Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Benedict XVI, Marriage, Bioethics, and My Dissertation
I was tempted to title this post, Great Minds Think Alike, but a small mind could think alike with a great one once in a while.
At any rate, I am happy to hear Pope Benedict XVI’s words on the connection between life issues and marriage and the family. That is precisely my dissertation topic. Of course, in researching and writing a dissertation, I go into a little more detail that the pope did in his address to members of the diplomatic corps.
The pope connected people’s disposition with respect to God to their ability to make sound decisions and act rightly. Reflecting on the divine light that comes at Christmas, he said, “Truly the world is gloomy wherever it is not brightened by God’s light! Truly the world is dark wherever men and women no longer acknowledge their bond with the Creator and thereby endanger their relation to other creatures and to creation itself. The present moment is sadly marked by a profound disquiet and the various crises – economic, political and social – are a dramatic expression of this.”
He goes on to say, “The crisis can and must be an incentive to reflect on human existence and on the importance of its ethical dimension.” Later, he talks about how family life is essential for the education of children in respect for human life and the human person, and that family life has its foundation in marriage (that is, between a man and a woman).
I couldn’t agree more. My dissertation begins with an exposition of how people reveal and form themselves through their choices. Man is fundamentally the image of God, which of course cannot be proven to an atheist. Still, even an atheist should admit that man has powers that are godlike compared to other kinds of critters, and our higher powers are what is most similar to God. If we reveal and form ourselves by our actions, then we should choose actions that reveal and form us ever more perfectly as images of God. We must also have regard for other people because they also are images of God.
Marriage kicks this whole process up a notch in a Trinitarian way. The bond of love between two persons becomes life-generating. While some couples may not be able to generate physical life, they can be life-generating in other ways. When a couple actively chooses against being life-generating, or for seizing life as if it were a material possession, they reveal and form their dispositions with respect to God.
Meanwhile, secular society is militating against life and marriage in numerous ways. The field of bioethics is becoming a free-for-all, a mere exercise in creating a plausible rationale to justify what you want to do to placate naysayers who stand in your way. In redefining “marriage” and “life” arbitrarily—no, not arbitrarily, rather intentionally and to achieve a certain desired outcome—society has taken it upon itself to determine also what “good” means. It’s getting ugly out there. Ridicule and intolerance are rampant.
On the other hand, there is a new generation coming along, well educated Catholics often from large families who are fearless in engaging the world at large. I know. My oldest is one of them. (Although with 5 kids, we’re a small large family.) She’s getting straight A’s at Thomas Aquinas College. We are very proud of her! We’re also very proud of our next one, who will be going to TAC this fall. She has a lot to live up to, with her older sister doing as well as she is. But she can do it, too! I like to think they’re no smarter than their old man (but I’m probably wrong about that) but I know this: They are WAY better educated than I was. Or than I am now, even with a handful of graduate degrees in theology under my belt. The difference is the foundation. And that my daughters owe to their mom.
My kids are not alone. In my former work for a new Catholic liberal arts college, I was very impressed with how well catechized, how virtuous, how just plain grown up these kids are. Compared to me at their age at least. I tell people that such a college was what just what I really needed, but the last thing that I wanted. Don’t be afraid to make sure your kids get the kind of college education that they NEED, and not just what they want.
Anyway, the future is bright, even if society is working hard to keep it in darkness.