“Why I Ended Up With Too Many Children” is an opinion piece by Father Rennier, a Catholic priest from St. Louis. He urges having as many kids as God is willing to allow. Having Kids is calling him out, and calling on Pope Francis to correct Father Rennier. Read our letter here.
Father Rennier states, “No matter how many children you have, the number is always just right.” This perspective is surprisingly disconnected from the harsh realities we witness every day. Even Pope Francis has said that parents should not have more than they can properly bring up. Nearly 40% of American kids spend at least 1 year in poverty before they turn 18, and one in four U.S. children depend on SNAP benefits in a typical month. Rather than push mothers to have kids, Father Rennier should be asking how privileged people, like himself, can improve the conditions in which all children are born, though cooperative family planning models like Fair Start.
Father Rennier promotes a lack of responsible family planning by parents and communities. Here’s a fact: Nadya Sulemon (the “Octomom”), who struggles to feed, house, care and give attention to her kids, now says having 14 children was ‘very foolish, immature and selfish’. But according to Father Rennier’s view, her decisions were “just right”, despite the impact that large families have on our social safety nets as well as God’s beloved creation. How does that make any sense?
Despite what Rennier suggests, pregnancy isn’t a miracle. Today, for most women in the developed world, children can be a choice. The VAST majority of the practitioners of religions opposed to artificial birth control, including Catholics, obviously use some form of birth control or family planning method. These parents (as well as Pope Francis) understand that they cannot create good lives for their children if they have more than their resources (time & money) can bear.
For those like Fr. Rennier with the will and means, why not consider providing for a child in need? He missed a great opportunity to encourage his flock and readers to change their thinking beyond themselves, as well as to set an example.
Rennier also referred to the Amercan decline in fertility. Contrary to economists’ fears about our current reduced fertility cycle, the U.S. still holds one of the highest fertility rates in the developed world. Moreover, global trends project world population to exceed 10 billion by 2100. These facts, and the impact on our climate and future environmental security, cannot be ignored. Should we disregard the Vatican’s position on sustainable development and the moral obligation to protect our planet from further species extinction and famine?
More crowded societies also mean greater social instability and less of a voice for each of us in our bloated and dysfunctional democracies, the sort that produce leaders like Donald Trump. Father Rennier’s example and advice are of legitimate concern for the world at large. A man of God who contemplates spiritual questions daily, he should look beyond himself.
It is important that all of us cast our gaze not only lovingly on the children we have, but also more broadly to those around us and further forward to future generations.
TAKE ACTION: Email Michaelrennier@gmail.com, and urge him to encourage thoughtful family planning decisions, ones that consider the needs of all of God’s children, not just our own, and ask Pope Francis (@pontifex) to denounce his advice.