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What has Pope Francis Changed?

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 in Current Events, featured, Morality | 2 comments

A lot of good men and women, many of them my former teachers, have said that if Pope Francis allows communion for the divorced and remarried, it will either explicitly or implicitly contradict orthodox Catholic teaching about the Eucharist and/or marriage. The result is that for a while people have been banking on the Holy Spirit preventing the Pope from making such a decision. In other words, some faithful folks reason as follows: a) allowing divorced and remarried people to receive communion would be – at least practically – tantamount to heresy; b) the Pope can’t officially commit heresy (that’s one of the main reasons we have a Pope); c) so the Holy Spirit won’t allow the Pope to officially allow communion for the divorced and remarried. Okay, but now it’s starting to look like the Pope has made the decision to allow the divorced and remarried to receive communion. So all the folks who relied on the above reasoning are going to be tempted to doubt the institution of the papacy, or the irreformability of Catholic teaching, or the Holy Spirit, or all three. In other words, I’m afraid that because of the Holy Father’s recent statements a lot of good Catholics are going to start questioning their faith. So here’s my message: it’s okay if Pope Francis changes the Church’s current practice. It’s okay if people in adulterous relationships aren’t prevented from receiving communion. It doesn’t mean adultery isn’t adultery, and it doesn’t mean the Pope isn’t the Pope, and it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t generally refrain from receiving communion when they’re conscious of having done something gravely wrong. All it means is that there can be a change in pastoral practice to reflect the distinction between grave matter and mortal sin. This is an old distinction that most of us are familiar with. Grave matter means doing something really bad, like murder or blasphemy or adultery. Mortal sin means when you do something really bad, with sufficient knowledge and sufficient freedom.  Mortal sin (not grave matter!) is what kills the life of grace, what sets you on a trajectory towards hell, and betrays Jesus Christ. Got that? IT IS MORTAL SIN, NOT GRAVE MATTER, THAT KILLS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. You have to have enough knowledge and enough freedom to actually commit a mortal sin, even if your behavior objectively constitutes grave matter. But then how do we know when somebody has enough knowledge and enough freedom for their gravely evil act to qualify as a mortal sin? We don’t! Most of us can’t read souls, and so we lack any sure metric for sufficient knowledge or sufficient freedom. There’s no gauge for morally adequate knowledge. There’s no freedometer. So even though we can say that a certain act was really, really bad, we can’t know for sure if it was a mortal sin. We can judge the act, not the person. Pastorally, this distinction comes up pretty frequently. For instance, in the CDF’s 1975 document, Persona Humana, even though it says that masturbation is always grave matter, also says, “modern psychology provides much valid and useful information for formulating a more equitable judgment on moral responsibility and for orienting pastoral action. Psychology helps one to see how the immaturity of adolescence (which can sometimes persist...

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A Saint from Saints

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 in Current Events, featured, Interior Life | 2 comments

A Saint from Saints

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was called the “Greatest Saint of modern times,” by another great saint, St. Pope Pius X. Shortly after her death in 1897, her fame spread quickly, and her spiritual auto-biography—Story of a Soul—became an overnight success. In it, she recounted the growth of her interior life due to the workings of grace, culminating in her final words before entering into the abode of the blessed, “Oh, how I love him!” The ‘Him,’ of course, was Jesus. Despite her terrible disease of tuberculosis, which by the time of her death had consumed much of her lungs and capacity to breath, she remarked how her sufferings were joyful, as they drew her closer to her Beloved, Jesus. When I first returned to the Church in the early 1990’s, I tried reading her writings. I must admit, when I read some of them for the first time, I had to put the book down. The love and affections conveyed there were just too much for me. I confided to her sadly and secretly in the depths of my heart, “Thérèse, I don’t love Jesus like you. Further, I don’t even want to love Jesus like you did…but I want to want to.” She has been working on that part of my prayer ever since. Thus, when I was able to travel to Lisieux this summer with my teenage daughter, Claire Thérèse, to visit the wonderful shrines dedicated to her and her now canonized parents, I recognized her hand in all of this, nudging me—pushing me—to grow closer to her Beloved. To add extra leverage, she brought in her parents, Zélie and Louis. In learning about her parents, I understand better why Thérèse became such a great saint. In this beautiful family, a saint came from saints. By studying these holy parents and visiting their shrines along with Thérèse’s, I discovered five keys to that helped me understand obstacles to my growing closer to Jesus through my family and vocation as a father and husband. Recognize that Marriage is a Vocation Louis and Zélie each wanted to become a religious. After finding their efforts spurned, and through a providential meeting between Louis and his future mother-in-law, Louise-Jeanne, Louis met Zélie. They courted briefly and married. At first, the Martin’s struggled to understand God’s plan for them, since each wanted so desperately to serve Him in lives devoted to poverty, chastity, and obedience. Thus, they lived as brother and sister for the first ten months of their marriage before being encouraged by their spiritual director to truly embrace marriage as designed by God. By discovering that marriage is also a holy calling from God and a beautiful way to serve Him, they enthusiastically accepted all that marriage entails, eventually enjoying nine children! Even though I discovered the truth about marriage twenty-six years ago when I was discerning between marriage and the priesthood, I was always bothered by the fact that if marriage is indeed a way to serve God and become a saint, why are there no examples to prove this? Reading about the lives of Louis and Zélie confirmed my belief that marriage is a legitimate path to holiness. Fill Your Marital Life with Prayer and Hope The Martin household filled each day with prayer, prayer that only increased...

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Rome and Reasons for Hope

Posted by on Jul 2, 2015 in Current Events, featured, Interior Life, Morality | 3 comments

Rome and Reasons for Hope

I just returned from my second pilgrimage to Rome in the last 10 months. This one was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Apostles of the Interior Life community, a Roman/American community of consecrated women, priests, and laity, of which I am a lay member. The Lord God lavished grace upon grace upon me, and gave me reasons for hope in this time of world-wide moral struggles. It is for this reason that I compose this entry. God is utterly generous and gratuitous in the bestowal of heavenly gifts.  Of this truth, I am a living witness. So, if you feel anxious or worried about this present darkness, be at peace and confident in this fact–in Christ, the battle is won, and the victory is ours. Consider the following: Without realizing the audacious events that were about to unfold in the U.S. regarding the Supreme Court and the redefinition of marriage, we were given the privilege to celebrate Holy Mass in the crypt of the  tomb of St. Peter directly beneath the High Papal Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 26. While attending Mass, I was able to peer continually over the priest’s shoulder to eye the actual tomb of Peter. Immediately after the homily, all of the married couples present were invited to approach the altar and renew our wedding nuptials. My wife was able to enjoy the pilgrimage with me, so we were deeply honored to be able to renew our vows with all of the other wonderful married couples. Only later that afternoon did we find out about the SCOTUS ruling. After my shock and anger subsided, I realized what had happened earlier in the day–I renewed my marriage, along with around 20 other couples, on the bones of Peter–the Rock of Christ’s Church. It is THIS Church to which Christ gave this promise: the gates of Hell will not prevail. The next sight we visited was the church of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, founder of the Redemptorists. This church is the custodian of a very popular and important icon: the original Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The original image was painted sometime before the 15th Century on the island of Crete, before it was stolen by a Roman merchant and brought to Italy. After various apparitions, miracles, and misfortunes, the holy image ended up on display in the current church in the mid-19th century under the care of the Redemportists. Known for the many miracles and profound fruits of her intercessory care, Our Lady of Perpetual Help  is one of the most popular and best known icon’s in the world. We all beseeched Our Lady for her continued intercession for our country and for the protection of marriages world wide. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were there on the eve of the feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, June 27. By the way, the holy image is particularly known for bringing good out of evil circumstances. On the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, we went to Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with Pope Francis. His message was that the church of our times, just like the times of Peter and Paul, is being challenged by a pagan culture and therefore needs to be a church of Prayer,...

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Sense of the Faith-Lacking

Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 in Current Events, featured, Theology | 6 comments

Sense of the Faith-Lacking

The latest Extraordinary Synod of Bishops has captured the attention of the world in its discussions on marriage and family, but the reasons behind this interest are questionable. St. John Paul II once said that the way of society goes by way of the family. Thus, decisions regarding the family have a universal impact. The interest of what appears to be the entire world can be interpreted as a good thing, provided that the interest comes from a genuine desire to promote and protect the sanctity of the family. To the extent that they come from desires to redefine and/or lower the moral expectations of the family, the interest is misleading, dangerous, and futile. This past year, bishops from around the world gathered information from the pews to help guide their pastoral responses to the issues faced by Catholic families worldwide. The Bishops are also receiving testimonies from couples and families during the synod to further assist their decision-making. From these sources, we discover that many, many Catholics are cohabiting, divorcing and remarrying without receiving a declaration of nullity from their previous marriage, are acting on same sex attractions, and expect to receive communion while in these relationships. Surprise! Surprise! This data, many are arguing, captures the Sensus Fidei, or Sense of the Faith. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Sense of the Faithful is understood as a “supernatural appreciation of the faith, shown by the universal consent in matters of faith and morals manifested by the whole body of the faithful under the guidance of the Magisterium. (cf. the glossary, and #92 CCC.)” It has been traditionally  understood to be a reliable litmus test for sound doctrine. Changing the teachings of the Church, some argue, is not so much a change in doctrine, but a recognition of what the true doctrine is, according to this sense of the faith possessed by the faithful. This argument appears plausible. However, upon closer examination, the errors become easily apparent. First, the faithful include the whole people of God, “from the bishops to the last of the faithful…who manifest universal consent in matters of faith and morals.” (#92 CCC) I know many, many Catholics, including myself, who don’t agree that we can accept non-marital sexual living arrangements as consistent with the teaching of Christ, and thus extend Holy Communion to individuals who have chosen or find themselves in such situations. Moreover, understanding what the Church means by the word faithful discloses the second error. To be faithful, one must be full of faith. According to the Catechism, faith is “both a gift of God and a human act by which the believer gives personal adherence to God who invites his response, and feely assents to the whole truth that God has revealed.” (Emphasis mine.) The Sensus Fidei is not just a straw poll of the world’s Catholics regarding what they want and how they are currently living. Rather, it is a personal response to Divine Revelation—truths which come in the form of intellectual propositions, to which one freely adheres. If one feely chooses not to adhere, then, by definition, that person does not reflect this supernatural sense of the faith(ful). Perhaps things like ignorance reduce personal culpability, but ignorance can’t be an ingredient in the Sense of the Faithful because...

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Hidden Treasures, Blessed Adventures in Italy

Posted by on Sep 23, 2014 in Current Events, featured, History, Interior Life, Theology, Uncategorized | 6 comments

Hidden Treasures, Blessed Adventures in Italy

Pilgrimages reflect and remind the pilgrim of his sojourn on earth. They are not vacations, but, rather, journeys into God’s providence. It is a time of recognizing what is our true goal, union with God in heaven, versus what is merely the means to get there, our life on earth. We often get those two mixed up. I recently returned from leading a pilgrimage to Italy. I was reminded several times that I still lack patience and charity, and so my earthly pilgrimage still has a long way to go in achieving its end. Nevertheless, this pilgrimage was for me a truly blessed adventure. God never allows our own weaknesses and sins to completely deter Him from accomplishing what He wants to do in us. He only asks that we allow Him the opportunity. I experienced profound grace at every destination. It would take too long to recount the entire journey, but there were some hidden treasures that are worth sharing. Our pilgrimage started in Florence. Florence possesses some of the greatest art treasures on earth and is an art-lover’s paradise. One of the sites that really struck me was the convent of San Marco. This ancient monastery is less known compared to some of the other art museums in the city. 600 years ago, inside this old Dominican cloister, lived a friar and master-painter named Fr Angelico, Blessed Fra Angelico, as St. John Paull II beatified him in 1982. He was asked by his superior to paint frescos inside each monk’s cell. Those frescos are still there, and their splendor has not faded with the passing of the centuries. The holiness of Fra Angelico radiates through his work. Michelangelo said of him, “he must have seen heaven to paint heaven.” The elegance and gracefulness of his paintings actually encourage one to be silent. In fact, I think that they can only be appreciated fully in contemplative stillness, the same atmosphere in which they were created. I was captivated. I left San Marco feeling as though I viewed heaven, and was touched by grace.   We then traveled to Assisi. The entire town is so quaint and clean, you wonder if you have been transported to the middle ages. It doesn’t take long to experience the real attraction of Assisi, St. Francis. His spirit permeates the village. Outside of the Holy Land, I have never been to a place that so conveys the spirit of another. There is so much to see in Assisi, I was glad that we stayed three days. The one place that left our group speechless more than any other was the visit to Eremo or Carceri Hermitage. Francis came here with his friars to sleep in caves in an extended retreat. The hermitage was built by hand by the friars after they became too large to stay in the few caves. One of the oratories was even built by St. Bernadine of Sienna. The footpaths that trail out of the hermitage are so peaceful and beautiful, one could understand what inspired St. Francis to write the Canticle of Creation. Stone altars used by his priests for Holy Mass are still there and are still used for the sacred sacrifice. The beauty, simplicity, and solitude of the hermitage landscape mirrors the beauty, simplicity, and solitude...

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Changing the World By Changing Yourself

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Current Events, featured, Interior Life, Theology | Comments Off on Changing the World By Changing Yourself

Changing the World By Changing Yourself

Carol staggered through the overcrowded streets in Pattaya, Thailand, deeply troubled by what she witnessed: bar after bar where women could be bought and sold as slaves for sexual desire. She witnessed black magic, drug use, intoxication—the smell of evil. She even witnessed a three year old offered for prostitution. This experience inspired her to begin a ministry aimed at rescuing young women from such a hopeless life of enslavement. Michael is a truck driver, and by his own admission, a recovering addict of many vices. When he gave his life over to Christ many years ago, he discovered the power of Jesus to heal and forgive, and decided to offer himself as an ambassador of hope for the addicted. Michael has been offering recovery counseling and encouragement for almost 20 years, now. Randy is a physician who grew weary of the antilife philosophies he encountered in a profession that is supposed to be aimed at helping sustain life and promoting health. He decided to do something about it. He now helps lead a physician’s guild for Catholic doctors who wish to practice according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I have had the pleasure of getting to know all three of these individuals, as well as many, many others just like them, through a program called the Spiritual Mentorship Program in Kansas City, Kansas. I am an eye witness to the transforming power of grace and of the powerful creativity of God in the lives of His beloved. Working closely with my School of Faith team, as well as with the Apostles of the Interior Life, a religious community from Rome, Italy, I have been overwhelmed at the focused intensity of the Holy Spirit during our time together, one week in January, and one in May, in this two-year program. This program is designed to train lay people to be leaders of the spiritual renewal taking place in the midst of our cultural demise. It was the brain child of Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Kansas City, Kansas, when he was traveling in Rome. He and Sr. Susan Pieper, the Superior General of the Apostles of the Interior Life, were traveling in a bus filled to the brim on a hot Roman day, and the Archbishop commented to Sr. Susan that he wanted to raise up an army of trained laity who could spiritually mentor others in the interior life and their growth in holiness. He asked for her help, and asked the School of Faith for our help; the rest is history. We are now on our second class of 80 or so students, who are due to graduate in January of 2015. I am so impressed with the growth that I see from these adventurous souls. Carol came because she wanted to receive training in the interior life to bolster her confidence and energy with the power of Christ in her ministry.  In order to assist young women to transition out of the sordid life of sexual use and lost hope, she utilizes the formation she received in the Mentorship Program to teach them about prayer and the interior life. Michael takes the spiritual training he received to meet with and challenge other addicts to discover the freedom found only in Christ. Whether they be in the physical...

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Who Are We To Judge

Posted by on Mar 9, 2014 in Current Events, featured, Morality, Theology | 6 comments

Who Are We To Judge

Recently, I was asked to be part of a Catholic Q&A panel along with two priests for an evening of beer, pretzels, and theology. With ingredients like that, it was bound to be a fun evening, and it was. I was honored to be asked to take part, as both priests were faithful and articulate.  The format made for an evening that was as challenging as it was interesting. We had no prep time, as the questions were presented to us with an immediate expected response.  Due to the packed house, we received two hours worth of questions from a very broad spectrum of issues. I enjoyed myself immensely. Any Q&A involving the teachings of the Catholic Church will soon attract controversy, and after about an hour into the evening, this event was no different. Our moderator drew a question that I knew would be coming: “My son is gay and is happy. Who are you (or the Catholic Church) to say otherwise?” A deafening hush ensued. Everyone’s gaze transfixed on the dais where my clerical colleagues and I were expected to attempt an answer. The question was worded so as to provide no easy escape. How does one question another’s experience without sounding utterly judgmental? The question’s wording implied that no objective moral standard could justly condemn activity that makes for a happy man. Fortunately, I was the last one to reply. Each priest responded well, I thought, by pointing out that we don’t judge people but acts, and that God wants our happiness, too. He knows best what makes us happy as He is the one who designed us. Therefore, He sets the terms on happiness, not us, and He has condemned homosexual activity outright (see Rom 1: 18-ff, 1 Cor 6:9, and 1 Tim 1:10.) These were very good points. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. I could go the direction of explaining objective moral norms and the God-given meaning of sex, but needed more time to organize my thoughts so as to answer the question properly. Plus, I knew that I needed to keep my responses brief due to time constraints.  Since the question appealed to human experience as the standard for moral evaluation, I decided to fight fire with fire. Many years ago, when I was single, I volunteered for 18 months with the Missionaries of Charity at a home for men dying with AIDS, called Seton House. Mother Theresa herself chose Denver, Colorado as the location for this AIDS home, and sent 8 of her sisters to run it. The vast majority of the infected occupants were homosexuals.  I volunteered every Monday night. My job was to stay awake with the men all night while the sisters slept, so that the men could be cared for round the clock. I was basically their mom; I bathed them (bed-ridden patients often lose all track of time so a 3am shower didn’t seem so odd to them,) changed their diapers, fed them, gave them water, held their hands, prayed with them, talked with them, sat with them, shared my life with them, and they shared theirs with me. I formed wonderful friendships with many. I got on up-close and personal look at their life style, and I heard many sad and sordid...

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An American Experience and the Inconsistency of Civil Rights

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Current Events, featured, History, Morality, Politics | 6 comments

An American Experience and the Inconsistency of Civil Rights

A few nights ago I watched an interesting documentary on PBS called American Experience. This particular episode was entitled, “1964.” The makers of the show examined that particular year as the year that ignited the social revolution in America. The issue that caused the combustion: Civil rights; in particular, the efforts of northern white college kids who headed to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 in order to assist southern black citizens to register to vote. As the show progressed, my sentiments certainly followed the trajectory of the show’s emotional appeal. The civil rights movement revealed both the ugly and the beautiful struggle of a certain segment of American citizenry to gain political access to a rule of government that is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. I greatly admired the efforts of these Northern white college kids and black civil rights activists in the face of possible violence and even death—as was the case when three volunteers met their doom one night when they encountered some Klansmen. Their bodies were later discovered in shallow graves near a dam in the process of being constructed. Yet, I was also aware of a particular undertone during the entirety of the program. This undertone became clear when, later in the episode, a historian made a statement that both shocked and rankled me. He said that these white kids returned home from their experiences in Mississippi with the stark realization that everything their parents had told them about America was a lie! America as a society, he opined, was utterly bankrupt. His statement was followed by footage of police brutality, footage of the Klan beating people and terrorizing citizens, footage of Republican senator Barry Goldwater stating publically that he didn’t support the civil rights movement, more revelations about the Klu Klux Klan and their involvement in southern politics, etc. Then the documentary shifted focus a little to Betty Friedan and her popular book The Feminine Mystique, which argued that homemakers and mothers, the backbone of the social fiber in America, were secretly sick and tired of the lives they were living, feeling trapped and desperate to get out and live lives freed from the constraints imposed on them by men. Again, the moral was clear: something was deeply, deeply, flawed with America. The good ol’ U.S. of A. not only was not good, but was morally broken and corrupt! Radical change was needed, and the true heroes of this change discovered their cause and their voice in 1964. This episode of American Experience was interesting and eye-opening. The program challenged me to have a deeper appreciation for the courage of the leaders of the civil rights movement. But the implied conclusion seemed to be if one is a compassionate, civil rights-caring American, one is liberal. However, the day after the airing of this program something happened that disputes the conclusion that the show seemed to advance—the annual March for Life. It took place in Washington, D.C. with hundreds of thousands of protestors marching through freezing temperatures and blizzard-like conditions to reveal the corruption of our day, abortion, and the 55 million citizens who not only will ever have the right to vote, but won’t even have the right to live! Who is leading the charge...

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Our Lady of Guadalupe and 50 Million Names

Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Current Events, featured, Morality, Politics | 2 comments

Our Lady of Guadalupe and 50 Million Names

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe—indeed, the whole of the Advent season—reveals and reminds us of the utter importance of innocent life and its innate dignity. When the young virgin appeared miraculously to Juan Diego on Mount Tepeyac, she made it known to him that he would have a significant role in converting to Christ 9 million Aztecs who worshiped their false gods with human sacrifice. The indelible image left upon his cloak was that of a young, dark-skinned woman standing on the moon, shrouded in glory with a mantel of stars covering her head. Around her waist, she wore the black sash that young mothers wore in Mexico at that time, indicating she was with child. This image conquered the world, as it not only secured a foothold for the holy faith of Christ in Mexico, but it also proved pivotal in one of the grandest battles in the history between Christianity and Islam not 40 years later, at Lepanto, Greece. Giovanni Andrea Doria, one of the Christian naval commanders, prayed before a replica of this very image in the early morning hours before the commencing of the great sea battle. By 4 in the afternoon, Doria, on behalf of all of Christendom, celebrated victory over the much larger Muslim fleet. All of the Christian naval commanders along with the Pope credited the victory to Our Lady’s intercession. Thus, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a beautiful reminder of the powers and victories of this Virgin Mother of God over the forces of death and darkness. Unfortunately, these forces are reasserting influence on contemporary society in manifold ways. In the United States of America, abortion slays millions of innocent lives annually, and the coercion exerted on young mothers to rid their wombs of their own children reveals the sinister motives of those working at these so-called women’s clinics. These deaths rival that of the blood-thirsty idols of the Aztecs, who worshiped their spurious gods by offering countless lives of innocent people in order to consecrate their temples. It was against this macabre form of paganism that our Blessed Lady came to rescue God’s people. He heard the cries of the innocent. He sent the one human whose faith overcame the slaughter of the innocent child, Mary, the Mother of God.  He hears the cry of the innocent today, and He still sends the one whose faith helped bring about the victory.  In honor and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Great Intercessor of Life and Patroness of the Americas, a dear friend of mine, Charlotte Ostermann, sponsored an event she called the 50 Million Names Project, launching it on December 12, 2013 with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Chancery chapel for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas. This much-anticipated launch will allow those wishing to participate to quickly log-on to the online memorial site and formalize a name for one of more of the 50 million babies lost to abortion in this country alone. Charlotte developed a website that has one specific mission: to recognize each and every child as an individual and to honor them with our prayers and special intentions by naming them, thus giving them an identity that gets lost amidst the statistics and rhetoric. Charlotte is encouraging us to offer our prayers not...

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A Kid Calculus for Couples

Posted by on Aug 13, 2013 in Current Events, featured | 23 comments

A Kid Calculus for Couples

I was at the grocery store last night and saw that the current issue of TIME Magazine has the cover story, “When Having It All Means Not Having Kids.” I opened it up to the story itself and saw that the attached artwork was an image of a childless couple on the beach, indolent and beautiful and happy. Next to them on the beach was a harried father lugging a mass of inflatable beach crap, and an exhausted mother urging two sullen children across the sand. The message of the story (subtitled “The Cons of Procreation”) was pretty clear, and the image really drove it home: if you want the fullness of what life has to offer, don’t have kids. Now this is a very interesting concept, and one I’ve heard quite often. It’s the concept of tradeoffs as applied to children. If you want X, then you can’t have Y, and vice versa. So you have to weigh X and Y and see which is ultimately worth more. You have to weigh the value of KIDS against the value of COMPETING GOODS and see which one tips the scales in your own personal balance. And folks at TIME Magazine are suggesting that COMPETING GOODS is probably a better bet. I think the first thing to notice about this system of measurement is that nobody applies it once kids are actually in the picture. No one would say to a mother, “Suppose I offered you some great opportunities in exchange for little Timmy?” Somebody who went around making those kinds of offers would be reported to the authorities. Why? Probably because we know Timmy’s not the sort of thing that can be exchanged for goods, services, luxuries or career choices. Timmy’s not like other resources or consumer options, and it’s sick and wrong to pretend otherwise. But if suggesting we trade a KID for COMPETING GOODS is sick and wrong after the kid is born, why is it not sick and wrong before the kid is born? Of course, the folks at TIME aren’t actually making that offer. They’re simply reporting that couples without kids seem to have a richer experience of life than couples with kids. Apparently (“And we’re just neutral observers,” they say) kids are cost-inefficient when it comes to happiness. Well, I think we need a little more rigor in our analysis. I think we need some sort of scientific, absolutely reliable system of measurement that can accurately predict whether or not a kid will be an overall contribution or diminution of your own personal happiness as a couple (assuming, of course, that you’re capable of bearing and caring for a kid). And the good news is that I have invented such a calculus, and am hereby sharing it with the world. It will infallibly determine whether kids will make you happier or less happy. It consists in the following question: Are You Planning on Loving your Child? If you aren’t, then by all means don’t have one. That kid will simply be a drain on your time, energy and resources, all of which could be devoted to more pleasant pursuits. A kid you don’t love will simply cramp your world, make it smaller and greyer and less restful. You will have less money, less dignity,...

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