I wished to title this post, “The Rational Plan within Parenthood Known Naturally”
It is mostly only Catholics who are fully familiar with the stream of thought described as natural law. This is a moral consideration of existence, specifically the actions of free agents in this world, which is based only on the principles open to the rational intellect. The definition of natural law morality, I note here as a Catholic, is that it does not depend on any special revelation from God to know that there are moral obligations that correspond to the goodness of the natural world. This moral endeavor is parallel to “natural theology,” which considers what can be affirmed about God’s existence and divine nature based only upon reason and the observation of creation.
As the title that I have created here alludes, I intend to sketch a proposed schema of knowledge, education, as an alternative to the kind of “education” that is promoted by the utilitarian, sexual-revolution-saturated education of today. We might call today’s education (in terms of sexuality) one according to a “culture of death.” But I hesitate to dwell on this characterization of so called sex-education, because while that term coming from Pope John Paul II is applicable, I wish to get far beneath the roots of the life-death issues of abortion and euthanasia. I do not wish to be held up by any polemics elicited from the terms. Additionally, I wish to highlight the wonderous science of our human family considered biologically and morally together, without dwelling on the sad details of mortality or the moral harm caused by the intentional quest for the death of the innocent.
We must try, in the end, to develop a positive morality. Now, Utilitarianism is the philosophical ethic embraced most in our culture, taking for example our nation’s largest coherent example of a singly acting “educator” on the issue of parenthood, Planned Parenthood. Further, this utilitarianism is a westernized-individualistic version, adopting and promoting a “sexual liberation” from most all culturally restrictive norms surrounding sex and family. If there is any philosophical anthropology at the root of the take-control-of-the-social-problem-of-births, contracept, abort-fetuses-at-will approach of the corporate Planned Parenthood ethics, we might dare call it Nietzche-like. There seems to be something deeper than a mere relativistic denial of any universal sexual human morals.
The response to this deep relativism, manifested as an incoherent but aggressive utilitarianism, is quite simply the persistent, rational search for truth. Truth is of a whole. While revealed religion has – in our view – the advantage of a divine power at work when the revelations are accepted as sources beyond human powers of inquiry, nonetheless God’s purposes must of necessity be advanced whenever and however the truth is shared and gratefully received. The idea of this course is to draw strictly from the side of reason and nature, or natural law, referring to God even through natural theology. This will of course be harmonious with all sound doctrine in the Christian tradition.
One additional note is great importance here. I sketched the core of this outline more than a year ago. I did not think I would really use much of it, except that these propositions are so much needed right now. Currently in our state’s capital building they are about to vote on a proposed referendum for a rather odious constitutional amendment. It seems certain that, come November, Vermonters will be asked to vote whether the Vermont State Constitution should incorporate a new paragraph, affirming a “right to personal reproductive autonomy.” A quick comment here is that “autonomy” as understood by this ethic is greatly corrupted by the above-mentioned utilitarianism. It is pitted against the principle of the Common Good in the Catechism, and nearly the exact opposite of the Cristian ethic, “it is in giving that we receive.” It is obvious upon investigation that the claim to “reproductive autonomy” is synonymous with the grand project of the sexual revolution, incorporating vast so-called abortion rights applicable to any pregnancy in any trimester. The proposal directly implies no person can hold autonomous rights (such as a “right to life”) until after they are born. And just here, the natural law has something to say about the choices meant to advance the utilitarian good of humanity by means of killing unborn children. Maybe only the Christian ethic has the power to accomplish the complete re-working of our modern society needed as a response. It is enough to point out that the natural law points certainly in the same direction of re-working societal norms.
That said, let us see if the deeper roots can be addressed. This is a theoretical outline of affirmations and principles to teach, given that much work would need to be done to develop appropriate ways of conveying them at age-appropriate levels. Many engaging and encouraging examples would also be needed if this was to be at all effective. I present it with a reasonable amount of thought, but it is by no means perfect.
Philosophical Anthropology According to the Rational Powers of Men and Women
- The material nature of the observed universe
- The observance of biological correspondences and correlations with other biological life
- Intellect and will as a unique self-consciousness and self determination through choices
- The rational power of humanity, and knowledge of what is good
- The phenomenon of consciousness.
- The judgment of good, and the reality of conscience
The Biology of Human Reproduction, Development, Growth, and Maturity (very summary format)
- Male and female fertility in the human person
- Conception and obstacles or defects which prevent conception
- DNA as the chemical sign of a new rational soul (speaking in Aristotelian form)
- Embryology and fetal development
- Aside: Lovable example of Blood is Thicker than Water: current knowledge about microchimerism.
- The bonds of affection: the touching biology of infancy (neurochemistry)
- Mature enough to create more rational souls : Neuroscience, brain development and puberty.
- We’re all family: evaluate the plausibility of the Eve Hypothesis
- Other notes about the importance of human genetics.
The Natural Law Case Against Artificial Contraception: an apologetic
- The many evolutionary hypotheses surveyed: healthy reproduction is a natural good, although to a degree properly subordinated to other natural goods.
- The rational intellect, controlling the choices of the will, is a natural good, and the ONLY means by which we can judge the hierarchy of other natural goods.
- The good of the human species biologically is advanced by the heathiest choices for the capacity of human reproduction.
- The human person alone can choose to evaluate the natural (abundant) benefits of more children compared to various risks of harm in having and raising children
- ONLY the human intellect has ever studied and learned the natural cycles of fertility in nature’s sexually reproducing creatures, so as to base choices on this knowledge.
- If there are ANY natural moral obligations whatsoever, then it is a true natural obligation to choose the healthiest ways to have children in the times and manners judged to be best for self, for family, and for humanity.
- The categories of choices that fit this moral obligation are only as follows: 1) the choice to abstain from the use of reproductive organs when the possibility of more children would be harmful by current prudential judgment, 2) the choice to engage in sexual intercourse when prudential judgment affirms the relative goodness of the begetting and nurturing of more children, 3) the choice to apply scientific knowledge where possible to remedy defects or absence of natural fertility.
The Connection of Chastity with Wonder and Gratitude
- The Natural Virtue of Chastity: of the cardinal virtues, prudence is the application of reason whereas the other three virtues are formed by habit under the guidance of prudence.
- Temperance is the virtue of moderating the sexual attractions and desires under the dictates of prudence.
- Chastity, in as much as it is the prudential control of the sexual faculties of reproduction, is part of temperance.
- Chastity and gratitude: the perception of the goodness of our own life.
- The case against the unnatural use of the reproductive organs for mere sensual gratification detached from inter-personal relationship.
- The allowance of the possibility of happiness in a state of complete sexual continence. Reason itself resists the placing of mere reproduction for its own sake at the top of all natural goods.
The Psychological Sciences on parenting and happiness, “that you may have a long and happy life.”
- The Cardinal Virtues in family life and society
- Social Responsibility: We do well for ourselves to be fruitful and multiply and care for others.
- There is a biological science to the attraction and satisfaction of sexual intercourse, but it must be incorporated with familial and social responsibility.
- The sense of fulfillment in children and grandchildren.
- The death of each generation: The philosophical problem of evil, and the reality of pain and loss.
- Prudence and reasonable fears verses unreasonable fears of the future.
- Aside: the lie of “overpopulation”
- The social problem of anxiety due to moral vacuums in cultures of materialism.
- The natural law and the commandment “honor your father and mother” in the mosaic tradition.