It might seem odd that I studied urban planning as an undergrad, only to follow that program with an MA in theology. In some ways, it certainly was odd. There is nothing typical about that path. However, I believe that my urban planning education was great preparation for the realm of theology and morality. Studying the urban environment almost seems to me, now, a natural prerequisite for theological pursuits in the modern age.
One of the single most applicable lessons I learned as a student of the city was that it is entirely too common for people to anchor themselves to false metrics. Most of us are quite familiar with this in the area of education. How do we measure student success and progress? How do we measure teacher performance? These are important questions that are not terribly easy to answer, which leads to reliance on false metrics. For example, looking at the failure rate for students in Mr. Rummelhoff’s math class is not necessarily indicative of his teaching skills.
But education is not the only place we do this. In fact, what is, in my opinion, the prime example of false metrics is a general societal measure: teen birthrate. Yes, teen birthrate is the single most idiotic metric in use today. What, you might be wondering, is it being used to measure? What are people attempting to ascertain from the teen birthrate? Good questions, but the answers are irrelevant, because teen birthrate carries no implications. What it does do, however, is contribute to the way people think about pregnancy and reproduction generally.
Let’s be clear about some things: Births are always an intrinsic good (the use of ‘always’ and ‘intrinsic’ is redundant and deliberate). Pregnancies are an intrinsic good.
I have known a handful of women who have been pregnant while unmarried, and, in every instance, I was one of only a handful of people who responded to the news of their propagation with nothing but joy. Yes, joy! What about their sin, you ask. There is no sin in pregnancy. What about the child being born to a single parent? There is no sin in being a single parent, and we ought not presume to know the future marital status of a pregnant woman. Well, the parents must have had sex outside of marriage, and that’s fornication. Yes, but fornication is not pregnancy, or do you think that an unwed parent informing a friend of a new pregnancy is soliciting thoughts on non-marital sex?
The sex was the sin. The pregnancy, on the other hand, is an incredible, unmerited, unfathomable grace bestowed by God, and the sin that preceded the gift does nothing to diminish the gift itself. To argue otherwise is to contend that Christ’s Passion is made less by my sins and yours, yet St. Paul tells us that the very opposite is true (Romans 5:12f). This is why the Catholic Church does not use or even bother considering the language or concept of the “bastard child.” The circumstances of one’s conception have absolutely no bearing upon one’s dignity or worth! To be conceived or born “out of wedlock” is as relevant as the age of a mother at the time of conception or delivery — that is to say, it does not matter at all.Children are not born to marriages; they are born to parents. It is about time that all of us wrapped our heads around that. Yes, marriage is a good, and it is good for children to be the product of marital love. Yet, those are accidental to the new living person who is always the product of the Divine Love. So, I implore my brothers and sisters to please form a habit of responding to news of the creation of new human life in what is truly the only right response — joy. If we actually value human life above all, then the only rational response to human life is joy and gratitude, regardless of how it came to be.
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