Holiness is a numbers game, you filthy relativist!

Holiness is a numbers game, you filthy relativist! August 28, 2014

You never know what the morning will bring. I just got into a weird little skirmish with a fellow who believes that there is only one kind of generosity, and that is having as many babies as possible. (He can correct me if I’m misrepresenting his point of view.)

It began when someone wrote a nice review of The Sinner’s Guide to NFP, and this fellow — not having read the book, of course — said:


generosity fb screenshot


Yeah, I played the grandmultipara pregnancy card. So sue me.

It didn’t stop Mr. NFP Denier, anyway. He let me know that his wife is expecting their eleventh baby (eleven being a higher number than ten, you’ll note), and that his family was fruitful and multiplied just like God commanded, and they were therefore obeying the doctrine of the Church in what was obviously the only possible way, unlike people who use NFP, who are clearly disobeying the doctrine of the Church.

I said that generosity sometimes looks different from having another baby. Generosity can even look like deciding not to have another baby right now, even if you really, really want to. It depends on your circumstances. It’s different for different people, according to what God is asking of their specific lives. The Church teaches that we can use our hearts and our brains while prayerfully discerning intensely individual questions like family size.  It’s not a numbers game, where God judges our holiness by using His fingers and toes to tally up our family size.

But maybe my reader-who-doesn’t-need-to-read-my-stupid-book is onto something, with his accusation of relativism. It occurs to me that the scourge of relativism is nothing new. One very early example of a selfish woman trying to excuse her own flaws and call them virtues? Check out this chick:

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So she said, “Truly I say to you, I, a poor widow, have put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,[a] but I out of my poverty put in all the livelihood that I had.”

See there? Relativism! The nerve of that lady, thinking that the gift of her dumb little pennies made her even more generous than the big bucks those other guys were pouring into the chest! If there’s one thing that Jesus tries to pound into our heads over the course of the Gospel, it’s that holiness is a numbers game, period.

Pff, relativists. I suppose they think they’ll somehow find their way into heaven anyway.

Well, you never know. I’ve heard God is fairly generous, too.

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  • chezami

    Why are you wasting your time selfishly writing and not getting more pregnant?

    • simchafisher

      This woman puts me to shame! I bet SHE doesn’t use NFP!

      • anna lisa

        Between this and the “human ovaries grown in mice” article, I’m feeling tempted to glare sideways at God.

      • chezami


  • St. Paul, uber relativist:

  • One thing I always think about is if you don’t have 10 kids (by using NFP for your own personal reasons between you, god and your spouse) you may have more free time to volunteer at your church and in other ministries/causes and help the church that way 🙂

  • chezami

    One of the features of TRVE Catholics is that they always spend more time beating up Catholics who are trying to be obedient to the faith than evangelizing those who know nothing about it. It’s safer that way, because TRVE Catholics are generally cowards huddling in Fortress Katolicus.

    • Julie Klekas

      What is a TRVE Catholic?

      • Elaine S.

        It’s “TRUE” spelled in the classical Latin style with a V because the ancient Roman alphabet didn’t have the letter “U”. Ancient Latin also did not have the letter “J” — which is why the inscriptions on crucifixes read INRI (Iesus Nazoreum Rex Iudeorum).

  • “Generosity can even look like deciding not to have another baby right now, even if you really, really want to.” Word.
    Not having a baby when you really, really want to because the doctor said it could be really, really dangerous for mom and baby, and mom already HAS a houseful of children who really, really need her alive and functional, is one of those paradoxes of Christian life: to an outsider who knows none of the circumstances, it could look like selfishness and laziness, when it’s really one of those hidden, heart-breaking, “Take up your cross daily” situations.

    • IRVCath

      Which is why we should strive to avoid judging particular cases so, unless it’s blatantly obvious, as in, they actually come out and tell you. Calumny, after all, is a sin.

      • No argument there, Almario! I’ve had too many friends with already-aching hearts have to hear the foolish comments people make about their “small” families that they’ve struggled so hard to have.

  • Lisa Cook

    Love this! Family size is affected by so many personal factors, including job stress, the needs of your existing children, and fertility challenges. I teach NFP (so I’m biased), but I have taught a few who struggled to avoid pregnancy because of frequent miscarriage while trying to figure out the cause. Would Mr. NFP-denier consider this a just reason? I think preventing the death of babies would be high up there on the list of reasons to use knowledge of fertility to prevent pregnancy.

    The point is that you CANNOT know or judge the struggles of any couple using NFP to avoid pregnancy. Maybe they have just reasons. Maybe they don’t. But their journey is between them and God, and living in cooperation with God’s design for the body tends to turn hearts toward God’s plan for their family (whatever that is). I think that’s a good thing.

  • Sherry

    I don’t know if having ten kids will get me into Heaven, the daily battle of raising them seems to reveal all my flaws. Maybe…if I had eleven….

  • Layla

    That Blessed Virgin Mary was so selfish, with her one measly Baby.

    • June1111


      Thank you for that. 😀

  • Philothea

    This viewpoint is also incredibly UN-generous to those of us experiencing the utter heartbreak of learning that they may never have the big family they want because of something like a ruptured uterus… Yes, I’m not being objective I’m mourning and people like this who, not knowing my husband and I, would assume the worst at our having only 2 kids…… well, I’m trying not to think about it. PTSD.

    • June1111

      You are in my prayers. Although my uterus is okay (I think) and I have two babies, I’m also heartbroken that my husband keeps trying to close the door on any future children, talking of getting himself “fixed.” He isn’t broken…

      Let us both ask St. Gianna Molla/St. Monica for intercession. Maybe things will work out differently? 🙂

  • Barbara Fryman

    Almost posted on FB, but trying to be submissive to Damien…;)

    The whole fruitful and multiply thing requires both fruitfulness and multiplication. Multiplication without fruitfulness makes no sense. To equate generosity to a lack of discipline is a weird stance to take since all NFP really requires is the discipline to observe and make prayerful decisions. Baby or no baby, this will generally yield good fruit.

  • sullibe

    It always amazes me how readily people, on both sides, ignore the virtues of prudence and temperence. Pride is atop the list of seven deadly sins for a reason.

  • anna lisa

    No, it is not a numbers game, but it concerns something almost unspeakably holy.
    I was debating about whether or not to write this. I’ve been reflecting so much today,it tipped the scales in favor of “write it”.
    Today marks the first day in 27 years, that I don’t have a baby or a little child at home.
    The first. day. in. twenty. seven. years.
    I’m not beating my own drum. I’m just sort of amazed that I actually made it to this point. I now have seven in school, and one a few years out of college.
    None of our children came at a good time. The way people couch their terms today creates such a huge tent, that I could very well have opted out of having a baby, every. single. year that we have been married.
    A couple babies came at a time of financial devastation, a couple came when my marriage was sputtering along. A couple came when we were ridiculously stressed out. There was a truly compelling reason not to have all of them. But past loss, past shipwreck, past every Woe is me moment,–
    I can say: (after my husband) they are my crown jewels.
    Nothing on the planet compares to them. No job, no car, no vacation, no house no lifestyle. I would do it all over again, but with 100 times more confidence.
    I would *never tell anyone what to do with their own body* when it comes to NFP. But I would encourage them to ask God for more HOPE, and obviously faith and love concerning every decision about new life in marriage.
    Who couldn’t use more of all three? Who makes *any* pristine choice?
    If I wasn’t Catholic, I would have checked the “return to sender” box so many times.
    I would have refused to buy that train ticket.
    I would have let that plane take off, and waved it away with relief because I had no desire to be on it.
    I would have laughed and said, “dodged that bullet!”
    I suppose it wouldn’t have been a sin…
    But I wouldn’t have been open to those gifts. (I *DO* sometimes wonder if not being open to His gifts is actually the *definition* of sin…) Either way, God is merciful.
    There are plenty of serious reasons not to conceive a child. One of my friends was in her thirties when she was diagnosed with stage four cancer. My cousin was a junkie…
    We can go round and round about what the valid reasons are to purposely *not* have a child in Christian marriage, but it’s too complicated, people are too complicated, and only God can search souls.
    I can emphatically say that I was lacking in hope when my husband and I conceived our last baby (that survived) I’d had this crazy, long cycle that tripped me up. My sloppy form of NFP failed me. Failed.
    No. It saved me! It saved us! I can still see the nonplussed look on my husband’s face when I showed him the test stick. It hurt, and I was mad about it. Bitter around the edges.
    But from the moment she was born he has made up for that look almost every, single. day. She makes him tear up at least once a week. He looks at her, he looks at me, and his eyes say “thank you, more than I can ever convey.” I have started to say, “you’ve thanked me enough!”
    So today, we dropped our sweet little Charlotte off for her first regular day of Kindergarten. She clung to my leg in line, but she obeyed her teacher when she asked all those beautiful little children to clasp their hands behind their backs. Charlotte smiled proudly as she marched toward her classroom, but from across the courtyard, she caught sight of us again, stopped, and smiled radiantly at my husband and I. She waved joyfully, and then blew us kisses.
    We melted. We’re still melting.
    We would both die a trillion times over if that’s what it would take for her to exist–to have life and to love.
    Marriage is such a sacred and holy vocation. It is the gateway to so much, it makes my heart *fear*, and skip a beat.

    • Julie Klekas

      Thank you for sharing your story! May God bless you!

      • anna lisa

        God bless you and your family too!

    • $1028912

      This was really nice to read. It’s very different from my own life, and my own experience, and maybe that helps me appreciate it even more.
      I always tell people. “I never wanted kids — and I never regretted changing my mind on that.”

      • anna lisa

        People look shocked when they find out how many kids I have. It leaves them speechless. I get it! In my brain I’m thinking “hey, even I’m shocked”. I dare not say “yeah, what happened??” Some of the time women will blurt out …”I wanted another child but my husband…” I realize that they are judging their own relationship or their husband, so I say,
        “Oh, you know, it’s actually *never* a good idea on paper…”

    • Claire

      Thank you for sharing your beautiful story, Annalisa . And thank you, Simcha, for your perspective on generosity and NFP.

      • anna lisa

        Hi Claire. Thank you 🙂 We drank champagne last night! I hope your little boy is doing well.

        • Claire

          He’s good, thanks Anna Lisa! He’s starting 1st grade next week, which will be hard after having him home all summer. It still blows my mind that he’s no longer an infant, toddler or even preschooler!

  • Guest

    This guy seems to be saying that the only way to be generous with one’s life is to have as many children as possible (as you’ve noted.) I guess it’s all over for me then. I’m unmarried, and since I follow the teachings of the Church, as long as I remain unmarried, I will remain childless.
    This guy seems to think that physical parenthood is the only way to be generous, so take that, all you singles, priests, consecrated religious etc.

    • Liberty

      Unfortunately a lot of people seem to have imbibed this koolaid and think the only way to be a good Catholic and future saint is to be married with children. NOPE. We’re all called to be good Catholics and saints in whatever our path is.

    • June1111

      I wonder if he’s part of the Quiverfull movement.

      • IRVCath

        Unlikely, but a lot of that stuff misleads a lot of Catholics nevertheless, who hear it from our Protestant colleagues, whether in the workplace, or side-by-side on the picket line outside the abortion facility, or at the campaign office.

        Never got the theoretical underpinnings, though, even as a single man – if NFP is essentially mutually deciding to not have sex at certain times, and not having sex is not sinful (else priestly celibacy would be a joke), how is NFP in most cases somehow against God’s will?

  • Julie Klekas

    I didn’t know you were pregnant with baby #10. That’s awesome! We have 10. Our 10th has Down Syndrome and we were pretty overwhelmed for awhile with his special need and by the time I was feeling ready for another, I was too old. I hope that is a good enough reason for not having had 11. 😉

  • Kathryn Quimby Smeltz
  • This was absolutely the last thing I needed to read today (not what you wrote, Simcha!). I am almost at my breaking point after a summer of caring for three children, I almost lost two of them yesterday (I’m still shaking), I’m dealing with a constellation of problems most parents never have to deal with, all the while doing my very best for them day in and day out, and yet apparently I’m a failure as a mother for not having more. Spend a week in my shoes, mister, and then tell me how ungenerous and morally relativistic I am.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      I’ve read enough of your comments here over the years to be pretty sure you beat the pants off me in the generosity dept any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
      If that guy is so generous, there are lots and lots of kids in foster care who need homes. I’m sure he’d be generous enough to give them a forever family.

    • anna lisa

      I don’t think I would have lasted past *one* kid, If I hadn’t had a maid 2 times a week, who babysat on Saturday nights while she ironed clothing. She made my life (and the interior of my car!) presentable. So many women struggle under such unthinkable burdens that comparisons are especially odious. Everyone has a different road. That’s why making it a numbers game is childish and ridiculous. If people try to quantify holiness with a headcount, I point out that the fertility that matters is spiritual.(“Who is my mother? Who is my brother?”) People like JPII and Mother Teresa may have been celibate, but in heaven, they will be the parents of ….so. many.
      btw, in my experience, having three really young kids is the *toughest* stretch of the road in terms of physical overload. (I don’t even want to talk about teen hormones. Maybe you’ll luck out with that.)

      • The sad thing is the kids are 10, 7, and 9 months. But the ten-year-old has D.S., which comes with a whole host of complications, and he’s going through a very difficult stage right now. And the hormones are kicking in, so I don’t think we will be lucky that way. 🙂

        More generally, I know myself well enough at this point to know I am not temperamentally suited to care for a lot of kids, and I sincerely admire those who are (big families are awesome!).

        Oh my God, a maid, I want one! What I wouldn’t give for a house-cleaner to come even once a month.

        • anna lisa

          Oh wow. That’s tough. I hope you get some help from family. Women who don’t have extended family around suffer the worst because they also feel isolated. I *really* saw the difference when we moved five hours away from my hometown. My sister, who lives a stone’s throw away from me has a 19 y.o. (Mikey) with Downs (mentally about age 5 or six)He has a bone disease called something like arthrograposis (?) and is in a wheelchair. He cruises around the property and visits us everyday. He colors with my daughter Charlotte and sips ice tea and reads with my Mom, in the main house. He, is so, so sweet, and hilarious when he gets hormonal. He used to call me Mommy, but now my pet name is Tipwee, which he absolutely refuses to explain, We’ve figured out that it means something like “Sassy”. Haha, guilty as charged. (I could have been voted “most likely NOT to have a large family” in a younger day) Anyhow, Mikey is probably the happiest kid of all the 25 cousins. My sister doesn’t have to shoulder the whole burden. That’s the way it used to be before families became so far flung? Of course being so close to family ALSO brings a whole different set of aggravations!! –but that’s life eh?

          Can you believe my husband actually forced me to get the maid back then? Now he thinks more like an American, and would rather have the money in his 401k. He puts up with my housework, which tracks my mood, Heh. Took a turn for the worse when I discovered blogs too…:)

  • KarenJo12

    He’s a man talking about pregnancy. He’s like the chicken involved in the production of bacon and eggs: involved, but the pig, his wife, is really committed. I’m going to be thoroughly un generous here and note that we only have HIS view. I know quite a few wives of men like that, including some of my Catholic in-laws, and their wives merely endure married life, grudgingly mostly but often in silent depressed nothingness. The wives never would have had families that big if they had any choice in the matter, and the kids know that. I often say that my Catholic in laws were the best evangelists the Presbyterian church ever had.

  • Christi H

    Simcha, sometimes I feel like I only read you for the comments, like your writing is good perciely because it makes people think. And then I remember, of course tat provoking thought is typically a part of the goals of a blogger. You do it well. I love what your readers share.

  • Margaret Hunt

    I just found it interesting that he has the time and energy to argue and be a general pain in the backside. I wonder what Mr. Generous’s wife is doing while he’s being cranky on the internet. My mom’s parents had 11 children and they went about their business and took care of their family together–not a lot of time for frivilous behavior. I don’t think it would have occurred to them to pester others about whether or not they were being “generous”. I think they were a walking witness and were too tired and busy raising these kids to interfere with the lives of other people and their families.