Local Catholics offer alternative to 'childfree' ideal

BOSTON -- A recent Time magazine cover story touted the virtues of living married life or single life unencumbered by children, Aug. 12, but some Catholics with connections to the Archdiocese of Boston remained unconvinced that the premise reflected reality or that children are a burden not a blessing.

Lauren Sandler's article entitled "None is Enough", and promoted on the cover with "The Childfree Life: When Having it all Means not Having Children," proposed that American society views women primarily as potential mothers, places a social imperative on them to have children, and excludes women who do not want children from public discussions regarding the issue.

Janet Benestad, secretary for faith formation and evangelization for the Archdiocese of Boston, took on some issues raised in the article.

In her article, Sandler said in that a December New York Times column and the recent book "What to Expect When No One's Expecting," had "scolded" childless women by exploring the impact of declining birthrates on society.

"That's not scolding, that's a reality," Benestad pointed out.

Benestad took issue with the article for rejecting the idea of children as a centerpiece of marriage, because it also rejected the institution of marriage as a societal solution to the question of procreation across vast spans of human history and various cultures.

"Low birthrates are going to affect the sociological conditions in the culture, they are going to affect the culture politically, they are going to affect the culture economically. Historically, cultures that don't reproduce themselves eventually go out of existence," Benestad said.

Benestad said she could understand why single people or those without children might feel excluded when bombarded by advertising for baby or domestic products but, contrary to the article, said many commercials present a picture of a single, carefree and unattached lifestyle as the norm, such as those advertising beer or travel websites.

"All of that is directed at people who don't have family responsibilities," she said.

Benestad said she saw that the article presented people who decided not to have children as self-sacrificing because their decision was based on the fact that they would not be "great parents."

"Let's have a reality check here. Who is a great parent?" she asked.

Benestad pointed to a graphic accompanying the article that presented celebrity thoughts on motherhood and children, and noted that a quote from Katherine Hepburn in which she said she "had a very high standard of how a mother and father should behave" and remained childless because she didn't feel she could meet those standards.

She said parenting comes down to doing the best that one can, not an attempt to exceed reasonable expectations or meet the standards set by movie stars.

"To create those kinds of expectations is just a false reality," Benestad said.

She said the article overlooked attitudes of those young people who harbor resentment toward their own parents, which she said she encountered when she taught at the University of Scranton.

"You have an awful lot of young people who have been hurt by failed marriages and different other sociological and psychological problems, and they're saying 'I don't want to be that. If I'm going to be a parent, I want to do it right,'" she said.

Benestad said she would have questioned the author about overlooking the idea of families as a building-block for structures of stable societies and nations.

"Where is all of that? How does that figure into this decision that you're talking about?" she asked.

Pilot columnist and philosophy chair at Ave Maria University Michael Pakaluk said the article tried but failed to address the opposing viewpoint robustly. Consequently, he said, he would have given it a C if submitted to him in a classroom setting.

"Also, you need to be clear about what your thesis is, and what your argument is for that thesis. This article does neither of these things," he said.

The article did assert that society in America tends to view womanhood in the context of motherhood.

"That's just a false statement in the article. In our society everybody thinks in terms of young people, so womanhood would be young women, and people think of young women not in terms of motherhood, but in terms of sex -- as sex objects," he said.

Pakaluk, a father of 14 children, called upon Catholics to understand and teach the reasons why Catholics support families as fundamental to society.

"We are dealing with a society in which people are carrying on still in a Christian tradition, but without knowing the reasons for that tradition. It's very important for Catholics in catechesis to give the reasons for these things. There are lots of them, but Catholics should have all the reasons available," he said.

He recommended that Catholics read the encyclical of Pope Pius XI, "Casti Canubii," which he called the best single document in the magisterium about marriage.

From works of Pope John Paul II he recommended the apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio" on the role of the Catholic family in the modern world and "Theology of the Body."

He also gave reasons to have children from a Catholic standpoint. He said having children allows a couple to "embody one flesh" with the child as a melding of the mother and father, offers a chance to do something with everlasting significance, and magnifies the effects of one's own efforts, life, and work while children act "as the arrows in one's quiver."

He said parents can be constantly inspired to rediscover their own childhood as they have the example of children always present. He said the act of giving is better than receiving, adding that "to have children is to commit oneself to a life of constant giving."

"It's good to pour oneself out 100 percent in this life, not holding anything back: it's like an athlete at the end of a competition wants to know that he gave 100 percent," Pakaluk said.

Speaking of the family as a societal building block, he said one of the best ways to contribute to society is to contribute good citizens. He said "large families are simply more fun" and a "constant source of activities that are highly meritorious in the sight of God.

Also reacting to the article were Angela and David Franks, parents of six children who serve as professors of theology for Saint John's Seminary's Theological Institute for the New Evangelization in Brighton.

David Franks noted that the article addressed the issue of consumerism from both the perspective of those choosing a childless life and of those choosing to have children, but in a somewhat misleading ways.

He said the article and its presentation mischaracterized marriages that remain open to life, and overlooked entirely that single people might consider devotion to God through religious life or ordination.

"What's at stake in a marriage that is open to life, or in religious life, is the hard work of maturing under the conditions of self-sacrificial love. That kind of context is completely missing from this piece because it is so focused on a consumerist lifestyle of fulfillment," he said.

He noted that the article explored the issue of the baby-care market putting pressure on people who don't want children, but added that the industry -- which the article reports as reaching the $62.3 trillion mark by 2017 -- also puts a strain on those who chose to have children by promoting a false set of needs.

"That's not good for parenthood. The fact is, consumerism sets up parenthood for failure," David said.

He said the Church and her teachings offer paths, including religious life and marriage open to life, which lead away from the unhappiness created by consumerism -- paths to "authentic happiness."

"Consumerism doesn't lead to authentic happiness," he said.

Angela Franks remarked on a quote from one of the sources in the article who said motherhood takes a full commitment of a woman's entire self.

"I think that that really hits at the heart of the problem, because it does. Anything that is worth doing of course, even marriage without children, should take all of you. But, certainly parenting does take all of you. It requires an extraordinary gift of self," she said.

She said the article presented a common societal theme, that one should be wary of giving too much while scrambling to acquire more for oneself, as a means of finding fulfillment.

"That's really what, in our culture, we flee from. We are worried about giving too much of ourselves, because too many people have had a negative experience of love and they just don't trust love. So, they take the safe route, which is to not love and not give," she said.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...