The Church: couples can postpone or stop having children, for appropriately serious reasons.
The following occurred in the combox of my recent article for National Catholic Register: “Sex and Catholics: Our Views Briefly Explained”. First, I replied to a nice, sensible comment, in agreement (her words in green). Then I responded to a very judgmental person, who made out that I was a virtual pro-abort and modernist. His words will be in blue. I don’t take kindly to being lied about, nor to aspersions cast upon my wonderful wife, Judy. After I explain more of what we have done in our lives, and what we’ve gone through, I think anyone can see why these particular calumnies were altogether worthy of the stern rebuke that I gave them.
I totally agree, Sheila. My wife Judy did that with our four children. I met you and your husband once at a conference. We bought one of your excellent books. You are two of my heroes.
“taad”: So did the Catholic Church change God’s command, “Be fruitful, and multiply?” Since when are we suppose to deliberately not have children? Armstrong, you are doing the modernist creep in order make the church more relevant in the “modern” world. You use some of the same terminology the pro aborts use to justify abortion. You fail to mention that the health care people these days, will tell women not to have more children for many reasons they would consider serious, but in reality are not. I have found this, we can always find 101 reasons to be selfish. Contraception and even natural family planning can and are done for selfish reasons, while all the time using so called serious reasons to justify it. Come on now, quit this stuff! This is more moral relativism.
And here is a little history, it is a great teacher. Many, many of the Saints were the last in the line of a large family. Many, many priests came from large families. And we wonder why we have no vocations? These priests saw first hand the hard sacrifices their parents had to make to raise a large family. Pope Saint Pius X, came from a very poor family. How many saints would have been without, if these good people did not have the many children they did, even in not just serious financial reasons. In fact many of the saints were born in dire situations. I thank God, my parents didn’t use their serious financial problems, to limit the lives they cooperated in bringing into the world. I was number 6, and my dad was unemployed for six months. He always said if you trust, God provides for all your needs. Not you wants. My dad and mom never did anything to frustrate the plans of God. God bless them for that!
Now I can add “modernist” and “person who reasons like a pro-abort” to the list of insults received as an apologist online these past 22 years. That’s fascinating, seeing that I was arrested five times in the rescue movement, sat in at 25 rescues, went through three trials, and spent jail time.
Of course NFP can be abused and used wrongly, just like anything else. I have a 1000-word limit in my articles here. I can’t deal with every detail. I have about 30 papers and dialogues on contraception on my blog, and probably 50 on the pro-life issue. Contraception was the first thing I changed my mind about, on the road to becoming a Catholic, in 1990. I was already strongly pro-life.
You spout legalistic sewer bilge about spacing and sensible limiting of children (under the proper circumstances). Blessed Pope Paul VI makes it very clear that there are legitimate reasons to do that, in Humanae Vitae. If the choice is between his wisdom and your bitter, condescending judgmentalism and warped reasoning, I go with him.
Now, let’s take my wife Judy’s case (since you assume that you “know” so much about my motivations and reasoning). She breastfed, as I noted above. She had six miscarriages, before and after our four children. She also had some very difficult pregnancies (lots of bed rest, difficult deliveries, etc.), and she had severe postpartum depression, almost to the point of being suicidal. I also have never made much money, since I have devoted my life to defending Holy Mother Church, in full-time apologetics (but we’ve always had enough to pay all our bills and have very excellent credit and a minimum of debt).
Your father said, “if you trust, God provides for all your needs.” Yes! My life and 16 years of full-time apologetics ministry gives testimony to that. He absolutely does! It doesn’t follow that we could never space or limit children, due to the serious reasons I have described. God gave us a will to either follow or reject Him, and He also gave us a brain, to be prudent and wise, and not act stupidly.
Those are ample reasons to space children or decide that four is enough. Will you deign to sit there and judge my wife and I, and many other faithful Catholics? Shame on you. My wife and I have participated in the creation of ten souls: ten persons who will live for eternity. Sadly, we didn’t get to know six of them on this earth, but that’s part of God’s providence, too: deep wisdom and purpose that we can’t fully comprehend.
The garbage you are spouting makes my job very difficult. No charity, no understanding of real-life situations, ignorance of the true Catholic teaching, while putting forth an arrogant pretense of expertise . . . I have to explain that Catholics who wrongly judge and condemn like you are distorting the faith. If Protestants who are serious about Christianity see the type of bilge that you are spewing out, they will decide not to become a Catholic.
You make out that I am some terribly compromised modernist (Servant of God, John A. Hardon, S. J., who enthusiastically recommended my work, and wrote the Foreword of my first book, would strongly disagree). It’s interesting, then, that I know for sure that many hundreds of people have come into the Church, or returned to it, in part (all by God’s grace) because of my writings. I know that because they tell me. And it’s probably the case that there are many more out there who didn’t take the time to write. How many people have you helped bring in?
We have four children (three now adults). All are rock-solid Catholics, and we haven’t had the slightest problem with any of them. I’ve been entirely faithful to Catholic teaching since my conversion in 1990, and I have defended it ever since, oftentimes at great personal cost. I fully believe all that the Church teaches. One of the “perks” of my job as an apologist is to endure the lies and calumnies of people like you. Thanks! Jesus did say, after all, “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11 (RSV). So I am blessed today, and rejoice, and I will pray for you.
And I apologize to any non-Catholics (and Catholics still learning their faith) reading what you wrote, and say to them that you do not represent what the Catholic Church teaches. Yes, the Church and the Bible teach that many children are a blessing. But not all are able (physiologically or otherwise) to have ten children (or more). Most women (or men) are not that fertile to begin with, and that also was how God made things. Like I said, we had ten, but six of them died. We are called to be open to life. If God had wanted those six children of ours who are in heaven, to live in this world, He could certainly have made that possible.
We did nothing wrong in this regard, but you have done a great wrong, by judgmentally condemning, and misrepresenting what the Church teaches in a public forum. I hope you will repent of these sins soon, and change your ways. Otherwise, you may find yourself in grave danger of hellfire. Bearing false witness is a mortal sin. That is Catholic teaching. Go look it up.
Related materials on my blog:
Luther and Calvin Opposed Contraception and “Fewer Children is Better” Thinking [2-21-04; published at National Catholic Register, 9-13-17]
Is Natural Family Planning a ‘Heresy’? [Catholic teaching as far back as 1853] (Fr. Brian W. Harrison, Roman Theological Forum, January 2003)
Photo: our family: Christmas 2012.