Sunday, January 25, 2015

Upon Further Review

You know the whole brouhaha that Pope Francis stirred up when he said:

Some think that -- excuse the language -- that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood.

You've heard about it once or three thousandce? Well, at first I was upset at his comments, because I mistakenly thought he was saying that Catholic couples with big families were behaving like rabbits.  But what the other Colleen pointed out to me was that he said some people THINK that they have to be like rabbits to be good Catholics.  

See that difference?  It's an important one, because I think at times, I have been in that category myself.  I have thought "Hmmm if I'm trying to be a good Catholic, and I'm truly open to life, and I have the ability to conceive babies so so so super duper easily, then God wants me to have a big family."  

Now I'm not a believer in having as many children as humanely possible without ever considering any other family information.  I learned NFP well during my time at Franciscan, my husband has two theology degrees and teaches it all day every day, and we knew that there were serious reasons a couple could validly use to postpone another baby through NFP.  It was that whole serious reason clause.  What exactly constituted a serious reason?  How about the fact that we have been pretty poor (like barely paying the bills even with the most simplistic lifestyle and government aid in the form of WIC and health insurance assistance)?  Well, we thought that God had always provided for us in the past and trusted He would continue to do so in the future.  We really believed, and still do, that all babies come with "a loaf of bread" and can see, looking back, that all our needs have been met either through work opportunities to increase salaries, or gifts from generous people in our lives.  It seemed hard for us to justify in America, an economic reason being a grave one.  

What about the health of the mother?  Well, luckily I was a young and healthy mom who never had any real issues being pregnant or delivering babies.  Yes, I got morning sickness, but that was par for the course, and I was able to get back to normal pretty soon after having each baby.  No grave reason there.

How about the effect a new baby would have on the other kids in the family?  Again, we felt there was no serious reason for us to abstain for this reason.  Our oldest became a brother at 19 months, and as the babies continued to come, we could only see how much the other children benefited from the gift of siblings.

I would often turn to the Catholic readings and blogs for clarification, ask priests both inside and outside of the confessional for advice, and pray all the time for clarity and wisdom.  You see, if there was one area in my life where I tended to scrupulosity, it was this one.  I would always tell Phil, when discussing our family size, "I just don't want to be judged by God for not having the children He wanted me to have."  It always seemed that the obvious answer was just to be open to having another baby, instead of risking being selfish or unfaithful and postponing another child.

So that is why, upon further pondering, I feel like Pope Francis lifted a small weight off my shoulders when he said that we were called to Responsible Parenting.  Something I knew, but always brushed off too easily.  In the past, when I was at home with the kids, and when they were smaller and more inexpensive, I probably didn't have serious reasons to avoid another pregnancy, and obviously I'm glad the way it all worked out.  How could I not be thankful for the blessings I received in each one of them?

“Every family is a cell of society, but the large family is a richer, more vital cell, and the state has much to gain by investing in it.”
~Pope Francis

But for now, at this time in my life, having a large family already, having to work full-time to provide, and therefore having to pay someone to raise my babies during those hours away from home, I feel justified by our Holy Father.  Responsible Parenting is what I am called to do, and right now our emotional and financial well being and the needs of our six children are definitely reasons serious enough to try and postpone another baby for the time being.  

A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. 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. - CCC 2368

Will I ever say I'm "done" having kids?  Nope.  I don't think that is Responsible Parenting either, because who knows what the future holds?  Responsible Parenting is evaluating everybody's needs every single month and praying to discern God's will while using the natural cycles He created us with in accordance to achieve those goals.  And so I am grateful to Pope Francis (even though I wish he could speak more eloquently and clearly sometimes) for giving me the permission to know that God is calling me to more than just being like a rabbit, He's calling me to responsibly parent these bunnies I already have.

P.S. Phil read this before I posted it, and said "I agree with you, but I just wish everyone didn't always have to clarify what the Pope meant when he talks."  He's totally right, yet, maybe that's the Pope's whole point?  Do tell.


  1. I love this. Thank you for putting it into words!

    I have often thought that money is very rarely the true serious reason behind avoiding pregnancy - for myself and for my friends! It's the simplest and least intimate reason to GIVE people; but it often covers quiet, more complex and more difficult struggles. Emotional exhaustion, communication with your spouse, feeling stretched thin, needing more time to soak up each baby...

    In my very limited experience, I think God rarely calls us to grit our teeth and say "oh fine!" - And THEN learn His goodness. I think instead, He often wants us to ask Him for the grace to be open to His will. He works with that. It's not at all "fake it til you make it"... It's about being honest with the Lord and having to be humble about your humanity.

    And that's the lovely thing about responsible love... He can change our hearts so easily! (Since you're not blocking that grace by mortal sin/contraception) I would much rather have 10 babies because I wanted to than even 5 because I "had to".

    I think there is a beauty to shouldering crosses in our lives- to accepting suffering with a loving heart... But i don't believe we should see our babies - the fruit of love in marriage - as crosses! Seeing souls suffer like the Coakley family is a powerful reminder of the difference. Cancer is a cross; my baby is a free, loving, beautiful gift from God and my spouse.

    Also - I feel your husband on the clarifying thing! It's hard! But I still trust the Holy Spirit... He knows what he's doing, right?![holla charismatics ;)]


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