RESTRAINT.

Andrew Szebenyi S.J.
Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY. 2004.

There is no virtue without common sense.




Some call it “responsible procreation”. What a colorless expression for having wonderful children, being in love, and projecting our hopes into a future yet to come. Of course, not without pain, but still this is a most joyful and fulfilling way of being really alive. On a more spiritual level of experience, it all means that we are in touch with the love of our Creator God, who is the source of all life.

“Responsible” in this context means that we consider the consequences of what we do in terms of a realistic love and genuine respect for new human life. It is a miraculous wonder to have a child. Shouldn’t we have then as many as we can? Acting responsibly we apply caution, and we will not take on more than what we can handle. And here is the difficult point. It is not only that we are responsible for our children in terms of the economy of the family, which must support their well being, including their health needs and their education, but we are also responsible toward the well being of the earth the ultimate support of human life. This ecological responsibility toward our children implies that we should not want unlimited growth in a limited world. For these reasons responsible procreation requires a certain restraint in our natural desire to have many children.

This ecological necessity upsets many people and has become the center of much controversy full of confusion, and apprehension. What I want to do is to bring some dispassionate common sense into this issue of reproductive restraint. To do this, it is advisable to avoid becoming part of arguments and controversies, and to concentrate on the most essential practical issue, which is love and respect for human life in all circumstances. That is why I simply want to provide here a small package of practical advice.

If you want to have children, get married. We owe our children the love of a mother and of a father in the sheltered and nourishing setting of a stable family. Safeguard and enjoy the natural gifts of your relationship and the warmth of your family.

There may be a financial limit on the number of children that a family can afford to have. This limit of personal economy, however, is not the primary one, because we also have the responsibility to live within our ecological limit, which is two children per family for most families in our time. These limits require of us that we practice considerable reproductive restraint.

But how can we control our natural fertility? By using the only means that is available to us: the prevention of conception, whenever we should not have a child. The first question is this: Does natural family planning work for you? If the answer is yes, use it. If the answer is no, use a method that works for you. Choose one that is least harmful to your health, and is the most effective for you. Since the primary directive here is love and respect for human life, abortive methods, such as IUDs and morning after pills are out.

What is important here is that you love and enjoy each other. Be sensitive to each other’s needs and try to please each other in many simple ways. Love your children for their own sakes and not for selfish reasons. Help them to become free to be themselves.

Love God, the source of life. Be thankful for each day God has given you, because each day is an opportunity to do something good. Love each other for the other’s sake in every possible way, and so become for each other the means of mutual support, growth and fulfillment. Enjoy being alive and being loved. And give thanks to God for everything.

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