. Sometimes, it’s because there’s nothing anybody can do (which also happens in a home setting), and sometimes it happens due to neglect (also in a home setting). Besides my own 3 mismanaged births in a hospital, I have a friend who’s was mismanaged and almost died from an unneeded, botched c-section. It happens a LOT. In fact, 12% will die in a hospital setting, and 32% will have a c-section (WAY too high). Besides that, I can give you a whole slue of examples of botched hospital births. I had a friend who delivered breech in the hospital and the doctor tried to PULL the baby out, snapped the neck just enough to break it, and that baby is a quadriplegic with brain damage to boot. Not kidding. I had a friend who nearly lost her baby due to diseases that the baby caught IN THE HOSPITAL. Does that mean that all hospital births are dangerous, or that all OBs are bad? No, of course not. It is a person that is blinded by fear and fear alone that believes at all home births (or hospital births) and all midwives (or OBS) are dangerous.

            On a side note–and to balance out your personal experience fear tactics–my midwife has delivered just shy of 1,000 babies. Out of that number, she’s had just shy of 100 that needed to be transferred to a hospital–of that 100, 10 needed a c-section (1% compared to the current national average of 32% of hospital births http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db124.htm, which is about 22% higher than the WHO recommended amount http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ck=10456, and about 20-12% higher than the average for other developed nations WHO USE MIDWIVES.) She’s had 1 baby die–that was due to an infection that the baby caught 4 days after delivery. (Keep in mind that most hospitals discharge women after 1 day now.) The current infant mortality rate average? Down from 16% to 12% in the US. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db120.htm

            Now, I get that you feel more safe in a hospital setting. I feel more safe at home. I did NOT get to bond as well or breastfeed as well in a hospital setting–3 TIMES and at DIFFERENT HOSPITALS in 3 DIFFERENT AREAS!!! (And I was TERRIFIED–like you, and completely against it, like you–to deliver at home for those 3 times). My first one, I had no choice, anyway. I had pre-eclampsia (that went undiagnosed until the last month, by the way.) Even as bad as that birth was, even *I’m* not saying it would have been better to deliver that child at home. (What is with you hospital birthers going to the extreme like that? Don’t you listen at ALL? No one I know that’s for home births are for them in ALL circumstances, nor do they HATE OBs or hospitals, but to hear you talk, you’d think we thought exactly that!) The bottom line is that my experiences and women who had similar experiences both in a hospital setting and at home are no less important or safe or dangerous than your hospital setting experience. Again, there’s a REASON that home births are growing in popularity.

            Now, back to the original reason *I* posted. I don’t care WHERE you decide is the best place to deliver your baby. Not only that, I will defend your right to choose tooth and nail. I’m simply asking you to stop inferring to everyone that hospital births are the ONLY safe option when they aren’t the only safe option, and stop inferring that women who choose to give birth at home that they are uninformed and taking an unnecessary risk when they aren’t taking any more of a risk than you are in your hospital setting for a normal birth (most women who choose to deliver at home have done a far more amount of research on the topic than most people who choose to deliver in a hospital do). That’s it.

            Do some research on your own—this time, talk to the midwives and the women who’ve had successful home births to get a bigger perspective. That shouldn’t be too unreasonable, right? You’re asking all of us to accept the success stories of women who birthed in hospitals and the experiences of the doctors who deliver in them–and the reports WRITTEN by doctors who have only ever delivered in a hospital, right?

            The bottom line is that I’m not trying to force anyone into a home birth. EVERY woman needs to feel safe, where ever that is, otherwise, there WILL be complications. I’m simply asking all you who choose hospital births to stop trying to force it on us or try to shame us into it with the doctors/midwife battle reports, while only taking into consideration the side of the doctors and discount entirely the midwives side. That’s not so much to ask, now is it? Or, are you all really EVERYTHING you’re accusing US of being? I certainly hope not.

      • entonces_99

        All the home births I am familiar with include medical professionals (such as the certified nurse midwives who delivered our last four children).

  • Matt

    I’m hoping that Mr. Becker only skim read the Dave Ramsey article that he linked to, because it clearly doesn’t give the impression that Mr. Becker has presented in this article.

    “It slows down you hitting big financial goals or little financial goals because you’ve got this drain on the math. It’s a wonderful drain; it’s a glorious drain, but it’s a drain.”

    “You already knew this instinctively. You’re not going to be fleet of foot and run from the cheetah because you’re carrying too much. You’re going to be a Clydesdale, but the Clydesdale wins.”

    I can’t see how in good conscience, a Catholic author could launch such a character attack on Dave Ramsey.

    • Reasonable_Opinion

      “Character attack? Puh-leese. Look, I think Dave Ramsey performs a much-needed service to people. But seriously, what does he value first, above all else? What does he preach, show-after-show, book-after-book, that makes you “happy?” That liberates you? Family? The blessed struggle of children? Or is it “financial independence” achieved through debt “freeeeeeeedom!?” The answer is obvious.

      • ES

        It is a character attack because the article takes a quote out of context, making it sound like he is anti-family and pro-contraception, when he never said anything of the kind.
        Whether or not he places too much emphasis on debt freedom is besides the point of this discussion about article. The article is very dishonest in making him seem to advocate a very specific thing, when the full quote reveals he was doing nothing of the kind.

        • It’s not a character attack because even if we grant for the sake of argument that Becker is incorrect on this point, it is an attack on Ramsey’s views, not on his person. If Mr. Becker had said something like, “It is clear from D. Ramsey’s views that he hates children.” that would be an attack on his character.

        • Rick Becker

          I’m sorry you feel that way, ES. You, too, Matt. Actually, I tried very hard to avoid anything that even hinted at a character attack, and although I only quoted parts of the Ramsey article, I did link to it so that people could read the whole thing.

          Nowhere do I accuse Ramsey of being anti-family or pro-contraception. Instead, I’m merely suggesting that the trajectory of Ramsey’s approach creates real tension for faithful Catholic couples. As Reasonable_Opinion points out above, Ramsey emphasizes financial freedom a lot, as if it were the key to happiness. It’s not.

          • Not Falling For It

            Forget the nay-sayers, Rick. Your article was spot on!

    • Adam__Baum

      Unlike Dave Ramsey, I actually have real financial qualifications. (I also never declared bankruptcy because I was over-extended on a real estate portfolio and it’s not because I wasn’t young and irrationally exuberant, to borrow an infamous phrase-it would have been very easy to do that, rather than blow off ball games, vacations and my principal vice of the time, dinner at Chi-Chi’s)

      Some you’ve heard of, (CPA, MBA) and some you likely haven’t heard of (CGMA, CLU, ChFC, FLMI/M) and although I’m not currently in public practice, I do advise a limited number of individuals, gratis. My designations and my license require continuing education, and I am current.

      if you are buried in credit card debt, needing some tough love to quit running up the balances for routine expenditures, he might have something to offer.
      Under the current tax structure, it makes no sense for most people to completely eliminate mortgage interest, it makes more interest to carry some debt, and invest it, especially if you have a reasonable tolerance for risk and a long-term horizon.

      His debt snowball method is quite frankly, nonsense and I say this as a guy who realized he was over his head twenty years ago. You go after the highest rate debt, not the lowest balance. His response to critics, “it is about the emotion not the math”. In other words, feel good first, and that’s the hallmark of a huckster.

      He also advises forgoing retitrement plan contributions and while that might be adviseable or even necessary, it’s not always the case, and once you skip a year, you’ve lost it. That’s especially nuts if that means forgoing an employer match.

      In short Dave Ramsey is a financial heretic, exagerrating and obsessing over some truths, rather than others. It’s an easy sell to people that believe in “getting saved”, “the rapture”, “faith alone” and other novelties.
      Good financial advise comes from a knowledge of the person that can only be gained over time, meeting and treating them as a unique person, not as a faceless caller on a radio show.

      True justice would be to throw him and Suze Orman in adjoining cells.

      • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

        Wow! This makes me even more happy to have nine children and no money. Sounds like just another scam I don’t have to worry about! Thanks for the information.

        • Adam__Baum

          Worry not. Impecunious isn’t poor and it isn’t permanent.

          You sound like a rich man to me.

      • musicacre

        Other novelties like the emotionally-based Medjegorhea ….I know Catholics who look at you like a heretic if you don’t follow this show, inc, my own mother!

        • Adam__Baum

          Gotta look that up, I’ve never quite been sure what to think.

          • musicacre

            I got it today from Catholic World News; it is precisely midnight so I guess that was yesterday now. I think it is also on Vatican Information Service. ( online)

      • AnthonyMa

        I don’t know that you’re right, Adam. I don’t doubt your qualifications to speak on financial matters, from comments of yours I’ve read, you seem an intelligent fellow, but I think you’ll have to admit that Mr, Ramsey’s methods have helped a lot of people. It’s true Mr. Ramsey declared bankruptcy, he makes no secret of it, but perhaps that’s the key to his success and that of the people who’ve followed his system. I know there are some reasons to take loans on occasion, but I completely support a debt free lifestyle. Remember the old proverb, “the borrower is slave to the lender.”

        • Adam__Baum

          As I wrote “if you are buried in credit card debt, needing some tough love to quit running up the balances for routine expenditures, he might have something to offer.”

          As for debt, I understand it as one of those slaves. I know the forgone opportunities, the incessant worry and sleepless nights. I’m totally on board with the idea of not having useless debt. I didn’t get out of debt (mostly credit card, some used for MBA tuition) using Ramsey snowball, but going after the high interest stuff. I’m not sure I’d have gotten out by 1999 when I lost a job, had I “snowballed”.

          A charlatan and a fraud? No. Useful, yes. But what he offers is limited in it’s utility and applicability. Ther

          When you assess the efficacy of any medicine, you look not only at the positive results, but the ineffectual ones and the adverse effects. We only hear about the successes.

          What scares me about the people getting on the line and yelling “we’re debt free” is that’s fine, but if you are carrying only 50K of employer provided life insurance, have no disability insurance, carry state minimum car insurance, have no personal liability umbrella, have no liquidity reserve, no intermediate term savings and no long term investments/retirement, you’re still at risk and I’ll bet many don’t know it.

          Ramsey is essentially a megachurch pastor of financial advice. No personal relationship, no followup..

          • JJ

            I can now tell you only know Dave through a few sound bytes on his radio show since anyone who has gone through FPU knows he covers that in the insurance lesson.

            • Adam__Baum

              No, I haven’t listened to a few “soundbytes”, but extensively, however if you are telling me that he’s playing the same game as companies that provide “disableware” software, where essential features are withheld until you pony up, (which I am not going to do), that’s not a very good defense.

              I find Ric Edelman to be far more technically sound.


          • adam the all knowing

            Adam…I’m impressed with your ability to take a verse from the Bible and decide how it fits best in your life. I didn’t realize the Bible had an asterisk in the verse, “…the debtor* is slave to the lender” *except when Adam thinks the debt is good for him”

    • TMJC

      I read this three times, and I missed the launch of a character attack on Dave Ramsey.

  • grzybowskib

    Hmmm…interesting article. I went to a parochial high school and took a personal finance class there which was based on Ramsey’s Financial Peace Curriculum. We weren’t specifically told to have fewer kids in order to plan our finances well. But then again, I don’t remember talking about what to do if we wanted to have bigger families. And we did listen to phone calls from people who listened to Mr. Ramsey’s radio show, but I don’t think we listened to the phone call from Karen. So I don’t know what to think about this. 🙂

    • Adam__Baum

      “I went to a parochial high school and took a personal finance class there which was based on Ramsey’s Financial Peace Curriculum.”

      Arrrrghhhh!!!!!!!!! It’s not a curriculum, it’s a concoction.

      • grzybowskib

        It was just a class that was offered as an elective. The teacher was a close friend of Mr. Ramsey’s and the two of them co-authored the materials Mr. Ramsey uses in his program.

        • Adam__Baum

          And those rudiments are fine. I object more to the show-which has a self-appointed “expert” dispense advice to strangers on a phone, having them scream “we’re debt free” (that means little if you have 50 bucks in your checking account) and sells “courses” that have no testing, no personalization and no follow up.

  • JERD

    Ramsey’s ramblings highlight the most important contest of our time – modern materialism vs. the gift of life. Our culture teaches us that kids are a drag on career advancement and wealth creation. The human person has become a functionary; a tool in the hands of business and government. Our primary purpose to love God and one another, manifested most perfectly in the creative act of marriage, is ridiculed by our culture. “Don’t you know what causes that?” the man in the checkout line will say to the mom with many children. (That is not fiction. I have heard it.)

    Who will win the contest? If culture is the victor, we fall into an abyss populated by aging materialists. If those loyal to the teachings of the Church prevail, love will abound.

    • Adam__Baum

      Who will win the contest?

      The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.

  • Michael Kennally Lewis

    Well, if you can do it, great. Having so many children to the point where you depend on govt assistance to feed them, as does a family of 16 recently in the Richmond Times-Dispatch is irresponsible. We may not use contraception, but the use of NFP is licit when done for grave reasons, and I think “ability to clothe and feed another child” is probably good reason

    • Mary

      Amen I say unto this.

    • Susan

      Every time there’s an article about being open to children there is a little chorus of tedious NFP promoters who bring out the mythical family with 16 kids on welfare to hammer the rest of us about responsible parenthood. We all know about NFP. It’s not germane to the topic. Let it go.

      • Adam__Baum
        • AugustineThomas

          But you have no point.

          Humans are valuable capital. It’s an evil racist idea (one that led in large part to the racist Baby Holocaust) that a whole bunch of poor black children are a curse. THEY’RE NOT, THEY’RE A BLESSING!

          The world gets better with more people. It’s a leftist myth that we’ll all live in hell on earth if we add a billion more souls.

          • Adam__Baum

            I think you are the one without a point, ranting on about racism. Check my log, I’m the guy that posted links to Julian Simon. Nice try, Obamabot troll.

            You want to defend these immoral inner-city pathologies-fine. But shove that racist brush. I don’t tolerate calumny,

            I have no problem with the kids.

            That having been said, she’s arguably not a mother. Certainly not a good one and by any stretch of the imagination she’s neglectful to the point of abusive.

            Mothers care for their children, physically, mentally and spiritually. They don’t serially fornicate and the wait, no insist for somebody else to step up to the plate.

            There was a time that just such a woman would have been declared an “unfit mother” and her children would have been removed from her custody. She should be tried for child abuse, not treated as a victim.

            She’s not unique. I once served on a jury where the victim was a three-month old, and we convicted her mother. The trial was nearly SIX YEARS after the death in October 21, and when questioned the child’s paternal Aunt said she remembered the weekend the baby died, because she had to drop off her FOUR KIDS, (oldest age 8) at her mother’s/the grandmother’s so she could celebrate her 21st birthday.

            Why married couples/parents should even be tempted to use contraceptives to support lifestyles of wanton fornication is beyond me. This not justice, let alone a city of God.

      • jcsmitty

        NFP is the elephant in the room. It should dominate the conversation here. The church has never said Catholics can’t use NFP when there are economic or other good reasons (health, e.g.) to avoid pregnancy. It is 99% effective, can work with irregular cycles, is medically safe and natural for the woman, is morally acceptable, and has a positive effect on marriages.

        The IUD as well as the pill are no more “effective” than NFP, can cause “silent abortions,” are immoral, cause medical problems, have a negative effect on marriages, etc. NFP is the biggest secret in the Catholic Church, and priests and pastors are doing their congregations great injustice by remaining silent on this.

        I can understand the reluctance to use NFP if it were equivalent to the outdated Rhythm method of the 50s, but it is not. NFP is a gift that is not being appreciated.

    • musicacre

      It doesn’t have to be “grave” reasons..I just read recently that that word was a mis-translation and has caused a lot of people to shy away from NFP ….who knows how many misunderstood this to mean NFP is almost NEVER morally acceptable?

  • ClydesdaleCatholic

    Richard, even though you shared the link to the call, you chose to highlight a very small part of the advice Dave Ramsey gave this woman. The wording of carrying too much I agree is out of line, but did you read the rest of what Dave said? Right after the pieces you meshed together, skipping the majority of his response, he said, “You’re going to be a Clydesdale, but the Clydesdale wins. They just win in a different fashion than the gazelle wins.” Dave is basically saying, Mathematically having lots of children in today’s society makes things harder mathematically. But he also says, “It’s a wonderful drain; it’s a glorious drain, but it’s a (mathematical) drain.” God calls us to be faithful stewards, and as a faithful steward you have to accept that. Having lots of kids will mean you might cut out some lifestyle choices to allow your family to truly be open to God’s plan. A budget is simply a matter of priorities, and to a Catholic family you know where your priorities lie. There is more money in the food category than in the entertainment category.

    I know countless faithful Catholic families who are having lots of kids, strapped on a budget, but work to get out of debt (or be debt-free). Personally, it is harder to enjoy that time with your family when all you can think about is “will we be able to pay our bills this month.” I would rather be debt free and give more to my family in my time, and more to my church than to Visa. When we have our next child, we will once again adjust our budget so we can take care of all the blessings God gives us, not throw the budget out the window.

    Here is the link to Dave’s call if you want the full context of what he said to Karen: http://www.daveramsey.com/index.cfm?event=askdave/&intContentItemId=119391

    • BadgerCatholic

      Excellent, thank you for sharing!

    • Rick Becker

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, CC. I agree that having a large family doesn’t exempt us from trying to budget and eliminate debt. Maybe I didn’t make it clear, but we learned lots of great lessons from our Ramsey days — like avoiding car loans like the plague, for example. Student loans, too, for that matter.

      I guess my objections have to do with tone. Ramsey talks a lot about winning, as you yourself quoted, but his idea of winning seems to be largely related to money. We know different, i.e., winning is babies! So many Catholics are already snookered by the culture into believing that children are a drag — that having babies will prevent them from realizing the ‘good life.’ Ramsey’s approach, no doubt unintentionally, seems to subtly play into that false vision.

      • WSquared

        Mr. Becker, winning is holiness, which is not exclusively reducible to babies qua headcount, even as it isn’t reducible to money. One needn’t assume or presume that children are a “drag” or a “financial burden” to think that.

        One can be just as on board with you about the “good life”– or as Brad Gregory, history professor at Notre Dame and author of The Unintended Reformation— would put it more devastatingly, “living the goods life”– and not have a big family and not be using contraception, while trying to juggle– with the help of God’s grace– everything else that one has been given, and allowing Him to integrate all of that more fully into the vocation of being a wife and mother or that of being a husband and father.

        Having a quiver full is not Catholic teaching, in that the Church doesn’t mandate it, even as she welcomes big families. And no Catholic who has his “quiver full” or whatever else should allow himself to think that he’s holier or “more faithful” than any other Catholic (besides, one can have a big family and space all the kids by using the pill– one of my non-Catholic friends comes from a family of four or five kids. Her mom “planned” them all– but it’s not that a lot of Catholics who reduce every question of family to size would know that unless someone told them, even as they busy themselves with speculating about who’s “abusing NFP” or is on the pill, as if it’s really their business to know).

        Moreover, Catholics who avoid or find inconvenient the chastity necessary for self-gift should not be allowed to hide behind “heroic parenthood” any more than Catholics who blow off Church teaching on contraception should be allowed to hide behind “responsibility.” In addition, so many of these discussions assume that a woman should have to give up her talents just to fit into some people’s rigid stereotype of a holy wife and mother or to keep those talents only at home so that someone can keep his quiver full– which is just as selfish as anyone making everything about having more money to buy more stuff, and therefore thinking that children are a “burden.”

        I’m a grad student trying to complete my Ph.D. It’s not a matter of whether I would “rather have” a child or complete my Ph.D., it’s that I want children AND God gave me the opportunity to complete this Ph.D. for His glory (not mine), and that He expects me to be a good steward of that gift by keeping Him in the loop– and it’s taken me a long time to come to that realization, no thanks to other Catholics trying to mandate what the Church does not. Thank God for the Magisterium. I also didn’t go into studying history on the presumption that I would earn tons of money to buy more crap.

        In other words, these types of discussions tend to be about more money versus more children, which often tends to lean more than a tad materialistic running either way.

    • musicacre

      Sounds good what you’re saying, but just because a person is in some kind of debt -whether it be a mortgage, etc- doesn’t mean that’s all they think about. I feel sad for someone who must be completely our of debt before they can turn to their family to “give time”. I gave up nursing so one of us could give constant one on one time with our kids. (Duh. that meant we just might have to live a plain life and share a little) We always had some kind of debt, over the years. It didn’t stop us from having lovely memorable family times and enjoying the dozens of concerts the children played in . Now mostly in their 20’s the kids are all hard workers, don’t spend unrealistically and three are finished musical degrees -almost 4- (and teaching) It didn’t hurt to be a little poor and just enjoy the simple pleasures that came our way… By the way, all 6 are strong Catholics with an strong awareness of needing to change the culture of death. I’m confident they will contribute some solutions in the future to a hardening society and not just look to their own financial security. PS I would love to be debt-free also, but in hindsight, I love my kids more!

  • Margaret

    As a faithful Catholic who does not use contraception, who is also a fan of Dave Ramsey, I think this piece is quite off-base. As Matt mentioned, the author completely ignores the rest of Dave’s comment to this woman. Also, as someone who frequently listens to the Dave Ramsey show, I can assure you that he is not telling callers left and right to quit having kids to get out of debt. A large part of his goal of financial freedom is the ability to “give like no one else”- when you are free from debt, you do have more flexibility to share wealth with others. As Bryan commented, even on a meager salary, without debt you are able to be generous. Dave himself has children, and one even works with him as an adult, so I seriously doubt he’d admit to them being the burden you suggest here. While I appreciate the use of Church teaching to support your argument here (all of the teachings I agree with, by the way), we cannot discount the biblical teachings that Ramsey uses as support for his system- namely Proverbs 22:7- Catholics believe in the Bible, too. In our work to stay debt free, when we have bills from the birth of a new baby, we simply work as quickly as possible to pay them off. We don’t fret about a temporary return to debt for this reason, and trust, as you say, that God will provide.

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

    I do not know anything about Dave Ramsey, but since his seminars are promoted by the administrators of Franciscan University – who pay themselves staggering salaries while keeping the faculty scrambling for loose change – I assume there is something strange and Protestant about his ideas.

    • charlie

      Looking at their 990, they seem to make a very reasonable salary. Are you a professor at FUS? Why drag their names through the mud? Why post on a board like this something like that? Matthew 18:15.

      Dave Ramsey is providing a great plan to many people who are sold a bill of goods by a very materialistic culture. There may be something ‘protestant’ about his ideas because he is in fact a protestant, but please don’t ‘assume’ anything about someone you ‘know nothing about.’

      • Adam__Baum

        What makes you think that Ramsey isn’t part of the “materialistic culture”?

        • charlie

          I have no evidence to say that he is or is not. I never said anything to that effect Adam. I merely said he is providing a plan to many people, such as: rip up your credit cards, get out of debt, live on a shoestring budget to rid yourself of debt…

          • Adam__Baum

            No you didn’t, but you seem to think he’s the antidote.

            The problem is that it’s a minimalist, impersonal solution, with identifiable technical errors and no follow up. When I go to the Doctor, I go to the one that’s in actual practice with an MD or DO on his/her shingle, not the Phd peddling some one vitamin/fish oil as the be all and end all of health on the radio. What’s a great first step isn’t the whole trip.

            • charlie

              What do you expect Adam? Do you think Dave should get a phone number from every person that calls and follow up over the next few months to ensure they live by what they discussed?

              Like I said, if we could all afford a licensed professional like yourself I would hope that we would all be in a better financial place. Unfortunately, your profession has been hijacked by trained financial sales people, and the common man is ‘advised’ to ‘choose’ between the three funds in his companies managed 401k and sold an idea about the value of those upon retirement.

              We are told to finance everything these days, and our parents many times are the ones offering such advice. Dave fills a void that has been left by the sage advice of our grandparents, and you want to beat him up about that.

              All sarcasm aside, would you put together a program that many of us can follow, how to afford our larger families and survive in this culture of death financially? I’ll volunteer to go through it first and test it!

              • Adam__Baum

                Now you might consider this “mean spirited”, but:

                “Unfortunately, your profession has been hijacked by trained financial
                sales people, and the common man is ‘advised’ to ‘choose’ between the
                three funds in his companies managed 401k and sold an idea about the
                value of those upon retirement.”

                1.) What profession do you think I’m in? I don’t sell financial products.

                2.) Dave Ramsey is a trained financial sales person. (Or do you think he’s not selling his various financial products).

                3.) Accusing an entire profession en masse, using a farcical example (three funds will not pass ERISA’s adequate diversification rules) seems like calumny to me.

                • charlie

                  Did you not say you are a licensed professional? Did I miss something?

                  Do you think I am far off in saying the majority of us, when meeting with our company’s chosen ‘financial advisor’ are taken aside, listened to about our family, goals, desires, etc are then given a thorough understanding of our options, suggested plan, etc.? No way in the fiery pits of Gehenna.

                  Forgive me if I use hyperbolic language to make a point about an industry that desperately needs reform, however I think the vast majority of readers would agree with this common experience. How many of these ‘professionals’ have used Dave’s advice of: get out of debt, stay out of debt, and never ever go into debt again?

                  • Adam__Baum

                    I have no problem with your language as long as I’m extended the same courtesy. Do you think I picked this pseudonym by accident?

                    I am licensed as a CPA, but am not licensed for sales of securities or insurance, and although the numbers are growing, most CPA’s do not sell such products. Therefore, I have no idea what you mean when you speak of “your” profession, but describe activities I don’t perform.

                    Your “company’s” F/A is there ONLY to advise you on selecting appropriate investment vehicles offered by the employer’s qualified retirement or profit-sharing plans, not to do comprehensive personal planning.

                    Once again, that’s pretty much all of Dave’s advice, and I’ve stated my objections elsewhere in this thread, I also explained that having personally gotten out of the hole, about a year before being downsized, I had a chance to have some savings by going after the high rate stuff first, not using the low balance snowball he advises.

      • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

        The question is whether Dave Ramsey is catholic (or Christian) just because some Catholics weirdly promote him. The answer is clearly, “no.” If Matthew 18:15 applied to employer/employee relations, that would certainly be good news for abusive employers! But then, Leo XIII probably would not have bothered to write Rerum Novarum.

        • charlie

          That’s good news that you don’t consider anyone your ‘brother’ at FUS.

          • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

            Ridiculous response. No one (other than a charismatic) could possibly be this naive.

            • charlie

              Thanks Dr. Williams! I am not part of the charismatic movement, nor do I have any stake in the goings on at FUS. Just an uneducated outsider unworthy of such conversation with entitled elites.

              • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                It is clear that you have no knowledge of the way ANY university operates. If you did, you would not be quoting scripture to chastise the faculty, who are quite often at the mercy of a ruthless administration. If you believe that is different just because a university is “catholic,” you are sadly mistaken.

                • charlie

                  “It is clear that you have no knowledge of the way ANY university operates.”


                  ” If you did, you would not be quoting scripture to chastise the faculty, who are quite often at the mercy of a ruthless administration.”


                  “If you believe that is different just because a university is “catholic,” you are sadly mistaken.”

                  Thank you for instructing my ignorance.

  • Austin

    I have done the Dave Ransey course and he offers a way to keep out of debt but not a way to grow spiritually, except in that way. I think he is getting off track in his Christian perspective towards finances. Two nights ago he spoke to a man about how much money he should give to his exwife, divorced ten years ago. Without finding out if the man walked out in his wife and/or she was a stay at home mom with kids, Dave launches into a tirade that “ex” means the marriage is over, she is EX, not ‘wife’ and give the disputed money to a really mean lawyer rather than an ex. Very harsh without inquiring. Dave has sold out.

    • Beth

      I’ve never taken the Dave Ramsey course. I was quite puzzled when our Deacon and parish started offering the classes and all the hype that goes along with it….why not go to Phil Lenehan and Veritas Financial Ministries? It’s a Catholic program…..anyway, not my original reason for posting….. My only exposure to Dave Ramsey was on a long drive up to visit family in Iowa last Thanksgiving. Switching channels we landed on his talk show. My husband and I could NOT BELIEVE that THIS man was being pushed so strongly in Christian circles. The way he berated his callers and made assumptions about their situations was just astounding. Really, could this man really be the one held up by Christians to help them learn how to find PEACE?

      Again, why not look up Phil Lenehan at http://veritasfinancialministries.com/ He is CATHOLIC! There IS a difference between they way Catholics and Protestants see the Church and the world.

      • Adam__Baum


      • Lori

        I am a faithful Catholic and an avid Dave Ramsey listener. I have taken his course and his program has helped my husband and I tremendously. I don’t think you can use listening to his show one time and make such a judgement. Dave can be harsh with callers because they are mostly in DENIAL about their lifestyle. Most of the time, he asks a lot of questions to get as much information as possible to give informed advice. He is often compassionate with callers and I believe he really has a heart for helping people. Again, his style, on occasion, may be that of a tough-love approach, but sometimes it what people need to hear.

  • msmischief

    “Dave’s whole approach is based on planning, and you simply can’t plan when you don’t use birth control, because God always gets a say

    You can’t plan when you do use contraception, because God still always gets a say.

    That is why abortion explodes when contraception appears. People insist on having the last word.

    • Adam__Baum

      You’ve just touched on something.

      Much of what I’m going to call “retail personal finance” is based on the idea that “you make a plan and you stick with it”. But like battle plans that melt with the first shot, budgets melt with the first unexpected contingency, whether it’s a job loss, a transmission problem, an orthodontists bill, whatever- those personal Black Swans that have hit all of us.

      I’ve seen people (including myself) treat the budget not as a tool, but a master. There has to be room for allowable deviations and unforseen contingencies. Budgets are built on the myth that we we can foresee the future, even if that view is limited. We can’t.

      Over the years, I’ve used and recommended budgets far less frequently, instead prefering frequent historical checks. It’s too easy to think that a budget is some kind of financial GPS that we absolutely have to adhere to or else all is lost. Worse, budgets don’t capture everything. Like debt, they are wonderful servants and fearsome masters.

      I much now prefer to tell people in financial distress to stay out of stores (we are grazers by nature), shred mail order catalogs the minute the come in, to develop the disciplines of self-denial, that have been lost with the disposal of fasting.

      • msmischief

        A plan that does not have flexibility enough to not melt at the first unexpected contingency is not a plan. I’ve read of a woman who complained that because her paycheck was held up, she “had” to go on foodstamps and was wounded by the hostility at a store where she had shopped for seven years.

        I hadn’t worked for seven weeks without having enough money in the bank that I could foot the bill for my groceries for a couple weeks. If she had saved one dollar a week in those seven years, she could have paid for her own groceries (and filled up the account again when she got her paycheck).

        Yes, there are catastrophes that will melt the best plan. A transmission problem, however, is inevitable — or some such mechanical problem. Transforming the inevitable but unscheduled into a catastrophe is a good tool to imprudence.

    • Actually, the availability of free birth control has been shown to dramatically reduce the abortion rate. http://www.nbcnews.com/health/free-birth-control-cuts-abortion-rate-dramatically-study-finds-6285986

      • redfish

        Even so, according to statistics I’ve seen, France has a much higher rate of women using the birth control pill and other contraceptives like IUD, and a much lower teen pregnancy rate, but an abortion rate roughly equivalent to that in the US. And in the UK, the NHS has been giving free birth control and they have both a higher teen pregnancy rate than the rest of Europe, and a higher abortion rate than both France and the US. Which would suggest, even if contraceptives do have an impact, there are also cultural factors at play.

        Personally, I’m not sure how to read the St. Louis study, because I’m not sure how the women were inducted into the program, and 9,000 is a small part of a metropolitan area with a population of 3 million.

      • Adam__Baum

        The end and the means must be moral.

      • jcsmitty

        Not true. Furthermore, 56% of women who have abortions were on contraception when they got pregnant. It’s the opposite of what you say: whenever contraception is encouraged, the abortion rate goes up.

        • Art Deco

          Agreed. Abortion is a consequence of how sexual expression has been incorporated into human relations. Contraception has been an architectural feature of a corrupt social order.

        • I’d love to see a source to back that up, but I don’t doubt that it’s true. It also doesn’t mean the abortion rate goes up.

          Let’s say you cut your finger. If you put antibiotic ointment on it, most people would agree that it reduces the chance of your cut getting infected. Now let’s say that 56% of people who put antibiotic ointment still have to go to the doctor to treat an infected finger. This doesn’t mean that antibiotic ointment causes infections or increases the rate of infection. It merely means that antibiotic ointment is sometimes ineffective at preventing infection.

          If someone is taking contraception, they presumably don’t want to be pregnant. If that contraception fails, they may be more likely to seek an abortion.

          Saying 56% of the women who have abortions use contraception doesn’t indicate anything about how many women are actually having abortions. The increased available of contraception can still reduce the abortion rate — when contraception does work, there’s no unwanted pregnancy to be aborted.

          The abortion rate has been trending downwards since the 1990s, when it peaked at around 1.6 million abortions. In 2008, that number was 1.2 million. 2008-2009 saw a 5% decrease, the single largest decrease in the decade, and the most recent year we have data for. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6108a1.htm?s_cid=ss6108a1_w

          If 56% of the women who received abortions in 1990 were on contraception, and 56% of the women who received abortions in 2008 were on contraception, the overall number of abortions still decreased.

          Interestingly, the use of long-acting contraceptives such as intrauterine devices tripled during 2000-2009. That doesn’t indicate that contraception is solely responsible for the decrease in abortions per year, but it’s a notable correlation.

          • jcsmitty

            The source to back up the 56% statement is none other than the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s own research arm. Studies continue to show that where free contraception is introduced, abortions increase. There is a false security that contraception is 100% effective when it’s not, so more women who would not engage in sex out of fear of pregnancy, have sex with contraceptives. Sooner or later, it catches up with you!
            I will be happy to get back to you with additional sources, but it should be noted that in countries where the U.S. has pushed contraception as a requirement of foreign aid, etc., the abortion rate has climbed. The Catholic Church is often criticized for opposing contraception when it allegedly would prevent abortions, but the opposite can be proven.

            • To be fair, the Guttmacher Institute has been an independent non-profit since 1977, although it remained an affiliate of Planned Parenthood for some time. It ended that affiliation in 2007, and funding from PPFA has been steadily phased out. http://www.guttmacher.org/about/faq.html

              While Guttmacher certainly has ties to Planned Parenthood, I think calling it PPFA’s “research arm” is a little disingenuous.

              I do think you’re right that some women who are on contraception may have sex when they would remain abstinent if they weren’t. And we certainly do need better education about the proper use of that contraception, so errors are less likely to occur.

              As far as contraceptive foreign aid increasing the abortion rate, I’d have to see the sources on it. I’d also be curious to know whether other factors could contribute to the apparent increase in abortion rate, including accessibility of legal abortions, increased effort to document those abortions, etc.

              • jcsmitty

                Whether it is now independent from Planned Parenthood or not, Guttmacher can hardly be accused of bias in the pro life direction. It based its 56% figure on records supplied to it by PP, from its own client base.

                I’m not sure what you’re talking about concerning “better education about the proper use of that contraception,” but I sure wish there was more education about how it acts in a woman’s body and how it harms women. More importantly, I wish more women knew the truth about the pill and IUD as abortifacients.

                Up until 1965 the scientific and medical communities all agreed that human life begins at fertilization. As it became evident that IUDs were effective because they prevented implantation of embryos and caused early abortions, the birth control promoters worked to redefine when human life begins so that Catholics, Protestants and Muslims would not reject the IUD and pill.

                In 1965, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology accommodated the birth control crowd by publishing a new definition of conception as the “implantation of a fertilized ovum.” No new scientific discovery, just pragmatism on their part!

                Women are continually lied to and used. Many have had silent abortions while contracepting.

                The church had it right when it called contraception a grievous sin. Now we have to deal with abortion, in vitro fertilization, cloning, embryonic stem cell research and the other bitter fruit that comes from it–all because we think we know better than God and his church.

                • I don’t believe I indicated or implied that Guttmacher was biased one way or the other. I merely noted that it operates independently of PPFA.

                  I think there’s a need for more comprehensive sex education overall, about both the positive and negative effects of contraception. I think women who choose to use contraception should be taught how to use it correctly, such that their contraception of choice will function at its optimal effectiveness. If there’s a scientific consensus that contraception or a particular type of contraception is harmful or has harmful side effects, that should be taught as well, so they can make an informed decision.

                  I don’t feel equipped to argue one way or the other about the specific moment of conception or the moment life begins, so I won’t attempt to. I imagine that sort of discussion is more a matter of philosophy, at any rate.

          • jcsmitty

            One other thing I’d like to add to my comments below: the IUD causes silent abortions. It acts to prevent a fertilized embryo from implanting in the uterus, thus killing the embryo. Many Catholics are unaware of this fact because they’ve been told contraception prevents conception. Not always true, even with the pill. The pill can act as an abortifacient.

          • Andrew Patton

            Yes, but people generally don’t deliberately cut themselves and rely on antibiotic ointment to avoid infections. Furthermore, they don’t then rub dirt in the cut.

      • msmischief


        If that’s the best evidence you offer, I rest my case. Leaving aside the issue that the test group and the control group were utterly unmatched, there is no evidence that the decline was among the group you lavished the contraception on.

        • I don’t believe I claimed it was the best evidence I could offer, nor was I making an effort to provide a comprehensive argument in that post. I merely pointed out one study that showed that contraception did decrease abortion rates. That study may have methodological flaws, and many other studies might contradict it, but that’s the nature of research — we test and retest hypotheses until a consensus can be reached.

          If you can contain your snorting long enough to provide some academic sources that provide evidence that contraception does increase abortion rates, I’d be glad to read them. I think it’s a fascinating topic. Now if only we could approach it like adults instead of resorting to childish derision.

  • YouthMin

    “Nothing adds more “wealth” to a family than another child” – Best line of the article.

    However, just because Dave might have a non-Catholic view on birth control doesn’t mean that debt isn’t dangerous. God has given us intellect so that we can plan and anticipate things – creation is ordered in this way with cycles and seasons. My wife and I are faithful Catholics, we do not have debt except for our mortgage. She stays at home with the kids, I work for the Church. We don’t have fancy things, and our kids wear thrift store clothes. Our kids share a room. I would sooner move into a small apartment than go into credit card debt. I have seen what it can do to relationships and that burden is arguably greater than the burden of picking up some part time work to ensure a more stable family life for a family.

    For financial inspiration Dave Ramsey is great. For advice on birth control, your parish priest or Humane Vitae is better.

    • lifeknight

      Sadly stick with Humana Vitae. You never know what the priest will say. I would not have four of our nine if I had listened to our pastor.

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  • I can’t disagree with Ramsey’s view on debt, but he may go just too far. Time preferences may indicate that credit is preferable to shelling one’s savings in a depreciating good. For instance, it’s not unusual to find car financing deals at or nearly 0% interest. Another instance is using a rewards credit card for daily expenses and paying it off every month, accruing benefits at no cost.

    Ramsey is perhaps of the school that doesn’t believe that most adults may actually control their spending, or perhaps his approach is that of an intervention, a temporary radicalization. I wouldn’t know; I don’t follow Ramsey. However, from what is said about him in this article, I’d take his advice with a pound of salt.

  • Mary

    Completely disagree doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this article. Being a faith based woman, who has a degree in Theology (and entered marriage 86k in debt to prove it), Dave Ramsey’s program was a godsend for our family. We love his faith based approach and while we never expect people that aren’t practicing Catholics to buy into teachings from our Church, we love that the program never tells you not to have kids. In the past three years, we have paid off our debt, because of following his program, while having three children (in three years!) all with c-sections, and I was able to stop working to be at home. We can’t wait till God blesses us with more children and we are confident we can make our lives work with as many has he provides partly because we made a decision to get financially responsible. We plan for a future that will include kids because we know that is part of the package of our marriage. I know so many people in similar boats (lots of children, lots of debt) who feel so overwhelmed with the blessing of children because relying solely on providence (rather than our God given ability to work, save, work harder, save more) have left them barely scrapping by with so many mouths to feed. Dave Ramsey rocks…:) Jesus likes him.

    • Margaret

      Yes! Totally agree.

    • Adam__Baum

      “financial responsibility” is a process, not a state. Now it’s time to get a financial advisor, a CPA, a CFP, ChFC, similar credentials abound- who can sit down with you, and make sure that you stay on course.

      • Katie

        Adam, among all of your comments, you sound just plain angry. Dave Ramsey himself says that financial peace is a process and an approach. There aren’t any letters behind his name, but his experience in going bankrupt by millions and rising from the ashes as a debt-free millionaire provides more qualifications than “CPA, CFP, or ChFC.” You don’t get credentials for learning lessons the hard way, but you sure can use your cross to help others avoid your same mistake. Dave is an expert in this stuff because of his extensive studies, involvement, and mistakes. It’s ok for people to subscribe to his approach.

        • Adam__Baum

          Katie, I was wondering what happened to you, and I see you know how to use the guest post feature to avoid your history, but I remember you.

          As a good priest once told me, there is righteous anger.

          Now on to you, your comments reveal immaturity. You sound like a cross between the old man who dismisses “college boys” with a punctuating expectoration of tobacco juice and some ‘tweener lathered up about Justin Beiber.

          your pom-poms down and let the grownups discuss this, because you
          plainly don’t know what you are talking about. I already said for SOME people, he’s useful. Then again, I’ve always found it hard to respect a woman who admires celebrity and/or obsesses over the size of a guy’s bank balances.

          I have no problem with people going bankrupt if there’s no other option, but some licensing authorities very much do. On the other hand, having not gone bankrupt while earning my “lessons” the “hard way”, I see quite a bit to be learned in paying one’s creditors.

          You can dismiss the credentials all you want, but the quotes are inapplicable, because they exist. You put quotes around “Bigfoot”, not CPA.

          (For the record, I’m not a CFP, although I respect that credential a great deal)

          If you ever marry enough money to draw the IRS’ attention, your representative needs one of three credentials-of which one is CPA.

      • charlie

        Adam, while you may be very competent and intelligent, MOST of those in the ‘financial advisor’ field can be classified as financial liars, trained in selling products through emotion and fear. The good ones, I think, are not affordable to the majority of us reading Crisis and open to life…

        • Adam__Baum

          Most “financial advisors” do not not have those credentials, and I think you paint with a broad brush. If they don’t they’ll still carry Securities or insurance licenses. Now of course, Ramsey is a salesman too. He started in Real Estate. (I have no problem with sales, buy since you do…)

          A lot of CPA’s will sit down with you for a very reasonable fee. I once advised a friend considering investing in a microbrewery for a case of beer. (Which is in part that while I have an adequate net worth, I don’t have a net worth that excites “Katie”).

          I told him “don’t”, he did and lost 10K. Today my taste runs more to a good Cabernet.

          • charlie

            Maybe we poor could look to you for advice? What’s your information so we can reach out to you?

            BTW, I don’t know much about ‘Katie’ or your history, but pump the brakes on the mean spirited commentary.

            • Adam__Baum

              I answered in kind. Seek a local CPA. I might be too mean spirited (blunt) for you.

  • WGHarder

    Richard, Thank you for your thoughtful article. As someone struggling financially, I have been attracted by Ramsey’s no nonsense approach. I did not read your comments as a condemnation of Ramsey but as a caution. As followers of Christ, we want to be wise and prudent stewards of the resources which have been entrusted to us. But at the end of the day God’s providential plan takes precedent over our desire to live debt free. Your article
    brought me clarity on that point.

  • guest

    God always helps those who help themselves. He gave us an intellect to do so and the promise of wisdom via prayer. Let us always honor his gifts to us by planning both our finances and our families. We will be holy, healthy, and good witnesses of our faith in so doing. Faith never precludes the use of good judgment. God gifts us to use it.

  • Nadia

    The author of the article seems to blame his bad financial choices on the blessing of having more children. If he truly followed Dave’s plan, he would have taken every 6-8 months before he knew a new baby would arrive to stash cash for the new arrival and had good health insurance in place for his child with health problems. Dave Ramsey is VERY Pro-Life. He has counseled more than one big family on how to make it and everytime a caller says they have another one on the way with panic in their voice he makes sure to steer them towards cheering on the new life. I hate to see Dave be blamed because the author couldn’t stick to his guns when the going got tough. It’s a loser mentality. He never fully commited to never borrowing again and as soon as it got hard he ran back to credit cards. I know he’s had a hard life, but it just seems like whining and crying. I’m debt free because of Dave Ramsey and my emergency fund isn’t fully funded because of MY misbehavior not because God and Grandma’s ways of handling money didn’t work for me because I’m Catholic. And Dave’s “tone” is as kind as he can be while telling the truth, it’s mathematically hard to have a big family, it just is. The truth hurts, but it will set us free. Man up and take responsibility for you.

  • Becca

    I would encourage anyone reading this article to go ahead and click on Dave’s reply. He mentions that while children are a financial drain, they are a glorious drain, and that while “You’re going to be a Clydesdale, but the Clydesdale wins. They just win in a different fashion than the gazelle wins.You’re going to be a Clydesdale, but the Clydesdale wins.”

    I mean, you really have a problem with being a Clydesdale? Also, have you never noticed that children as awesome as they are, do require some money out of your pocket?

    I don’t care if you think Dave’s style is “impossible” in today’s culture, but if you’re going to find a reason to disagree with him, please don’t choose this one. He has told couples many times on his radio show that babies don’t cost that much and that you do not need to “finish the debt snowball” to have children.

  • Art Deco

    Just to point out that prior to 1968, the means of contracting consumer debt were more cumbersome – installment buying, tabs at particular vendors, store charge cards (which in effect provided advances for terms measured in weeks), letters of reference, full dress bank loans – so there was less of it. Also, IIRC finance companies were much more restrictive about issuing credit cards prior to about 1980, the one exception being cards for purchasing gasoline.

    Yet, people were more fecund. My parents’ contemporaries had 3 or 4 children on average, not the two that are the norm today, and had nearly all of them within wedlock. Five children was atypical but not rare among non-Catholics, and postwar affluence allowed something you saw comparatively little of in the 1920s, the Irish Catholic family with eight kids.

    Ideally, you make use of consumer debt to redistribute your expenditures inter-temporally. The thing is, the pecuniary costs of child-rearing – chiefly more groceries and clothing expenditures for what cannot be handed down and shared – are mundane. Ideally, consumer debt is used to replace crucial appliances and finance out-of-pocket medical and dental expenditures. The thing is, for a purchase like a hot water heater or a refrigerator, the advantages credit cards have over installment buying are (one may suspect) a good deal less salient than they are for more banal purchases. Automobiles are finances through bank loans. Medical and dental expenditures are commonly insured, though everyone’s personal situation is different. The window for advisable use of credit cards is fairly narrow for most families.

  • Carlo Razzeto

    Usually I’m a big fan of Crisis, but I find this article to be a bit weaker and perhaps emotive. The fact is you can live debt free as a Catholic with a large family and you should. It is in fact responsible. I do agree with your challenging Mr. Ramsey on comments discouraging large families, he is wrong. But he’s also evangelical and subscribes to that mindset which know to be in error.

    Obviously the answer is that the contraceptive sin that is the answer, but what heresy and sun which is so popular today is driving us towards this ugly end? What role does consumerism play in our lives, who is controlling finances ensuring money is being directed where it needs to be.

    This article is a classic case of latching on to one error spouted off by someone who accepts a system of errors and using that to discredit the person in an area where they are good, that is managing money.

    Follow his advice if it helps reduce or eliminate your debt, and ignore his theology.

  • hombre111

    Huh? “Whenever a husband and wife engage in marital intimacy–EVERY time–they must remain open to having another baby.” The encyclical itself says that they can take advantage of the woman’s infertile periods, when she cannot have another baby. They learn to calibrate this time with great accuracy. By this kind of thinking it would be sinful to make love during this time, and what about older couples? How in the world did the editors let you get away with this sloppy writing?

    • Rick Becker

      Sorry for the confusion, H111. By “remain open,” I did not mean that married couples must intend to conceive every time they engage in marital relations. As you note, that would fly in the face of Church teaching.

      Instead, I was reiterating what is in Humanae Vitae itself–i.e. that even when couples decide to delay pregnancy and employ NFP, they still engage in relations with the awareness that God might overrule their plans. NFP works well, but it’s not 100%. Couples shouldn’t have sex unless they’re ready for a baby, NFP or no NFP.

      Pregnancy always means something went right. It’s Planned Parenthood and the other disciples of Margaret Sanger that preach that pregnancy can mean something went wrong.

  • Devra

    My husband and I just finished a Dave Ramsey course at our parish (along with the fourth of our eight kids). I did have the persistent impression that he was missing something–that his theology didn’t leave room for Providence, or the unexpected. I think, though, that a large proportion of his advice can still be useful–much of it is just common sense, the kind of thing (as he mentioned) that our grandparents would have taken for granted. We just took with a grain of salt the implied assumptions about how much control is possible, or desirable. It made me grateful to be a Catholic.

  • John Hinshaw

    I am always puzzled by people who speak frequently of God’s direct intervention in their daily life and marriage, yet see the arrival of children as if it is man’s doing. The reason the Church has always insisted on “openness to life” is because children are nothing if not a (completely gratuitous) Gift from God.

  • tg

    I have also in my life taken exception to Mr. Ramsay’s suggestion that people work extra jobs to an extreme for a few years to get out of debt. those few years can be so important in a child’s life. I know what it is like to have an absent parent for this very reason. Having listened to his show for inspiration, I think that this article is overly harsh in criticizing Mr. Ramsay however. He loves his children, and inspires his listeners to do so also, to ‘change their family tree’ by getting out of debt for their good. He has been realistic that there are added difficulties to getting out of debt when raising a large family. I cannot recall him attempting to dissuade anyone from doing so however (though I only listen part time). wouldn’t be surprised if he is ignorant of church teaching on contraception, but lets educate him with love, even if he was unconvinced he seems like he would respect that for us. and he is decidedly pro life.
    now I think the church has a thing or two to learn from him also, especially regarding debt, personal and corporate/societal. he teaches what the bible teaches on that, whereas I cannot recall ever hearing a catholic preacher speaking about the evils of debt as taught in the bible, especially wisdom books. well lets pray for both sides to grow as they need to in this regard.

    • Katie

      What a FANTASTIC insight, tg. Thank you!

  • Ann

    I don’t suggest throwing caution to the wind and telling God it’s “His problem” to provide for however many children we have because Humanae Vitae calls us to “responsible parenthood,” not unbounded parenthood. I’m Catholic, been married for 5 years, and have had 4 children in those 5 years, so I’m not exactly of the contraceptive mentality, but I also know that being responsible rarely means throwing caution to the wind. I wish your article had addressed the fact that your child needed an expensive surgery (as you talked about in the comments), and not implied that it’s impossible to have 7 children without a credit card. We’re living the Ramsey (common sense?) way, debt-free except the mortgage, on a very small income. We probably won’t be able to have 10 children on this income, but that’s what abstinence is for. It’s not what credit cards are for. We’re willing to go into debt to save one of our children if one of them needs surgery, as most parents would be, because we understand life is more important than money. However, if your budget is maxed out, you’re already living on rice and beans and have given up the phone and TV and computer, maybe God is not calling you to have another baby right now. That doesn’t mean you’ve bought into the culture of death. It means you can do math.

    • guest

      Ann, You have made a wonderful statement here. It gives me hope that basic good sense still exists on this most controversial of subjects.

  • Katie

    I would argue that the first flaw within the article is in the opening line from Citizen Kane, specifically “Well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money … if what you want to do is make a lot of money.” Does Dave want you to make a lot of money? You bet! but he quite clearly defines the end of that money, its mission, is to be given away. In fact he revises his own tagline “Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else” to “Live like no one else so later you can give like no one else” in both his opening and final lessons of Financial Peace University.

  • Suzanne

    I don’t think that you can say that planning is completely contrary to openness to life. That sounds more like an excuse or an accusation than a reasonable statement.

    • guest

      Suzanne, I totally agree. Thank you for saying so.

  • BeeKaaay

    And this is why the leftwingwackos rule the roost. Non-Catholic Christianity has bought into the new doctrines. Up to 1930, all of Christendom said that artificial contraception was immoral and a sin. The Catholic Church stands alone today in holding to apostolic doctrine. The rest of Christendom has accepted the Pelvic doctrine, where the Pelvis rules instead of God ruling.

    This is exactly what Paul’s letters talk about. Living according to the flesh. And non-Catholic Christianity now preaches this. The leftwingwackos are nothing but Pelvis worshippers and they have successfully introduced this new doctrine into non-Catholic Christianity and now those same Christians are no better than the secular culture. Those Christians are not the leaven that is supposed to lift up society. They have become sons and daughters of the flesh.

    Dave Ramsey does the same thing. He sees children as a financial burden. And thus he thinks we should not be having so many children. He sees the words “seven children” and wants to condemn, but he bites his tongue and tries his best to be civil in his answer, but his disdain and utter hatred of children bleeds through the text. He has bought into the new doctrine and has an unwritten expectation that the only way to financially survive is to limit your family size to what you can afford, and not for the size your heart. So artificial contraception is the answer he preaches.

  • lyneigh26

    I don’t agree at all. The two points being that Catholics can’t plan their pregnancies and number of children when NFP does this very well. The second point is the criticism of Dave Ramsey pointing out the obvious, saying more kids means a heavier financial burden. He didn’t say there was anything wrong with it, he didn’t disagree with it. He is just saying that more mouths to feed means more expenses.

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  • Jon

    A friend posted this article on Facebook that seemed to provide a pretty good response to all this. I’d invite others, including the editors at Crisis, to check it out. http://thecatholicwife.net/dave-for-fams/

  • Catholic Old Maid

    I somtimes get tired of being expected to support other peoples’ procreative sex lives. It seems like married people sometimes use reproduction to extort money from the rest of us. “But we just can’t help having six, seven, eight kids ! We need help !” If I help will you or your kids be there to support me in my old age ? Sign me not so bitter Catholic Old Maid

    • Andrew Patton

      Yes they will be. Social Security doesn’t give them much of a choice in the matter.

  • Thesamethingwedo

    So- You are blaming Dave Ramsey and your younger children because you choose to use credit cards? That’s how it reads to me!

    Firstly- There is NOTHING Catholic about using or not using credit. It’s a choice, like anything else mostly morally neutral (except for payday and title lenders, IMO). Any sin would exhibit in not paying your bill. Credit cards are not illegal. My husband and I are among the people who don’t want to go into debt any more, and will do anything we can to stay away from it. And yes, we are open to life!

    Secondly- There are other things Dave covers. Cosigning is one of these things. My parents told me about the error of cosigning long before Dave! What about family members who constantly try to borrow, who commit identity theft? What about the importance of leaving a will? What about a resource of helpful providers of such services as insurance sales, real estate, and financial planning?

    Thirdly- Do you honestly listen consistently to Dave Ramsey? Or did you read the book, pay off the debt, and go back to your old way of life? He tells people who call in that he NEVER would consider debt a reason to have or not have a baby. He is pro-life, as far as I know, and works with several (albeit Protestant) adoption ministries.

    There are other programs. Crown Ministries runs a Catholic version. Fro that matter, some very orthodox parishes sponsor Financial Peace. Phil Lenahan at Veritas Ministries is completely Catholic, from the ground up. Dave admits he got the “snowball” from Crown. Phil Lenahan insists that St. Thomas Aquinas demanded tithing from Catholics, and therefore, all Catholics must tithe to their parishes.

    Let’s face it- Dave is vastly more entertaining than Crown or Veritas. If Catholics want a better program, somebody is going to have to write it, and distribute it.

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  • Jason Gould

    Hi all. I think that Richard you have made a good point in your article. SOME of what Dave Ramsey has said is most definitely anti-catholic. But as you yourself have pointed out, many of the lessons and principles that Dave teach are invaluable and truly reflect good stewardship of the gifts the Lord has given us.

    I think it is dangerous to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, just because a small part of what Dave has said is questionable i.e. the two quotes you have shown us. A true Catholic response would be more along the line of salvaging and sanctifying what is taught in Financial Peace and putting a Catholic spin on things.

    Further, with all due respect – children do cost money. Of course the Lord will provide – but we also have heads on our shoulders with which to think and be “as sly as serpents and peaceful as doves”. This applies not only to financial responsibility, but with the spacing of children. The Church teaches clearly that;

    If, then, there are serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or
    psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions… [Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae 16]

    For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their
    duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality. [Catechism of the Catholic
    Church 2368]

    You seem to make it sound like every Catholic couple needs to be “at the mercy of God” when it comes to their fertility. What about the mother who cannot handle one more child, because of her lack of mental well being?; what about the injured father who cannot work to provide for his family?; what about the family that already has more children than they can handle? These are real situations and good, faithful Catholics need to be honest with themselves and with God – would bringing a child into this world be the best of choices at this time in their lives?

    I can assure you, I am as pro-life, pro-family, pro-child as anyone is – but contrary to popular Catholic belief we do have some control over our fertility, whilst still being open to the life-giving grace of God. Sex is not just “about babies”. (It was not designed that way). You have forgotten about the other purpose – the unitive aspect! As a man who has been faithfully married for close to 10 years and who has not been blessed with children, I personally find it offensive that you suggest that marriage is only about babies. Why would I continue on in this relationship if this is the case?

    Catholics sometimes think they have all the answers – I personally fall into this time and again in my own life. But then I take the blinders off, have a look around (through the eyes of Jesus) and see that the world is not always wrong. Pieces of truth exist outside the Church – the question is – Do we have the courage to engage these truths, with the Truth of Christ and learn humbly from “those people” whom God loves just as much as me?

  • Jason Gould

    PS – Wouldn’t it be great to see a pic of Mr. Ramsey cutting a condom in two just like he’s seen above with the credit card?

  • Perelandrian

    The author makes it sound like the only option for Catholics is Providentialism, even though the Church calls married couples to be both generous and responsible in discerning the size of their families. It seems like the author needs to re-read a past article from Crisis, “NFP: The Myth of the ‘Contraceptive Mentality'”

    Now of course NFP methods can fail and Catholics can unexpectedly find themselves raising a bigger family than they planned. And we should be generous and charitable toward those families. But modern NFP methods such as sympto-thermal, Creighton, and Marquette are as effective as the birth control pill, so it should be very rare that a Catholic family finds themselves surprised with child after child.

    It is not accurate to say that Catholics who follow Church teaching can’t plan ahead!

    • Almario Javier

      But the ethos behind NFP is that there is always a non-zero chance of pregnancy, and that married people should be open to that non-zero chance.

  • Adam__Baum
  • Erika Walters

    Thank you for this article. I was just working on our budget the last hour, wondering how my husband and I with our beautiful( yet very expensive) 14 children were going to get through next month and still set aside in our savings and emergency fund. I love being Roman Catholic, I love the Pope and I love our marriage. Thanks again.

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  • Yeah…natural family planning. #Catholic.

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  • Titleist Hammerer

    “It enshrines a glorious reality that’s lost in our sex-obsessed world: namely, sex is about babies. It was designed that way.”

    I actually find the above quote offensive in the same way many found Ramsey’s referral to a large number of children as a financial burden to be offensive to some readers. I don’t think the procreation aspect of sex is lost on very many at all, but to suggest it is the only aspect of sex really degrades the act. If procreation, in our arguably overpopulated world, were the be-all end-all this thinking makes it out to be, God could have easily chosen to model our sexuality after most animals, where they typically have an annual biological mating cycle. Of course. some conservative critics would lash out that humans behave no better than animals, which is ridiculous. Animals do not (with rare exception–penguins I believe) build household bonds, lasting extended family interactions, etc. Males are rarely involved with mating. Your average Maury Povich guests, or even pornographers for that matter, as misguided as their behavior is, put more thought into sexuality than animals. Just the very idea that the emotional attachments within humans are that strong suggests procreation is just the tip of the iceberg on human sexuality.

    Oh, on Dave Ramsey…lots of good financial advice overall for people that are struggling. Some questionable advice there too. His credit card philosophy can be over the top. Of course, credit cards can be a pitfall and maybe they should be cancelled altogether for a period of time, but the long-term answer is to learn some discipline. With the threats of ID theft and the consumer protection, versus debit cards, buying with credit cards and keeping them paid off is absolutely the smartest practice for a consumer. Borrowing from retirement accounts to pay off debts is usually foolish for several reasons. Being debt free is a great goal, but it doesn’t mean one must do absolutely anything and everything immediately to achieve it. Also, a relatively modest permanent life insurance policy is not a bad practice. My mom passed away when her retirement assets were somewhat low due to the recent drop in the market and they have now largely recovered over the last year. To have had to cash them out to pay for expenses with her estate (which go way beyond funeral costs, especially when you have a collector, borderline hoarder in your family) on short notice would have cost a lot of money. A good whole life policy should produce at least 5% on your money, which is a excellent rate of return for a conservative, safe financial vehicle. It’s just not a replacement for mutual funds, which I would fully agree with Dave on, but it does merit a small amount of money for final expenses.

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  • Jim

    I can’t believe I read this….I’m now dumber.

  • adriane

    If I could follow Daves plan as a single mom with 3 kids making 17k and I had 10k in savings taking zero government support and receiving no child support then his plan works.

  • Amanda

    I’m confused why Catholics are not able to plan ahead / have no control over their rate of procreation. I understand the edict of no contraception, but there is natural family planning which is encouraged at parishes I’ve attended. In fact, my husband and I use these practices quite successfully in our own family planning. As adults, we have control over ourselves and sexual behavior. Its not rocket science. And we also realize and happily except that it’s not foolproof. Any unplanned babies will be a pleasant surprise and beautiful gift from God. So with that being said, I’m bothered that this piece makes Catholic couples seem like child-bearing martyrs for the Church with no other options.