Childless Despair and Childlike Hope

This rather sad article recounts the growing movement of deliberate childlessness, in the United States, and beyond. Or, as those in the movement like to call themselves, ‘child-free’, to remove any connotations that being somehow ‘child-less’ is a negative thing, to be mourned like Rachel of old, weeping for her children who were no more.

The Church requires her priests, bishops, religious and consecrated to be ‘childless’, or at least forego those acts that would produce children. But this is for spiritual and supernatural motives, and to help families – who make up by far the bulk of the Church – to fulfil their God-given mission to ‘go forth and multiply’, and not so that one can live ‘free’ of the burdens of children; or save the environment; or because, as the likes of Alexendria Occasio-Cortez claim, the bogeyman of ‘climate change’ will end the world as we know it in just over a decade or so – an apocalypse left vague, perhaps to terrify all the more – so any child you have now will not even see his teen years.

We are returning to the nihilistic pagan philosophy of the Gnostic dualists of the 2nd century, the Manicheans of the 3rd, and the Cathars and Albigensians of the Middle Ages, and now, with modern ecologism, hedonism, and all-round hatred of those things that make us most human – not least that procreation is an ‘evil’ to be avoided, that sterility, far from a curse, is now seen as a blessing – and the best thing is to live and die for this world alone. Need we add, to paraphrase Saint Paul’s dire warning, that such people who live without eternal hope are most to be pitied.

We are wallowing in what Pope Saint John Paul rightly called the culture of death, a vast, miasmic despair, masquerading as something virtuous. The average birthrate per woman in the United States is hovering presently around 1.8, which is .3 lower than bare replacement level; and the trend seems to be going nowhere but down. 

I’m not sure about the world, but it seems that mankind itself might end, unless things turn around. When we have lost the will to live – to pass on what we have been given in the full sense of that word – then what else is there, but to jump into the abyss, which seems about where we are headed? As Albert Camus has his Stranger say, we must first ask ourselves whether or not to commit suicide. Is life worth living, and giving, in some way, to others? Once you’re past that, well, you’re on your way to true hope and joy.

Some see the abyss before them, and turn around – or, as we are wont to say, convert – before it’s too late. Such is the remarkable story of Sohrab Ahmari, whose modern-day Confessions, “From Fire By Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith’ make a remarkable case that no soul is unredeemable. Lost in nihilism and immorality, rejecting God and all truth but his own hedonistic pleasure, it was waking up in a pool of his own vomit that Sohrab ‘came to’ in the good sense; and this, after reading, for a lark, Saint Matthew’s narration of the Passion. Christ’s stark and simply described ‘sacrifice of self’ had stuck like a thorn in Sohrab’s mind, that he had no words nor power to mock.

The grace of God – what our Tradition calls gratia agens, ‘grace acting’ – moves each soul to repentance at some point in life’s pilgrimage. We know not when, but it does, perhaps many times. All we must do is say ‘yes, Lord’, ‘fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum’, and all manner of things will be well.

But time does run its course, and when we shuffle off this mortal coil, our decision will have been made. Saying no, or as Isaiah put it in the mouth of the King of  Tyre, non serviam, ‘I will not serve’, puts us on a dark and evil road, where all we will find is an empty, shallow, burnt out version of ourselves, like Dorian Grey confronted with his sin-scarred portrait. Living within our enclosed selves – what the Catechism calls ‘self-exclusion from God and His blessed’ – is no way to spend eternity.

Canada is having its own Dorian Grey moment, a land beautiful and majestic on the surface, wide and free, for mountain heights and northern lights, for prairie lake and sea as the hymn sings, but underneath we are rotting away, led by an arrogant boyish-kinglet, many of whose cherished ‘values’ are ephemeral and immoral, the very structure of what’s holding it – and us – all together now stands on the brink of collapse. But, as Paula Adamick’s latest article attests, this land is founded on the blood, sweat and tears of countless saints, mystics and martyrs – as we reminded our own students here at Seat of Wisdom in our recent pelegrinage to the shrine and sites at Midland. Their sacrifice cannot have been in vain.

Young children are full of hope, and never think of despair until it is learned, often by example from apathetic adults. So we must become again like those ‘little children’, and rediscover true hope, persevering with our heads held high, knowing that when all might seem most lost, our redemption is likely nearest at hand.