Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Gluttony of Procreation

I've written previously about how the Pope is waging a global war on relativism, in which the Catholic tradition of proportionality in moral reasoning has become a casualty. In no instance is this more dire than the Catholic church's official position on birth control, a position quietly and broadly ignored by the laiety in first-world countries, but not ignored enough in third-world countries. The church's reckless absolutism in this regard bears a considerable burden of responsibility for overpopulation (and resulting starvation) and the spread of disease. Even within a Catholic moral framework, this insistence on unbounded procreation seems wrong to me. Certainly, procreation is essential to the continuity of life. But so too is eating. Eating is a positive good, as it is essential to sustaining life, but at the same time we can recognize that while a sufficiency of eating is a positive good, an excess of eating becomes the vice of gluttony. Thus, it is virtuous to eat the right amount and no more. This is Thomas Aquinas 101. So why wouldn't the same reasoning lead us to believe that it is virtuous to reproduce the right amount and no more? Unbounded procreation, more than is necessary to sustain life, is likewise a vice, a gluttony of procreation, by the same natural law reasoning. In fact, it ought to be more of a vice, as overpopulation which leads to starvation (or other deprivation) works against life more severely than overeating. By such natural law reasoning, the Pope (the current one, the late one, and going back to Paul VI and Humanae Vitae) is just plain wrong. This can be confirmed by looking at the Bible. It is often cited that G-d commanded Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply". Unfortunately, few people bother to read just a bit further. What He said was "be fruitful and multiply; go and fill the earth and master it." (Genesis 1:28). The very form of the command is bounded, having a stated stopping point: reproduce until the earth is full and subdued. One can certainly argue that present rates of procreation are more than sufficient to fill and subdue the earth, and we may be on our way to overfilling and oversubduing it. How would that not be a vice?

No comments: