Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pope of Rome: More children. Fewer pets.

As one of my seminary professors was fond of saying, "There is no theosis without kenosis." If all your energy is directed back at yourself you add nothing to the universe. You end up eating your own tail and are left with nothing. This is not a topic only of the Latin Church, but is also something being discussed actively at the joint Orthodox-Catholic cooperative layer (e.g. Met. Hilarion of the Russian Church has been an important proponent of revitalizing the family in cooperation with the Catholic Church).

Orthodox birth rate numbers are awful almost everywhere (with some notable exceptions). If you add our equally atrocious post-primary school graduation attrition rates, you have a recipe for disaster. It's a topic at the pan-Orthodox level that will be discussed at the upcoming Great Council and deservedly so.

(The Guardian) - Pope Francis has warned married couples who choose not to have children that they are heading for an old age blighted by "the bitterness of loneliness".

In a homily on Monday in the Vatican guesthouse where he lives, the Argentinian pontiff railed against "a culture of wellbeing" which he said had convinced some people they were better off shunning procreation and getting a pet instead.

"This culture of wellbeing … convinced us it's better not to have children. It's better! That way you can see the world, go on holidays; you can have a house in the country and be carefree," he said. "Maybe it is better, more convenient, to have a little dog, two cats; and the love goes to the two cats and the little dog," he said.

But such couples their ways, he said. "Eventually this marriage gets to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fertile; it does not do what Jesus does with his church: he makes it fertile."

Francis, 77, was holding a special mass at the chapel at the Domus Sanctae Marthae for 15 couples who had been married for between 25 and 60 years, Vatican Radio reported.

He told them fertility was one of the three planks of a successful marriage, alongside faithfulness and perseverance.

"Married life must be perseverant … because otherwise love cannot go forward," he said. "Perseverance in love, in good times and in bad times, when there are problems: problems with the children, economic problems, problems here, problems there – but love perseveres, presses on, always trying to work things out, to save the family."


  1. Orthodox birth rate numbers are awful almost everywhere (with some notable exceptions). If you add our equally atrocious post-primary school graduation attrition rates, you have a recipe for disaster.

    Maybe we need more support for young families and the provision of real social and economic community instead of just hanging out the "Welcome Home" banners and hoping for the best. Maybe we need to focus on a vision of extended families in the pews instead of being a tourist trap for middle-aged converts.

    In a lot of different contexts, people are realizing the future belongs to those who show up. Now we are behind the eight ball, and the clergy belatedly realize that they have made a horrible and perhaps irreversible miscalculation.

    I frankly think that consciously or subconsciously, American converts are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of large, extended families in the parishes, with their sons and daughters marrying other Orthodox. It doesn't take too many generations of such practice to get from family to Family, after all, and loyalty to anything but the secular democratic State is probably the worst hatecrime there is in the US.

  2. Why bigger families? What about all the unwanted children of the world. Why not adopt?

    1. I'm sure he'd be happy to see you adopt as well. :)

    2. Because it's a form of cuckoldry.

    3. Adoption can be a beautiful way to honor God and to show love for children. There is no inherent conflict to having a larger family of birth children combined with additional children added via adoption.

      The definition of "large family" has shrunk to an absurd understanding. Three children now is considered "large". I have four living children, and consider that to be the upper boundary of a "small family."

    4. It is an inherent conflict. Parental resources which would otherwise go to your own children are devoted to other people's children who would otherwise be complete strangers and to whom there is no comparable prior obligation.

      It's not an insurmountable conflict, and I have known some successful, but it is a conflict. Adoption has a lot of baggage and should be a last resort outside the child's extended family and native culture.

      And telling Orthodox couples to adopt instead of having a large brood is just pathological altruism.

  3. There's nothing wrong with adoption, as long as it is not used as a substitute for begetting one's own children. It's a generous act and we look to the holy Scripture and even St. Joseph for role models in this regard. One of the many glaring errors of the Muslim heresy is its rejection of adoption. (For practical reasons, Muhammad wanted to marry his adopted son's wife and so making Allah reject adoption solved the incest problem; but it was also a subtle attack on Christians who believe they are adopted as children of God in baptism.)
    The goal is not a large family or small family, but to be open to God's will. If God blesses one with fertility one must not put up a block to that life giving gift. If spouses have the means to adopt and discern it is God's will, with the advice and guidance of a spiritual father, why should they not?

    1. " If God blesses one with fertility one must not put up a block to that life giving gift."
      Does that include forgoing monasticism?

    2. I probably could have worded my statement better. I should have said, "If God blesses one with fertility and the call to holy marriage, one must..."
      But, I would not call monasticism a block, because it does not seek to separate the marriage act from fertility. Moreover, monasticism is higher gift from God and an oblation of one's whole self including fertility to God. Since God wills fertility to be fruitful in marriage, not outside of it, to block while performing a conjugal act seems to me to indicate heretical ideas about the earth and human beings, selfishness, indulgence of lust, or lack of trust in divine providence.

  4. I have to disagree. I think we should be striving to lessen mankind's effects on the planet. I think the goal should be to cut our population to a more sustainable 3 billion people. Obviously the countries with the largest populations should take the lion's share of the responsibility.

    1. You are not one of those "humans are a cancer" people are you? Population prophets of doom have been proven wrong for almost 200 years.
      The planet is our home and we should not destroy our home. But, it exists for our benefit, not we for it.
      How about we start sharing resources with each other across the planet?

  5. What nonsense.
    To see what the world population would take up in area in urban densities
    And the rest of the planet would be empty.