By Alana Newman
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
Column courtesy of: Ethika Politika
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that sin includes any activity that brings death to the body, or death to the soul.
Increased utilization of third party reproductive technologies and our current infertility epidemic are deeply tied to sin. The birth dearth is primarily a result of the marriage decline. The marriage decline is a result of a profound absence in virtues and character development—resulting in a culture in which people can’t trust themselves and can’t trust the opposite sex to meet the basic demands of a marriage: commitment, fidelity, and cooperation. We don’t need more sexual education, we need more virtues education.
I recently was confronted about my Catholic conversion by a teenager whom I’ve known for years. “You’re not going to force your religion on your kids, are you?” he chided. I responded defensively, “I plan on at least giving my children the gift of a moral education—which the Church expertly provides.” From there began a conversation about whether there was an absolute truth or not. My teenage friend announced that there is no such thing: “morality is arbitrary … Good and bad means different things for different people in different circumstances.” Later in the conversation, the topic of children came up. I asked him, “How old do you think you’re going to be when you get married and have kids?” “I’m not sure I want to have kids,” he said.
I’m not sure I want to have kids.
His response shocked me greatly, because I’ve known him for years and I know that he is great with kids and since early childhood he has regularly declared his desire to eventually be a dad. Were his first remarks regarding truth related to this change in desire for children? I think they are.
David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column in 2011 addressing a researched study that found that young Americans lack categories and vocabulary on matters of “right and wrong, moral dilemmas, and the meaning of life”:
The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. “It’s personal,” the respondents typically said. “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?”
Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.”
The problem with a moral framework based on how one feels is that feelings change all the time. A marriage is supposed to last a lifetime. How can a bride or groom trust that his or her partner will feel like behaving herself or himself for a lifetime together? Would you marry someone you thought could betray or abandon you at the flip of a switch? Probably not. Love cannot be cultivated without trust.
And trust needs virtue.
Others must demonstrate virtue in order to enjoy a partner’s full trust, but less obviously, we must first trust ourselves to behave virtuously. If we doubt our own ability to behave morally, trusting others to do so is impossible.
The following is a real scene from a real relationship documented in the upcoming book Love Like Crazy, by David and Amber Lapp. It showcases the unraveling that occurs when people fail in virtues, and thus fail in trust:
Tricia was waiting for Anthony to buy a ring, but his unemployment and drunkenness eroded her trust. Anthony caught her getting into a Camaro with a guy he suspected she was sleeping with. He packed Tricia’s clothes into trash bags and demanded she leave. Then she cried, they reconciled, and he proposed. But his depression deepened, and her friendship with the guy in the Camaro intensified. They ended the engagement.
The Lapps have spent several years researching the attitudes on love and marriage in a small town in Ohio. They’ve developed intimate friendships with seven working class couples as those couples have dated, hooked up, married, had kids (not necessarily in that order), and lovingly documented the outcomes and motivations intertwined in their decisions.
A theme in this book is that these couples suffer from a rotten ecosystem—in which no family members, employer, public idol, or peer entity supports their efforts to build a healthy family. They don’t trust their partners to behave, and they don’t trust themselves to behave. The keys to successful relationships are missing like oxygen and clean water. Love itself gasps for air and chokes on dirt as it desperately attempts to breathe.
This lack both of moral standards and one’s own confidence in one’s ability to keep to them results in major insecurity and relationship failures. And where there are few stable relationships, there are few children: Today our birth rate is 1.86 (non-replacement).
Governments around the globe are taking striking measures to increase stark birth rates. Vladimir Putin vowed in his 2011 campaign to spend £33 billion in an attempt to increase Russia’s population by 30 percent (he didn’t disclose whether the funds were to go toward surrogates using his own sperm samples). Other countries are giving striking financial incentives and delivering major ad campaigns to try to encourage couples to have kids. But no woman will have more than one—possibly two—children with a man she doesn’t trust, even if she could win a free refrigerator by having more. It would be irresponsible to conceive more children than she could take care of by herself, should the relationship dissolve. And many women today (à la Lena Dunham and her fans) expect the relationship to dissolve.
As a mother myself I believe that women are acutely aware of the physical, financial, and emotional sacrifices motherhood will entail. Giving birth, nursing, and educating a child (or two or three or four) is a very big deal. The good news is that women really do want to be mothers and experience love through this kind of responsibility. But we do not want to do so alone or impoverished …
(To be continued)