The Pontifical Council for the Family has issued a new document entitled "Family and Human Procreation". While it is only released in Italian at the moment, it apparently says that using natural family planning to have only one or a maximum of two children "is nothing other than a kind of series of brief parentheses within an entire conjugal life willingly made sterile."
Imagine that. It has been over 20 years since John Paul II concluded his four year catechesis of the Theology of the Body, itself being an apt and timely summation of 2,000+ years of Christian thought on human sexuality, most notably highlighted in 1968 by Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae, the Catholic Church is still harping along archaically about what it feels is a fundamental truth that human sexuality is primarily purposed towards the procreative nature of the sexual act.
And of course this document will be largely ignored as was the famous encyclical named above by the average American Catholic (and/or what is left of the European Catholic). Reason one being that most "modern" Catholics simply ignore the instruction to not use artificial contraception within marriage in the first place. This latest instruction by the Pontifical Council is aimed at those whose conscience leads them far enough to obey in this matter and yet not far enough to find using NFP in such a capricious manner laughable.
But fundamentally both groups suffer from the same root problem: an inability to understand the virtue of humility. I primarily fault of course the decadent nature of our modern culture, stemming of course from a virtually unchecked growth of relativistic thought. But on a lesser account I blame the Church itself (hierarchically, not mystically of course) for her abject failure over the last couple of generations to meet the challenge of catechesis within such a social context.
Yet it still amazes me to no end the human tendancy to ignore (or reject) the lessons learned by those who have gone before us, even when taught. One need only to watch the History Channel, the Biography Channel or ……gasp…..read a book on the life of some notable or another to see that reducing one's life to but a fleeting game of Monopoly is sheer madness. That we have not learned that material possession (nor the pursuit of such) fails to bring about true joy, happiness and contentment is but one example of our collective amnesia towards those things which we simply do not wish to believe (but have been none-the-less proven false time and again).
Another example might be what Christians refer to as miracles. We are a people infatuated with scientific proof, but only if it leads us to the conclusion we've already decided we want to reach. When science has no answer, we tend to write things off to the amorphous and increasingly massive body of knowledge that we think (hope?) science can prove to our liking, but just hasn't had the time to do so. Such is foolishness, yet we pride ourselves on our embracing it as fools.
And so just like the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans faced, we Americans (and Europeans) are facing plummeting birthrates, an increasingly aged population that cannot sustain itself and a sinking feeling that something isn't right. Rather than look to the United Nations or to Oprah or to whatever socially compromised entity we might otherwise take comfort in, whose words placate our timid and defensive sensibilities, should we instead, especially as Catholics, turn to that Entity which society hates the most? That Entity in whom wealth and power are to be found but never accepted, in whom as often as we find sinful and embarrassing hypocrisy by those in leadership we find many-fold times that in real acts of charity, love and compassion by those who have allowed the Gospel to infiltrate their very core?
Yes, perhaps the solution to our social problems which have proved immune to our purely human logic can be found in the simple understanding of humans as God has created them: worthy….of existence, of life, of care, of love. This is the heart of the Gospel, no matter what your local "hell fire and damnation" street preacher says the to the contrary. And the more that we as Catholics continue to reject that fundamental truth in the one place that we truly have a chance to make an impact, our families, the more we help accelerate the acceptance of what the world has to offer over what God has proved to us to be true.
Show me a father who has not cried at the birth of his children. Show me a mother who does not swoon at her baby's cries. A grandfather who does not revel in his descendants. A child who has not deeply mourned the loss of a parent who was that child's idol and rock for so many years. These are the things that are real, lasting. And as one comes to understand the importance of human life as God sees it, you begin to recognize that there is purpose to what a family is, so much more-so than the banal explanation science gives as a socially required dependency structure. If you can see that, then you will see that the Vatican is not slogging along at all……it is rejoicing and dancing in the magnificent treasure we have been given, being so central a role in the act of creation that God has given us. You begin to see this instruction as a gift which allows us to experience the most intense joy and happiness that can only really be described as supernatural.
Perhaps I'll have more thoughts when the document is made available in English. For now, truly consider what being open to life really means. Is it worth sacrificing for?