When Benjamin Bunny grew up he married his cousin Flopsy. They had a large family, and they were very improvident and cheerful…as there was not always quite enough to eat,- Benjamin used to borrow cabbages from Flopsy’s brother, Peter Rabbit, who kept a nursery garden.
Thus begins Beatrix Potter’s famous “The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies.” Now I do not wish to be construed as one who supports those who break the Church’s holy law concerning consanguinity as an impediment to marriage. Nor do I want to accuse Benjamin Bunny of breaking this law, because it is not my understanding that it applies to rabbits as it does to human beings. But there is something about this passage that strikes me as right on the money. Especially the part about borrowing from one’s brother in law.
Pope Francis has explicitly and compellingly stated that Catholics do not necessarily need to behave like rabbits,
God gives you methods to be responsible, Some think that — excuse the word — that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No.
The way I figure it is that the Pope was showing a great deal of merciful concern for families when he said this…especially for families in third world countries where there is absolutely no food or water, but there is an abundance of disease and death and ignorance and gang violence and extreme poverty and what not.
Should such people behave like rabbits?
But what I do know is that marriage is for the sake of children. In my apology to the Supreme Court of The United States of July 3, 2015 I defined marriage thus,
Marriage is a stable union, between a man and a woman, by mutual consent, for the sake of children.
It should be pointed out that when we say for the sake of children, we mean to include both the procreation and, even further, the liberal education of children. After all, it should be clear to everyone that the purpose of life is tied up with the proper cultivation of the mind and the heart.
Now the question is this: When a couple gets married, what should their view be concerning children?
The answer is: Stop planning!
Am I a providentialist? No! My advice is to just stop worrying about everything.
Just work hard and practice the faith and keep singing.
When I look around the pews at Sunday Mass it is evident to me that the effect of all that worry is fewer children.
Think of all those closed parishes (about 50 in my diocese).
Think about all those merged and closed parochial schools.
Does anyone live in a diocese where massive school closure is not an issue?
Where are the children? Well, among other things, worry and careful planning has eliminated them.
Now, I need to make a confession:
I hate planning. I always have. I don’t like calendars and I refuse to think about retirement.
The result: (and this is sort of the elephant in the room right now) Twelve children!
If I were smarter and enjoyed planning and worrying and calculating, I am quite certain that I would only have one child.
And so you might be chuckling right now thinking,
“It’s all well and good for you for the time being, but why don’t we wait another twenty years when you are thinking about retirement? Tell us then about how well your lack of planning has worked!”
Ok…it is true. I probably should just keep quiet.
Solon, the great Athenian law giver, did say, “Call no man happy until he is dead.” By which I think he meant that we should reserve judgement about the success of a person’s life until we are in a position to make a judgement about the whole.
My problem is that I will not be able to write this when I am dead. And so, aware of the risk, I am putting it out there right now while I am still “compos mentis” as they say.
Perhaps my advice is no good. Perhaps I will end up on the street homeless and too proud to beg. Perhaps I will one day wake up and say “Darn, I wish I didn’t have so many children!”
But I don’t think so.