Monday, July 27, 2009
Mercy and the Single Mother
Enbrethiliel at Sancta Sanctis has an interesting post up, analyzing current attitudes toward single motherhood among (mostly female) Catholic bloggers. With the caveat that "[as] for myself, I don't want a Catholic blogosphere that's too sweet," she quotes from a couple of blogs that make accusations, based purely on the authors' speculation, against single mothers, the main one being that single mothers make the considered, if not calculated, choice to be consigned to poverty and exhaustion because they want sex without consequences (ascribing uncanny, almost parthenogenetic, powers to single mothers, these bloggers essentially ignore the concomitant choices made by men). One of the bloggers Enbrethiliel quotes goes even further:
"In Feminist Fantasy Land we are supposed to look upon irresponsibility as something to be praised and we are supposed to boo and hiss at duty and responsible adult behavior. Therefore, marriage is to be looked upon as a waste of time and promiscuity is to be embraced.
The result? A massive, and still growing, class of impovershed [sic] single mothers that demand tax payer money [sic] to care for themselves and their children. All while many of them continue on in the same irrisponsible [sic] behavior that landed them in poverty in the first place.
And we are supposed to feel sorry for them and praise them as heroic martyrs. (???)
. . . . [S]ingle mothers are not special and they do not deserve special praise or special treatment above married mothers. " [Emphasis in original]
I'm not sure if it's worthwhile to unpack this diatribe, which after all speaks for itself. But I am saddened to see these sentiments emerging from Catholics who adhere proudly to their faith. Then again, maybe "adhering proudly" is the key to this disparagement, to this -- dare I say it -- scorn, and even hatred, for one's brethren. I believe that the Catholic faith contains, teaches, and advances the truth, but having received the gift of faith-- through no merits of my own -- gives me no cause to boast, and even less to disparage others, especially others who are in need of friendship and spiritual support.
Some readers of this blog know of my close friendship with a single mother living in poverty, who is a mother in spite of every effort of her ex-boyfriend's family to induce her to abort (and, pace Coffee Catholic, she is not supported by taxpayer money, though her pre-school-aged daughter, as an American citizen living in poverty, qualifies for food stamps and Medicaid). She did not make the choice to deprive her daughter of a father; her daughter's father made that choice. And her "irresponsible behavior," like that of so many other women, was motivated far less by "feminism" than it was by love and the desire for love. Was that love misguided? Most likely yes. But bloggers like Coffee Catholic and Leticia are luckier than they know if their own love and desire for love was never misguided, mishandled, mistreated, or cast before swine. Perhaps they had attentive parents of whose love they were assured, and therefore never knew the desperate loneliness and sense of unworthiness that encourages so many women to seek love and its substitutes elsewhere; if so, in that regard, they are also luckier than they know. But from those to whom much has been given, much is required.
The patristic apologist Tertullian famously described the early Christians by saying: "Look . . . how they love one another." That love was truly revolutionary in the pagan ancient world. Equally revolutionary, in a culture that regarded strength and ruthlessness as virtues and meekness as a sign of cringing subservience, was the idea of humility as a good for which to strive. I understand the attraction that some Catholics feel to the ethos of the Church Militant, but that does not cancel out the necessity, modeled by Christ Himself, for us to humble ourselves and to love one another in truth. If we are living in a neo-pagan era now, shouldn't we, as Christians, counter the culture by cultivating love for one another -- especially for those we're naturally inclined to scorn and hate?
There is a phenomenon among Catholics of a certain lack of enthusiasm for converts (or, as in my case, reverts), in spite of the fact that heaven rejoices over repentant sinners far more than over the righteous. I sometimes think that the righteous ones resent the fun that the more sinful converts and reverts had spending themselves in disorderly living, and think that we should pay for it temporally more than we seem to have already -- the workers coming at the eleventh hour and all that. To them, all I can say is that God is good, and one of the strange paradoxes of grace is that those who deserve it the least have the most right to His mercy. May God teach all of us, especially me, to be merciful.
(Above: Colin McCahon, Madonna and Child)