Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Having Children

Oh Francis, you blew it. At least for me you did. I really like most of what you’ve done and said so far since you’ve been Pope, and I’m not even a Catholic. Of course, that’s been the big thing about you…you’ve been getting non-Catholics…even a few Southern Baptists out there…to take a look and say, “Hey, this guy seems to be legit! What else does he have to say?”

And I recognize that for as much as you’ve done so far, you haven’t moved fast enough for many Catholics…and too fast for others. But I understand that you can’t please everyone. Heck, even Jesus himself wasn’t able to do that.

However, back in February, you blew it big time as far as I was concerned, with your comment about couples who choose not to have children being selfish.

I’m reminded of a friend of mine who once said that unless you’re doing “something important” with your life, like setting up a hospital in Africa, building houses for Habitat for Humanity…or being the Pope, those who didn’t want to have children were just selfish little people who didn’t want to think outside of themselves…for 18 or so years. This friend maintained that children are an intrinsic good, and that everyone should have them as a result. When I asked about those people who knew they wouldn’t be good parents, this same friend said that they should have children anyway…it would teach them how to think of someone besides themselves, and build character.

When I heard that, my brain exploded. If children are good in and of themselves, wouldn’t she want the best for them, rather than just using them as a character building tool for someone else? And what about all those children who don’t end up improving the characters of the people she insisted have them, and who go through horrible, and sometimes even extremely short, lives as a result?

It’s not as if there are people out there consciously saying to themselves “I could’ve had children, but I chose the fancy vacations every year instead.” There are people out there who honestly never really ever had a desire to have children, and the fact that they have a little more freedom and money than the rest of us is just an added bonus. Really. It’s not something that they felt and are suppressing in order to have more material things, it’s just a desire they never had; and we’ve finally reached a point in society where a couple isn’t pressured to have kids, and it’s OK to not want them.

Or so I thought until you came out laying this guilt trip on these people who often make absolutely wonderful aunts and uncles precisely because they don’t have the constant responsibility for children of their own; these people who love their nieces and nephews in small doses, but are also more than happy to send them back to their parents.

Rather than looking at children as an “intrinsic good” and something that everyone should have, whether they want them or not, how about focusing on having every child be wanted? After all, aren’t there enough people out there who want three, four, or eight children that we don’t need to insist that everyone have one or two?

For that matter, aren’t there enough people, period? I think of the ongoing water crisis in California, and think that it’s only going to get worse as more and more people there have children. Do we really need more people competing for the same limited resources?

Sometimes we’re so caught up in our own feelings, that we can’t begin to understand those of others. I believe that was the case with my friend. She wanted children, and a lot of them, so intensely that she assumed that everyone did, and should; and that anyone who said that they didn’t was indeed repressing the same intense desire that she felt…and doing so for selfish reasons.

But you know what, Francis…children aren’t for everyone. The large family that you found so joyful when you were a child can be stifling to others. And many people who have children spend their final years in more intense loneliness than people who have none.

So how about a little live and let live here? I won’t criticize the people who have five or more children if you won’t criticize those who have none at all. After all, when you average out the “nones” and the “manys”, we’re still looking at an average of 2.58 children…at least in this country.

1 comment:

  1. It follows logically that a man who chooses not to get married and have children -- but instead chooses a celibate lifestyle and becomes Pope -- must be selfish.