By Frank Wessling
What to think about the California woman who had eight babies last month: that is the question for many of us — especially after learning that she was already the mother of six other children ages 2 to 7 and that none of these 14 human beings was conceived in an act of conjugal love, or even of random human passion.
They are all a result of modern science and technology perfecting the reach of free-floating desire so that a young woman who “wants children” can have her wish. When the urge to have a new pair of shoes is strong, there’s a shoe store at the mall to satisfy that desire. When the urge to have a baby rises, there’s a clinic willing to make the impersonal business arrangements and plant the embryo — in this case, embryos plural, for more insurance that at least one will take.
This particular woman is not married, was married briefly and divorced, and now apparently doesn’t see marriage as necessary, or even useful. She seems to assume that a village will simply emerge to help raise her children. Her own responsibility is left at producing them, like a brood mare on a horse farm.
This is a harsh sentiment, not directed at the young woman herself so much as a drift in our culture toward the dehumanizing of sex and what we Catholics used to call the co-creation with God of new human life.
The church sees human life as properly expanding within the mystery of human love, not in laboratory dishes. Creation itself is a result of divine love, we believe, and the model for our creative energies, especially the creation of new life. This is why the church struggles so hard to keep sex in the context of a committed relationship that unites the two halves of humanity.
Anything less diminishes us; makes us merely riders on the primitive wheel of instinct and drifters on the winds of desire.