Question 136


Is Being Childfree by Choice Selfish?

By Fr. Damian Richards
(taken from The Register of the Salina Diocese in Kansas, 23 July 10)

I was interviewing Dr. Amy Hogan, MD, for the upcoming Salina Diocesan council of Catholic Women’s Convention, which is August 28 at St. Andrew’s Church in Abilene, KS.

On the same day I interview Dr. Hogan, a Salina-area fertility care specialist, about her work, I ran across an Internet article, “Is Being Childfree by Choice Selfish?”

But I realized that this article on the pleasures of “no children” is symptomatic of the problems Dr. Hogan encounters in her work to promote a Catholic approach to fertility care. She told me about the ministry of her work and the struggles she encounters to get people to recognize how fertility is a gift from God.

“If people can understand their body, they can recognize the beauty of nature,” she said. “And if they can see the beauty of nature, then they can see the beauty of God, who created nature.”

This is in contrast to the “Childfree by Choice” crowd. “The decision not to have kids is a movement that seems to be catching on,” the article began. “There are environmental, religious, medical and professional reasons for not having children.”

Fertility care instills discipline. It increases self-awareness of what is going on in the body. “It also enhances chastity,” Dr. Hogan said, referring to the fact that periodic chastity is necessary if you want to avoid a pregnancy. “And chastity is lacking in our culture.”

Chastity leads to self-discipline. Self-discipline makes you a stronger person. This means that fertility care builds stronger relationships, which leads to healthy families, which leads to a stronger society.

The article was very defensive on this point of children leading to a stronger relationship. Every one of the childless-by-choice couples insisted that their relationships were very strong and a benefit to society.

But even while arguing they aren’t selfish, the self-centeredness came through. “We like that we get to live a bit more whimsically without children,” one wife in the article said. “We travel a lot, and we go out even more than we did when we were single.”

The article even tried to turn around the fact that having children draws you out of yourself and forces you to focus on the well being of someone else. “People having children could be deemed equally ‘selfish,’” the article said, “since they include factors of personal satisfaction and improved social status that parents may gain for themselves.”

The desire for children is deeply ingrained in us. “My medical practice, while valuable, isn’t the most important thing to me,” Dr. Hogan says. “It’s being a wife and mom.”

The article quoted a childless-by-choice couple justifying their decision to not have children by saying, “We’ve chosen to go the dog-and-cat route.” Instead of having children because their relationship doesn’t need children, they “go the cat-and-dog route,” which means they pretend the dog or cat is a child. The desire is there, but they don’t recognize it.

The theme for the SDCCW convention is “Discipline and Virtues: The Gospel of Life.” Dr. Hogan’s work encouraging couples to rejoice in their fertility and to practice the discipline necessary to make it truly fruitful is a natural fit for the upcoming convention.

Fr. Damian Richards, moderator of the Salina Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, is pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Cawker City and St. Boniface Parish in Tipton.