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Pope Benedict’s October prayer intentions September 30, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, scandals.
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I thought you might want to see these, especially the first:

That Catholic universities may more and more be places where, in the light of the Gospel, it is possible to experience the harmonious unity existing between faith and reason”.

His mission intention is “That World Mission Day may afford an occasion for understanding that the task of proclaiming Christ is an absolutely necessary service to which the Church is called for the benefit of humanity

There are many problems in the Church, but there are few more pressing than the collapse of Catholic education.  I pray for much better Catholic education just about every day.

Pill, sexual revolution make women miserable September 30, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Abortion, Basics, General Catholic, Society.
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According to George Cardinal Pell, the pill and the sexual revolution it helped foster have dramatically decreased not only women’s happiness, but also their economic and social well being:

FAR from bringing equality, contraception has redistributed power away from women, says George Pell. 

The Australian – THIS year is the 50th anniversary of the contraceptive pill, a development that has changed Western life enormously, in some ways most people do not understand.

While majority opinion regards the pill as a significant social benefit for giving women greater control of their fertility, the consensus is not overwhelming, especially among women.

A May CBS News poll of 591 adult Americans found that 59 per cent of men and 54 per cent of women believed the pill had made women’s lives better.

In an article in the ecumenical journal First Things that month, North American economist Timothy Reichert approached the topic with “straight-forward microeconomic reasoning”, concluding that contraception had triggered a redistribution of wealth and power from women and children to men.

Applying the insights of the market, he points out that relative scarcity or abundance affects behaviour in important ways and that significant technological changes, such as the pill, have broad social effects. His basic thesis is that the pill has divided what was once a single mating market into two markets.

This first is a market for sexual relationships, which most young men and women frequent early in their adult life. The second is a market for marital or partnership relationships, where most participate later on.

Because the pill means that participation in the sex market need not result in pregnancy, the costs of having premarital and extra-marital sex have been lowered.

The old single mating market was populated by roughly the same number of men and women, but this is no longer the case in the two new markets.

Because most women want to have children, they enter the marriage market earlier than men, often by their early 30s. Men are under no such constraints.

Evolutionary biology dictates that there will always be more men than women in the sex market. Their natural roles are different. Women take nine months to make a baby, while it takes a man 10 minutes. St Augustine claimed that the sacrament of marriage was developed to constrain men to take an interest in their children.

Men leave the sex market at a higher average age than women to enter the marriage market.

This means that women have a higher bargaining power in the sex market while they remain there (because of the larger number of men there) but face much stiffer competition for marriageable men (because of the lower supply) than earlier generations.

In other words, men take more of “the gains from trade” that marriage produces today.

Reichert also claims that this market division produces several self-reinforcing consequences, including more infidelity.

From a Christian viewpoint it is incongruous and inappropriate to consider baby-free infidelity as an advantage for women or men.

But younger women are likelier to link up with older, successful men than older women with young men, as any number of married women can attest after rearing children, only to find their husband has left for a younger woman.

Another consequence is a greater likelihood of divorce. Because of their lower bargaining power, more women strike “bad deals” in marriage and later feel compelled to escape. This is easier today because the social stigma of divorce has declined and because of no-fault divorce laws.

More women also can afford to divorce and, in some cases, prenuptial agreements provide insurance against the worst.

Only the official teaching of the Catholic Church remains opposed to the pill and indeed all artificial contraception, but this is not even a majority position among Catholic churchgoers of child-bearing age.

Indeed, this particular Catholic teaching is often cited as diminishing the church’s authority to teach on morality among Catholics themselves, as well as provoking disbelief and even astonishment among other Christians and non-believers.

Catholic teaching does not require women to do nothing but have children but it does ask couples to be open to kids and to be generous.

What this means in any particular situation is for each couple to decide.

Progressive Catholic opinion 40 or 50 years ago urged believers to follow their consciences and reject the church’s opposition to artificial contraception. Today’s advocates of the primacy of personal conscience urge Catholics to pick and choose among the church’s teachings on marriage, sexuality and life issues, although they generally allow fewer liberties in social justice or ecology.

These changes, regarded as progressive or misguided depending on one’s viewpoint, are not coincidental but follow from the revolutionary consequences of the pill on moral thinking and social behaviour; on the broadening endorsement of a moral individualism that ignores or rejects as inevitable the damage inflicted on the social fabric. This revolution was reinforced by the music of the 1960s, for example Mick Jagger’s Rolling Stones, or the Beatles.

While early Catholic supporters of the pill claimed it would diminish the number of abortions, this has not eventuated. Whatever the causes, abortion rates have increased dramatically since the mid-60s in Australia and the US, although the number has peaked.

Real-life experience suggests that the “contraceptive mentality” pope Paul VI warned about in 1968 has had unforeseen consequences. To paraphrase Reichert, an unwanted baby threatens prosperity and lifestyle, making abortion seem necessary.

It is the women who bear most of the burden of trauma and grief from abortions.

Even women who believe deeply in the Christian notion of godly forgiveness, and those who do not believe in God at all, can battle for years with unassuaged guilt.

In support of his claims that women are bearing a disproportionate burden in the new paradigm, Reichert cites evidence that in the past 35 years across the industrialised world women’s happiness has declined absolutely and relative to men.

We have a new gender gap where men report a higher subjective wellbeing. This decline in women’s happiness coincides broadly with the arrival of the sexual revolution, triggered by the invention of the pill.

The ancient Christian consensus, which lasted for 1900 years, linking sexual activity to the lovemaking of a husband and wife to create new life, was first broken by the Anglican Church’s Lambeth Conference approval of contraception in 1930.

In this new contraceptive era, where no Western country produces enough children to maintain population levels, the Catholic stance is isolated, rejected and often despised.

But the use of the contraceptive pill not only changes the dynamics within a family between husband and wife, it is also changing our broader society in ways we understand imperfectly.

But 50 years is not a long time; it is still early in the story.

Cardinal George Pell is the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney.

Sounds about right to me.  Comments?

h/t Sancte Pater

Funny – how society views large families September 30, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, silliness, Society.
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Continuing with the theme of unlimited reproduction from my previous post, here’s a bit I cribbed from Reflections of a Paralytic (I don’t know the story there) from an old Our Sunday Visitor on how society views large families.  Many of my readers will find much familiar here:

Here’s how society’s perception of family size appears from our side of the maternity ward:

Child No. 1: In today’s culture, everyone is entitled to have a chid. No problem there. It’s a birthright. It can be a boy or a girl – it doens’t matter.

Child No. 2: You’re allowed a second child, as long as it’s the opposite gender from your first. “How wonderful! You have one boy and one girl,” we heard when our second child came. “Now you can quit.” Quit? At 25, we’re done having kids?

Child No. 3: The culture allows you, if you insist, to have a third child, but only if you failed to get a matched set with the first two. Call it a mulligan. If you have two girls, you go for a boy; two boys, and you’re after a girl. if you blow it and get another of the same, too bad. You get no more do-overs.

Child No. 4: Now you’re just getting ridiculous, especially if the kids are close in age. You’re officially christined “Fertile Myrtle” and “Virile Cyril.” Knock it off.

Child No.5: People begin to suspect you are nuts. Or just plain irrisponsible. Or both.

Child No. 6: The diagnosis is confirmed. Besides, a family of eight is simply impractical. Most minivans seat seven. Now you need a full-size van or nine-passenger SUV, or one of those classic early 1980s station wagons with the fake wood panelings and the fold-down third bench seat (I recommend the 1983 Pontiac Parisienne).

Child No. 7: By now, anywhere you venture as a family, you are inevitably asked, “Are they all yours?” Take no offence. Between day-care, field trips and the proliferation of blended families, it’s actually a legitimate question.

Child No. 8: Since No. 5 you’ve been hearing that timelessly coarse quip, “Don’t you know what causes that?” You have permenant teeth marks on your toungue from trying to suppress snappy sarcastic replies. (One wouldn’t think of making remarks about fertility to couples with few or no children. Why are large families fair game?)

Child No. 9: Neighbors, strangers and even a few well meaning friends have pretty much given up on you long before now. They compare your progeny to sprting events: With nine, you’ve got a baseball team.

Child No. 10: You’ve gone American League and added a designated hitter.

This is exactly what happened to us.  So, we had a child, a girl.  Then, another girl.  Everyone is ok with that.  When my wife got pregnant again, everyone was saying “you’re trying for a boy, huh?”  When it turned out to be twins, friends and strangers alike laughed at the trick God played on us….”see, you got greedy, and God gave you a surprise!”  When they also turned out to be both girls, well, we had to be done now, right?  With the next baby, people immediately assumed I had some massive complex about having a “male heir” (heir of what?  I don’t have much to inherit).  When the sixth was a boy, we of course HAD to be done at that point, right?  “You got your boy, you’re done now, right?”  Well, no, not necessarily.  We don’t know.  Maybe, it depends on what God wants.  “Oh, you’re one of those God-botherers……”

I actually love telling people about my wife’s family.  My father in law has 9 children, 61 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.  It’s pretty funny having to whip out a calculator to add up all his grand-children.

America’s low fertility rate – why? September 30, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, sickness, Society.
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Chelsea at Reflections of a Paralytic has some answers:

The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan V. Last takes a look at declining fertility rates world-wide. It’s a very long article, but it’s interesting to see how many countries seem to have voluntarily adopted China’s forced “one child” policy over the years. His main focus is America (which has a fertility rate of about 2.06, so pretty darn close!), who he says owes it’s decline in birth rates to a variety of cultural and economic factors: the American drive for education, the broadening of women’s career paths and delayed family formation, a higher cost of living over the years and the rise in government programs (social security, medicare, etc…) that have reduced the pressing “need” for one to have children who will help take care them in old age (nevermind the fact that these programs, to be effective in the long run, require a steady supply of new workers to replace the ones who retire and want to reap their benefits).

And then, of course, there’s this:

If the G.I. Bill could wreak so much havoc on fertility rates, imagine the effects of the last century’s two great changes in sexual life: the contraceptive pill and the legalization of on-demand abortion. Calculating the number of babies not born because of the birth control pill is impossible. But without confusing correlation and causation, it is worth noting that the pill became available in America and much of the West in 1960, the precise moment when fertility rates began heading into deep decline.

On the other hand, it is quite easy to make an accounting of abortion’s effects. Before the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the tide of public opinion in America was against abortion. Accordingly, there were relatively few abortions, even though most states allowed for early-term abortions. In 1970, for example, there were 193,491 reported legal abortions. Certainly, this number undercounts the real total because it does not include illegal abortions. But let’s take 200,000 as a baseline. In 1973, as Roe created a universal abortion right, the number of reported abortions rose to 744,600. The next year, that number rose by 20 percent, to 898,600 abortions. By this time all abortions were legal, and so we can be confident that this number is fairly accurate. Over the course of the next 15 years the number of abortions rose by almost 100 percent.

In 1973—the year of the Roe decision—there were 3.1 million babies born. Over the next 10 years that number rose only slightly, despite the fact that America’s total population was increasing quickly. Why weren’t there more babies born in the decade following Roe? Because during that time, 13.6 million were aborted—meaning that 28.5 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion. Since Roe more than 49.5 million babies have been aborted in the United States, and the fertility rate has varied inversely to the abortion rate, generally declining when abortion is on the rise and rising when abortion is on the decline.

Last goes on in his article to spell out what he thinks the government could do to try to promote procreation (reducing taxes for every child born per family, reformatting the college system, etc…), but is that really enough to reverse this trend?

It seems to me the problem is a lot deeper than potential parents needing a little extra money in their pockets and a quicker education. Just look at what passes for “entertainment” and largely influences our society these days. It is obvious that one of the main reasons Americans are having less children is because, for the most part, they simply do not value large or even medium-large families, period (just ask any couple expecting their 4th or 5th – sometimes even just their 3rd – child what kind of comments they get from people), nor do they necessarily hold the traditional family model or its values in very high esteem, either. Our morals have drastically changed over the past few decades and there’s little the government can do to really change that. Not that they shouldn’t try to make America more “family friendly”. One of the best ways they could do that (which Last doesn’t mention): get rid of abortion on demand. Would this end abortion altogether? No. But, as you can clearly see by the numbers above, at least less children are killed when abortion is illegal.

What we really need in this country is to get our priorities straight. To put God’s will above our own selfish desires and to rediscover the value of marriage and family and the truth and meaning of human sexuality.

Ultimately, the collapse in America’s birthrates is a moral issue.  We can make abortion illegal, but until hearts and minds are changed the birthrate will not increase.  Some may not see the problem in having a low birth-rate: the problems, though manifold, do not obviously and quickly materialize.  The entire structure of this nation’s social welfare system is predicated on a steadily expanding population.  That is why so many in government favor massive immigration, in spite of all the problems it causes, because they see that as a possible solution to the problem of low birth-rate and lack of population growth.  But immigrants tend to be poor, they tend to be consumer of services rather than contributors to services for others, and there are cultural problems from absorbing and assimilating huge waves of immigration that lead to all kinds of social issues, from crime to failing schools to potential for backlash.  A far better path is for governments to encourage larger families, but as “reflections of a paralytic” notes, these will only have a limited impact.  The only real way forward is to, with charity but some zeal, to explain to the dominant culture that the path it has chosen out of selfishness and obeisance to a hyper-materialized lifestyle will only lead to the eventual collapse of that society.  There are numerous reasons, as Christians, to have large families – these need to be emphasized.  But we also need to stress the practical advantages of having larger families, and get people to recognize that the short term perceived benefits of having 1 or 2 kids at most are outweighed by the long term damage to the economic and social life of the world.