What is Responsible Parenthood?

Raise your hand if you are tired about hearing the Pope and his rabbit comments?

Yeah me too.

Probably not the best word choice or description but hey he's the Pope. He's not God. He is a sinful man just like the rest of us so let's cut him a break and get to the heart of the point of the comment.

Responsible Parenthood.

What is responsible parenthood?

There is an entire section of Humanae Vitae on the topic. In Pope Paul VI's encyclical defending the Church's position against the use of artificial birth control here is what is written:

Responsible Parenthood
10. Married love, therefore, requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood, which today, rightly enough, is much insisted upon, but which at the same time should be rightly understood. Thus, we do well to consider responsible parenthood in the light of its varied legitimate and interrelated aspects. 

With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person. (9)

With regard to man's innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man's reason and will must exert control over them. 

With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time. 

Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society. 

From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out. (10) "

There a a number of ways that you can go about interpreting what is being written. For me, I think it means that a couple needs to consider the moral aspects of bringing a child into this world if physical (health), economic (money), psychological and social ESPECIALLY if one or more of those aspects is already strained. God gave us free will and we must exercise it. We are not animals (rabbits).

I do feel for the woman who the Pope singles out - the one who has 7 kids and is pregnant with her 8th. This is not why the Pope is calling her out if you will. I believe he is concerned that she has had 7 c-sections and presumably will have another c-section. From my limited knowledge about c-sections, I am under the impression that having more than 2 or 3 or 4 was not considered medically safe. So if this woman's risk factors for XYZ are raised each time she has a subsequent c-section and she has been advised that having another c-section could lead to her death THEN leaving 7 or 8 kids motherless would IN MY OPINION not be morally responsible.

IN MY OPINION. (Not passing judgement here, you are allowed to have an opinion but no pass judgment, right? )

That's not to say God will not watch over her and guide her through this pregnancy and you know I am sure we all hope and pray she and her baby are okay.

Back to responsible parenthood.

Maybe this couple discerned that having another baby was the will of God and they went for it. Maybe they were trying to get the hang of NFP and got tripped up. Ultimately it does not matter because it is between them and God.

There is another option that is NEVER talked about these days from the pulpit and is NOT artificial birth control. Well birth control is barely talked about from the pulpit and is likely brushed over is most marriage prep classes so let's get that out of the way and say that's a HUGE problem but that's a whole other ballgame.

Abstinence.

What's wrong with abstinence? Well, it is not easy and very much against the culture of today of gotta-have-it-now and immediate gratification. However there are couples who practice abstinence in situations when one of those previously mentioned aspects - physical, economic, psychological and social - is out of line and that couple deems it not morally sound to consider bringing a child into the world. That's a tough decision to come to and one that is probably not talked about too terribly much because there is likely some suffering going on and who talks about that stuff anyways?

But why not talk about abstinence? The bedroom is a typical topic of conversation these days, right?

Well actually it is because birth control, IUDs and vasectomies are a topic of 'normal' conversation - trust me I spend 10 hours in a retail store once a week and when you have had some RANDOM guy say 'So when your husband gets his vasectomy make sure...' you start to wonder where modesty has gone.

I think abstinence is a reasonable option that is 100% effective. And it doesn't have to mean abstinence forever. Maybe it is until a couple gets the charting part of NFP down, maybe it is until someone is back to feeling normal. Maybe it will force you to talk about how things are going and how you are feeling. Maybe it will require sacrificing something for the person you love the most.

Back to responsible parenthood because I think I'm rambling and it is almost time for my rabbits to rise.

I think responsible parenthood is something that each couple must step back and take an evaluation of their marriage and their family. It means different things to different couples. It is not restricted to just bringing children into this world either - it is about raising God-loving and God-fearing children.

And I'll have Pope Paul VI wrap this up from the last paragraph of HV:

A Great Work
31. Venerable brothers, beloved sons, all men of good will, great indeed is the work of education, of progress and of charity to which We now summon all of you. And this We do relying on the unshakable teaching of the Church, which teaching Peter's successor together with his brothers in the Catholic episcopate faithfully guards and interprets. And We are convinced that this truly great work will bring blessings both on the world and on the Church. For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. On this great work, on all of you and especially on married couples, We implore from the God of all holiness and pity an abundance of heavenly grace as a pledge of which We gladly bestow Our apostolic blessing.


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