Monday, November 5, 2012

Stand Your Ground

In 1968, the Church was under a lot of pressure to cave in to society and give its blessing to the use of birth control. From Cardinals to lay people, there were plenty of voices crying out that women needed this, that it would help poor people, and that the Church just didn't understand. Everyone the whole world over expected the Church to follow the lead of popular opinion. However, like a very wise and loving mother, she stood her ground. The Pope released Humanae Vitae in 1968, forever closing the door on birth control as an option for Catholics.

Many of her children were outraged by this decision. People by the thousands left the Church, others began to campaign to try and change the decision from inside. In the 44 years that have gone by since that document was released, the Church has continued to stand her ground and has not wavered in spite of the pressure from others. She loves her children enough to risk losing them because they don’t understand why she’s doing what she’s doing. She loves them enough to stand her ground.

The Catholic Church saw what nobody else saw at the time. She saw that birth control wasn't going to help women. It was going to hurt them. That’s exactly what has happened. In 1960, the year that the birth control pill was introduced, 10 women were raped for every 1000 women in the United States. In 1968, the year Humanae Vitae was released, that number rose steadily to 15 women being raped for every 1000 women. In 1973, the year that Roe vs. Wade effectively legalized abortion on demand and the year that Griswold vs. Connecticut removed all barriers to birth control, rates of rape rose to 25 per 1000 women. By 1993, those rates peaked at 41 per thousand women, more than 4 times the number of rapes each year before the pill was introduced.

What the Catholic Church understood was human nature. Sin is a lot like bacteria – it needs dark places to grow and it dies in the light of the sun. The pill would create a dark place for sin to grow – hiding from sight the things that were being done. No longer would married men and women worry that their affairs would be discovered by an unwanted pregnancy. No longer would unmarried couples be constrained by the thought of a child they weren’t ready to raise from engaging in sexual activities. Men would begin to use women for pleasure rather than pursuing her as a partner. This is the psychology behind the increase in rapes.

In states that never enacted no-fault divorce laws, the rate of divorce did increase between 1960 and 1965, from 30 divorces per thousand to 34 divorces per thousand. However, by 1970 that rate had almost doubled to 51 divorces per thousand. By 1975 – just two years after Roe vs. Wade – the rate of divorce was at 75 per thousand, and by 1985 that rate was up to 85 per thousand marriages. There has been a trend in decreasing divorce, but it’s also corresponded with an increase in the number of couples who are living together without ever getting married. The bottom line is that on all fronts, the Catholic Church was right. She was right to stand her ground no matter what everyone else was saying about matters. She was right to do her best to defend her children by telling them the truth they didn’t want to hear.

There are going to be times when all of the experts are telling you you’re doing it wrong. There will be times when other parents are telling you that you’re too strict, you should loosen up a bit. There are times when your child will be yelling at you, complaining that you don’t love them or you just don’t get them or you’re too old fashioned to understand. These are the times when it will be the most difficult, but these are the times when you must – for the sake of the love you hold for your child – stand your ground.

My mother had pretty strict rules when I was growing up. If you wanted to go over to a friend’s house, she had to know the friend, know the parents of the friend, and know that the parents were going to be at home. There was a time when my older sister wanted to attend a party at a friend’s house. My mother knew the parents. She knew that the father tended to drink, and that they weren’t always the most responsible individuals. She wanted my sister to be happy, though, and she took her to the party anyway.

As she was getting ready to leave my sister there, though, my mother’s gut instinct told her something wasn’t right. She made my sister leave. My sister was furious, the parents of the girl were offended, and everyone thought my mother was being overly strict. The thing is, my mom was right. Later that evening, the parents of this girl got drunk and went to bed. Kids got into the liquor cabinet, and a girl ended up getting raped. My mom’s decision to stand her ground in the face of opposition protected my sister’s health and safety.

The truth about parenting is that while you can enjoy the relationship you have with your son or daughter, you cannot be their best friend. You have a bigger role to play, one that sometimes requires you to make hard choices and hard decisions. They need you to be that fortress that no one gets through to be able to harm them, and that means you must be solid in your defenses.

Fast forward a few years from the incident with my older sister. This time, it was my turn to ask permission to stay the night with a friend. My mother and I had been disagreeing with each other a lot lately. I think she didn't want to rock the boat too much. She had only briefly met the girl, and never met the parents. She allowed me to spend the night anyway, in spite of her misgivings. That night, my 18 year old boyfriend came over and seduced me. I was 14 at the time. Had my mom have stood her ground on this, she might have spared me a painful experience.

Standing your ground isn't just about how you handle your children, though. It is also about how you let your child be treated by others. If you feel the school is in the wrong in how they handle something related to your child, stand your ground even if it means that you have to make sacrifices to do it. Your child needs to see that you have their back so long as they are in the right.

It can mean standing up to doctors and other experts in terms of what is right for your child. A lady I worked with had a 19 year old daughter whose infant became very ill. The doctors tried to convince the daughter to pull her child off life support, telling her the child wouldn’t make it or that the child would never be anything more than a vegetable. Everyone around this 19 year old agreed with the doctors and tried encouraging the girl to give up on her baby. This courageous 19 year old stood her ground and stood up for her child, insisting her daughter would live. It was a six week battle, but the 19 year old and her infant emerged victorious. The fight saved the child’s life. Today, that child does everything doctors said she never would. She walks, she talks, and she’s a little developmentally delayed but otherwise a very healthy child. That 19 year old won the battle for her child’s life because she stood her ground.


Parents who are rooted in love must use those roots to stand their ground when their child's health, happiness, and safety is at stake.  To do otherwise is to do them a grave injustice.  I hope you liked this chapter of Catholic Parenting: What the Catholic Church Teaches Us About Parenting.  If you are just joining us, you can follow the link above to find the introduction and earlier chapters.  I hope you will join us later today for Chapter 23: Finding Good and God In Those Around You.

If you read this, please leave a comment below and let me know. I want to hear your thoughts. If you struggled with this issue, or have a story to share about standing your ground, I'd love to hear from you. If you thought it was off or could use some work, I"m open to suggestions.  

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Thanks, and have a blessed day!

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