In the following passage from Ship of Destiny, a fantasy novel by Robin Hobb, a living ship that was formerly a female dragon (I know, I know, just bear with me) counsels a woman to remove a contraceptive device she had been wearing, so as to give in to her desire to have a child. The woman expresses hesitation, and wonders if she should talk to her lover (the captain of the ship) first. Here is how Hobb has the ship answer:
“Never wait for a male on any such decision. You are the queen. You decide. Males are not made for such decisions. I have seen it time and time again. They would have you wait for days of sunshine and wealth and plenty. Yet to a male, enough is never sufficient, and plenty never reached. A queen knows that when times are hardest and game most scarce, that is when one must care most about the continuance of the race. Some things are not for males to decide.” (p. 229)
As silly as it may seem to seek wisdom in works of fantasy literature, there is some wisdom in this, especially for Catholics. For the times are coming–and indeed, I tell you, are already here–when it will be hard for us.
As ably detailed in Jonathan Last’s new book, What to Expect When No One is Expecting, a perfect storm of factors in American society has begun to pressure us not to have children. To this general pressure against procreation, you will soon be able to add specific pressure on you as Catholics. The tenets of your faith are becoming increasingly unpalatable to other Americans, especially those in positions of power. This is evident, for example, in the silly complaints a professor from The George Washington University filed a couple of years ago with the D.C. Office of Human Rights against The Catholic University of America for having crosses in its classrooms and single-sex dorms. We won that battle, apparently. But it is also evident in the more recent HHS Mandate that will attempt to force Catholic schools and charities to violate our Christian beliefs in regard to contraception. This has been a harder fight.
And these challenges will not stop. To whatever extent “gay marriage” becomes the law of the land, further pressures are likely to be added. As Mark Steyn points out in a recent column, in Ontario, Canada, Catholic schools are required by law to set up gay-straight “alliance” groups. Do you really think that would sound like such a bad law to those pushing for same sex “marriage” here in America? I may just be a kooky blogger, but none other than Cardinal Francis George of Chicago once speculated, in a “dramatic” moment, that his successor bishop might die in prison, and the bishop after that might die by being martyred in the public square. Cardinal George, by the way, has two doctorates. He isn’t your average doom-monger.
But here’s the lesson after all that doom and gloom: have children anyway.
Return to the silly quote above about dragons, ships, and babies. “Responsible parenthood” can be a good thing, just so long as you realize that as humans wounded by original sin, “enough is never sufficient, and plenty never reached.” As the Salve Regina puts it, this world is the “vale of tears.” We will always be able to find reasons to attempt to avoid giving birth to children, even in the best of times. And these are not the best of times.
But don’t listen to these demoralizing “reasons.” That some wish to erase Catholicism as a cultural force is the best reason of all to be even more conscientious about bringing little Catholic Christians into the world. Why not fight back? Why not unloose all the little revolutionaries you can upon the world? Why not give them the chance to live, and fight? Think of it, if you will, as Catholic insurgency. Maybe your children won’t have all the material prosperity they could want. But if they have your love, and God’s, they will be rich.
To build a Culture of Life, bring life into the world.