Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Family is Where One can be Born with Dignity, Grow and Develop in an Integral Way

Message of Pope Benedict XVI to the 6th World Meeting of Families
Mexico City, January 19, 2009

2. The Christian response to the challenges that must be confronted by families and human life in general, consists in intensifying trust in the Lord and the vigor that springs from one's faith, which is nourished by attentive listening to the Word of God. How beautiful it is to gather as a family to allow God to speak to the hearts of the members through his living and effective Word. In prayer, especially with the praying of the rosary, as was done yesterday, the family contemplates the mysteries of the life of Jesus, interiorizes the values that it meditates and feels called to incarnate them in their lives.

3. The family is an indispensable base for society and for peoples, as well as an irreplaceable good for children, worthy of coming into life as a fruit of love, of the parents' total and generous surrender. As Jesus showed in honoring the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, the family occupies a primary place in the education of the person. It is a true school of humanity and perennial values. No one has given being to himself. We have received life from others, which is developed and matured with the truths and values that we learn in relation and communion with the rest. In this sense, the family founded on the indissoluble matrimony between a man and a woman expresses this relational, filial and communitarian dimension, and is the realm where man can be born with dignity, grow and develop in an integral way (cf. Homily in the Holy Mass of the 5th World Meeting of Families, Valencia, July 9, 2006).

Nevertheless, this education task is made difficult by a deceptive concept of liberty, in which whims and the subjective impulses of the individual are exalted to the point of leaving each one locked within the prison of his own "I." The true liberty of the human being comes from having been created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore should be exercised with responsibility, always opting for the true good so that it becomes love, gift of self. For this, more than theories, the intimacy and love characteristic of the familial community are needed. It is in the home where one learns to truly live, to value life and health, liberty and peace, justice and truth, work, concord and respect.

4. Today more than ever is needed the testimony and public commitment of all the baptized to reaffirm the dignity and the unique and irreplaceable value of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman and open to life, as well as the value of human life in all its stages. Legislative and administrative measures that support families in their inalienable rights, necessary to carry forward their extraordinary mission, should also be promoted. The testimonies presented in yesterday's celebration show that today, too, the family can show itself to be firm in the love of God and renew humanity in the new millennium.

5. I want to express my closeness and assure my prayers for all families that give a testimony of fidelity in especially difficult circumstances. I encourage numerous families that, living sometimes in the midst of contradictions and incomprehension, give an example of generosity and trust in God, expressing my desire that needed help is not lacking for them. I think also of the families that suffer poverty, illness, marginalization or emigration. And very especially of the Christian families that are persecuted because of their faith. The Pope is very close to all of you and he accompanies you in your efforts of every day. . . .

I entrust all the families of the world to the protection of the Most Holy Virgin, so highly venerated in the noble Mexican land in her image from Guadalupe. To her, who always reminds us that our happiness is in doing the will of Christ (cf. John 2:5), I say now:
Most Holy Mother of Guadalupe
who has shown your love and tenderness
to the peoples of the American continent,
shower with joy and hope all the peoples
and all the families of the world.

To you, who goes before [us] and guides our journey in the faith
toward the eternal homeland,
we entrust the joys, the projects,
the concerns and the desires of every family.

Oh Mary,
to you we turn, trusting in your motherly tenderness;
do not ignore the petitions we direct to you
for the families of all the world
in this crucial period of history.
Instead, gather all of us in your maternal heart
and accompany us in our journey to the celestial home.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Say No to Reproduction, Say No to Humanity

I asked Dawn Eden yesterday if she had seen this little gem from "Freethinker" at Feministing, which has been making the rounds.

Along with the emancipation of women, sexual liberation has become very much a part of politics around the world. To the conservatives, both these issues challenge 'family values'.

But what if there were no families? What if we say no to reproduction?

My understanding of reproduction is that it is the basis of the institutions of marriage and family, and those two provide the moorings to the structure of gender and sexual oppression. Family is the social institution that ensures unpaid reproductive and domestic labour, and is concerned with initiating a new generation into the gendered (as I analyzed here) and classed social set-up. Not only that, families prevent money the flow of money from the rich to the poor: wealth accumulates in a few hands to be squandered on and bequeathed to the next generation, and that makes families as economic units selfishly pursue their own interests and become especially prone to consumerism.

So it makes sense to say that if the world has to change, reproduction has to go. Of course there is an ecological responsibility to reduce the human population, or even end it, and a lot was said about that on the blogosphere recently (here, and here), but an ecological consciousness is not how I came to my decision to remain child-free.

Because reproduction is seen as a psychological need, even a biological impulse, that would supposedly override any rational concerns arising out of a sense of responsibility, ecological or otherwise, I would like to propose emotional conditioning to counter such a need or impulse to reproduce. . . .

[M]arried people become much less charitable when they had their children to 'take care of', which means expensive schools, football clubs, game consoles, etc., etc. Because of the social premium on marriage and family, the poor also have children, only their children have no future and can easily be exploited by the economic system. . . .

Thus as I realized how the cultural imperative on starting a family was unfair to women and the poor, I felt an instinctive aversion to it. That is the emotionally conditioned response that could override our responses to needs and instincts that make us want to reproduce. And if we rule out the biological 'instinct', which is strictly only to have sex and not to reproduce, my case for saying no to reproduction becomes much stronger. (emphasis added)

Now, if someone were to say something like this to me in my presence, my likely response would be to look at my watch and say with a smile, "Wow, look at the time. I gotta go. Good luck with that no reproduction thing." and then walk away.

So what was my response when Dawn wrote back asking if I wanted to write a guest post on it for her blog The Dawn Patrol? Ha!

I wrote back:

Thank you, Dawn, I would be delighted to write a guest post sometime, but on this? After thinking about it last night and this morning, I still don't have a clue as to how to respond to this.

I know how to start -- quoting Thomas Paine from an open letter to British General William Howe,

"To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master."

-- The Crisis, March 21, 1778.

But after noting that you can't reason with someone who has abandoned reason and embraced irrationality, I am pretty much at a loss for words. I could ridicule. I could point out that, if serious, this is simply the inherently nihilistic contraceptive mentality writ large and taken to its extreme logical conclusion. I could talk about how a world without children, a world without reproduction, was chillingly depicted in the movie Children of Men. I could note that this is simply of a piece in a time when, on multiple fronts, we are fast seeking to embrace national suicide, if not worldly suicide.

But mostly, all I can do is simply shake my head and shrug my shoulders while being dismayed that anyone would give such ideas a serious hearing, much less holding such ideas themselves. How did we get to such a point? Should anyone really have to point out the absurdities of these ideas? We now live in a world where things that once would have been universally rejected as being abominations are instead not merely accepted, but taken to be matter-of-course -- sometimes even by those who should know better. From abortion to partial-birth infanticide to embryo-killing stem cell research to other embryonic and fetal experimentation to severing procreation from marriage and family to in vitro fertilization, severing procreation from marital sex, to surrogate motherhood to cloning to human-animal hybridization to advocating medicalized suicide to directly euthanizing the disabled, sick, and elderly, even to the extent of a torturous death by dehydration and starvation, and on and on. Once upon a time these things would have been understood everywhere as the chamber of horrors that they are, seen only in such works of fiction as Frankenstein, Brave New World, and the aforementioned Children of Men.

Truth, not only moral truth, but scientific truth, is turned on its head. What was once obviously and indisputably false is now held to be true. What was once wrong is now a right. At best, relativism is the new truth. We are indeed being "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine," which only results in "a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires."

And how does one engage in a dialogue with a dictatorship of relativism?? "To reason with despots is throwing reason away." For years and years and years the pro-life movement has tirelessly tried to use reason in engaging the world and in defense of the truth of the inherent dignity of the human person. However, while there has been some movement on the abortion front, things like cloning and embryo-killing research comes out of nowhere to receive world-wide acclaim. Clearly, to reason in a dictatorship of relativism is throwing reason away.

So, what to do? What to say when presented with the irrational idea of "say no to reproduction"?

At the same time, turning away in despair is not an answer either. We may not be able to reason with those who have embraced such nihilism, but perhaps we can try to innoculate some others from becoming infected with the worldly disease of relativism. Perhaps we cannot change and restore society at large, but must instead convince and convert one person at a time. One by one, teaching and encouraging in the light of truth. One neighbor at a time, one friend at a time, one student at a time, one child at a time.

Thank you again, your pal,


-- So, that was my response to Dawn's kind invitation. I don't know if that makes for a "guest post," but like I said, I am really at a loss as to how to engage someone like Freethinker. So there you are. Wow, look at the time. I gotta go.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Papal Year in Review

Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps

January 8, 2009

The mystery of the incarnation of the Word, which we re-live each year on the Solemnity of Christmas, invites us to reflect on the events marking the course of history. . . .

It is towards the poor, the all too many poor people on our planet, that I would like to turn my attention today, taking up my Message for the World Day of Peace, devoted this year to the theme: "Fighting Poverty To Build Peace." . . . To build peace, we need to give new hope to the poor. How can we not think of so many individuals and families hard pressed by the difficulties and uncertainties which the current financial and economic crisis has provoked on a global scale? How can we not mention the food crisis and global warming, which make it even more difficult for those living in some of the poorest parts of the planet to have access to nutrition and water? There is an urgent need to adopt an effective strategy to fight hunger and to promote local agricultural development, all the more so since the number of the poor is increasing even within the rich countries. . . . bolstering the economy demands rebuilding confidence. This goal will only be reached by implementing an ethics based on the innate dignity of the human person. I know how demanding this will be, yet it is not a utopia! Today more than in the past, our future is at stake, as well as the fate of our planet and its inhabitants, especially the younger generation which is inheriting a severely compromised economic system and social fabric.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if we wish to combat poverty, we must invest first and foremost in the young, setting before them an ideal of authentic fraternity. . . .

Acts of discrimination and the very grave attacks directed at thousands of Christians in this past year show to what extent it is not merely material poverty, but also moral poverty, which damages peace. Such abuses, in fact, are rooted in moral poverty. As a way of reaffirming the lofty contribution which religions can make to the struggle against poverty and the building of peace, I would like to repeat in this assembly, which symbolically represents all the nations of the world, that Christianity is a religion of freedom and peace, and it stands at the service of the true good of humanity. To our brothers and sisters who are victims of violence, especially in Iraq and in India, I renew the assurance of my paternal affection; to the civil and political authorities, I urgently request that they be actively committed to ending intolerance and acts of harassment directed against Christians, to repairing the damage which has been done, particularly to the places of worship and properties; and to encouraging by every means possible due respect for all religions, outlawing all forms of hatred and contempt. I also express my hope that, in the Western world, prejudice or hostility against Christians will not be cultivated simply because, on certain questions, their voice causes disquiet. For their part, may the disciples of Christ, in the face of such adversity, not lose heart: witness to the Gospel is always a "sign of contradiction" vis-à-vis "the spirit of the world"! If the trials and tribulations are painful, the constant presence of Christ is a powerful source of strength. Christ’s Gospel is a saving message meant for all; that is why it cannot be confined to the private sphere, but must be proclaimed from the rooftops, to the ends of the earth. . . .

Ladies and Gentlemen, at the conclusion of this overview which, due to its brevity, cannot mention all the situations of suffering and poverty close to my heart, I return to my Message for the celebration of this year’s World Day of Peace. There I recalled that the poorest human beings are unborn children (No. 3). But I cannot fail to mention, in conclusion, others who are poor, like the infirm, the elderly left to themselves, broken families and those lacking points of reference. Poverty is fought if humanity becomes more fraternal as a result of shared values and ideals, founded on the dignity of the person, on freedom joined to responsibility, on the effective recognition of the place of God in the life of man. In this perspective, let us fix our gaze on Jesus, the lowly infant lying in the manger. Because he is the Son of God, he tells us that fraternal solidarity between all men and women is the royal road to fighting poverty and to building peace. May the light of his love illumine all government leaders and all humanity! May that light guide us throughout this year which has now begun! I wish all of you a happy New Year.