Sunday, May 20, 2012

Supersized Catholic families are not a mark of the Faith

But they can be, and I suspect often are, a mark of those who don't have a holistic understanding of God's creation. There are, of course, exceptions. But exceptions are just that, and like most discussions what is under discussion is what is normative.

Please note : this post is currently being written, read at your own risk

[Or at least normative among a very select few of even Catholic families since Catholic families of over 9 or 10 children are very uncommon albeit rather common at traditionalist parishes and to a lesser extent among homeschooler types.]

Supersized families, like their cousins tiny families caused by using birth control, are disordered. But unlike their contracepting cousins, supersized families are an attempt to be faithful to the Church.

And given the difficulties associated with supersized Catholic families, they can be a mark of virtue, or even heroic virtue, of willing to be faithful to the Church. But the disordered understanding of God's creation doesn't become a good per se by the willing of it with good intention.

To those who give the kneejerk consequentialist argument in defense of supersized families : "which of the children do you want to not exist?" I answer "the same children conceived by fornication that they would want to not exist" It's a consequentualist argument that cuts both ways and just as it doesn't proves the good of fornication, so likewise it doesn't prove the good of supersized Catholic families.

Supersized Catholic families are disordered because they are not ordered to the natural means of child spacing which is part and parcel of raising children holistically. Which is not to say the disorder is sinful, not all disorders are sinful, but it is to say that they are not ordered according to God's natural holistic design.

God's natural holistic design is concerned with the totality of man. The natural law, for instance, makes sense holistically because it argues to mans total good as he was created.

We are by nature an organic whole, that is how we were created and that is how the Church understands us and directs us. The social encyclicals are holistic, they look at the totality of man and each man's relation to other men and explain proper action according to God's natural holistic design.

The natural law and the encyclicals give evidence that much of modern society is not properly ordered because much of modern society is at variance to them. And so likewise is it with much of modern life where we can see modern society at variance with a holistic understanding of man.

Some aspects of society are completely disordered such as the fragmentation of society causing the physical isolation of the mother from extended family and friends. But overall much of society suffers from a partial disorder because we have a natural sense, similar to the natural law, of what is right and what is properly ordered. This natural sense tells mothers to nurture their babies, and tells husbands to defend and protect their wives and babies.

It's a natural sense which informs us to see subsidiarity as a good. It's a natural sense which is naturally at human scale.

Supersized Catholic families are not at human scale. They use a scale which is reactionary against the modern world and its unnatural culture of death. They are a reaction against the unnatural, but an enthusiastic reaction which goes too an extreme.

As opposed to an enthusiastic reaction, what is needed is moderation. Moderation is not lukewarm. Moderation is the mean between extremes. Moderation is where we find our natural stability.

As opposed to lauding supersized Catholic families, we should instead be lauding those who live holistically.

As it stands, modern society puts tremendous pressure on Catholic families, especially on the women. With supersized families adding to the burden.

The fragmenting of society causing the physical isolation of the mother from friends and families is a burden. To which are added other burdens such as when homeschooling may be the only choice and a necessary evil. And those burdens are compounded by in turn promoting the burdens as a positive good.

What we are asking of women is not natural and we cannot expect a Catholic society and culture to organically develop and grow from unnatural roots.


What do I mean by holistic :

Using a subject which I've written on previously and which also serves well as a paradigm because it's so easy to see and holistic in itself. A holistic understanding is, for instance, the difference between ecological breastfeeding as natural child spacing as opposed to NFP as natural child spacing. The first is holistic while the latter is imposed by technical device. NFP only appears to be holistic because it's typically compared to that which is even further removed, i.e. artificial birth control devices.

Which is not to say that NFP is evil, but it is to say that it's natural to man in the same manner that penicillin is natural to man. God created them for our use, but they're use is extraordinary as opposed to ordinary.

The first, Ecological breastfeeding, is how God intended us to live, the latter, NFP, is used because of some defect requiring an additional assistance. I'm perfectly aware that in America virtually no one ecologically breastfeeds, and of those few who try, only a few succeed at stopping ovulation. But the defect is not in Gods creation but in our society. And as opposed to correcting ourselves, we choose to use some gadget, i.e. NFP, to mask the error.

Ecological breastfeeding is a part of a larger holistic totality of the family where ecological breastfeeding, as with all other parts, is ordered to the whole and where each part, such as how we nurture our children. How we direct, clothe, and feed our children must in turn each be itself rightly ordered for the good of the whole.



  1. You make me wanna barf!

  2. Thank you for your comment.

    If you would care to explain why you disagree with me I would be more than glad to listen to your reason.

    Please further note:

    Most blog discussions are due to our loss of cultural standards of right action. We have for the most part lost our cultural memory and as a result we drift and latch onto whatever we find that we think has stability.

    Catholics are as a result splintered into factions.

    And while this blog is probably just another splintered faction of one, ( me ), what I am attempting to do is figure out what is the common ground that catholic society can actually build from.

    Which in turn means that I will not doubt offend many of those who read this blog because I will invariably question some aspect of their lives they consider virtually inseparable from the Faith.

  3. I disagree because not every woman who practices "ecological breast feeding" gets enough spacing not to have a large family. And yes, I read "Breast feeding and natural child spacing, and yes, after the first baby I did everything it says." My fertility returned by six months with one exception-when I was tandem nursing my first and second; then I got over a year of infertility. I also tried to use NFP and got a few months more of spacing out of it, until after number eight when I was in my thirties and less fertile; then I managed to get three years of spacing from NFP, before I had my ninth at 39.

    Ok,you are saying that this is somehow a problem with our society. I think it is the result of normal variation in women. I know women who could not conceive the next child so long as they were nursing at all, the least little bit. I have a friend who got a two or more year spacing but still had nine children because she married young.

    Personally I like seeing large families and I wish there were more of them. I don't think everyone is called to have a large family, but it is pretty obvious that some people who are called to have them, are not. However, so long as people do not contracept, it is up the the parents to discern the right size for their families, to the degree that they are able to make NFP -or natural child spacing-work for them.

    I admit that having a large family was a strain and mine was far far from perfect. I don't see that I had any particular gifts for being the mother of so many, either. Except maybe that I enjoyed teaching and being with small children, but that was not enough to carry me through all the other things which had to be done.

    But you are the one who keeps using that saying about letting the perfect be the enemy of the good! Being is goodness, better than non-being, is the principle I apply here. Only half jokingly.

    Susan Peterson

  4. Susan Perterson,

    I appreciate your comment.