If you are Catholic and unexpectedly expecting another child, that is probably not the first question that comes to mind–if at all, but that didn’t stop a blogger by the name of David Mills from asking it all the same. If he can be said to have arrived at a conclusion–and it is not entirely clear that he has–it is that for some people children are a burden, for others children are a treasure, and for the hated bourgeoisie, whoever they are, children are a toy-like status symbol. This would be a reasonable critique of our secular materialist society, but that is not the target the David Mills has in mind. Quite to the contrary, it seems his barbs are directed at middle-class faithful Catholics who are doing their best to live out their faith.
First of all, let’s clear something up about Marxism: it is an ideology which is completely inimical to everything we believe as Catholics. From the horse’s mouth–or perhaps from its other end–we have this declaration:
“In bourgeois society, the child is regarded as the property of its parents – if not wholly, at least to a major degree. When parents say, ‘My daughter’, ‘My son’, the words do not simply imply the existence of a parental relationship, they also give expression to the parents’ view that they have a right to educate their own children. From the socialist outlook, no such right exists. The individual human being does not belong to himself, but to society, to the human race. The individual can only live and thrive owing to the existence of society. The child, therefore, belongs to the society in which it lives, and thanks to which it came into being – and this society is something wider than the ‘society’ of its own parents. To society, likewise, belongs the primary and basic right of educating children.”
Catholic teaching contains layers of richness concerning the essential dignity of the human person, the sacredness of the family, and the outward expression of our faith in charity when we freely and willingly serve others. Marxism places the abstract and utilitarian needs of the whole in opposition to the very existence of the individual. Forget about conscience, sacredness, and charity. The ideal of socialism is to eliminate all traces of the human soul in pursuit of a purely rational and mathematical machine-like certainty.
Trying to bridge this chasm between Catholic teaching and Marxist ideology is an impossible task, so in order to make his argument, David Mills does not actually attack Catholic teaching, but sets up a caricature of it which is far more vulnerable. He writes, “One young couple I know wanted to become Catholic but had been warned by their doctor that another pregnancy might kill the wife. They could become Catholics, as long as they never made love again.”
Mills claims to be concerned with the difficulties of grinding poverty, but perhaps he should first strive to pull himself up by his bootstraps out of his impoverished understanding of the Catholic faith. Marriage cannot exist without the husband and wife being joined in one flesh in an openness to life. This is one of the many sacrifices that all married couples must make. Indeed, there are many couples struggling with infertility for whom this sacrifice is all the greater.
Marriage is full of sacrifices. Pregnancy is full of sacrifices. Child-rearing is full of sacrifices. A virtuous life is full of sacrifices. In our decadent culture, these sacrifices are never easy, but as Christians, we make these sacrifices with the joy of love. Christ says, “My yoke is easy and my burthen is light.” If we for a moment believe that we are on our own and the challenges before us are too great, then we will be proven right and we will fail. The greater our difficulties and setbacks in every aspect of life, the more we must place our trust in the assistance of the divine graces which flow from our baptism, our anointing, and our vocation.
One of the commissions of the Church is to serve the poor, but it is never at the expense of the truth. One truth, perhaps the greatest truth of our existence, is that without loving mothers and fathers open to life, we would not be here at all. In this fact, there is no room for vague equivocations or impossible contradictions. Rich or poor, strong or weak, young or old, these distinctions make no difference: life is the greatest gift. All that we do to love and serve God and our neighbor proceeds from that precious blessing.