The Catholic Thing
The Life of B. Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Monday, 26 November 2012

During the recent elections, the Obama campaign developed a series of vignettes involving a cartoon figure name “Julia,” showing the ways government would help her at every point in her life. We thought that Catholics ought to be ready, should the possibility arise at some far distant future date, to be equally clear about what they see as a desirable alternative. So here is a sketch of one such possible life, the life of “Beatrice,” hereafter B.

Despite already having an older brother Benedict, B. is actually born because her Catholic parents believe in God’s words in Genesis: “be fruitful and multiply.” And the One Child Policy legislation is stalled in Congress owing to a split between environmentalists worried about the earth’s “carrying capacity” and ruling party strategists worried about a shrinking political base. For years afterwards on her birthday, B. and her multiple siblings giggle when their mother tells how a very earnest nurse in the formerly Catholic maternity hospital gave her a copy of Bill McKibben’s Maybe One as she was taking B. home.

B. is read to and taught by her parents until age five, after which she and her brother are home-schooled, helped by an informal association of neighborhood women, some with advanced degrees in languages, science, or math. Julia, who lives next door, teases B. and Benedict because she attended Head Start with most of the other kids in town, while the “Bs” had to stay home. Still, they’re friends. B. and Benedict often read children’s chapter books to Julia until she learns to read herself in third grade. After that, they only help her with the hard words.

At seventeen, B. receives the highest SAT score in town and faces a decision where to go to university. Julia’s choices are simpler. Like almost everyone else, she’s participated in Race to the Top and is prepared to move on seamlessly to State U. The curriculum there respects diversity and, therefore, sticks strictly to government mandated standards and educational outcomes – and qualifies for Federal dollars. After much prayer and thought, B. decides to study at a Catholic liberal arts college with an emphasis on Great Books.

Thanks to generous Pell Grants, Julia graduates owing only $40,000. She immediately finds a job with a large corporation that has an arrangement with State U. and begins paying back the Federal government, like a responsible citizen. B. has no debt at all because her liberal arts college kept costs low by not participating in various Federal aid programs. The money saved in not having “compliance officers” alone is said to have cut about a third off tuition. Her college also found generous private donors who agreed to match what B. herself earned to pay for educational expenses. At graduation, she spends a year teaching for a Catholic religious order at a school in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. About half of her colleagues are considering a religious vocation, and some enter the order. But B. decides, after much prayer and thought, that she wants to do something for America.

Back in the States, people she meets are shocked when she talks about her experiences and inform her that her work in Guatemala would not have met the rigorous standards set by the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. They also encourage her to study web design in order to take advantage of small-business startup loans available from the Federal government. “The alternative is the service sector, these days,” one of them warns. B. thinks about this until one day she reads a story by Evelyn Waugh, where a headmaster tells a classics teacher:

“Parents are not interested in producing the ‘complete man’ any more. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?”

“Oh yes,” said Scott-King, “I can and do. . . .I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”

The headmaster calls this shortsighted. Scott-King retorts, “I think it the most long-sided view it is possible to take.” That hits B. like a thunderbolt and she spends the next forty years teaching Latin.

But not before meeting Francis X. in a graduate Latin course. At first they are drawn together because they seemed to enjoy the same poets and philosophers, even the very same passages. Afterwards, they find they have very similar backgrounds and are in complete agreement about the kind of family life they would like to live.

They marry, have multiple children (the ruling party is still divided). Francis X. worked part-time at a plant nursery while he was studying Latin and is offered a chance to buy the business when his childless boss retires. He not only loves the smell of the earth and vegetal matter each morning, but to his own amazement, he finds he enjoys and has a knack for business. His business flourishes and he gains a faithful clientele amused by his casually saying things like, “Here’s a perfect ilex aquafolium for you.” 

B. and Francis X. manage to raise a family according to their own lights, support a parish, and donate to local youth activities and poor relief. They are not entirely successful – the culture is powerful – in warding off the false lures of success and security. Some of their children take less than ideal paths. But as they near the end, they look back over the course of their lives with general satisfaction.

They retire. Ill-health forces them into one of the clandestine Catholic nursing homes that went underground because of the Elderly Comprehensive Affordable Care Act – known colloquially as ECACA or the “Sayonara System.” This was hailed at its passage, in the words of one Federal brochure, as guaranteeing “the responsible social choice of a dignified exit from this life.”   

B. and Francis X. die, a few years earlier than average. But their children and friends remember them with deep affection and gratitude.

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, now available in paperback from Encounter Books.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (10)Add Comment
written by petebrown, November 25, 2012
Loved it Bob! Not nearly as dystopian as I was expecting it to be at first. It will be interesting to dig this piece up 20 years from now and see how prescient it was.

Couple of quibbles. College tuition is more expensive because of easy federal money, but would still grow alot faster than inflation even absent this. Anything that depends on lots of skilled workers to run is going to get more expensive over time. You have to pay the classicists professors more and more over time to keep them from entering the more lucrative sectors where productivity is rising. So Beatrice might have to take out a loan after all. Or absent that her college would find itself constantly strapped for cash and having to load up on adjunct classicists!! Depressing.

On a brighter note, don't be surprised if the big government types won't soon figure out that a higher birth rate is in fact to the benefit of the welfare state they've built up. I'm not saying they'll change on abortion but some are already making essentially this argument as it pertains to immigration. One of the reasons they don't is the growing cultural divide between them and "red America" where fertility rates are higher. But cultural divides of this kind don't last forever.

But I loved the nice little entrepeneurial distributivist touch at the end, with the Latin school :)

Great piece!!!
written by Jack,CT, November 26, 2012
Bravo Mr Royal!
written by Willie, November 26, 2012
Nice! Unfortunately, I believe most people will take the path of least resistance and to hell with the difficult moral road. There are now more takers than makers and more votes for the easy road. We are on the road to European socialism and its denigration of "First Principles."
written by Manny, November 26, 2012
Excellent piece. It goes to show how antithetical government bureaucracy is to Christianity. Government bureaucracy removes Christ's touch. It is not coicidental but causational that the more government controls our lives the more atheistic society becomes. We are living in a real dystopia and we don’t even know it.
written by W. P Dias, November 26, 2012
I do not know if many have noticed what the Election of 2008 has wrought. In Newtonian Natural Law, action and reaction are equal and opposite while in God's Law, not the one given to Moses, but the One brought but the Son of God himself, action begets reaction far greater than the 'Natural' one. It is wonderful to see!
written by Manfred, November 26, 2012
Thank you for laying out a "chassis" upon which commenters, with your permission, may build. When Beatrice and Francis X. attempt to purchase a car,rent an apartment ot buy a home, they are struck by how high the costs are. When they speak to their very Catholic friend who is a financial planner, he explains that as the Catholic bishops allowed a contraceptive culture to flourish for 44 years, that B. and F.X. are competing with two-income families on almost everything they purchase, including education for their children. Since all the Sisters were "on the bus", there were none left to teach in parochial schools so that was now being done by lay persons who, because the pay in St. Trinians was so modest, required a second job to make ends meet. The major difference between Julia and B and F.X. is, depending on the level of their belief and piety, is B. and F.X. know why they are alive while Julia will finally learn that she is nothing but a drone, and whether she was ever born is of no interest to the State unless she is exceptional. B. and F.X. will also learn in time that the wasteland in which they live mimics life in Russia, Cuba, N. Korea,etc. and was VOTED for TWICE after decades of rot and decay often encouraged by the hierarchy of the Church.
written by Richard A, November 26, 2012
I have a six-year old granddaughter and a four-year old grandson (the oldest of my nine grandchildren, so far), who are able to read, and I was able to read when I was four. I'm about ready to have a bumper sticker made that says: "If you can't read this, thank a (public school) teacher."
written by NIck Palmer, November 26, 2012
Great piece, but wouldn't it have been more touching to have Beatrice meet and marry Dan A?
written by Maggie-Louise, November 26, 2012
After hearing every last woman (even Catholic women) who have spoken on the subject of their daughters' futures express the hope that said daughters will be"whatever they want to be"--doctors, diplomats, scientists, pilots, submariners, college president, U.S. president--whatever a man can be.

I have never once heard a woman (even a Catholic woman) say, I would like my daughter to grow up to be a loving wife and mother.

If one were to take a survey of women's choices for their daughter(s) of just Catholic women, in one's very own parish--even a very traditional one--how many women would respond "I hope she will grow up to be a very loving wife and mother, at least for the first 25 years of her adult life." Or would they give the same responses as the secular women--"I hope she will choose a well-paying career where she can have lots of success and career advancement, travel, you know, all the material success that I never had.

So, what's the difference between them and us? What unspoken messages do we send our daughters (and sons, for that matter) about what we believe are the priorities in their lives? It's too bad that B.'s children didn't choose better paths. Maybe example was not enough to combat the subtle messages of popular culture.

What do you all want for your daughters?
written by Mack Hall, November 27, 2012
Please -- Beatrice is not "home-schooled"; she is taught at home.

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