Is this priest onto something? He labels “family planning or limitation” as being among anti-values.
In his must-read book, Covenanted Happiness: Love and Commitment in Marriage, Fr. Cormac Burke has a thought-provoking critique of the “anti-values,” as he calls them, of family limitation that have become so ubiquitous in our culture, and, sadly, even within the Catholic Church.
He writes, “One frequently comes across statements to the effect that ‘family planning or limitation is more easily accepted by people as they get better educated.’ Whether we realize it or not, to admit such statements unquestionably is to concede a whole philosophy of life.
“A very particular type of education thoroughly imbued with a very particular kind of values (or rather of anti-values), is necessary before people are brought to the point of easily accepting family limitation.
“Can such education be regarded as Christian education? Can it be regarded as true education at all? It is worth recalling the judgement that Newman [had over a century ago:] Modern man, he said, is instructed, but not educated. He is taught to do things, and to think enough as to do them; but he is not taught to think more” (bold emphasis added).
Virtually no Catholic engaged couple in the last few decades has been allowed to have a wedding in the US without first completing a Natural Family Planning (NFP) course. Sadly, the vast majority of NFP training that couples have received promotes family limitation as a good, or as a benefit to their marriage. Fr. Burke argues such teaching promotes anti-values, in actuality.
HOW CAN HE LABEL FAMILY LIMITATION AS BEING AMONG “ANTI-VALUES?”
How is it that Fr. Burke can speak this way? This flies in the face of modern, conventional wisdom, even among Church-attending Catholics. Let me tell you some of the highlights of his argumentation.
Fr. Burke asserts, “The real sickness here is that practically our whole Western civilization has come to look on family limitation as a good thing and fails to see that is the privation of a good thing” (bold emphasis added).
He rightfully argues that couples who could have more children but choose not to are depriving themselves of the “bona matrimonialia” (the goods of marriage). He asserts their life together becomes “more and more materialized, less and less humanized.” He adds that material goods cannot hold a marriage together, but the “good” of children can and does.
Fr. Burke adds, “A self-imposed barrenness is denying their love the fruit which love itself is designed to produce, and which it needs for its own nourishment and survival.”
He cites Deutornomy 30:19: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life that you and your descendants may live.” He asks aloud what choice is the Western world making when it promotes anti-values in place of valuing human life?
Fr. Burke quotes Pope Saint John Paul II, who said the following about married couples in an address he gave in Washington, DC in October 1979: “[I]t is certainly less serious to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety.”
“A true sense of values is not shown by the couple who fail to see that a child is the best acquisition they can make, and the one that enriches them most,” Fr. Burke rightfully adds (emphasis added). A properly ordered society, and a properly ordered person, must consider children within marriage as assets, not liabilities, argues the priest. Sadly, prevailing anti-values of utilitarianism have infested and infected the mindset of Western society, Catholics included.
Still, Fr. Burke sees a glimmer of hope, as the Natural Law still lives on, no matter how much NFP instructors try to beat it out of everyone. “Somewhere deep in their hearts, couples probably do sense the truth of the fact that a child is a good and a great gift. The trouble is that they have been conditioned not to trust that truth,” he argues.
The truth lives on, even if no one wants to listen to it.
Alright, I know I opened a can of worms here.
After all, I cited Fr. Burke who equated family limitation with anti-values.
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