To Rome, one way or another

March 29, 2010

Although I avoid the news as much as I can, since I get a little too… involved in it, I am aware of the recent health care bill passage and at least some of the reactions it has sparked. Opponents are outraged, appalled, fearing for our country, slamming the President for being a fascist, etc. While all these reactions may be valid responses to certain evils of bill passage, I think a little perspective is needed to keep all of us at peace.

Living in the pocket of a foreigner is eye opening at times, and especially so when it comes to politics. Although neither me nor Chris are political enthusiasts, we have our views. More so I have realized that we have our assumptions shaped by the society around us. Particularly, Americans have the assumption that democracy is the best system and the majority is right.

We were watching Star Wars with our three-year-old daughter, Isabel, the other day. Don’t worry, it was a highly edited version. In episode III, the Republic was being taken over by the soon to be Emperor and Padme says, “This is how freedom dies, with thunderous applause!” Later, when confronting her beloved Anakin about whether he had turned to the dark side, she didn’t seem overly upset at him “killing younglings”. Instead, it was when he turned his back on democracy that she gasped in horror and left him. My parents like most Americans also have this weird idea that Christianity, and goodness itself, is inextricably tied to democracy.

Democracy is a system founded on the power of the vote, but a vote is only as good as the opinion of those who cast the vote. The vote is ruled by the majority, and in the absence of a moral code, the majority is not always right. Effectively, the majority becomes the mighty, and the vote ensures that might makes right.

Another weak point in the American system is that it is not actually a democracy. It is a republic. We elect officials who vote on issues for us, and once they are elected we can do little to affect their vote. Most of the time, our “representatives” are not representatives. These legislators have their own ideas of what is right and wrong and will make laws accordingly. Moreover, we are limited in our choice of those we elect to those who run for office, which in turn is limited to the wealthy or those backed by the wealthy. There may be exceptions, but this is how it generally goes, and most the time Americans vehemently defend this system as if it is, in itself, a righteous absolute or basic human right. It is merely the best we can do right now, and as we have seen recently, it is not nearly good enough.

The reason the democratic ideal in America is failing is that its people are in the midst of a long and painful divorce from the philosophy that has for so long shaped their morality. Far too few people have a clear picture of the history of the world, and the flavors that filled the world in different times. Before Christ came, Rome ruled what was known as the civilized world, surrounded by what they called “barbarians”, those outside of the Roman Empire. Although barbarians were seen as uncivilized, it can be easily seen from Roman culture that nothing during the time immediately preceding the coming of Christ could be called civilized by our standards today. The Roman Empire was a military run society, loosely an oligarchic republic of sorts, but holding all sorts of vicious and inhuman behavior as acceptable. Without a second thought for the value and dignity of an individual human, they practiced forms of brutality like gladiator games, slavery, abortion and cruel punishments like crucifixion. There was corruption in the form of exorbitant taxes, extortion, and distorted sexual behaviors like homosexuality, male infidelity, incest, pedophilia, and prostitution. Although these offenses occur in current times as well, in the Roman Empire they were culturally accepted. The powerful created the laws, and the weak were crushed underfoot, because the society was shaped by the philosophy its people held. Although the ancient Romans had religion in the form of multiple gods like Jupiter, Mars, and Neptune, there was little morality beyond that of the mighty. Strength was admired and victory was noble. Power over others was the highest Roman virtue, and there was no lasting hope for the people, for even the power they possessed was lost at death.

Jesus Christ preached a message of self-sacrifice and eternal hope. He taught us to give our lives for others rather than seeking power over others, and Christ Himself gave His life for the forgiveness of our sins as our perfect example of the love we are to have. In a society that despised the powerless, Christianity thrived because it gave hope in a world of despair. There was meaning in its message of love and resurrection, and so Christians faced persecution, humiliation, and martyrdom against all apparent reason. The Christian civilization that rose from the moral ashes of ancient Rome had a new life. These people sought a moral goodness that was well defined by the Catholic Church who united, strengthened and expanded their society. Slavery faded as a practice until it disappeared, since a Christian could hardly keep a fellow Christian brother as his slave. People were urged to give to the poor, to make sacrifices for God and the Church, to spend their lives in service to others, and to be content with having the necessities of life instead of seeking great wealth. The high middle ages were a beautiful time for the human soul. This was the nature of Christian morality that laid the foundation for our society today.

Yet a century or so before the Reformation, this high Christian society began to face the inevitable poisoning of corruption from those who still sought power instead of goodness. The Reformation protested the corruption for good reason, but the Reformers lost sight of the cause of the problems, and broke with the institutional authority of the Catholic Church, rejecting and revising all her teachings rather than just the corrupt practices. Over the next century, the separation became permanent, and the Christian institution that had for so long directed the society around it was weakened. Five centuries after the Reformation, Christian society is even more fractured and its influence on the philosophy of secular society has steadily decreased.

There is now a battle going on between those of differing philosophies. The Christians, more and more so only the conservative Christians and I believe eventually only the Catholic Christians, hold to value and dignity of individual human life. We oppose abortion and euthanasia. We call for right action and fairness toward all people. We desire goodness rather than power. Those who hold secular philosophies are not without morality, but they are without an absolute morality. They retain a vestigial morality like a distant memory of their ancient religion, but the grounds for what they believe is right and wrong shift as their position shifts. They legalize and fight for the right to infringe on the lives and dignity of others when it is convenient for them to do so. The life of an unborn and unwanted child is seen as insignificant only because it has no ability to defend itself, and in the absence of Christian morality, might makes right. Power is sought and the strong make the rules. The majority wins in a democratic society, and without the foundation of Christian morality the majority will not care for the weak and powerless. As the moral tide of our society continues to turn away from the Rome of the Catholic Church, it is returning to the barbarism of ancient Rome.

As individuals, we make a choice whether to live for ourselves as the Romans, or to live for each other as the Catholic Christians. The world and our country are made of individuals, but we cannot make their choice for them. Though their failing morality and hence our failing democracy saddens us, it should not make us despair. Our hope is not, nor has it ever been, in our own power to create a perfect society or perfect governmental system. Our hope is in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, His death that we share that we may also share in His glory and resurrection. Though the world around us falls further from goodness, it is only a sign of the movements of society as a whole, and the light of Christ has never failed to shine in the darkest places at the darkest times. We are His light, and whatever governmental laws are passed, we will still act in accordance with the laws of God.

Let us try to keep this all in perspective when the health care bill fails to uphold righteousness in many respects. We can also be thankful for the improvements it has made, since it is criminal to drop an insured just as they need the insurance they have paid so long for, or to not cover a child on a pre-existing condition when they need care. Above all, we can be grateful that Christ has come and changed us, so that we are no longer barbarians, and have through Him the ability to be in this world and not of it.

Isn’t NFP Just Another Birth Control?

December 15, 2009

My most recent RCIA class was on the subject of marriage. When we got to the bit about the Church’s teachings banning contraception, there were questions. One woman in particular asked, “Isn’t using Natural Family Planning to avoid a pregnancy the same as using birth control to avoid a pregnancy? Isn’t it just another birth control?” I so badly wanted to answer her, especially because I could see that she was where I was three years ago, but my raised hand was lost in a sea of hands and too little time. I went to find her after the class, but she had left in the middle. What I would have said to her, I can write here for everyone who asks google the difference between postponing births by birth control and postponing by Natural Family Planning.

Proponents of NFP say the ends don’t justify the means, such that postponing births or spacing children doesn’t justify birth control. They usually don’t say exactly why the birth control means is bad except to say that it isn’t open to life. But if you’re trying not to have kids with NFP, you’re not very open to life either, except to the miraculous 0.1% life that may still be conceived. So why is birth control bad? Some say if you use birth control, you’re withholding your fertility from your spouse. But… aren’t you withholding your fertility from your spouse if you don’t have sex with them when you’re fertile?

The difference between NFP and birth control is that with birth control you have sex, but change the act itself such that you deny the natural consequences of sex. When my husband presented this argument to me, telling me that contraception destroyed the natural order of the sex act, I didn’t see what was wrong with changing the natural order of things. After all, we change the natural course of diseases with medicine as best we can, and that is good. Why can’t we achieve the good of postponing births when needed through the same means? There is that difference between pregnancy and disease though. Pregnancy is a good thing for which we were designed. Disease is a malfunction, our bodies falling short of how they are supposed to work. Regardless, I saw pregnancy as sometimes undesirable, and didn’t see why we can’t interfere during that undesirable time the same as when we interfere with our undesirable medical problems.

The “natural order” of sex refers to the natural observation that sex is both unitive and procreative. It brings a man and woman together physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It also is for the creation of new life. This is what the Church teaches, and this is the natural order that they preserve with their teachings. We should not interfere with the natural consequences of sex, whether it be during a fertile or infertile time. Neither should we change and distort the sex act itself to be merely for pleasure, objectifying our partner.

Contraception changes the natural order of the sex act, and its primary goal is to eliminate the consequence of children. If we can change the nature of the act itself to avoid children, then why can we not also change the act itself for other reasons? With contraception it’s easy enough to have sex whenever you want, with your spouse, for pleasure alone. Why not have sex however you want for pleasure? With this goal in mind, there’s no reason to believe things like masturbation and pornography are wrong. When it’s used for pleasure alone, why not have sex with whoever we want, premaritally even, since it becomes merely a recreational activity with no other consequences, procreative or unitive. When we define sex by what we want it to be, not by what it is naturally, there is no objective way to determine where to draw the line. Moreover, all of these steps are extensions of the same line of thought. They all separate sex from its consequences and change the God-given order. They are all attempts for us to define what sex is instead of accepting what God has ordained.

Arguments would not have changed my mind. What has changed my mind is my experiences showing me that changing the natural order of sex leads to evil. I’ve seen the mindset that people fall into when they think it’s their right to distort sex. I’ve seen the extent people will go to in order to avoid the consequences of sex. Because of this, I’ve come to realize the wisdom of the Catholic Church’s teaching.

A breakthrough in my understanding the value of NFP came when I was battling the recently proposed pro-abortion Freedom of Choice Act. In researching things, I read up on Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood. Although much of Margaret Sanger’s work was done at a time when there was poor health care and women often died from childbirth, her work was done in the name of sexual freedom. She believed women were suppressed by men through child-bearing and that only through controlling their reproductivity absolutely could women be free and in turn lower the population and better society. In particular, she believed society would be bettered by lowering the poor and non-Caucasian population. In this, she believed that women should have “no gods and no masters” and be “the absolute mistress of her own body”. Although she thought sexuality was a weakness, she wanted to control the “negative side effects” and worked hard for sex without consequences.

Sanger believed that her most sacred goals of sex without consequences and total individual autonomy would bring happiness to us all. This is the “contraceptive mindset” and it’s alive and well in varying degrees throughout the world. You can see it in the ordinary couple who uses birth control to postpone births, because they want sex without the consequence of children. You can see it at strip clubs when men go objectify women, separating sexuality even from a partner, because they want sex without unity. You can see it in abortion clinics when pregnant and single women go to eliminate the natural consequence of sex, because they want sex without children. You can even see this attempt to change the natural order and have things the way we want it when couples use in vitro fertilization to have children. Many end up with multiples and sadly they are three times more likely to divorce. Our attempts to be our own master, have things the way we want it, and pick and choose what consequences we accept inevitably end in pain because we are trying to have our own will instead of God’s will. Only God’s perfect will entirely contains His own perfect goodness and can bring us whole happiness.

So the Catholic Church has drawn a line. Do not separate the sex act from its natural and good God-given consequences. During infertile times, there is usually no natural consequence of having a child. During fertile times, if you are unable to handle the natural consequence of a child, don’t have sex. They haven’t created these rules to make things hard on people or make them feel guilty. They haven’t created these rules to overrun the Earth with an enormous population of cradle Catholics. They have guided Catholics in these matters because there is a right and wrong way to handle our sexuality, like every other created thing. There is no Catholic corporate conspiracy motivating their stubbornness regarding contraception. It is only that they stubbornly lead Christians in God’s truth. It is a Christian ideal to surrender your self to God’s will, not to grasp at being your own master. It is Christian to accept the good consequences that God has ordained for our actions, not to try to take what we want and leave what we don’t, inevitably perverting His goodness. I’m able to accept these teachings now because I’ve seen that contraception grasps autonomy and leads down a road of avoiding consequences. I’ve seen that the contraceptive attitude is anti-Christian in nature, because the Christian attitude submits our own desires and will to God’s perfect will.

This post doesn’t address other factors that come into play with NFP, it was really only written to answer the question, “What is the difference between NFP and birth control?” The answer is that NFP does not change the nature of the sex act itself. You abstain from sex instead of separating sex from its consequences. It is the sex act itself that left intact when postponing children with NFP. That is better and more holy than dissecting sex, taking what you want, and leaving everything, including your soul, in pieces.

Now I feel I understand the reasons for using NFP, but it doesn’t always make it easier to follow through on it. Not that it’s difficult or ineffective. By actually doing it, the concerns I had about that beforehand are laughable now. I know a time will come when after we’ve had our five or six children on the menu, we’ll be “done”. We won’t want to have any more. Considering the fact that Chris and I began our marriage eight months pregnant, I know that I will not be open to life indefinitely. I know that there will come a time when I want just me and him, and that will probably be before I go through menopause. After years of practice, continuing to use NFP will not be difficult, but I know my attitude will not be right. I know that I will be using NFP with a contraceptive mentality, wanting to take control of my life and have sex without children. My intent will be selfish although the method will still be good. I pray God will give me the grace to be ready for this challenge by the time it comes, and I will do my best to accept His will in all things and to trust Him.

Responding to the Liturgy in Love and Unity

March 10, 2009

I’m not sure I have the delicacy or balance to be discussing the issue of orthodoxy in the Catholic liturgy. However, I have seen many extreme blog posts crying for orthodoxy, and none giving it balance urging acceptance of flaws in the Church community. I will make my best attempt to give such balance, and I beg from everyone that they not take offense. Any reference that may sound like you is not. I assure everyone that the issues I’m discussing are not just found in one or even a couple places.

There is a general cry among bloggers, especially of recent converts to Catholicism or those contemplating conversion, to have a strictly orthodox mass. There are complaints about semi-heretical music choices and flubbed wording in the liturgy. I have heard complaints about the “Judas shufflers” ducking out after communion, which happens to be my pet peeve. Worse, RCIA poorly catechizes initiates and they’re left with confused and vague notions of the Church. Most seriously, there are complaints about poor handling of the Eucharist. Since Vatican II relaxed many things including the liturgy, some believe those on the ground have taken the freedoms too far. Catholic parishes are accused of trying to be Protestant in their laxness and trendiness. Thankfully, Pope Benedict XVI seems to be fighting against this backlash from Vatican II.

This isn’t the whole story. There are plenty of people who love their bishops and I’m one of them. I love Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Finn, who both have urged the priorities of life and charity in their diocese. During election time, they were hugely vocal about pro-life issues, and even now they fight FOCA and similar legislation with a vengeance. More than ever during these economic hardships, they not only urge parishioners to share with their fellow man and give to the Archbishop’s Call to Share appeal, which supports programs and charities in the area (it has already exceeded its goal of $4 million), but they also urge those in need to come forward and give their brothers an opportunity to share with them. One of our priests gives regular homilies on being a proper Catholic, stressing personal encounter with Christ and sincere and complete observance in every expression of it. There are people doing it right, and people who want to do it right, including those bloggers crying for orthodoxy.

Besides those specific examples, the Church as a whole is getting things right. Running in online apologetic circles, I’m convinced more than ever that the insipid, passive, ignorant stereotype of all Catholics is just a stereotype and there are plenty of examples of those well-versed and passionate in the Faith. Also, the Church still stands against homosexuality, contraception, and abortion where all others have fallen by the wayside. Without a strong root of faith and the blessing of God working through His children, we would never see such positive fruit.

Still, there are those who would separate themselves from the failing liturgies and unorthodox communities. Many travel a long way to find an orthodox mass to attend. But why? Doing that is not addressing the problem. I believe it may even worsen the problem by removing those few who do carefully observe from the community that so desperately needs them. What is the motivation in such a case? I do not pretend to read the hearts of men and women, but if the motivation is selfish, so that said person can distance themselves from the rotten apples and experience the pleasure of orthodoxy, then the motivation is wrong. In all things, we must be motivated by love that is not inward-looking and divisive, but outward-looking and unitive.

Some may protest from their love for God that abuses in the liturgy dishonor Him, and scandalize others, making it difficult to worship Him. Honor and glory given to God is important in itself, but is this the sole purpose of the liturgy? Don’t we all profess the same creed and say the Lord’s prayer, partake of the same divine nature in the Eucharist, to preserve unity of the Faith and of the Body of Christ? Take care with this protest that your motivation is not pure legalism. The liturgy is designed to honor God, but I believe it is designed mostly to unify the Church in the Faith. Legalistic attitudes only destroy the purpose of the liturgy and divide the Body of Christ further.

Yet another reason everyone seems to be so passionate about orthodoxy in the liturgy is because it affects our Faith. This is how we are spiritually fed and how we maintain and pass on the beliefs of our Faith. But we must not make the mistake of thinking messy liturgy causes lazy faith, rather the opposite is true. The poorly catechized and careless individuals are the source of this complaint. We can’t just fix the liturgy when it is merely a symptom. Lack of faith in the people is the real problem, but separating ourselves from them is not the answer. Instead, we must work to strengthen the faith of others by being a good example, giving our fellowship, and volunteering to teach and serve them.

My primary concern is not checking what people are saying or doing, it’s checking the motivation behind their criticism. Our words and actions must be motivated by love, or the most perfect liturgy sounding of the “tongues of men and angels” is worth nothing. For easy reference, I’ve included the entire description of a response born in love below.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Maybe we should ask ourselves whether we want orthodox liturgy because it better honors God, or because it better serves a need to feel close to Him. In the latter case, we may be ignoring committed faith which overcomes that empty loss of the presence of God. This kind of faith has become vitally important for me since attending to the needs of my children make it nigh impossible to work up an emotional connect to God, especially during mass. Mother Teresa lived with this kind of emptiness for fifty years. She told Malcolm Muggeridge, who was suffering from the same:

Your longing for God is so deep and yet He keeps Himself away from you. He must be forcing Himself to do so — because he loves you so much — the personal love Christ has for you is infinite — The Small difficulty you have regarding His Church is finite — Overcome the finite with the infinite.

In an article about Come Be My Light, we hear more about abandoning our feelings and working in commitment:

Kolodiejchuk thinks the book may act as an antidote to a cultural problem. “The tendency in our spiritual life but also in our more general attitude toward love is that our feelings are all that is going on,” he says. “And so to us the totality of love is what we feel. But to really love someone requires commitment, fidelity and vulnerability. Mother Teresa wasn’t ‘feeling’ Christ’s love, and she could have shut down. But she was up at 4:30 every morning for Jesus, and still writing to him, ‘Your happiness is all I want.’ That’s a powerful example even if you are not talking in exclusively religious terms.”

I do understand that the liturgy is important, and if we are critical of it out of concern for the corporate Body of Christ and love for God, then there are certain actions available to us. The canon law says it is the duty of the priest to guard against abuses and ensure the nourishment of the faithful through “devout celebration”. It also declares the right of the faithful to take their opinions and needs to the priest, adding that we should act in concern for the common good of the Church and in reverence and obedience to the priest.

Canon 528 §2. He is to work so that the Christian faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the sacraments and, in a special way, that they frequently approach the sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and penance. He is also to endeavor that they are led to practice prayer even as families and take part consciously and actively in the sacred liturgy which, under the authority of the diocesan bishop, the pastor must direct in his own parish and is bound to watch over so that no abuses creep in.

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

Can. 218 Those engaged in the sacred disciplines have a just freedom of inquiry and of expressing their opinion prudently on those matters in which they possess expertise, while observing the submission due to the magisterium of the Church.

Can. 223 §1. In exercising their rights, the Christian faithful, both as individuals and gathered together in associations, must take into account the common good of the Church, the rights of others, and their own duties toward others.

§2. In view of the common good, ecclesiastical authority can direct the exercise of rights which are proper to the Christian faithful.

Throughout, we must be careful of our own behavior. Working for the common good means not only striving for the sanctification of your community through faithful observance, but also avoiding divisive and negative language toward the Church. If our efforts outlined above and our requests directed toward those in authority meet with overruling, we must submit quietly. Love and obedience guide the sound walk of the Catholic faithful. Above all, behave in a manner worthy of the gospel, and, in every thing we do, build up the Body of Christ.

The frustration of living with rejected efforts and careless liturgies may be hard to deal with, but take heart. St. Josemaria Escriva contemplates the dual-natured Body of Christ, that of humanity and that of divinity, in In Love with the Church. Perhaps he can help us see past the despairing treason in the Church, and love her, flaws and all.

In the visible body of the Church, in the behavior of men who make it up here on earth, we find weaknesses, vacillations, and acts of treason. But that is not the whole Church, nor is it to be confused with this unworthy behavior. On the other hand, here and now, there is no shortage of generosity, of heroism, of holy lives that make no noise, that are spent with joy in the service of their brothers in the faith and of all souls.

I would also like you to consider that even if human failings were to outnumber acts of valor, the clear undeniable mystical reality of the Church, though unperceived by the senses, would still remain. The Church would still be the Body of Christ, our Lord himself, the action of the Holy Spirit and the loving presence of the Father.

The Church is, therefore, inseparably human and divine…

It would be a serious mistake to attempt to separate the charismatic Church, supposedly the sole follower of Christ’s spirit, from the juridical or institutional Church, the handiwork of men, subject to historical vicissitudes. There is only one Church…

Faith, I repeat. Let us believe more, asking the Blessed Trinity, whose feast we celebrate today, for greater faith. Anything can happen, except for the thrice holy God to abandon his spouse.

I believe we should approach the Church in the same way we approach marriage. A marriage based on unrealistic expectations is doomed to fail. One in which both partners are grounded in reality, aware of their duties and committed to them, and willing to overlook a good deal of imperfection is bound to be happy and fulfilling. Like in a marriage, we need things from the Church, but she needs us as well. Although we go to her so that our needs can be met, our duty is to perform our specific function with perfection. We must know our place and perfectly fulfill our call, trusting that Christ will fulfill his promise and meet our needs in return.

Despite the loss of orthodox liturgy, we are still needed to serve the broken Church in the hope of healing her. Your broken and sinful communities need you. If you know more about the faith than the RCIA instructor, get certified as a catechist, and volunteer to teach. Befriend your fellow Catholics, join the community, be a good example of how a devout Catholic should behave at mass. Request traditional songs of your choral director. I requested Latin hymns to the chagrin of our old choral director, but she complied. You may be surprised how God can use your effort.

I urge everyone, do not abandon your communities, do not rob them of your fellowship — you are needed right where you are! Don’t separate yourselves from them because they are not good enough. None of us are. Don’t grumble, and do not speak out of turn and correct those in authority over you unless it’s serious enough that the mass may not be valid. Be certain that you strive for personal perfection in the body of Christ because of a sincere and holy love for Christ and his Spouse, and not out of an obtuse legalism. When our motivation is always, first and foremost, love for God, and, secondly, love for our neighbor, then we will not go wrong.

The Rights and Duties of Men and Women

October 9, 2008

I’ve been reading up on a lot of feminism issues, economic issues, birth control, abortion – mostly the role of women in society. Women blame men for suppressing them and their pursuits of wealth and their development as an individual. Though a male dominant society with laws made by and businesses run by chauvinists have been an injustice women have necessarily overcome, I expound the idea that we’ve gone too far. In the fight for equal opportunity, sexual liberation, control over our bodies, the basic rights of self-development and self-reliance, we haven’t stopped to ask the question whether men should pursue self-interests much less whether we should follow suit.

This begs the question of what has actually been achieved in all of this. Women have earned their place in the workforce. This is better than being sidelined as a librarian or schoolmarm in order to make a living. We should be paid the same for the same job, have the opportunities to excel at what we’re good at, earn our own living. But now women are told that to have any kind of innate value, they have to be at work and not at home. When we do have children, we’re supposed to put our children in daycare and keep working. The family is low priority and “self-development” is top priority, the goal of many feminists. Women aren’t “just a mom” anymore; they’re thriving, intelligent, happy individuals. Or are they?

Is the workforce that desirable a place to be or does it require hard work, filling needs of others, frustration, tedium, and a lot of time, just like working at home? This isn’t the idealistic vision people have of a career that fulfills your need for self-worth. We don’t live in a world of “Sex and the City”, reality is much more like “Office Space”. This is the real world of working families. Most people work for someone else. Many people hate the job they’re in. Overwhelming majorities of people are in the job for the money, not the love of what they do.

Many families are now double income families, but are no better off for it. The cost of living has increased, and working mothers have become fodder for the capitalist. Although some mothers have to work to support their families, once they have two or more children in daycare it’s no longer cost effective. Maybe it’s not true for all of us, but for most of us it is. We’re pawns in another person’s game of self-interest, and it’s not always a man’s game.

Another facet of the search for equality and self-fulfillment is found in the sexual revolution. Women like Margaret Sanger promoted birth control as a means of ushering in the new race of small prosperous families and elevating women in society. It really just led to women behaving like men. Sexual equality for all! Men have sex without consequences and shirk their responsibilities, women should be able to as well! Now we can. But did anyone stop to think that men shouldn’t do that either? Women are desperately grasping at the right to behave like dysfunctional men. So we successfully have become dysfunctional women.

Again, the capitalist takes advantage of this. They would have you believe birth control and abortion are liberating. They display utopian commercials for Yaz or the NuvaRing that takes away our womanhood altogether. Don’t like being a girl? We’ll give you hormones to stop ovulation! We’ll wreak havoc on your body and make it difficult for you to get pregnant when you actually want to. You can have everything! But we end up with less than we bargain for.

All of this comes from the drive for self-development and autonomy. Women fought so hard to gain the right of acting in self-interest, just as men do. This achievement isn’t the creation of civilization, as Malthusians predicted it. Selfishness is the destruction of civilization, and it began when men started acting selfishly.

As capitalists, men did their best to earn wealth and a prominent place in society at the expense of the less ambitious. Capitalists take advantage of the proletarian; they use the masses for cheap labor and leave them in the dust to rot. The industrial revolution was one of the most heinous times in history, with disease and poverty running rampant among the majority of the population. All the while, the capitalist had his eye on the prize – distinction, greatness, plenty for himself and his family. This is an outright wrong way to behave.

Men left their families behind at home while they worked late nights at the office, devising methods of besting the competition. Men trampled the competition and toasted their success. Men should have been providing enough for themselves, their families, and others as well. They have a responsibility to be there for their family. Even the single man has no reason to chase excess wealth at the expense of others.

Now women are doing the same by leaving their families in the care of another, shirking their responsibilities, denying children altogether, and prioritizing the search for self. I don’t presume to tell anyone what choices they should make in their lives, but I do presume to tell them what their motivation should be.

What we need to do, we all need to do, is give our selves over in service to others. Mothers should serve their children. Wives should serve their husbands, husbands their wives, and fathers their children as well. Single individuals should work in service first to avoid becoming a burden on the public, and then to elevate others past poverty and loneliness.

Every instinct within us screams out in protest of such a call to arms. We have rights! We need justice! This is the only system chosen from the pool of capitalism, socialism, communism, dictatorships, monarchies, democracies, and whatever you can think of, that will not end in corruption and collapse. Unfortunately, this system requires individuals coming to terms with his or her call to service. But the more that do, the better things will become.

Stop being a victim blaming others for obstructing your cause of self-interest and start being a solution in thinking of others first. We need to give up our rights in order to fulfill our needs. The rewards of the abolition of self are unlimited, and will invariably open up the real development of self as we are meant to be. “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”