Columnist Ellen Goodman, who has always seemed to me to be the worst sort of
liberal secularist, recently addressed an issue that rarely comes up in public
Some of her friends noted that while they–liberal, enlightened
secularists–either had foregone childbearing or had on average one or two
children, religious people were having much larger families. They were worrying
out loud, in light of polls showing growing prolife sentiment among younger
people, that this phenenomenon was having a cultural effect.
Ms. Goodman hastened to reassure her concerned friends that this was no
threat, in essence suggesting that the world, the flesh, and the devil will lure
away the children of the religious yahoos that her friends saw as such a threat.
Of course she didn’t put it anything like this, my Catholic interpretation of
While I have no illusions about the resurgent religious movement in
this country, which with few exceptions ignores or disagrees with both Catholic
social doctrine and the (especially Wesleyan) evangelical movement of social
reform of the last two centuries, I think it is true that Ms Goodman’s friends
were on to something. Whatever their shortcomings, the religious people having
large numbers of children (aside from the Mormons) affirm the doctrinal truths
of the Christian Faith. And they affirm the tradition of respect for unborn life
that flows from that Faith. From the personal perspective of one who has
observed a number of large Catholic families over the last twenty five years or
so, I have seen that while the children of these families may experience varying
degrees of adolescent unrest, by early adulthood nearlly all of them end up
embracing their parents’ values.
The ramifications of this are, indeed, revolutionary.
I thought of this last summer when we attended the wedding feast–"reception" seems too tame a word–of our friend Sia Hoyt, daughter of
Caelum et Terra contributor Will Hoyt and his wife Drew.
The Hoyts left Berkeley around ten years ago, transplanting their five
children to a farm in the hills west of Steubenville. Will is a convert to
Catholicism, and Drew a returnee. They both have a countercultural background,
like many CT writers, and when they embraced Catholicism they embraced
the whole of it, social doctrine and all.
The feast was a taste of Catholic culture, and a foretaste of heaven: a
couple of large tents on a hilltop, Celtic music, a local bluegrass band, the
bride’s grandpa crooning a jazz tune, fine food, wine and laughter flowing
freely, a clear blue sky, folk dancing, and a tangible joy shining from the
young couple and reflected in the crowd of people surrounding them.
And the crowd: the friends of the bride and her groom Justin were
mostly the children of converts and returnees, mostly homeschooled, from large
families. Some of them, now wed , carried babies of their own in their arms or
in their bellies. I doubt any of them use contraceptives. Most intend on having
large families of their own.
I realize this experience of joy and beauty represents only a little
corner of the world, and even only a little corner of the Church, but for the
first time in a long time I felt hopeful.
The contraceptive culture, logically, doesn’t have a future. Indeed, it
is the negation of the future, the product of hopelessness. Perhaps, if there is
time, we can simply outnumber them. Maybe the best thing one can do to
contribute to the renewal of the world is to have more babies.
It sort of gives the old hippie adage "make love, not war" a whole new
meaning, doesn’t it? Perhaps the Civilization of Love will be effected, not by
political struggle (an increasingly depressing prospect) but by the momentary
ecstasy and suffering of lovemaking and childbirth, and the longer, more arduous
task of raising children in the Light of Christ.