Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cherishing the Value of All Life

It’s no secret how the Catholic Church feels about life, especially when it comes to human life. She teaches her children without apology that all life is to be defended from conception through natural death. All human life, the Church teaches her children, belongs to God. It is called forth by Him for reasons only He knows and is called back to Him at a time of His choosing. Simply put, Catholics are taught that the Earth is God’s party, and He doesn't need our help with the guest list. He knows who needs to be invited and when. He knows how many people the Earth can hold, and if there’s a shortage of room, He’s more than capable of adding a few square feet or a few square miles. He did create the entire universe, after all.

This basic teaching about the value of all life is a companion teaching to what the Church teaches her children about human sexuality. The two are intimately linked by necessity, for sex was designed to create children. The Church teaches her children that sex is meant to be a foretaste of heaven, a thing of beauty and majesty, but also a power tool that is to be treated with respect and handled with care. It is one of the highest forms of prayer the human being can offer, and it contains a three-fold purpose: to bring the couple closer to God, to unite them more closely with one another, and to produce life. Sex allows man to participate in God’s work of creating new life!

These two teachings come together to form the basis of the Church’s teachings about contraception of any kind including sterilization, abortion, and euthanasia. She prohibits them because they are disrespectful of life, a way of rejecting God’s plans and substituting our own, and are inherently destructive to all parties involved. They are a way of trying to dictate to God who should be on the guest list, who should or shouldn’t be parents, and removing the power in the power tool.

You’re Here for A Reason

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." – Jeremiah 1:5

Teaching our children to value all life begins with teaching them to value their own life. They are not an accident, but a part of God’s plan for the salvation of all mankind. They are the answer to prayers of the past, the present, and the future. We, as their parents, may not have planned for them – but that doesn’t mean they weren't planned. God planned them. There are no accidental children.

Teaching them to value their life also means teaching them to value their bodies and to treat those bodies with care and respect. The body is a good and beautiful thing and there is nothing wrong with bodies. God made them, and all the things that God made are good. What we do with them may not be good, but the body itself is good.

We aren’t to be ashamed of our bodies, but we are to be protective of them. We are not to expose them to the eyes of those who might not treat them with the dignity they deserve. This is the reason for clothing – it protects our bodies from those who do not have a right to view them or who would not view them with proper respect. This is why the Church teaches her children to dress modestly.

Sex and Life

When my son was young, I explained to him in terms that he could understand how children were made and the purpose of his genitals. I told him that his body, when joined together with the body of a girl, was capable of creating new life. I told him that for this reason, he needed to be very careful with his body and not use it carelessly. He was not to use that part of his body with anyone until he had found a girl that he loved enough to spend his whole lifetime with, and then to respect her enough not to do that until he’d made a lifetime commitment to her in marriage.

It’s not unreasonable to expect my son to exercise self-control over his body. In fact, it’s what I’ve been teaching him to do all his life in various ways. I expect him to control his temper, I expect him not to do drugs or drink alcohol. If he can control himself in all these areas of his life, there’s no reason why sex should be any different. In fact, if I don’t expect him to control himself I’m sending the message that I don’t think he can, that I think he’s nothing more than an animal.

Chastity is about respecting both yourself and your partner. It’s not about repressing your sexuality, but about living it to its fullest. In teaching my son to reserve sex for marriage, I’ve also taught him to treat the girls that he meets with respect and not to use them as objects for his personal pleasure. I’m proud to say that he has recognized the benefit of what I’ve taught him on his own. He tells me how glad he is that he can live his life free of concerns that he might have gotten this girl pregnant or might have picked up that STD.

As he has gotten older, he shows great respect for the women around him. He’s not interested in what’s in their blouse or their underwear – he wants to get to know what’s in their heads. He has many female friends, but by his own choice has not had very many girlfriends. He tends to choose his girlfriends carefully and with an eye toward whether or not they would be someone he could see as a potential wife.

If we are to change our culture and teach our girls to respect themselves, and respect their bodies, we have to make inroads into teaching our boys to treat them with respect and to respect themselves. We cannot give them permission to give in to their urges but must teach them to be the master of those urges by practicing the restraint required in chastity. If we teach our children to respect one another and to respect the power behind sex, we have won half the battle in teaching them to cherish all life.

Rejecting Contraception and Abortion

There are three angles that society takes when presenting contraception and abortion. The first angle is that contraception and abortion are necessary to prevent the world from becoming overpopulated. The idea behind this is that if we have more people, there will be less resources to go around. I have, sadly, seen this notion embraced by people who are otherwise faithful to God. This idea is both selfish and wrong. First, more people doesn’t just represent more mouths to feed – it also represents more brains to come up with ideas and more hands to help with the work that needs to be done. Second, God can multiply loaves and fishes. I don’t think He has any problem providing more food should we need it or more space should we run out of that.

The second angle is that contraception and abortion are necessary because “some people” shouldn’t be allowed to have kids. Quite often, child abuse and child poverty are cited when people make this statement. The idea behind this statement is that by preventing the “wrong” people from having kids society will be improved, child abuse will end, and poverty will be eradicated. If that were the truth, our society would have effectively eliminated child abuse and child poverty as of this writing. Neither is true. What is true is that you cannot stop child abuse by destroying a child and you cannot eliminating poverty by exterminating infants as if they were cockroaches.

The other truth that isn’t discussed here, but of which I am a living example, is that abuse and poverty are both temporary conditions which can be changed. However, once a child has been aborted there is no changing the condition. It’s permanent. They’re dead and they’re going to stay dead. Poverty and an abuse background also do not make a good indicator of the value of human life. The reality is that some of the greatest minds the world has ever known were born into poverty and some of the worst criminals to ever walk the face of the planet came out of wealth and privilege. Abuse can be overcome and so can poverty, but only if the child is alive to do so.

The third angle, and this is the one that’s the most damaging to women and to the respect men have for women, is that abortion and contraception are necessary for women to be able to succeed in life. The idea behind this statement is that only when women are free of the responsibilities of parenthood can they succeed in gaining an education, advancing a career, and achieving the same things men can achieve. This is quite possibly the most insulting and degrading argument in the history of feminism – EVER. I am a parent. I have achieved an education, advanced my career, written books, and managed to make a place in the world without having to give up on parenthood. In fact, it is my son who has motivated me more than any other human being to do more and achieve more for his sake than I would have without him in my life. Furthermore, what I have achieved has been given special meaning because he is there to share it with me.

Having sex “without consequences” is a lie. There are always consequences for women. We are chemically bonded to every partner we take during the sexual act. It is ludicrous to say that birth control and abortion have ever done any good thing for any woman. The only thing birth control and abortion do is allow men to treat women carelessly and to have sex without thinking about the consequences.

Conclusion

Cherishing life isn't just about welcoming babies when they happen, it’s about an attitude of respect for all ages and stages of human life. It’s also about acknowledging the reality that sex isn't a play toy – it’s a power tool that needs to be treated like one.  I hope you have enjoyed this chapter of Catholic Parenting: What the Catholic Church Teaches Us About Parenting. If you are just joining us, you can find the introduction and earlier chapters by following the link above. I hope you will join us tomorrow for Chapter 36: Responsible Stewardship.

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