Children should be an answer, not a question.
On Sunday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez caught the attention of conservatives for posing the question of whether or not human beings should reproduce in light of climate change.
A self-described Catholic, Ocasio-Cortez challenged Church teaching with her comments. While the Catechism of the Catholic Church urges that human beings must serve as stewards of the earth, it disagrees with the New York Democrat on the question of children.
“There’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult,” Ocasio-Cortez began in an Instagram video. “It does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question, you know, should – is it okay to still have children?”
She argued that finances and morality play into the decision.
“People are graduating with 20, 30, 100,000 dollars’ worth of student loan debt, and so they can’t even afford to have kids and a house, but also just this basic moral question, like ‘what do we do?'” she said.
“Even if you don’t have kids, there are still children here in the world and we have a moral obligation to them and to leave a better world for them.”
“A lack of urgency is going to kill us,” she concluded. “It doesn’t matter if you agree that climate change is an important issue … the issue is how urgently you feel we need to fix it.”
Ocasio-Cortez is right that raising children should be affordable and that Americans have an obligation to care for their environment (even if they disagree on how to accomplish this).
But, even from a secular standpoint, she’s wrong to call children a “legitimate question,” because their lives will be “very difficult.” That’s because the difficulties, not the children, are what Americans must fight to end. Just as doctors terminate the disease, not the patient.
She’s also wrong from a Catholic standpoint.
Ocasio-Cortez, who identifies as a Catholic, has publicly made references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church – and it agrees with her, to some extent. The Catechism indeed stresses that human beings should be stewards of creation.
“God calls man and woman … to share in his providence toward other creatures; hence their responsibility for the world God has entrusted to them,” it reads.
But God entrusts another thing to men and women: children.
Another section of the Catechism calls children “the supreme gift of marriage,” and acknowledges that they “contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves.”
The Catholic Church goes so far as to recognize the family as a reflection of God.
“The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit,” the Catechism adds. “In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation.”
In other words, God calls human beings both to serve as stewards of his creation and to participate in it by welcoming children. The two are connected.
Furthermore, politicians have a responsibility to protect children.
“The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially,” the Catechism emphasizes, “the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family’s own moral and religious convictions.”
Ocasio-Cortez is right to say Americans have a “moral obligation” to “children here in the world.”
But that begins with supporting and cherishing their existence.