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20 Children Is Not “Too Many.”

“Selfish, irresponsible, insane, stupid.” “I hope she dies.” “She should have been aborted.” “I hope her child is a vegetable that will fill them with regret.”

Horrible, hateful words spewed about a woman who has likely never wished anything but kindness on others. Words spoken by people who have never met this woman. What heinous crime has she committed that deserves this antagonism?

She and her husband announced that they will be having a baby. Which is not a terribly astonishing announcement for most married couples to make, except…

Courtesy of www.duggarfamily.com

This will be the couple’s 20th child. The mother, Michelle Duggar, is 45 years old. Her pregnancy with #19 involved complications that resulted in her child being born nearly 15 weeks early. These 3 factors (number of children, mother’s age, complications during last pregnancy) have turned this once again newly-pregnant mother into the butt of crude and cruel jokes and downright hateful taunts.**

The mantra of our modern culture: “my body, my choice, don’t judge me”, apparently only extends to women who wish to end their pregnancies by abortion; a woman who wishes to GIVE life to children is mocked and derided by the very people who believe that “I need to do what’s best for me.” In the words of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the father of a large family himself:

“Why are people impressed that Jay Leno owns 20 motorcycles, but disgusted that some religious families choose to have 10 children?

Let’s not finesse the response. We all know why. A world that has lost its innocence has trouble appreciating beings who are innocent. A world that has become selfish has soured to the idea of leading a life of selflessness. A world that has become grossly materialistic is turned off to the idea of more dependents who consume resources. And a world that mistakenly believes that freedom means a lack of responsibility is opposed to the idea of needy creatures who ‘tie you down.’”

Sadly, many people who condemn this family for opening up their hearts to another child consider themselves Christians, or even Catholic. So, what is the Bible’s opinion on Mrs. Duggar’s elusive #20?

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In Genesis 1:28, God commands Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Not only was this a directive to have children, but it also makes it clear that humans have eminence over animals. (Yes, children > environment. We are called to be good stewards of the earth, not to intentionally dissipate our species for the sake of the polar bears.)

Biblically, children are ALWAYS considered a blessing. God frequently bestowed upon people the blessings of children when they have been faithful to him in something particular. “I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you.” (Leviticus 26:9). “If you obey the Lord your God… the fruit of your womb will be blessed.” (Deuteronomy 28:4).

Ink-Slinger Michelle's beautiful blessings

Psalm 127 states that, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” So not only are children a blessing, but having MANY children is a blessing! In the New Testament, Christ Himself speaks only highly of and with great tenderness towards children. “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14)

On the contrary, nowhere in the Bible is barrenness considered a blessing. While there are many Biblical women who suffer from infertility, whether temporarily or permanently (Sarah, Michal, Hannah, Elizabeth), they express nothing but sorrow over this trial they bear. In fact, carrying his Cross on the road to Calvary, Christ speaks directly to the women of Jerusalem, saying, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’” (Luke 23:28-29). Christ says we should WEEP for this day! – the day in which childbearing is considered a curse rather than a blessing, and in which material possessions are more important than the gift of new life. But instead of weeping, women today shove themselves full of artificial hormones, plastic and metal devices, and surgically alter their reproductive organs in order to cause sterility. What was once considered a terrible burden to bear is now considered “being responsible.”

The Catholic Church, in Her Divine Wisdom, also continuously emphasizes the preciousness and infinite value of each human soul. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, echoes the Second Vatican Council when he writes “Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that a child is “the supreme gift of marriage.” (CCC 2378)

The moral theologian Frank Sheed, writing about married life and the decision whether to forego  having more children, speaks plainly: “Indeed for one who has grasped what a human being is— made in God’s image, immortal, redeemed by Christ—only the most serious reason would be strong enough to support such a decision.”

**********

None of these passages, whether in Scripture or in the teachings of the Church, seek to quantify; there is never a point where suddenly children are no longer a blessing. If each soul is created in the image and likeness of God, and has infinite value, then there can never be a point where we can say “there are too many children.” The first child in a family is no more precious or important than the twentieth; ALL are infinitely cherished by God. If each human being is “made in God’s image, immortal, redeemed by Christ,” how can we EVER express sorrow or disdain over the creation of that new little life inside a mother’s womb?

Most women are not called to have 20 children, or even 10 children. Some women may not be called to bear children at all. What we are all called to do, however, is to be open to the blessings of God in our lives. Children ARE a blessing. And since God is directly involved in the creation of each human life, how can we question His judgment in bringing a new soul into the world? It is clear - God will never send any more children to a family than the number He wishes for them to have. And God cannot be outdone in generosity – if we unite ourselves to His Will for our family, He will certainly bless us abundantly!

 

**This is not in any way intended to be a discussion about the Duggars religious views or child-rearing philosophies. I simply use them as an example of a family who has come under attack lately for the sole fact that they are adding another child to their family. The world does not condemn a woman with health problems who desires to get pregnant with her first child, nor a woman of advanced maternal age desiring a pregnancy but who does not yet have children. Therefore, it is only logical to assume that the widespread negativity towards her pregnancy stems not from her health problems or her age, but merely from the NUMBER of children she has.

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About Colleen

Colleen is wife to her wonderful husband and Mommy to three little boys and a baby girl. She spends her days sweeping Cheerios, reading stories, and building with Legos. She enjoys sharing her Catholic Faith with others, and trying her best to live out her vocation generously, graciously, fully. She loves the Traditional Mass. She also appreciates anything crafty or chocolatey, and is blessed to reside in the great state of Kansas, which actually is not all black-and-white – she has the red shoes to prove it.

November 14, 2011 - 7:30 am

Adrienne - Awesome, Colleen.

November 14, 2011 - 7:59 am

Jennifer - Very well said!

November 14, 2011 - 8:05 am

Melanie - Great article! I know I was not called to have 20, I do know that I was called to have 7. God has given me many blessings.

November 14, 2011 - 8:28 am

robbie - You’ve said this very well! (And I love the pic with 1-10!) But this is what my mom would ask (and I wouldn’t know how to answer): what about people who don’t take care of their children, or who abuse them? Do you think they should be having more?

Also, I’m not sure I completely agree with the idea that “God will not send more children than he wants us to have.” I’m not saying I DISagree, just not sure I agree. Some fundamentalist churches believe that (Duggars’), but as Catholics, do we? After all, we are called to be generous, but are also allowed to use our own human reason through NFP. Could you/anyone comment further?

These are genuine questions of mine. Not trying to criticize; I think your article is excellent! Really I do! I’ve felt sick over the things that people have said about the Duggars. It’s shameful. Thank you for addressing the topic.

November 14, 2011 - 9:23 am

Colleen - Robbie – All these questions arose as I was writing, but I decided not to get into that in the article simply because it would be way too long then! ;) But my short response is – we are also called to be good and responsible parents. Certainly people who abuse their children are failing in their duties as parents, and are already in the wrong for that. We can still rejoice in the blessing of a new life while realizing that the sin is on the part of the parents, yet the child deserves to have life. Sadly, this is a situation where even some people who consider themselves “personally pro-life” would advocate abortion, which ignores the intrinsic value of that child. It IS a tricky situation, and very widespread in our world today – we need to find the balance between being advocates for life and yet not accepting immoral situations.

Catholics are not “Quiverfull” – we are permitted to use NFP to avoid pregnancy for serious reasons. If we prayerfully discern with our spouse that we should use NFP, whether it be for a short time or for the rest of our marriage, we are still called to be open to life, even as we strive to avoid pregnancy. That is more what I mean by my comment about God not giving a family more children than He intends – if we have no reason to avoid pregnancy, then if God blesses a couple with another child, then the child is considered “God’s Will.” However, even if we are conservatively practicing NFP for a legitimate reason, if God sees fit to send us another child, we should welcome that child as a blessing and as “God’s Will” rather than blaming Him for the “NFP failure.” While we must use discernment and reason, we also have to realize that God plays a part in the decision process, too, and so many people forget that. A new life cannot be created without the hand of God being present, and its value is not diminished due to the circumstances surrounding that child’s conception. So it’s not about having as many children as possible, but realizing that God is ultimately in control. :)

November 14, 2011 - 9:34 am

stephanie - Great artcile.

November 14, 2011 - 9:48 am

Krystin - Your words here are very well written and I loved reading this. As a fairly new Catholic, I have struggled with how many children we should/could/will have. I know 20 is not for me, and I know the Duggars have said they will stop when it is meant by God. But one question I have for them would be, how do you know? Are you actively trying to have more? Yes, he has granted you with another, but when is it His will versus our will? Just having lots of learning going on lately for me in determining His will and our will. Do you have any posts on this? I would love to read them. In Christ! :)

November 14, 2011 - 10:00 am

Rachel - Lovely!

November 14, 2011 - 10:04 am

Heidi - Krystin- some of it is just learning to trust that just because you can get pregnant every month, doesn’t mean you will. For me breastfeeding (God’s design) has spaced all of my children around 2 years apart which has allowed me to mentally and physically prepare for each new life that has joined our family. Even when I am cycling again I am not pregnant every cycle that I am fertile.

That being said, there are women who choose not to breastfeed, who are unable, or who don’t have the same repressed fertility as a result of breastfeeding. In that case if they are getting pregnant every cycle and having back to back babies we as Catholics are not generally called to just accept that and not do anything more. Parenthood is an individual calling, it is an attitude of respect and openness for life that is required not a baby at any cost (health, life, finances, etc).
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November 14, 2011 - 10:04 am

Adrienne - I wanted to pipe in on Robbie’s question, if I may =D (though Colleen already answered quite nicely!)

A soul is a soul is a soul… created by God for His Kingdom. Because we are all sinful, each one of us is created by God through parents in some degree of sin or another (with the exception of Jesus who was the only human created through parents without sin – the Holy Spirit and Mother Mary). Whether God is using a happy, responsible, married couple striving for holiness in their vocations, an abusive and neglectful couple who’s children should be taken away, a well-meaning love-filled couple who seek extraordinary man-made measures to have a child, or the “parents” are a rapist and his victim, God’s only means for creating new souls is through sinful parents. So He knows what it is He’s doing even when the parents may not. But the sins of the parents (and perhaps even act of the conception) do not diminish the value of the soul God is creating, desiring it for His Kingdom.

Lastly, when curious about whether or not a couple should seek pro-creation given certain circumstances (like the child would grow up in an impoverished home, or would have serious disabilities), don’t think about asking the question before they are conceived. Think about how that person would answer the question at the end of their life, did they feel their life was worth living despite the challenges they were born into? It might change your answer on the question of conception.

November 14, 2011 - 10:27 am

Colleen - Beautifully written, Adrienne! I think Bl. Mother Teresa is the PERFECT example of a Christlike attitude towards some of these very difficult situations. While working in the slums, she met people who LITERALLY could not afford to feed themselves, let alone their children. Her compassionate approach was to teach these couples how to use NFP, since they obviously had serious economic reasons in which a pregnancy would be very difficult. However, in addition to this, she also encouraged them to accept with gratitude the children that may come even while taking these measures, and helped the women and children born of these situations. So while she realized that the circumstances surrounding these conceptions were certainly not ideal, and often even dangerous, she still was able to recognize the value of each child and to love that child unconditionally, as God does.

November 14, 2011 - 10:27 am

Megan - Great article!

November 14, 2011 - 10:42 am

Kathy - The short answer to the abuse and neglect question is:
Sin CANNOT be corrected by ANOTHER sin. Period. The ends does not justify the means. Sin can only be corrected by repentance and love.

November 14, 2011 - 10:43 am

Jeanne - Colleen is brilliant! <3

November 14, 2011 - 11:16 am

Karyn - I didn’t hear about the Duggars but I can’t believe that even if people disagree with their choice, they would say such awful things. Good Lord, have mercy on all of us.

And thank you for the beautiful post.

November 14, 2011 - 11:31 am

Martina - I just love this part of what Colleen responded with – so much so, it’s worth repeating again because the culture of death places a false sense of “compassion” around the less than desirable, if not outright horrendous, circumstances of conception that lead to abortion.

**A new life cannot be created without the hand of God being present, and its value is not diminished due to the circumstances surrounding that child’s conception.**
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November 14, 2011 - 12:11 pm

Lisa Barker - Great article. =)
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November 14, 2011 - 12:14 pm

Melanie - I forgot to add that it is especially horrible that people would consider a special needs child a “just punishment” for their temerity to have another child. They have no idea what they are saying. I have a special needs child and he is neither a just punishment or a just reward, he just “is.” His needs have never caused me to question our decision to have more children. I won’t say it is always easy, but he is always what we need in life to keep us focused on what really matters!

November 14, 2011 - 12:17 pm

Brittany - AMEN!!

November 14, 2011 - 12:36 pm

BirgitJ - This was a grand slam!!! I am promoting it to the rooftops!

November 14, 2011 - 12:45 pm

Natalie - Absolutely LOVED this post Colleen! Thank you so much for writing such a beautiful piece!

November 14, 2011 - 1:29 pm

jess - If she wants to have that many children, that’s her right. I say whatever makes you happy.
What I don’t understand is the risk she’s taking. If the last one had problems, why take the risk of trying again and possibly causing harm to herself or the child. Isn’t 19 enough?
I don’t agree with is this part “Not only was this a directive to have children, but it also makes it clear that humans have eminence over animals. (Yes, children > environment. We are called to be good stewards of the earth, not to intentionally dissipate our species for the sake of the polar bears.)”
It is our responsibility to take care of our environment. Just because the bible says we are better than animals, doesn’t give us the right to destroy our planet and all the creatures living on it. I wouldn’t want my children to grow up in a world without polar bears and all the other wild creatures we are destroying by living the way we do.
Her body, her choice, but she has to understand the way some people are going to look at that choice and be ready to deal with the arguments.

November 14, 2011 - 1:36 pm

Martina - **Just because the bible says we are better than animals, doesn’t give us the right to destroy our planet and all the creatures living on it. **

Curious…where did Colleen say that recognizing that we are the summit of God’s creation means that we are ok to destroy our planet and animals? I find that line to be completely ignoring the spirit of the blog entry and FORCING words that Colleen did not say, into her mouth.
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November 14, 2011 - 2:14 pm

Emily - Great post!!! :)

November 14, 2011 - 2:44 pm

Tina - Jess: First comment…her health. “If the last one had problems, why take the risk of trying again and possibly causing harm to herself or the child.”

So does that mean that every pregnant mother who has an issue in a pregnancy should be forced to stop after that pregnancy? That means that Michelle would have been forced to stop after pregnancy #2, seeing as how she had pre-eclampsia then. I can see that you don’t actually know the medical problems Michelle incurred, because you certainly wouldn’t have made such an argument as you did had you known the facts. Pre-eclampsia can strike ANY woman at ANY time at ANY age after ANY number of pregnancies, even the first one. Her medical issue was one thousands of women face every day, and not related in ANY way to her situation.

Second…”Isn’t 19 enough?” I don’t know, but since you seem to, please tell us the magic number when women should stop. (And aren’t YOU lucky YOUR mom didn’t decide to listen to someone tell her to stop before YOU….) Enough is when a woman feels she has done as she was called to. My enough, and your enough, and your mom’s enough may not be all the same, nor should they be.

Third…please show me the scientific study that says her children are stopping polar bears. You sound like one of my 4th graders who had no clue how science works, but is very capable of spouting the current PC pseudo-science of the day.

Lastly, “Her body, her choice, but she has to understand the way some people are going to look at that choice and be ready to deal with the arguments.” I find that hilarious, seeing as how a person who chooses abortion CERTAINLY expects the world to keep absolutely silent on her choice…in fact, the world is required to CELEBRATE her choice and approve. Why is the same courtesy not extended to Michelle?

November 14, 2011 - 2:56 pm

Elizabeth Smith - I find it interesting that the same people, who are against large families, are also the liberal ones who believe in big Government. Here is my question for them, “Who is going to support the big governement in the years to come if there are not children being born now?”
The best thing I could contribute to the good of the world is to bear many children and raise them well. No other success can equal or surpass this accomplishment.

Thank you, Colleen. I love what you are doing here.

Elizabeth, mother of 8 good, honest, kind, smart, beautiful, hard working citizens.
PS No child is an “accident.” All people were meant to be born.

November 14, 2011 - 3:08 pm

Adrienne - “Isn’t 19 enough?” is a dangerous way to think. This assumes that she is continuing to have children because *she* wants more. Michelle Duggar is welcoming more if it is God’s will to grant them, but neither she nor her husband are basing the worth of their children on their desire to have them. They’re not having a 20th because the first 19 didn’t fulfill their desires. Nor are they having a 20th child because the first 19 were just so awesome (LOL, though I’m sure the Duggars DO feel this way). They are open to having a 20th because they are leaving creation in the Creator’s hands, recognizing that they as humans are not intelligent enough to decide when a child should be created.

When we ask questions like “Isn’t 19 enough?” we assign a value to each human life, that a life is only as valuable as it is desired by another human. It is a fallacy to believe that humans can and should have the right to control the creation of other humans.

November 14, 2011 - 3:26 pm

Janet - Therefore, it is only logical to assume that the widespread negativity towards her pregnancy stems not from her health problems or her age, but merely from the NUMBER of children she has.

For me, the negativity comes from the fact that once the baby is a toddler, it’s shoved off on the older girls for care. Perhaps if Michelle and Jim Bob actually did the day to day care for their children, it wouldn’t be a big deal for so many people.

November 14, 2011 - 3:36 pm

Colleen - And to add on to what Adrienne said – the chances of a woman conceiving naturally (without any type of fertility assistance) and being able to carry that pregnancy to term successfully are nearly 0%. The vast majority of women are in pre-menopause by that point, and require medical intervention to begin or sustain a pregnancy. That fact alone would be enough for me to believe, if I were Mrs. Duggar, that this baby IS God’s Will.

November 14, 2011 - 3:38 pm

Martina - Can we first define “shoved off”? That sounds incredibly negative and somewhat telling of your negative opinion of them. I think we can do better than that…
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November 14, 2011 - 3:43 pm

Kerri - Great article!!
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November 14, 2011 - 3:58 pm

Colleen - @Janet – I highly recommend you read the “Day in the Life” section under FAQs on the Duggars’ personal website, and how and why their buddy system is implemented. It is certainly not a way to thrust the younger children off on the older ones; it is simply a way to ensure that the household runs smoothly. The children do not spend the whole day with their “buddies”; it is only at certain times of the day while performing certain tasks. Michelle and Jim Bob are home nearly all day, every day (Jim Bob works from home), and I very much doubt Michelle is sitting on the couch watching soaps as her teenagers babysit her young ones all day. They have said many times that they ensure that each child frequently gets unique opportunities to spend with their parents, alone. They appear to be very deliberate in ensuring that each child feels loved and cherished.

November 14, 2011 - 4:00 pm

Tina - “Shoved off”??? I would like to see the proof of that. Show me one episode where any child is “shoved off”. Assigned as a buddy isn’t shoving them off at all. When I go places, I ask my older girl to look after the younger girl while I attend to the littlest child. While I am attending to the diaper change, I know that if my middle needs a drink out of the fountain, the oldest can hold her up to it. I don’t have to ask or instruct…the middle knows to ask the oldest. Michelle has just created that system, times several.

If the older girls were out babysitting for money, you would be the first to say “Look at what valuable skills the girl is learning!”, not that she is being forced to raise kids who aren’t hers. Why is it in this country that when someone is paid to care for kids, it’s wonderful. When a mother or a relative cares for them, it’s enslavement and not worth anything!

I see absolutely no evidence that the girls (AND BOYS) are doing anything else than enjoying their siblings and learning how to be good parents in the deal. And I see NO eveidence that Michelle has washed her hands and passed the parenting on to someone else. NONE. It sounds like to me that more people judge the Duggars on their own personal failures instead of actually finding failures that exist in the Duggar household.

November 14, 2011 - 4:52 pm

Mary - I don’t quite understand why it would be perfectly acceptable and even praiseworthy to some if Michelle were to send her kids to daycare, but for some reason people resent and criticize the fact that she has older siblings helping out with younger ones.

November 14, 2011 - 5:02 pm

Marcia - Beautiful article Collen. I have 3 children. I had 16 years between my oldest and my middle son. I had just about despaired of having more children. I was 34 years old when my OB-GYN suggested I try Clomid, a fertility drug. I agreed to try it starting after my next cycle. I never had to fill the prescription as my cycle did not start. I had a wonderful boy 8 months later and a beautiful daughter 2 !/2 years later. I was open to more children but because of uterine tumors I had to have a hysterectomy. Women told me ,”Oh that’s great, You’re so lucky, I wish I could.” I remember crying in the confessional. Our dear priest reassured me that I had fulfilled my part to be open to any children God would send me and that these other women did not. They saw pregnancy and children more as a slip up or a burden I truly wish that I could have had the 6 I wanted , but God said 3 is enough!

November 14, 2011 - 5:12 pm

Lily - “I don’t quite understand why it would be perfectly acceptable and even praiseworthy to some if Michelle were to send her kids to daycare, but for some reason people resent and criticize the fact that she has older siblings helping out with younger ones.”

You hit the nail on the head. Thank you, Mary!
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November 14, 2011 - 5:20 pm

Anna - The day that Michelle Duggar eats bon bons on the couch while her older children school, drive around, purchase food for, doctor, work for, clothe, etc. their younger siblings is the day I will say “They are “raising” their siblings.” Until then, the astonishment that an elder child would be required to assist a younger sibling in a task never ceases to amuse me. This ridiculous argument is so anti-woman, it’s aggravating. If you expect a woman/mother to be completely consumed with her role of motherhood and, in essence, be a slave to her child’s beck and call, that is just irksome, not to mention sexist.

November 14, 2011 - 5:29 pm

Tina - Not to mention that it would be an awful way to raise a child…the Duggars have said many, MANY times that they believe in God First, Others Second, Themselves Last. This family actually practices what they preach. I guess it’s no wonder so many people are aggrevated by them…..

November 14, 2011 - 5:41 pm

elia@conservamom - Wonderful article! So well put! Thank you!
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November 14, 2011 - 6:08 pm

Erika Drain - This is awesome, I’m reposting a teaser on my blog and link back to you…. :) Thanks!

November 14, 2011 - 7:19 pm

Adrienne - Great discussion!!

November 14, 2011 - 9:15 pm

Manda - Love this post!

To the comment on Michelle’s health, I have to say I knew a woman who at age 25 had severe pre-e with her first daughter and that child was born at 26 weeks and is fine, nobody judged her and her husband for trying for a second child. Michelle had pre-e with her 3rd pregnancy, the twins, and never again for the other 16 pregnancies. It was a fluke thing, likely caused by her gallbladder inefction, which is known to cause high blood pressure in even non-pregnant people. She had her gallbladder out, got back to a healthy weight through exercise and diet, and got the okay from her doctor. It seems to me she’s done everything in her power to safely and healthfully welcome another blessing in case she did get pregnant again.

I’m happy for them, she’s already 3.5 months along and I hope she has a healthy and easy pregnancy.

And I love the connection Mary made about daycare being acceptable but older siblings helping out being unacceptable. I had 2 younger siblings and helped out a ton, I enjoyed it and hope my kids can develop those close nurturing relationships like I had.
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November 14, 2011 - 11:50 pm

Nada Sista - To Elizabeth –

I find your comment, “I find it interesting that the same people, who are against large families, are also the liberal ones who believe in big Government.” to be concerning.

Not to pick on you, but your comment is part of many comments and tones that I have read here on this website that have an air of animosity toward “the other”…in this case, the liberal.

For the record, I am a devout Catholic, pro-life in EVERY sense of the word, supportive of large families (yes, even the Duggers) and yes, I also am liberal-leaning. Nowhere in the Catholic church does it say one should be “conservative” or “liberal” in their politics. If I felt today’s conservative leaders put their money where their mouth is in regard to caring for the poor, needy and vulnerable in our society, I would call myself one. Instead I see them aiding the richest of the rich in our country, along with the big corporations, while not being good stewards to the earth and all of God’s creatures. I am sure there are many here that will disagree with me and that is okay.

Basically, my hope is that Catholic Sistas will be guided by the Holy Spirit and not by the modern day politics and polarity that is so common place in our country these days.

November 15, 2011 - 12:31 am

jess - Ok, coming back on to clarify some of my comments. I was at work earlier and kind of rushed so stuff didnt come out right.
I totally think its fine if they want to have that many kids. If it works for them, that is great. But if she is getting to an age where having so many kids is taking a toll on her body, and the risk is greater for her and the child, I don’t understand why they would take the chance and have to handle the heartache of something horrible going wrong. I admit I hadn’t heard about her gallbladder. I wish the best to her and her baby and hope they are both healthy.
I agree that every case is different. My 22 year old cousin and her unborn child nearly died a few times this year because of health issues she has. She won’t be having any more children after this because it will most likely kill them. My best friend’s mother is dead because she didn’t listen when the doctors told her not to have her 4th child, but she did anyway, and died two weeks later. I understand their belief and ‘leaving it up to God,’ and I can respect that, but I ask that people that believe differently give the other side the same respect. I have been called a murderer for using birth control, which I use for medical reasons, not to prevent pregnancy. There is no way everyone is going to agree about everything all the time, but we have to respect each other’s right to our opinions before name calling and insulting each other.
I think the people that say those rude things in the article are just that- rude. We all have freedom of speech, and the right to our opinions, but that doesn’t mean we have to attack each other for thinking differently.
The animal thing comes from (Yes, children > environment. We are called to be good stewards of the earth, not to intentionally dissipate our species for the sake of the polar bears.)
The planet is already being used up and I think its sad that these kids are being brought into a world that is dying because people just don’t care about it.
If they want 20 kids, or 30, that’s fine, good for them. I just don’t think everyone should have this attitude that it’s perfectly fine for people to overpopulate our planet and not care about the consequences. I don’t appreciate the 4th grader comment, but you have the right to your opinion. Maybe you should read more about the extinct species, the climate changes and all the other things brought on by things people have done to the planet before you judge where I’m coming from.
I’m not saying we should put a limit on the number of kids that someone has like other countries; I guess it’s just hard for me to understand the concept of so many kids.

I’m sorry if my comments upset everyone, but I am entitled to my opinions just like all of you.

November 15, 2011 - 4:32 am

Michelle - “If they want 20 kids, or 30, that’s fine, good for them. I just don’t think everyone should have this attitude that it’s perfectly fine for people to overpopulate our planet and not care about the consequences”….

firstly, no one is overpopulating the planet. there is a mortality rate that you don’t seem to be taking into account.
Say Michelle Duggar had just 5 kids, I on some part of the planet had 5 kids, some other kind lady has 5 and maybe you had 5…do you think we are all overpopulating the planet since we together have 20 kids???? Please!!

Colleen good article and i like your comments on “being open to life”…i wish that was included in the main article, but as you said, it would have been too long…oh well.

November 15, 2011 - 8:16 am

Martina - ** I just don’t think everyone should have this attitude that it’s perfectly fine for people to overpopulate our planet and not care about the consequences. **

And this comment boggles my mind. *WHERE* in this particular article are you deriving this attitude of a casual, “we do not care about our earth” sentiment. It’s totally misguided…
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November 15, 2011 - 9:50 am

Michelle - Something related, I think: http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/972/UnderpopulationThe_Real_Problem.aspx

“In 2010, the UN Population Division (UNDP) found that 79 countries, including 36 in the less developed world, had fertility rates that were below the level needed to ensure the long-term survival of the population. Most of the rest, the agency warns us, are likely to enter this danger zone over the next few decades. In this prediction, the UNDP is certainly correct.

According to the agency’s “low-variant” projection, historically the most accurate, by 2050 three out of every four countries in the less developed regions will be experiencing the same kind of below-replacement fertility that is hollowing out the populations of developed countries today. Such stark drops in fertility, cautioned the UNPD, will result in a rapid aging of the populations of developed and developing countries alike. With the number of people over 65 slated to explode from 475 million in 2000 to 1.46 billion in 2050, existing social security systems will be threatened with collapse. It will prove difficult, if not impossible, to establish new ones.

These sobering projections show that the population of the world will continue to creep up until about the year 2040, peaking at around 7.6 billion people. This is only a fraction more than the almost seven billion that the planet supports at present. Then the global population implosion, slow at first, but accelerating over time, begins. We fall back to current levels by 2082, and then shrink to under 5 billion by the turn of the next century. That population will be much older than we are today.

This is the real population crisis. This population implosion, by reducing the amount of human capital available, will have a negative and dramatic impact on every aspect of life.”
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November 15, 2011 - 1:03 pm

Misty - Fantastic article! I, too, have noticed that privacy about reproductive decisions is a one-way street with those who do not share our beliefs: as long as your decision involves the DESTRUCTION of human life, you are entitled to privacy, but if you’re conceiving and nurturing new life, your reproductive decisions are public domain. The vitriol directed toward the Duggars is absolutely revolting. As I said to my own father-in-law, who decided to lecture us about having a third child, “It’s awfully convenient for those who already enjoy the privilege of life to declare themselves arbiters of who ought to live and die.” As a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, I have to paraphrase Gandalf, who said to Frodo, “Many who live deserve death; many who die deserve life. Are you able to make that decision? Don’t be so keen to deal out death to others, as even they may have a role to play.” Every human life has a unique, irreplaceable role to play in the drama of humanity and the idea that some are more deserving of the gift of life–which is given to us by God and not because we did anything special to earn it–the whole idea that some deserve it more than others is just repugnant to me. Thank you so much, Colleen, for articulating that children are ALWAYS an unmitigated blessing!!

November 15, 2011 - 1:15 pm

Misty - RE: overpopulation. I have to point out that the whole idea that fewer children = better stewardship of resources/less impact on the planet is just FALSE. We have four children. Because we have four children, my family recycles and reuses and borrows just about EVERYTHING we have. We do not buy new clothes; we buy thrift-store clothing and use castoffs given to us by friends.
We even buy used shoes most of the time. Out of sheer necessity, we use as little electricity and water as humanly possible. We have one TV, no cable, and my kids do not have any electronics other than a single emergency cell-phone (TracPhone). We have one car We do not go out to restaurants and bake our own bread every day. My children get three gifts each at Christmas (because that’s how many Jesus got) and we don’t exceed $50 for each child). Birthdays are family affairs, not elaborate “rent out the entire arcade for five hours” events. I don’t purchase cleaning chemicals because we can’t afford them and vinegar and water do just as good a job. I could go on and on…but I’ve noticed that our family’s “carbon footprint” is considerably less than the families we know with half the number of children. Families that have two (sometimes three) cars; who buy everything new; who go out to restaurants once if not twice a week; etc.

My own sister has one child. She told me, “I think it’s better to have one kid and give him everything he wants than to have more and not be able to.” This attitude epitomizes that of the vast majority of parents today, who lecture the rest of us about having more children and our impact on the planet while simultaneously consuming three times what our family does with half as many children. Our family’s lifestyle is undeniably is a more responsible use of resources than most of the dual-income, 2.3 children families out there, simply because we value PEOPLE more than we value STUFF. In the words of my grandmother, sweep around your own steps before you point out the dirt on your neighbor’s!

November 15, 2011 - 1:49 pm

Laurene Wells - This is written SO very well! Thank you for publishing your thoughts. I have shared this on my FB wall.

God bless you,
-Laurene
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November 15, 2011 - 1:36 pm

A.D. - Hi All,
I am a cradle Catholic. I have been pregnant eight times and have five living children. I tell you that to show that in terms of our choices, my husband and I agree very much that our children are our greatest blessings in marriage and that we should be open to life. I am not on here much so I don’t really know any of you but I have a few things to say about this that I hope will be well received.
First–While I agree with Colleen about the horrible messages and language about the Duggars’ announcement, I think we all know that that is the way of life when debating things on the internet. Human beings have never behaved very honorably in situations of anonymity and, while it is not right, it should not surprise anyone, least of all the Duggars who chose to put their family in the spotlight.
Second–I know that Martina recently wrote an article about Jehovah’s witnesses and how to defend our faith in conversations with them and with Mormans. I think it is important to remember that the Duggars fall into the same category for Catholics. I have been told that they do not embrace all of the elements of the quiverful movement they follow but given that they have had 19 pregnancies in 23 years, I’d say that’s questionable. The quiverful movement is a very extreme reaction to feminism and is wrong. The Catholic Church does not teach impossible extremes and does not turn something that is biblically true like “children are blessings” into a command like therefore have as many as you possibly can. In fact, if you look at the bible quotes Colleen offered, the only one from the New Testament (where the new covenant was made) is from Mark “Let the children come to me”. Our children come to Jesus through us and the decision to cooperate in creating a new soul is a serious responsibility to be embraced fully and not taken lightly.
3) I do not hear a lot of respect here for people who were not brought up believing what we do. The quote from the Rabbi “a world that has lost its innocence has trouble appreciating beings who are innocent” is outrageous. Who is innocent exactly? Our Cathechism teaches that baptism is necessary because our babies are born unrecognizable to God due to original sin. Those of us who are Catholic and know the beautiful Truth of the Catholic faith should be the last to throw stones at those who have swallowed the feminist agenda hook line and sinker. At the same time that we are benefiting from something that we do not deserve, they are suffering from something they were handed. I think this is where we remember “there but for the grace of God” as well as St. Francis’ goal “to understand before being understood”. Why do they live and believe as they do? This is a great question when speaking face to face. The key is to listen listen without an agenda. I think we all know when someone is listening to us only to make their next point. Whose heart will that convert?
4) My sister told me the other day that I would like the Duggars and I believe her. She knows me pretty well. I have opted not to watch their show though because I believe they are violating a very important principle of family life. What do we know about Jesus’ life growing up with Mary and Joseph? Very little. The one incident we do see is a public one after which scripture tells us that “he went down into Nazareth and was obedient to them”. Mary’s motherhood was hidden. Jesus’ early life was hidden. Why? Because it was holy. We as Catholics know that we keep our most holy things hidden–the host in the tabernacle, Jesus Himself under the species of bread etc
The reason there is a discussion about the Duggars 20th baby at all is that they have taken their family public. Not for an honest discussion of issues but to be on display as a model. But who are they a model for? I would listen to their ideas on family management, it sounds like they have good systems and ideas but I disagree totally with their decision to put their family in a reality TV show. They owe way more to their kids than anyone who could possibly be helped by their show and how do they know at least one won’t be damage by the whole thing?
Last but not least–We all know that God creates souls in situations that are contrary to HIs will–premarital sex, rape, IVF. If we start our argument with life of the wonderful baby and reason backward, we get really confused. That’s faulty reasoning though. Obviously, the creation of a soul does not make the act ok. The question is– is it possible for a married couple to not be accord with God’s will when conceiving a baby? Are there times when couples have a duty to use NFP to make responsible decisions about when to get pregnant or is an attitude of “we’ll just let God decide” always a better one? I personally could not say with confidence that “20 is not too many” for the Duggars or “God will never send any more children to a family than the # he wishes them to have”. How do we know that? Does the Church teach it? I think we have to be careful with this–very careful–and remember that the scripture says that God’s ways are far above ours. We cannot understand completely which is why our Church is such an incredible gift. We do not want to lay burdens on people by teaching half truths and things we want to be true.

And as far as the Duggars–I don’t think Catholic women should be defending their decisions. Since they are not Catholics, they are not approaching their family planning from the right perspective which means we really can’t evaluate it well and, as number of children is not our ultimate goal or focus, we just tend to confuse everything by taking sides.

November 15, 2011 - 2:38 pm

Mary - A.D. – Thanks for your long and thoughtful comment. I have to strongly disagree with the comment that what the Duggars are doing in letting God plan their family size is somehow against our beliefs as Catholics. We are absolutely NOT required to use NFP or to limit our family size. There is NO Church teaching that says that. NFP is *licit* under some circumstances but never required. It would be kind of silly to think it would be required that we “plan our families” through NFP when NFP is a very recent “invention.” Women for all of history until recently did not have any choice but to let God have complete control over their family size. There is no Church or Scriptural mandate to avoid pregnancy or to “plan our families.” To say that there is is placing a burden on women by teaching a half-truth. NFP-use is there for serious circumstances and is not meant to be used by all couples. It’s an exception, not a mandate.

November 15, 2011 - 4:17 pm

Mary - I know that it can be tempting to judge other people’s “family planning” choices — particularly, for Catholics, their lack of “family planning”– in some situations, such as if the family is very poor (not that I condone this … my family was poor and I was the seventh child). But what I don’t understand is what it is about the Duggars that causes a Catholic to suggest that they should be using NFP? Why would we judge a family who meets all of their children’s needs and raises them to love God? Why should we be tempted to tell them to “stop” if their way of life is working just fine for their family? The only reason I can see for doing that is because it makes *us* uncomfortable. We just don’t like large families in this society — even we Catholics do not seem to like large or extra large families.

November 15, 2011 - 3:54 pm

Colleen - A.D. – Thank you for your thoughts. To clarify, as I said at the end of the article, this is not the place to discuss the Duggars’ decisions on how they raise their children, or whether or not they should be on a TV show, because that is completely irrelevant to this post. This post was meant to discuss being open to the blessings of new life, which the Duggars have done (and that is the ONLY reason they were mentioned in this article), and nothing else. This is not a “we should all have as many children as we can like the Duggars” article – in fact, I explicitly state that at the end, as well. So I think you are reading it defensively and taking away from it things that aren’t actually there.

2) This article was written on a Catholic blog, addressing primarily Catholics (although we appreciate all of our readers, regardless of their religion), so the fact that I did not include more quotes directly from Christ in the New Testament seems nit-picky. I also quoted Church teaching and a moral theologian who is highly esteemed in the Church. If you would like, I can find many more that state the same thing.

3) Again, this is a reaction to the hateful comments spewed about those with many children. Please point out where I have “thrown stones” at those who do not believe as we believe. I have simply pulled things directly from their sources, sources that Catholics hold in high esteem (such as the Inerrant Word of God in Scripture.) You said in point #2 that “The quiverful movement is a very extreme reaction to feminism and is wrong.” So, you agree that there IS some kind of objective truth, and that the quiverful movement is not that. How, then, can you be upset when we say that another point of view is wrong? If there is objective truth, and we believe that it can be found in the teachings of the Catholic Church, then we cannot apologize for our message.

4) Again, not a discussion on the Duggars’ decision to present themselves to the public. I know many families with 10+ kids who live humbly and modestly without a TV show, and they, too, hear these horrible comments as they simply go about their day-to-day lives, going to church, grocery shopping, etc. I assure you that the hatred towards those with a lot of children is not limited to a family who broadcasts their decision on national TV. It effects all of us who have more than what society deems the “acceptable” amount of children.

5) Of course God creates souls in situations that are contrary to His Will – as Adrienne pointed out yesterday, we are all sinful creatures. However, we are not talking about procreating in situations that are sinful – in the Duggars’ case, they are lawfully using the marital rights they bestowed on each other on the day of their wedding vows. Once we have made wedding vows, the marital act is a good and holy thing, and any child that springs forth from it comes from this lawful union. I never said that the creation of a new soul trumps all other things – we should not participate in sin simply to bring forth a child. However, that is not the case here at all.

In order to have a fair discussion about this, it would be helpful if you could cite Church teaching that says we MUST use NFP, and that it is not okay for Catholics to simply leave their family planning up to God in a providentialist way. While it is certainly true that if our circumstances warrant, it may be prudent for us to use NFP; however, we can ONLY judge that for ourselves, with our spouses. It is a sin against justice and charity to decide that ANOTHER family should limit their children with NFP – it is a rash judgment and horribly unfair. We cannot make that call. There are many faithful Catholic women who do not use NFP and who have large families. It is not simply those who consider themselves “quiverful”. There are also many faithful Catholics who don’t use NFP and who DON’T have large families – it is not in God’s plan for them to have 10+ children. However, simply having a lot of children in itself is not a reason to “stop.”
You said that cannot say with confidence that “20 is not too many.” Are you saying 20 MIGHT be too many? If that’s the case, why? Does the Church teach that there IS a chance that God might send more children to a family than He actually wanted them to have? The Catholic Catechism says “The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not “produced” by the parents.” (366) Therefore, I think it’s logical to conclude that if God does not want a soul to exist, He will not bring it into existence. We as humans can do MANY things that are contrary to God’s Will, but creating a new soul is not one of them.
I think anyone who comes from a large family, and especially those who have ancestors who had very large families, can get a bit defensive in this area, because if we say “20 (or whatever number) is too many,” we are essentially saying that they should have never come into existence, and we are in no place to judge that. A very holy priest I once knew had a grandmother who was #19 in her family. If her parents had decided to stop at #18 because they felt that they had “too many”, she would have never been born, let alone gotten married or had children or grandchildren. This priest would have never been born. He expressed gratitude over the fact that her parents were willing to be open to however many children God sent them, and the fact that he was able to be born.
While I think theoretically sometimes we can justify “that’s too many children” in our minds, when there is a practical application, we realize how many souls would be lost (in the sense that they would have never been created), and how different this world might be. Many of the greatest saints were the youngest in large families; who knows how the history of the Church may have been changed if St. Catherine of Siena had never been born?

“Defending the decisions of the Duggars”, which really just means defending their right (and actually, marital duty) to be open to life, is absolutely something Catholics should be doing – in this world where children are seen as a curse, we should unite with those who consider children a blessing, regardless of their religion. We can agree that they are misguided on certain issues, but I don’t believe they are, in this area.

November 15, 2011 - 4:06 pm

BirgitJ - My goodness, A.D., you have certainly posted quite the comment! Would you mind citing sources for your opinions? Everything that I have read about Church teaching on procreation and NFP, corresponds closely to Colleen’s beautifully written post. As one who has watched the Duggars’ show as well as a documentary on this amazing family, I must say that they took care of themselves quite well prior to their fame. The show isn’t so much being ‘on display as a model’ as it is a living witness to familial love and responsibility. Surely you wouldn’t suggest that we hide our virtues from others ‘in secret’ rather like hiding our light under a bushel? Furthermore, I strongly believe that one does not have to be Catholic in order to fulfill God’s plan for family. As for Jesus’ early life, I find that analogy lacking because His public life, as an adult, was what brought Him to us as our Brother. The Nativity and his childhood were His vehicle to approaching His time of teaching and sacrifice but not the reason for His coming.
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November 15, 2011 - 5:19 pm

Erika - Colleen — way to go – this post is very thought provoking and fair-minded!

I was struck by the quote directly from the mouth of Jesus to the women of Jerusalem (Alice, I think you missed that one). We should all be joyous that there are families out there willing to answer God’s call to have plentiful children. We should all weep for those who feel that barrenness (through birth control, abortion, or surgical means) is a blessing. I had to make a tough decision to have my ovaries (and uterus) removed to hopefully prevent further cancer at the young age of 29. I cannot tell you how many people congratulate me on my surgical barrenness and tell me that having 2 children is just perfect – especially since I have a boy and a girl. It saddens me that this is the ‘norm’. I am also saddened that I cannot have more children, but my husband & I plan to adopt when my health condition improves. Many women I know that are my age or even younger have adopted the glorification of barrenness – even women who profess to believe Christ’s message.

I was also struck by the vitrol towards Colleen and her so-called defense of the Duggar’s based on their non-Catholic faith. Regardless of their faith, we should be supportive of families who are willing to sacrifice and embody the true spirit of God’s command to “be fruitful & multiply”. While as Catholics we have the fullness of Truth, that does not mean that other faiths do not have portions of the fullness of Truth. Actually, since all Christian denominations can trace their roots back to the early Catholic Church, it is illogical to think that they have everything wrong. While it is true that the Catholic Church is the only major religion to remain steadfast in the face of birth control, abortion, and family life, we are certainly not the only ones who value children. If the Duggar’s were Catholic they would still not have any compunction to use NFP and avoid future pregnancies.

While Michelle’s health and age is such that another pregnancy may be difficult or even fatal for her, her child-like trust in God is envious. Jesus himself tells us that unless we are like little children we will find it difficult to enter the kingdom with Him. The Duggar family most likely prayed amongst themselves before coming to the conclusion that God will take care of them. After all, Scripture (including Jesus himself) tells us that if human fathers know enough to care for their children, how much more so can the Heavenly Father know to take care of His children?

In my own life, I have carried 6 children, but only had 2 live to birth. One of my miscarriages almost killed me. I was frightened to conceive again, but my husband & I trusted that God knew what He was doing. The result was my precious daughter Rachel. My pregnancy with her was wracked with anxiety: our first worry was that another miscarriage *would* kill me, our second worry came at 20 weeks gestation — I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. Local doctors indicated that I had 2 options: abort my child to receive cancer treatment or risk my life by delaying treatment until after delivery. I chose a third option — treatment *while* pregnant. Our daughter is truly a miracle and blessing from God. Some would say that I should have stopped trying to conceive after my last nearly fatal miscarriage. To those, I hold up my daughter and say, “Do you think she wasn’t worth the risk?”

I find it odd that A.D., a cradle Catholic, thinks the Tabernacle “hides” the presence of Christ. The Tabernacle’s purpose is to safe-guard the body of Christ. It is set in a place of honor at the front and center of our Churches. It is all gilt and glamour — definitely not blending in with the scenery even in the most ornate of cathedrals. Christ’s early life was not hidden because it was holy (although it was holy). Christ’s early life was not mentioned because Jesus did not enter into His own until He was an adult. Until His Baptism by John in the Jordan, Jesus was an “ordinary” son because God had not yet called Him to give voice to His Holy Nature. Similarly, until the Saints understand their vocation, their earlier lives are not necessarily the important message of their lives. The important message of their lives is *after* they answer God’s call and live their lives as He wishes.

The environment is important to us as we are stewards of God’s creation. However, God gave us dominion over the earth. The resources God put on the earth were meant for us to use. While we wish to be good stewards, we also must realize that our children come first. Blaming humans for every environmental ill is slightly ridiculous. Looking through the fossil record shows that prior to man-kind’s “over-population” climate change is simply part of the earth’s cycle. While I don’t deny that we as humans have cause our share of environmental harms, I do not believe that we are the sole cause of the environmental “woes” that we have recently become aware. Research has shown (as a previous comment quoted) that in truth, the population is actually shrinking in various parts of the world. This shrinking population is not necessarily worrisome until one thinks of the means this population shrinkage has taken: widespread birth control and abortion. Neither of these means are moral or environmentally friendly. Therefore, even if the result of a smaller world population is considered good for the environment, the means cannot be considered good for the people involved or the environment as a whole.

While our Faith does not blatantly tell us to be Conservative, Moderate, or Liberal, applying the Catechism to social issues seems to me to lean more towards the Moderate or Conservative side. While this article (and com-box) was not intended to argue Conservative vs. Liberal, I feel compelled to point out the differences between the two with regards to our Faith. As a whole, the Liberal sect is in favor of abortion, wide-spread birth control, conscripting from the successful to give to the less successful, promotion of “me” first (my body, my rights…), secularization of every aspect of life, and many other ideas contrary to the Faith. The Conservative sect is generally pro-life, pro-family, pro-religion, asks individuals to voluntarily give to the more needy, and other ideas that are in line with the Faith. So while I agree that our Faith does not blatantly indicate which side we should lean towards, I believe that a well-formed conscience will see that since the Church believes that abortion is the biggest intrinsic evil of our times, there is only one true choice.

As a whole, Colleen’s article gives voice to the Catholic teaching of welcoming children into a marriage. Her example of the Duggar’s was *never* intended to make her article a for- or against-Duggar article. It was intended instead as an *example* and clarification of our call to answer God’s request to be fruitful and multiply.

November 15, 2011 - 6:25 pm

Mary - One more thing – there is a huge difference between trying to control our family size and trying to control our finances. At the end of the day, God is author of all life. No life comes into existence without his will and cooperation. We do not choose when a new soul is created – we can only choose to be open to God doing the creating. Control of our fertility is an illusion, and we would not be having this conversation at all if it weren’t for the fact that society has led us to believe that control of our fertility is the highest good. The Bible speaks quite a bit about financial prudence, and does not ever mention that we should “prudently plan our families.” By the way, I’m not against NFP and have used it in my own marriage. Just thought I’d throw that out there for clarification. Just because I use NFP sometimes doesn’t mean I think everyone should. I don’t need to place burdens on others in order to justify my own choices.

November 15, 2011 - 6:29 pm

Nada Sista - “The few times I have visited this blog, I have gotten the distinct impression of having stepped into some kind of catholic sorority. As I’m sure you know, the word “catholic” means universal–inclusive. There is room for discussion and disagreement and I think if you post an article on a public blog, that’s what you should be prepared for.”

Yes! I have felt this same thing and it is comforting to know that I am not the only one. There have even been times with certain authors here (who will remain nameless) that have made me question my place in Catholicism. And I can’t help but wonder if that is their intention?

November 15, 2011 - 5:35 pm

A.D. - Wow– I certainly stirred the hornets nest! Perhaps I did not write very clearly. First, Colleen–I did not mean to insult your article. You clearly put time into choosing quotes etc to make your points. I disagree with you when you say that this isn’t the place to discuss whether the Duggars should or shouldn’t be on TV or even their personal morality/ choices (I can’t remember how you said it). The title of the article included twenty isn’t too many. If you’d wanted to write something very general about being open to life, you could have but you wrote about the Duggars who we know only because they are on TV. I’m sure most people reading your article have watched the Duggars. I am talking more generally because I have only seen their show once.

I absolutely agree with these things:
*We should be open to life as we promised on our wedding day
*All children are a gift form God regardless of the circumstances around their conception
*No one has the right to tell anyone else how many is too many or that they should use NFP (which is why I absolutely did not say that the Duggars should be using it–it is not true that NFP is completely new though. Women have known about their cycles since way way back)

I was accused of rash judgement somewhere above so I’ll go ahead and answer that.

At the end of the day, I was advocating two things:
1) Keeping hidden things hidden. Why is everyone talking about the choices the Duggars are making in their bedroom? It is not our business. And that was my point about whether “20 is too many”. I am not talking about whether that child should exist or not. Obviously, he/she is here so God has made that call. I asked a couple of questions at the end of my comment including is it possible for a married couple to ask for a baby when they should not? That is an important question. Which gets into my second thing:

2) We are called to be prudent. What does that mean? Be prudent except in the case of the marital bed in which passion can always carry the day? I am not saying we are all obligated to use NFP to avoid pregnancy. God may expect us to be knowledgable about it though as a part of being good stewards. I don’t know. That is probably for each couple to discern behind closed doors. Someone said something about it being ridiculous to plan our families. I think I know what you mean but think about it–we are expected to plan how to use our money and our time. Where does fertility fit in? Isn’t this partly what separates us from the animals?

I will offer one more thing. The few times I have visited this blog, I have gotten the distinct impression of having stepped into some kind of catholic sorority. As I’m sure you know, the word “catholic” means universal–inclusive. There is room for discussion and disagreement and I think if you post an article on a public blog, that’s what you should be prepared for. That’s also true for people who choose to have big families these days. It’s almost cliché that people hear ridiculous comments about their own private business but these are the kinds of sufferings we should expect as followers of Christ. He told us we would. We cannot change the world, just our own hearts. Maybe instead of lamenting about the “meanies”, we should thank them for helping to keep us a humble in this area.

November 15, 2011 - 6:46 pm

Martina - I’m not sure how anyone has caused you to question your place in Catholicism when you’ve only posted twice on our blog {unless you are posting under multiple assumed names??} The only other response you posted was directly at a post by a Mormon, not a Catholic.
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November 15, 2011 - 6:50 pm

Anna - I think the overall point that is missed is that it is not up to us to determine “prudence” on the part of ANY family because we ourselves have made a decision to use/not use NFP. Period. End of story. We can rally against ugly comments towards big families but when we cross the threshold of dictating whether a family is being prudent or not in their fertility is the equivalent of the birth control mentality that dictates X number of children per couple based on asinine arguments like overpopulation, parenting, etc.

November 15, 2011 - 6:15 pm

Mary - I didn’t say it was ridiculous to plan our families. I said it was ridiculous to suggest that it is EXPECTED that we use NFP to plan our families. Women did not have enough knowledge of their cycles to *reliably* avoid pregnancy until the 20th century. For much of history, there was no understanding about the female cycle as it related to pregnancy. People at one point in history thought that the man’s seed contained tiny humans and did not realize that the woman contributed to the new being. If couples wanted to avoid pregnancy, they abstained completely. Considering how difficult that is on a marriage, I seriously doubt that God ever *expected* people to do that unless there was an extremely grave reason. And I am morally certain that God doesn’t *expect* us to know about NFP. Whether one chooses to learn NFP or not is not a moral issue. The moral issue is whether someone is using it in a lawful manner. It’s really disturbing to me how Catholics today have completely turned the Church’s teachings on NFP on their head and placed a burden on people to learn and to use NFP as if it’s some kind of moral issue that they do one or both of those things. That’s a complete distortion of what the Church intended in allowing the use of NFP for serious reasons.

As for the comment about this being a “Catholic sorority” … I think that, given that you’ve only visited us very few times by your own admission, that’s a pretty harsh assessment. And it’s off-base. We represent a wide variety of perspectives here and we don’t always agree with each other. We are from different States, jobs, vocations, political perspectives (to some degree), etc. You might know that if you had visited more than a “few” times. I also feel that it’s kind of an inconsiderate thing to say when this blog is the ‘baby’ of our dear friend Martina. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with coming together with like-minded people for a common goal – to spread the Gospel and the teachings of Holy Mother Church (no, not the things we “wish” were teachings, but the things that actually are). We have been extremely successful at that so far, based on the feedback we’ve received. It may not be your cup of tea, but there’s really no reason to insult this blog and its writers and by extension, its creator – Martina, because it doesn’t fit your vision of things.

November 15, 2011 - 7:36 pm

Michelle - First of all, Colleen, you did a wonderful job with this article! I loved every bit of it! Unless a person has walked in a large family’s shoes it’s near impossible to understand the hatred that people spew just because they don’t want that lifestyle for themselves. The things that have been said to us would curl your toes and make you sick to your stomach… all because we have chosen to allow God to bless us as He sees fit in all aspects of our lives, not only including but foremost with children!

I’d like to address a couple things I have seen here in the comments section… I imagine I’ll miss some of the things I wish to say but I can always come back to touch on those things I might miss.

The first thing I want to address is the Duggars exposing their lives on televistion and the fact that “hidden things should be hidden”. I have found by watching this show (and I’m sure anyone who has watched can testify!) that the Duggars most certainly keep hidden things hidden. They are the most modest people I have ever seen not only in terms of how they act but also what they talk about. Putting their family on tv (while not something I would do) is not exposing those things that are meant to be kept between a husband and wife. Quite the contrary! Even while on tv they are far more secretive about their “hidden” life than most people I know! I have to disagree with the fact that just because we don’t hear about Christ’s life during his younger years that it means the Duggars are wrong to put their family on tv. If that’s the case and we want to take that frame of mind then you should never inform any family members of what your children are doing, of what’s going on with you, of family vacations, winning the spelling bee, etc… It makes no sense to me when we are expected to not only live our faith but to show our faith too!

Second, as far as being open to life and being quiverfull… there is nothing within our faith that tells us that living this way is wrong. Quite the contrary! We can find not only in the Catechism but also all over the place in Sacred Scripture that being quiverfull is indeed in line with our faith! I am the mother of 9, almost 10 children. The picture above with the 10 kids is mine. At the time we had taken in an extra child who needed a loving family to be with. She not here as she was able to move with her grandparents but we are expecting our 10th child. My husband and I have been married 20+ years. While this is our 10th child we have lost 12 others. Yes, we are a “quiverfull” family. We are open to all of God’s blessings. I put quiverfull in parenthesis because we also subscribe to the Catholic teaching that if we were to ever have grave reason to abstain we have that option. So far we have not found grave reason to not be completely open to God’s will in our lives. It seems to me that if based on our Catechism and Sacred Scriptures the Church finds no fault in the way my husband and I live our lives nor should we with the Duggars.

The mindset that God will provide for our every need is one that is steeped in the Scriptures. There is not a thing that goes against the Catholic teachings that if we put our trust in God He will make sure our every need is taken care of… this includes all the children we are blessed with, be it the 1st or the 20th. I refer to Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-31 for Christ’s exact words.

God has always taken care of those who put their trust in Him… from the Old Testament (Gen 22:1-14, Psalm 37:18-19, Ex 16:17-20) to the New Testament (Matth 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-31, 2Cor9:10-11, 2 Tim 1:12, Hebrews 13: 20-21, Phil 4:19). This is where the quiverful movement is based, not in the feminist movement, not anywhere but in faith and trust in the Lord.

Finally, if we were to apply our Catholic teachings to the Duggars, where they should only be abstaining if they have “grave” reason, then they are following the Catholic idea that we should be open to life as they have found no grave reason at this time to abstain. They are taking care of their children, they are providing for all their needs… physical, spiritual, educational, emotional, etc and their family is thriving. How can we find fault with their lifestyle in terms of how many children they have?

20 children might be too many for most people to handle but they are thriving and they are living their lives open to God… just as we are all supposed to do! I would never say that having a large family, or even enduring so many losses as I have is best for everyone. I know that it is not. But to say that 20 children might be too many for some else is just as wrong.

I am thankful for my Catholic faith and the fact that the Church supports my lifestyle of being open to God’s will in all I do.

November 15, 2011 - 7:49 pm

Martina - I know I found personal offense when I read our blog is a “catholic sorority” because the implication is that we are cliquish…and all the negative stereotypes that go along with sororities. The lines following that comment added to that feeling that there is an “us” vs. “them” mentality.

Anyone who knows me, *knows* full well that I fight HARD to be inclusive of everyone, whether they are in our private group, our contributors or our readers…even ones who disagree can’t say that it was anything personal, but rather it was a disagreement on the grey issues.

As for the topic at hand, I am happy to get things back on track, which was a CELEBRATION of a family’s desire to be open to life and maybe we can leave all the Duggar opinions to the side from here on out. If there is a return to this, I will consider turning off the comments. I know you all understand…
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November 15, 2011 - 7:34 pm

A.D. - Don’t you think that saying the church “allows the use of NFP” implies that it is essentially not a positive thing and that people who do not use it are better/ more holy? That’s how it sounds to me anyway.

I believe that God expects us to use the knowledge available to us now. Arguing that NFP is not really relevant because it is new does not make sense to me. Why is NFP available to us now? Where does it fit in God’s plan? The Church only preaches Good News so NFP fits in there somewhere.

Pope John Paul II canonized St. Gianna and encouraged women to be an influence in the public sphere. What impact do those things have on our appreciation of women’s roles both within and beyond the family? (I’m not trying to change the subject but I think women’s roles are really at the heart of this discussion)

For anyone who’s interested, Alice von Hildebrand is a great one to read about women and the hidden nature of our roles and the beauty and gift of fertility.

I’m a little confused about why this conversation feels so angry. Why did you read it as negative that I referred to your group as a sorority? Isn’t that the idea behind “Catholic Sistas”? I am simply being honest. If you are interested only in hearing from people who agree with you, I would suggest you make the blog private. If not, I think you should avoid using “we” to talk about yourselves–something that makes people feel like outsiders. It’s also not a good idea to gang up on people with different opinions. Even good Catholics can disagree.
Have a great night.

November 15, 2011 - 8:05 pm

Mary - A.D. – no, I don’t think that implication is intrinsic to what I said. If I said, for example, “the Church allows pregnant women to eat normally instead of fasting” does that mean that people who fast are better than pregnant women who can’t fast? Does it mean that foregoing a fast when you have a serious reason not to is essentially a “negative” thing. No, it simply means that there is a default position and then there are exceptions. The default position is being completely open to conception. NFP, by the Church’s own standards, is for use for serious/grave reasons. This isn’t my opinion and it’s not a judgment on NFP or on anyone who uses it. The Church uses the term “licit” to describe NFP. I don’t see how that is very different from using the word “allowed.”

I didn’t say anything about NFP being “irrelevant.” I said that NFP is not required/we are not expected by the Church or God to use it. Period. I don’t see how someone can read the language of the Church about NFP being licit for serious reasons to mean that NFP knowledge or use is an expectation. In some cases it would be more prudent to use NFP but if the Duggars or anyone else decide that it’s not necessary for them, there is *nothing* wrong with that — especially when all the needs of the family are being met.

I think Martina covered the “Catholic sorority” thing very well.

November 15, 2011 - 8:13 pm

BirgitJ - A.D., the Catholic Church is indeed ‘universal’ but by no means is it ‘inclusive’ in every sense of that word. She teaches with many strictly black and white Laws and there are definitely many issues (including child-bearing) where ‘opinion’ just doesn’t measure up. This blog was conceived for the love of God and as a means of sharing, with our fellow seekers of Eternal Salvation, through the Church that Jesus gave to the world. God’s words guide us and we seek only to share His Truth. One thing we will not do, however, is to sacrifice the Truth for an appearance of ‘just getting along’ – a false Ecumenism, if you will. Truth is truth, and as such, cannot be compromised. We make every effort to research our topics and provide a well-sourced, truth-driven place for fellow Catholics (and interested others). Our attempts are heart-felt, sincere and put us in a vulnerable position as we open ourselves up for disdain and ridicule. Truth is not always comfortable or popular. This blog is a ‘sort of sorority’ only in the sense that the one thing that all of us, in our diversity, have in common is our desire to seek out the Truth as taught by the ‘One, Holy, Apostolic Church – and we are certainly not a Kumbaya, equal-opportunity opinion club.
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November 17, 2011 - 12:24 pm

JotheHousewife - Wow, a lot to read and take in! What I love is the spirit of women sharing their strong feelings, and I know all mean well. I complained to my mother this morning that so much of what is wrong in the world is because people say “It is none of my business.” I believe I read that all sin is public sin–that everything we do affects others, and without casting the first stone, we are required, beginning in our own corner of the world, to educate ourselves and our family, then moving out to the rest of the world, to boldly state what is sinful, and to try to help people who are in sin. I am NOT saying any of the people who have posted, nor the Duggers, are in that category. I am saying we should–with love–be free to express what is wrong (and right!) in our world in hopes of making it a better place. I do have one question one of the earlier posts made, about people who don’t take care of their children…what do we do? Educate, yes, but where do we start with the ones in such grave situations now? Isn’t that a huge part of our World Problems, that our families are dissolved into meaningless sex, pleasure for the moment with no thought of the future, or assured that their is a “worldly” cure for any “mistakes.” Public schools are a disaster, some Catholic schools even have serious problems. We graduated 2 from Catholic schools before we pulled the last 2 out to homeschool. I feel I made the best decision for us, but what do we do about the rest of the world? It is our business! Do we assess the broken homes and remove the children, or do we assess the homes and offer a “model” for the broken parents? I’ve often thought some sort of one-to-one family mentoring program would be fabulous. In the old days (my young childhood) there were shows like Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy who showed love for family and friends and God. Perhaps the Duggers are a decent model for today’s craziness, but I also fear the exploitation of those children (and I’ve only seen part of one show early on when it was 16). I’m glad all of you posted and now that I’ve spent an hour or so reading you, I’ve gotta get back to homeschooling mine! Pray for families, pray for the Church, pray for our World!

November 18, 2011 - 8:45 am

Cherry Bieber - It truly is amazing how many can be so brutal toward families who are working hard to fill this world with responsible, hard-working, children with a strong faith in the Lord. Their answer to everyone they don’t agree with is to destroy them. They never quite seem to realize that their own belief system easily removes them as a life worth saving. They are in my prayers! Thanks for this post!

November 18, 2011 - 3:29 pm

Ginger - Although I am LDS and not Catholic, I really appreciate this post! I whole heartedly agree! I am constantly bombarded with people who believe that “3 kids is an army” and “no one needs more than 2 kids” and other such nonsense. I have two sisters-in-law with “large” families, one has 6 kids, the other has 7. I am currently pregnant with #4 myself. I am asked when we’ll be done or how many kids we want – to which I reply that I will take as many as we’re given because I love them so much, so unless something happens to where I can’t be home with my babies or can’t care for them, or my mental capacity for handling children diminishes, I’ll continue to not hinder the addition of more people in our family. I’m sure that, as Catholics, you get this misconception sometimes too – that you are having children because you’re told to, or because you are trying to keep up with someone else. I have children because I love and adore them, and they provide my life with more uplifting and loving experiences than I have the words to express. I don’t hinder the possibility of their creation because they ARE such gifts and I would never want to reject or prevent a gift from my loving Heavenly Father. I think the Duggers behave as though they believe this way, too. And I see it as admirable! So, thanks for this post!! I really enjoyed it!

November 19, 2011 - 8:44 am

MichaelaMum26 - In the entire NFP vs. Quiverfull discussion what I typically miss is the fact that husband and wife as a marriage unity must discern.

I as a woman am always very emotional about babies. It is natural, it is normal, it is beautiful, it is Divinely designed to be so.
But I also have the man at my side whose thinking, feeling, discerning is different. He is often the breadwinner, but he is always the head of the family also by Divine design. As he exercises this head-ship following Jesus’ example to love his wife as Jesus loved the church, he will have insight that the wife needs to listen to, ponder, respect and ultimately follow.

While everything that has been said about the blessing of a new baby is absolutely correct, it also has to be said, that it is not proper for us to look outside our sacramental marriage to others in order to compare, to be inspired, to be guided, etc……. It is proper to be grateful for the gifts we have been given, no matter how big or small – the other Sunday we had the gospel reading of the talents, and how the receivers of those very different talents were called to invest and to grow those very same talents. He who did not invest was severely punished.

When I catch myself, looking outside of my heart and home trying to figure out others’ hearts and homes, it never ends well for my soul. Never. Instead I need to look to my husband, his valid reasons for not having one more, our home situation, my own limitations and strengths and primarily ask God to guide us in our behavior and in our love for each other and our children. The Holy Family is a great example of a life lived in the Presence of God and in contemplation of His Goodness and Holy Will.

I personally don’t care how many children the Duggars have. What I wish, though, is that it was kept more private, less flashy. They are becoming the poster child for large families. I object to that. Every family who silently lives the Holy Will of God is a “poster child” for Holy Living.

God bless!

November 19, 2011 - 9:20 am

Martina - **it also has to be said, that it is not proper for us to look outside our sacramental marriage to others in order to compare, to be inspired, to be guided, etc……. It is proper to be grateful for the gifts we have been given, no matter how big or small**

I disagree with this. Here’s why. I understand what you are saying…ultimately decisions are between the husband and the wife with God at the center of that discussion. However, I disagree that we can’t look to others to be inspired or guided. I agree with you that we shouldn’t compare. That’s not what this article is about, so aren’t we glad about that? :)

I have a lot of friends who have larger families…and because I recognize that God is in each of them, and I know they are wonderful, faith-filled families, I am confident that I can look to their example as inspiration. I don’t look to them to compare my family size to mine or to compare their parenting methods, their worship style, etc. as a means and measure against myself, but I look at them the way St. Paul tells us we should build each other up.

If someone chooses NOT to look to friends, family, strong families who are in the spotlight, there is nothing wrong with that. That is what God is calling you and your particular family to do. But to ask everyone else to do what God is calling you to do, especially when it is not going against Church Dogma and Doctrine on the matter, I think we really need to step back and examine where we are coming from and not hold everyone else to the same standard God has called us to personally. :)
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November 19, 2011 - 8:36 pm

Patricia Cornell - We live on 2 % of the arable land of the world…….there is plenty of land resources…..what we need more of is love.

Resources are rarely the problem, distribution of them, yes……what is missing is love.

I have no children and this family is making up for my lack.

So what is the problem again with large families!

Wonderful article and well explained on children……and Mother Teresa…a real saint.

Patricia in St. Louis, MO

November 20, 2011 - 12:32 am

Laura - This is a great blog entry!
Colleen, you have made a great point! I didn’t think of that, even though I have blogged about the Duggars having their 20th also. You have hit the nail on the head. The modern “my body, my choice” thought seems to only pertain to abortion. Yuck.
MICHAELAMUM26, you have also hit the nail on the head. The Duggars are the posterchildren for large families. I am a Catholic who follows the Church’s teaching on contraceptives. I get compared to them all the time. I have lamented about this in my blog entry here http://colaurado.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-duggars-arent-necessarily-good-for.html

November 20, 2011 - 2:30 am

elleblue - The Duggers have made marriage and children a priority in their life. I applaud them for that. They have taken care of their children, loving them and teaching them and never asked the state for anything. The children appear to be happy, well educated and polite. What a gift to our world!

I wonder how many one child families could say the same?

I’ll be praying for the Duggers and especially Michelle and the new wee one!

November 20, 2011 - 11:23 am

Cathy - I grew up in the day when double-digit numbers of children, while not in every home, were not unheard of. One of my high school classmates was from a family of 18. And even then, some moms would converse quietly in tones of bafflement about why anyone would or how anyone could bear so many children.

However, families like this were celebrities only in our neighborhood. Who else knew about them?

What I find off putting about the Duggars is their willingness to exploit the freakishness of their situation. (I am not saying that they are freaks, but that is what reality TV is built upon – the connotation of freakishness. No one is going to make a reality show about “Single woman comes home and eats soup after a long day at work”, no matter whether you agree with my lifestyle choices or not.)

With the decision to put themselves into the public glare, they put themselves onto the firing line of others’ boorish opinions and invective.

My question is not “Why would a couple have twenty children?” since the answer could be, and probably is, “We have love and the desire to bring the souls that God wills into the world.” My question is “Why would parents put their children into a circus atmosphere in the national media?”

November 20, 2011 - 4:51 pm

Lisa - Colleen,
Thank-you for so eloquently pointing out the double standard. The Jan Leno quote was perfectly apt.

We’re blessed to have ten children and have indeed found that “God is not to be outdone in generosity.” The pity is that our worldly society looks for material reward in every endeavor — and misses the fact that our chief reward for the extra work and sacrifice need for a large family is spiritual — but that the greatest earthly happiness always comes from doing God’s will, as well. We have no regrets and never will worry about our meeting with God at our judgment. We have raised our babies for Him and have found the most true happiness and contentment in our family. And we have a BLAST together. Even though we don’t have fancy cars or go on expensive vacations, etc… It’s all good. Very good, indeed. God has thanked us by calling two of our sons to the priesthood, and though the rest of the world just wouldn’t “get it” at all — why that fact thrills us, I mean — we feel like the luckiest, most blessed people in the world.

God Bless the Duggars for accepting their blessings openly and unapologetically! I appreciate their courage — and expect they know their rewards, too.

November 21, 2011 - 12:40 pm

Shawna - Awesome article, Colleen. If I could make one comment…

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Unfortunately, the world does, indeed, do this very thing, and I think it is the secondary reason why the Duggars are being attacked. I know, because I’m going through it myself, right now.

I’m writing this from the high-risk antepartum ward of a major medical center. I am 34 weeks pregnant with my firstborn son, who has IUGR (short version – he’s small for dates, and the doctors don’t know why – possibly a problem with the placenta), and I am 36 years old, and have bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia. Interestingly enough, my chronic conditions haven’t been much of a problem, but I’ve had several complications, including gestational diabetes, that are the reason I’m in the hospital. We’re trying to get to 37 weeks and then induce, which is safer than going to full term in our case.

From my son’s conception, people have been astounded my husband and I decided to start a family “this late”, let alone that we want more kids, and don’t have a set number already planned. Medical personnel are even more shocked that we 1. refuse birth control and will use NFP for spacing and 2. have refused multiple offers of sterilization after I give birth -the offers really stepped up when I was hospitalized, one of which was made after I told the doctor I was Catholic.

Certain aspects of our culture tout “privacy rights” and “reproductive rights”, but step outside of the norm in any way, shape or form, of our hedonistic society, and suddenly, it’s everyone’s right to tell you your choice is wrong, in cruel detail – detail that, once you strip away false compassion and concern, really boils down to, “Your choice in this points out to me selfishness and self-righteousness I see around me – I don’t want to deal honestly with that, so it’s easier to attack your choice and try to change your mind.”

November 22, 2011 - 7:34 am

HUGO PIUS KWENA - Something is wrong with any grown up whose heart in not mellowed by the smile of a baby; whose troubles and feelings of
responsibility do not seem lessened when he picks up a child.Children ARE a gift from God and no being gives a gift to those who will misuse it. God knows what he is doing when he gives a 45 year old mother a 20th baby. That some may frown upon this is clear testament of the great distance by which society has missed the meaning of faith and trust. People, it is God who takes care not just of the children, but of the parents too.In Africa we hardly plan our lives and at the end of each year we gratefully say (and mean it) He has seen us through. You may think this foolish,but I am sure the most affluent will say the same thing should he survive a cancer.Let me say IT IS GOD WHO TAKES CARE OF ALL OF US. These parents must very good receivers of God’s gifts.Never should children be “reduced” because they are “defective” or even worse, because they are too many.After all the most perfect as well as the most defective(say like those who did not get enough to eat or dress in being too many in their family) eventually perish and will have to face judgement finally. May I ask whether or not “small” families have any problems.

H o b n o b
F r i e n d s