The Catholic Thing
Parents: Increasing and Multiplying? Print E-mail
By David G. Bonagura, Jr.   
Sunday, 05 August 2012

God’s command to our first parents to “increase and multiply” has been taken in new, unforeseen directions. Christians and Jews now look like naïve fundamentalists by reading Genesis 1:22 as a command for two parents to multiply by producing offspring. A bill before the California legislature is proposing parent multiplication, so that a child may have more than two legal parents.

If only God had been as clever as we are, we would not need such a law. After all, as bill sponsor Mark Leno told the New York Times, “This is about putting the welfare of the child above all else.”

Without doubting the sincerity or love of any would-be parent, the question must be asked: Is this really about the children?

There are many cases where loving, often heroic, adults come forward to adopt children who have been thrust into the most heart-wrenching circumstances. The California bill does not have these in mind. Rather, it seeks to legitimate three or even four parents per child to establish what have been dubbed “alternative” or “nontraditional” families. The Times lead profile presents the two natural daughters of a husband and wife, each of whom now lives with a member of the same sex, and these two additional adults also want to be legal parents of the girls.

Such bizarre engineering has little to do with the welfare of children and everything to do with adult proclivities to demand whatever they want. In this case the desired goal is a complete redefinition of family, which includes the social and legal acceptance of any and all forms of sexual relationships between consenting adults, and, by extension, the production of children by any means possible.

A family, in this view, is any arrangement of people who wish to share a home and rear children for whatever reason. Ties of blood no longer bind; it is the will, however misguided, that dictates what constitutes a family. And when the will – untethered to nature or intellect – is the guide, there are no guarantees: what is desired today concerning family need not be so tomorrow. If that means rewriting legal statutes to accommodate the latest whim, so be it.

Whence, then, does “family” derive? Chick-fil-A executive Dan Cathy has enraged alternative family and same-sex “marriage” partisans by stating that his business supports “the biblical definition of the family unit.” This statement can be misinterpreted: the family as understood in the Christian tradition does not stem from revelation as does, for example, our understanding of the Trinity.

        Storms coming (photos by Mitch Dobrowner)

The biblical definition of family means the relationship of love and obligation between a man and woman and their offspring as part of God’s naturally created order. Christians alone believe in the Trinity, but all human beings live in the same created order, and therefore all are capable of seeing, by reason and instinct, how a family fits together – literally. Aristotle likely did not read Genesis, but he saw that family structure conformed to natural laws beyond human choice:

There must of necessity be a conjunction of persons who cannot exist without one another: male and female, for the sake of reproduction, which occurs not from intentional choice but – as is also the case with other animals and plants – from a natural striving to leave behind another that is like oneself.” (Politics 1252a27)

Human beings have always lived with an inner tension between the will (what we want to do) and nature (what we can do). Greatness occurs when the will strives to grow and develop what is natural according to nature’s own laws: athletes, artists, and architects are just a few examples of how we do this.

But when we try to contradict nature, as with same sex unions and alternative families, problems arise. The athlete on steroids and the man who jumps off a building without some flying aid show how ignoring nature can be a very messy affair.

Yet for as much intuitive sense as the argument according to nature has, in the court of public opinion the volitional approach has much more traction.  At least for the moment. The unfortunate evidence lies in the high percentage of young people who support same-sex unions on purely volitional grounds: if people love each other they should be able to marry. What the will desires it should have, they believe.

This juvenile thinking has become part and parcel of our supposedly adult legal system with its redefinition of marriage and proposals for redefining the family. Nature and its law, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger observed, have become a “laughingstock” to most, and as a result they have long been banished from the legislature and the courthouse in favor of sheer volitional caprice.

So long as the untethered will remains the driving force of social discourse, politics, and legislation, the “natural family” will be just another lifestyle choice, on the same level as choosing a restaurant or a place to live. Parents can multiply in any combination, as can romantic and familial relationships. There are now no ties that bind: the peace and security that the natural family provides for its children and for society will be swept away in a tide of cupidity.

When a storm comes, we protect the treasures we have lest they be blown away. Now as the storm of the untethered will rages fiercely, we all must do our part to protect the priceless treasure of the natural family.

David G. Bonagura, Jr. is an adjunct professor of theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, NY.
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Comments (10)Add Comment
written by Grump, August 05, 2012
Where else but California would such a nutty proposition be put forth? Reminds me of Fred Allen's quip: "California is a great place to live -- if you're an orange."
written by Manfred, August 05, 2012
Thank you for your article, Prof. Bonagura. I am sure you forwarded a copy to Cdl. Timothy Dolan. As you know, the Cdl. has invited Pres. Obama to this year's Al Smith Dinner, on the eve of THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OUR NATION HAS HAD IN FIFTY YEARS. The confusion of seeing this President with the smiling Cdl's arm around him will cause enormous confusion among Catholic voters nationwide. Do you recall Dolan's recent interview in the Wall Street Journal where he admitted that the US Catholic hierarchy had taught no moral theology for forty-two years? He described this failure as a "Biggie". Well this recent invitation is an ABOMINATION. I recently saw an archive where I was blogging here a few years ago. I will blog no longer as the Novus Ordo Church demonstrates over and over again that it COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE the Church which Christ founded. If it were, it could never allow this chucklehead to serve as the chief executive of anything. Farewell!
written by DOV SUSSMAN, August 05, 2012
I am not a Roman Catholic however, the ideas expressed by Mr. Bonagura resonate strongly with my traditional values.

I fear for our future when I read of the volitional caprice of courts and legislatures. From what species of twisted logic does this need to re-write the laws of G-d and Nature arise?
written by Achilles, August 05, 2012
Dear Manfred,

Your comments have been consistently and primarily composed of reactionary ideology. It appears as if you unswervingly confuse human frailty for Mother Church, certainly not an uncommon mistake in these times of obfuscation.
You will not permit Mother Church to instruct you with Her valid council so perhaps in vain I suggest reading an essay by Fr. Faber from his book Spiritual Conferences- it is on Self Deceit. It is free on the web and I would be happy to send it to you in word document.
Did I understand you correctly that you will no longer blog here at TCT?
You are in my prayers Manfred, please pray for me. Achilles
written by Louise, August 05, 2012
David, very creative reflection. I keep hoping that at some point there is going to be a collective realization that we have really reached the end of absurdity and there will be no where left to go but to recover true reason. Perhaps that is underway but we don't recognize it yet. We see glimpses when masses of people come out to eat chicken. Those moments are extremely important and we need more of them.
Manfred, where shall you go? Don't get the human and divine elements in the Church get mixed up. The human will always disappoint, the divine, never.
written by Chris in Maryland, August 06, 2012
Manfred is right about the Al Smith Dinner issue. It's the same garbage as Rev. Hesburg of Notre Dame running after his medal from the US Congress.

It is simply disgusting and utterly desolating that Catholic Bishops and leaders keep going through the motions of civility with politicians, be they Catholic or non-Catholic, who are cutting the throat of The Bride of Christ. What a mockery of civility, that Catholic Bishops and leaders want to be seen at table with these people who are plotting our persecution, as if nothing is at stake here.
written by Layman Tom, August 06, 2012
I agree with you and Manfred. On one hand I understand that the church is in the business of forgiveness and I somewhat understand the "turn the other cheek" mentality if that is from whence this comes. However, I just don’t agree with it. To me, this is a time for some old-fashioned country hardball.

As my moniker implies, I do not pretend to be an expert in ecclesiastical procedure or church history, but I do understand what a fight is and we have one on our hands.

It’s time to at least publically rebuke those purported Catholics who are in office flaunting their dissidence. People have been ex-communicated for far less I think. As for inviting them to be feted by the dignitaries of this institution whilst they actively try to dilute it; well that is incomprehensible to me. It would be like General McAuliffe, after being informed that the 101st was surrounded and that the Germans demanded surrender inviting the German commander over for a dinner party. Thankfully, he knew what war was and gave the famous reply: “NUTS”. Our religious leadership could learn a lot from that type of intrepid example.

I’m saddened that you will no longer contribute. We’ve had our differences back when I posted as just “Tom”, but I always enjoyed your spirited posts. Good luck to you. God Bless and keep you
written by Chris in Maryland, August 07, 2012
With the Al Smith Dinner Church leaders send this message: NOTHING REALLY MATTERS.
written by Jack ,CT, August 08, 2012
I understand the frustration of some if a Bishop "sits down"
with Obama, as a Catholic it makes me nervous but we never can understand the "AGENDA" the Bishop may have in conversing
i suggest we trust our most honorable Catholic leaders and there intent.
written by Hen, August 09, 2012
What's so hard about understanding the AGENDA? As with reasons why (even though contrarily this is not just some bishop) people do highly questionable things, the $$$$money/power motive is quite simple.

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