Recently I learned that there are people who are struggling with the decision to have children, because of climate change. They’re questioning if the morality of bringing children into what is virtually certain to be a hellscape in the not-too-distant future.
Now, I can hear hackles rising and derisive snorts being uttered all over the place right now, but I would ask you to take a deep breath, say a prayer for discernment, and actually take a moment to consider this. And remember that the person speaking here is a mother of 4 who’s been using NFP for nearly a quarter century.
We in the west are fundamentally and unshakably committed to our own convenience and comfort at the expense of everything else.
In the summertime we make our churches, schools, and hotels so cold, we have to wear coats inside. People write Facebook posts telling us we’re psychotic if we set our thermostat anywhere above 72 in the summer.
Our culture glorifies gluttony—how else can you interpret the clear parallel between “bigger portion size = better” at restaurants?—and then throw away shameful amounts of food while huge swaths of the world are starving.
People leave cars running while they stand at the door talking, or while kids are at soccer, or while waiting for half an hour in school pickup line, or while scrolling phones. (That one baffles me. You’re literally burning money!)
These and a thousand other things we do thoughtlessly, habitually, without intention and without examination. Even after it’s pointed out that our habits of consumption and comfort are damaging God’s creation. Even when we see daily the proof of climate change, and that it’s the poor who suffer first and most. Even when the scientific community is begging us to fix it, and telling us how. Even when the world is literally burning around us—even in places where fires aren’t supposed to be a part of our climate.
As Catholics, we believe children are always and unequivocally a blessing, the crowning of marriage.
But honestly, when I heard that some are choosing not to have children because of the world they will have to survive, I thought, “There’s some sound moral reasoning going on there.” I can’t embrace it, but I understand it.
As Catholics, we can and should advocate for the goodness and dignity of human life, and the worth of having children, even though they will suffer in this world. Because of course, life will always involve suffering.
But if we are flippant, derisive, or dismissive about climate change—if we, collectively, act as if our selfish commitment to comfort and convenience has no long-term ramifications—then we have no business judging people who discern against having children. We’ve created the situation they’re responding to. And God will call us on our sins as much as he will call them on theirs.