Rejecting fertility and rejecting God
The article begins like this: “A movement of women have decided not to procreate in response to the coming ‘climate breakdown and civilisation collapse’. Will their protest be a catalyst for change?”
I can hardly think of anything I would enjoy reading about more on a frigid morning in March, so I click.
What I read is predictable but still sad, peppered with photos of earnest looking young women who report being so traumatized by the current state of affairs, whether politically, or environmentally, that they’ve opted out of procreation indefinitely, until or unless things dramatically improve.
The pain these women express as having motivated their decision to forgo motherhood is real, and their concerns are sincere. But the conclusions they have reached are so vastly upside down, so diametrically opposed to reality, such a radical rejection of what it means to be human, that it is hard to read them without getting angry.
Because these women have been fooled. They have bought into the most fundamental lie of all, that we can be like God, can take matters firmly into our own hands, and that we can save ourselves.
Most distressing and ironic is that in rejecting the possibility of motherhood, they are choosing to reject the very thing that makes us most like God: the ability to bring new life into the world, formed in His image and likeness.
I can hardly think of a more diabolical or effective strategy than one which would seek to convince women that in order to save the world, they must forgo participating in the creation of humanity.
Is it any wonder that satan would invert the order of salvation, convincing women that though it was through one woman’s fiat salvation entered the world, now that humanity is all grown up, woke as we are, we find our salvation on our own terms and by our own hands, through the closing of our wombs?
I don’t fault any woman who falls into this trap; many of us have been relentlessly instructed as to the grave dangers of our fertility, almost from infancy.
Even if we received a different message at home or in church, the incessant drumbeat of the culture and the media are loud and clear: fertility is a liability, femininity is a disability, and motherhood is a degradation and a sometimes dangerous demotion.
In order to retain our autonomy and minimize our risk and, apparently, to save the planet, perhaps it is best we not give birth to any sort of future at all, save for one which we create ourselves, for ourselves.
At its heart, rejection of procreation is a rejection of eternity, a rejection of the future.
It is also an echo, however little those who speak it might realize, of the very first non servium uttered in all of creation. It mimics the father of death in his refusal to submit to a larger vision than his own, to participate in a plan outside of his own control and design.
Reject the framework you’ve been given by your Creator, reject the mission He has revealed for you, and it’s no great leap to reject the Creator Himself.
The most audacious and revolutionary thing that a woman can do is to nurture new life into existence in a world gone dim, whether she nurtures that life in her womb or in her heart.
This is the world-shaking, culture-shaping power of motherhood. Its fruits outlive any regime, and its impact outlives any policy or programming.
To speak fierce, radical life into this flaccid, decaying culture of death, to say that come what may, I will choose to shepherd more of God into this world, to stake my life, my livelihood, and my own comfort on the possibility that He has something bigger in mind. . . this is true activism.
Don’t let the world sell you short, women. This is our moment.
“And who knows but that you have come into the kingdom for such a time as this.” – many of us are familiar with that line from the book of Esther. I think the line directly preceding it might be even more crucial: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.”
We can’t let ourselves be fooled by what passes for wisdom in this day and age. God has something so much grander in mind for us.
Jenny, I cannot thank you enough for this and all of your articles. In a world gone upside down, I am so grateful that you for one are “rightside up” and are not afraid to speak up in a warm, funny and kind way. God bless you for using the gifts God has given you to do good in this world. Keep fighting the good fight!
On point, as always.
From another mother of five!
I think the thing that’s difficult here is both the expectation of control (which you touched on) as well as the expectation of responsibility, and it’s not just coming from secular sources. To greatly oversimplify, the messaging I see most often is:
Thou shalt not have children unless and until you are 100% “ready,” where “ready” means that you are prepared to completely subsume your entire existence into shadowing each child you have, and you have an obnoxiously high amount of disposable income to optimize each child’s growth potential. Furthermore, thou shalt ensure that you control how many children you have through contraception and, if necessary, abortion. If you do have a child before you are “ready,” and your performance as a parent is less than perfect, you are stupid, ignorant, uneducated, and a worthless drain on society.
Thou shalt not have children unless and until you are 100% “ready,” where “ready” means that you are prepared to completely subsume your entire existence into shadowing each child you have, and you have an obnoxiously high amount of disposable income to optimize each child’s growth potential, including attending Catholic schools. Furthermore, thou shalt ensure that you control how many children you have through remaining completely celibate (and unmarried if necessary) through your most fertile years until you are “ready.” If you do have a child before you are “ready,” and your performance as a parent is less than perfect, you are sinful, a victim of your own lust, lack discipline, and are going to Hell.
As I mentioned, I am greatly GREATLY oversimplifying the cultural messaging, but it’s very interesting to me: 1) how similar the messaging is in terms of the overall desired objective; and 2) how women get the brunt of the shaming from both Catholic and secular sources.
It would be great if we, collectively, could get really comfortable with the fact that there are limits on what we can control, and that it’s a good thing to be strong enough to roll with whatever life sends our way.
It is unclear what you mean here, or for that matter, what kind of “Catholic sources” you mean. You stated:
“Furthermore, thou shalt ensure that you control how many children you have through remaining completely celibate (and unmarried if necessary) through your most fertile years until you are “ready.” ”
This certainly does not reflect what the Church teaches at all, and from a practical standpoint, a faithful Catholic does not look at it this way either. However, a Catholic can be highly influenced by the culture…hence you might find a “Catholic source” similar to what you describe…but I wouldn’t call any source “Catholic” unless it was a true reflection of Catholic beliefs.
In any case, the Catholic scenario is to follow Jesus, who asks us to obey the commandments. Maintaining one’s virginity prior to marriage is normally what one does in order to obey the commandments. Chastity is proper to all, regardless of state in life. Celibacy is tied to not marrying, not merely refraining from sexual activity. So your sentence is a bit confusing on that point, and perhaps you meant one of the other terms.
Secondly, upon meeting with a priest to discuss marriage, we agree at the time of that discussion to be “open” to having children, otherwise we cannot marry in the Church. The practice of getting married at a later age is a cultural one, not a Catholic one. Nothing stops a Catholic from marrying young and having children in the early years of marriage, and a Catholic who is serious about marriage in the Church should do so when they are at a point of maturity in a relationship that would be discerned as ready for marriage, i.e capable of making that commitment with the idea of permanence in the relationship.
The Church says nothing about being “ready” to have children. Marriage is supposed to be fruitful through openness, which means the moment you consent to marriage you are declaring yourselves to be “ready” for parenthood. If you have areas of life that would prevent you from being a parent, you would certainly be wise to refrain from marriage until you have reached a state of “readiness”, but not in the sense of attaining a level of material wealth being a priority, etc. But it would certainly be prudent to minimize one’s larger debts before entertaining the idea of marriage so as not to put a barrier in the way of being fruitful in marriage or place an undue strain on the marriage. The comment about a high amount of disposable income etc doesn’t match anything Catholic. Oodles of money is not a prerequisite. Being open to children does not just mean a physical openness…I think any Catholic couple would agree that it also means openness to the realities of family life, which might mean financial sacrifices or frugality.
Women who become pregnant outside of marriage are not going to hell for having a child. Going to hell is a consequence of lacking repentence for sin, not merely for committing a sin, so again, your idea about a “Catholic source” is inaccurate.
Your statement about “performance as a parent is less than perfect” is also confusing. We are all imperfect, but we can aim at perfection. To be judged by others, or even ourselves, as imperfect is actually unimportant. Only God is our judge and He looks at the intentions of our heart. One can look like a great parent on the outside to the accolades of others and really not be that great of a parent, because the intentions are about gaining human respect rather than loving one’s child.
Trusting God means being unafraid to live the life He gives to us, and that is what we do when we enter into marriage open to having children. How you can equate that with women being “shamed” is not something that makes any sense at all, and it seems you are confusing cultural messages for Catholic ones. I think it is very cultural to be calculating about life, but not Catholic.
I think Athena may be trying to explain the sort of mindset many Catholic couples find themselves up against even within the Church, as there are, at best, maybe 5% of us who follow Her teaching on contraception and choose either to avail ourselves of NFP (thus living in tune with reality and making informed decisions about our fertility and choosing accordingly) or to let the chips fall where they may, so to speak, and jump, accepting whatever God sends – or doesn’t send. To clarify, I don’t think using NFP is anything close to “Catholic contraception” (itself a misnomer); anyone who has ever spent any time learning their cycle and charting and observing their fertility knows how ridiculously dissimilar NFP and contraception are. Can you make selfish choices using information NFP reveals? I guess so. But is something inherently disordered about knowing the way your body works and choosing as a couple whether or not to engage in marital intimacy based on that knowledge? I really struggle to understand how any reasonable person could think so. Abstinence is hard. Charting is hard. Saying “not right now” to yourself and your spouse when another pregnancy would be dangerous or difficult is hard. Anyone would submit to the challenge of all this abstinence and discernment when the end goal is simply sex without babies is going to choose contraception, not the penance and discipline of NFP.
Jeanette, NFP is all about Catholics calculating life. Humane Vitae uses the phrase “regulation of birth” several times in a very positive way. People who are “failures” at NFP are shamed by fellow Catholics because their “failures” are children.
As an aside, I really don’t believe that stat. I think there’s almost no way that’s true for currently fertile women who go to mass regularly (ie most weeks). Anecdotally it is not true where I live, from the random people we meet at donuts after mass (so, not super self-selecting) to my husbands colleague who *usually* goes to mass, not to mention my odd group of friends. The former are almost certainly nfp users while the latter are a mix of nfp and “where the chips may fall” people. Oklahoma May just be weird but it’s the same for 90% of my Notre Dane friends, including the liberal ones who think gay marriage and women priests are ok.
I think you may not have understood what I meant by calculating. I said: How you can equate that with women being “shamed” is not something that makes any sense at all, and it seems you are confusing cultural messages for Catholic ones. I think it is very cultural to be calculating about life, but not Catholic.
I was not talking about birth regulation, I was talking about the calculating way she described people in her examples, both Catholic people and secular. By saying it was not Catholic, I specifically meant that in terms of what the Church teaches it is not the same as how people might look upon themselves or others. She listed a lot of negatives:
Secular: “If you do have a child before you are “ready,” and your performance as a parent is less than perfect, you are stupid, ignorant, uneducated, and a worthless drain on society.”
“Catholic” per her definition: “If you do have a child before you are “ready,” and your performance as a parent is less than perfect, you are sinful, a victim of your own lust, lack discipline, and are going to Hell.”
I would argue that they are not Catholic views of anything, and that named
“readiness” is the kind of calculation I am referring to. Those would be very unreasonable assessments lacking in charity. So there is nothing Catholic about them nor the calculations of what makes one ready for parenting that she described (oodles of money, etc). It may very well be that some people who are baptized Catholics may behave this way, but it is not reflecting their Catholic faith, but rather their own personal judgements and calculations which are based on cultural values.
If the terms we use don’t really match up with what people are understanding, then there can be confusion. I wasn’t referring to NFP at all, but more focused on her parallel statements about shaming and how incongruent that is with our faith. In other words, I’m arguing for the proper use of the term “Catholic” — rather than accept her implication that such judgements are somehow Catholic. I still think what she was trying to draw a parallel to was faulty: I think it is more accurate to say that some people are Catholic and some people are not, and some people make judgements about people who have children and some do not. But it is certainly not a Catholic practice to make such negative judgements. That is quite opposite of what we are supposed to be doing. And to say that Catholics do that may be an observation of which she has some limited experience, but to declare it as normative is inaccurate. I’ve lived a lot of years in quite a lot of parishes and these are not the kinds of attitudes I see among Catholic women who are serious about their living out their faith and active members of their parishes. She may have different experiences of Catholic women, but I don’t think they are predominantly like that.
There is something absurdly darwinistic about this –
In failing to bear offspring , the ideas to which these benighted people adhere will not be passed be the parents to their children and so will disappear with them…besides reference in history books (or podcasts) to the suicidal stupidity of 21st century culture.
I am currently reading: “The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Feminity” by Carrie Gress. I highly recommend it.
Oh, well, I will be a bit of a social Darwinist here. If they don’t want to procreate because of an invented environmental and political crisis (which the radical left is perpetuating), if they want to reject motherhood, let them. They’re only going to be killing off their genes. Really, they’re doing a disservice to no one but themselves. The fools are weeding themselves out and freeing up more resources for the children of smarter people. If anything, my children, once I have them, and your children, now that you have them, and children of parents who actually know how to be parents (not the fools that wear the badge of honor but don’t deserve it) will ensure civilization survives.
Well, I will admit, maybe I shouldn’t call them fools because these women have probably been infected with something called gender feminism and indoctrinated into socialism.
By the way, I agree with your post, and, at the risk of sounding nuts, the more I read the news, the more I convince myself that the radical left has become the party of the devil. There is no better explanation for its constant insanity, anti-Semitism, and attacks on the traditional family (where many of the values that made Western civilization great are first instilled.)
Anyway, your most important job (which I don’t envy) is to shield your children, especially your little girls, from becoming infected with this poisonous ideology.
One last thing. This is actually not the biggest lie of all: “They have bought into the most fundamental lie of all, that we can be like God, can take matters firmly into our own hands, and that we can save ourselves.”
Though this is a Nietzschean sentiment, the concept that man is godlike and ungoverned by fate is not unique to Nietzsche, flourishing instead during the Italian Renaissance. In Oration on the Dignity of Man, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola made one of the most radical statements on human self-creation:
“Neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal have We made thee. Thou, like a judge appointed for being honorable, art the molder and maker of thyself; thou mayest sculpt thyself into whatever shape thou dost prefer.”
Pico della Mirandola believes that truth exists somewhere between Christian theology and Greek philosophy. God placed man at the “midpoint of the world” and blessed him with freedom to create himself. Greek reason, together with the Christian revelation that we are made in the semblance of God, enables man to elevate his lowly nature by producing the finest work of art—himself. We wield the power to do and undo ourselves, and to direct our passions into creative self-transformation.
I could go into more detail here (I studied and researched this in college), and I can dig up other sources that push similar claims. If we are created in the likeness of God, it makes sense that we are gods in our own right. Not God, but gods in the sense that we are called to create. Look around you. We have created and continue to create. Really, as you said, there is nothing more divine than the act of creation.
Hi Jenny, thanks for another wonderful piece to read and think about. I am less concerned about those women you mention in the first paragraph because I actually think there aren’t that many who are like that, though they certainly grab our attention and frankly, are an easier target because their own logic doesn’t hold. More often I meet women who want kid(s), but also want to do something with their other God-given talents as well. While there are some fields in which mom can continue to make use of her talents while raising a family, there are also fields like medicine and teaching at Catholic schools, for example, that benefit from women working outside the home, and have others raise her children. I am very curious, how Catholic women who work outside the home (such as the medical student who participated in your testimonial series last year) balance their vocation as doctor but also as a faithful Catholic wife and mother.
Thank you for this. I think it’s hard to articulate what’s wrong with the worldview of not bringing children into a fallen world; this nails it. And more importantly, empowers us to not fall victim to Satan’s lies and despair that he is winning.
“To speak fierce, radical life into this flaccid, decaying culture of death, to say that come what may, I will choose to shepherd more of God into this world, to stake my life, my livelihood, and my own comfort on the possibility that He has something bigger in mind. . . this is true activism.” <—-This! This is what I'm excited about. Even though it's hard.