Apropos of recent discussions about natural family planning, here is Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of India’s Syro-Malabar Catholics writing to them about having children. The cardinal warns India’s Catholics not to view children as a “hindrance to a life of pleasure” and telling them, “Those who have the means should come forward to have more children and bring them up.”
Cardinal Varkey noted “today the tendency to avoid having children is on the increase among the couples who are motivated by selfishness to seek their own enjoyment.”
In the strongest language in the letter, the Cardinal warns Catholics that it is sinful to refuse God’s gift of children without grave reasons. “There is sin and injustice to society behind the decision of not having children by those parents who have the means and normal health,” said Cardinal Varkey.
While he addresses the particular situation of Indian Catholics, the principle remains the same for all Catholics. Economic factors are often cited as the reason for avoiding children, but he points out that while even poor Indian families continue to struggle to keep up with cultural customs of lavish parties associated with events in children’s lives, the “need” or desire for such affairs does not outweigh the moral imperatives in parenthood. In other words, while we may want to give our children the best of everything that money can buy—even good things like a college education—these good things do not make avoiding children moral necessarily.
Today there is also the tendency to spend extravagantly to obtain prestige and positions in the society,” Cardinal Varkey stated in his letter. “Often celebrations of marriage, betrothal, wedding anniversary, birthday celebrations, baptism, first holy communion, etc. become celebrations of extravagance. This is an indication of the wrong priorities of values.”
The Cardinal added, “The hopeless debt trap into which many families have fallen after such celebrations is also a problem to be seriously considered.”
The entire letter is available online.
Again, the avoidance of children—even using morally licit means such as natural family planning—can be sinful if you don’t have grave reasons. Don’t know if your reasons are grave? Consult your priest, whether your pastor or a priest whose judgment you can trust.
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