I try not to make it seem like only couples who struggle are couples who are doing it right. I used to do this, and I’m sorry about that! It’s kind of like the “real women have curves” sloganeering. Well, I’m a real woman, and I have curves; but I have skinny friends, and they are real women, too. Let’s not overcompensate and end up insulting people who simply have a different cross from our own.
I try to make it clear that, while Catholics can certainly improve the way they deliverthe Church’s teaching about sexuality, the Church is not going to change her teaching about sexuality. It’s one thing to say, “I feel comforted when someone in the Church recognizes that this is a hard teaching.” It’s quite another to say, “I feel comforted to think that the Church is getting closer to fixing this unreasonable demand she makes on us.” Certain things are simply not in flux.
When we are avoiding or postponing pregnancy, we don’t use NFP primarily because of its magical marriage-building properties! We use NFP because it allows us to have sex sometimes instead of never. We’d be smart to pursue any benefits that we can, but they are not why we reject contraception. We reject contraception primarily because it is immoral, and we can thank the Holy Spirit if rejecting contraception also brings us various goods, like better physical health or better relationships with our spouses and with God.
Oh my gosh, what a downer, right? But really, it’s a trap to use human standards (“Is this making me happy? Is this making life better? Does everyone around me agree that this makes sense? Does it seem like I’m making progress?”) to make judgments about what kind of suffering is tolerable. When we do this, then really serious suffering, the kind that doesn’t make sense, will seem like a sign that something is wrong — that something has to change, that we deserve a pass of some kind (see point #2).
What Is the Point of Pointless Suffering?
Our kids need us. Most of our teenagers are not in danger of becoming violent jihadists like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; but unless we make a deliberate, consistent, sincere effort to live our faith and to make sure that our older kids are well connected with adults who can guide and educate them and answer their questions, and unless we give them many opportunities to practice their faith, then there is little hope that they will still be Catholics when they leave our homes.
Bouncing off Jen Fitz’s advice for Christian parents of transgendered children, I have a few things to say about children in general:
When a child begins to exhibit some behavior that is worrisome, it’s easy to panic, to jump to conclusions, to apply adult-style significance to juvenile behavior, or to assume that we can make a diagnosis based on a single symptom or habit.
Here’s the basic idea, whether we’re talking about a child who is actually fine, and just going through a phase, or a child who actually needs professional help: remember that we’re talking about a person, not a problem.