Thursday, July 1, 2010

Catholicism, Confucianism, and Natural Family Planning

The Culture of Life Foundation's E. Christian Brugger answers "the question of 'just causes' for spacing births," suggesting an "extreme interpretation is incorrect and can result in avoidable harms" — Reasons for Postponing a Pregnancy. I was struck by this Confucian theme:
    All people have duties arising from their morally significant relationships: spouses to each other; parents to children; children to parents; employees to employers; employers to employees. Generally speaking, the closer the relationship, the more serious the duty. The fulfillment of these duties is the domain of justice. So, for example, a man who neglects his family in favor of unreasonable participation in a leisure sport such as golf or fishing commits an injustice toward his family....

    Now husbands/fathers and wives/mothers have very serious obligations in justice to the members of their families, chiefly to their dependent children, especially those who are most vulnerable to harm (e.g., infants, small children, and infirmed and disabled children). Perhaps it need not be said, but parents' duties to their existing children are prior to children they have not yet procreated. When discerning another child, couples therefore should ask: Can I fulfill well my existing duties while bringing another child into the world and fulfilling well my duties to that child?
He later writes, "If one has reason to believe that a relationship for which one has some duty will unfairly (and hence wrongly) suffer if another child is brought into the world, then, as an issue of justice, one ought to abstain from bringing another child into the world." He clarifies that his "purpose here is not to criticize generous couples for welcoming many new children into their families" but to suggest that "couples who for good reasons refrain from having more children (which for them can be painful) should not be considered less generous."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fitting that this should be published in the NY Post today-

"Where new York's not proud to lead"
by John Wilson

11:37 PM  
Anonymous ben said...

One must of course remember that the duty towards one's spouse is also prior to the duties to children, and part and parcel of this duty is the continual surrendering of oneself, including one's fertility, as an irrevocable gift to one's spouse.

I do not believe that understandig the self as a gift to the other is a confucian concept, But it is at the core of Christianity.

1:25 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

ben, you're right. Confucianism is about duties; Catholicism takes it one step further.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Clare Krishan said...

Final cause, ends and means, right? It made sense to me before I read this article yesterday (glad you posted on it) after I read the catechism on parenting. We must be cogniscant that our offspring are 'subject to deposit' so to speak, not our property, they are to be
"returned to Maker" by being raised and encouraged in the practice of the faith, fruit are perishable after all. Better a handful well-ripened than a quiverful spoiled?

9:22 AM  
Blogger Zach said...

As I recall, there's a verse in Sirach about how a few children of quality are of better advantage than a multitude of shameful ones... I'll have to find where I read that.

Obviously, the Protestant "quiverfull" movement can claim that there are "no Biblical verses" mentioning many children as anything other than a blessing... :)


1:04 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Clare, I'm glad you liked the article. For us, it has been quite painful to refrain from having more than two, by NFP, of course, due to a disability in one of our children and health issues in my wife, by which two glorious "mishaps" we conceived were lost. God rest their souls.

Zach, I'm all for Natalism, but not Natalism as a fetish. Your comments reminded me of reading of a Catholic mother of eight or so who left her husband, and of another Catholic mother of eight or so who ran over and killed one of her kids with family van in the parish parking lot.

I'm not sure Natalism is sustainable in a modern context. Wendell Berry extolled Pakistanis for their custom of spacing births every five years, naturally, of course.

2:59 AM  

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