Why One Child is Not Enough


In her National Post article “Only planet: Why one child is often enough,” Connie Jeske Crane reviews Susan Newman’s book The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide. The book challenges the negative stereotypes surrounding the phenomenon of “onlies” ­— children who grow up with no siblings.

She confronts the societal notion that only children are spoiled, lonely, bossy and funny talkers. She claims this is a product of the brainwashing we’ve received that every child needs a sibling. Through 30 years of research, Newman attempts to show that onlies turn out just as well as other children their age, namely that they are “as socially competent, well-adjusted and successful as their peers.”

She quotes statistics to prove her point. In Spain and Portugal, 30 percent of families have one child; in Canada, its 43 percent; in England, 46 percent. As for the US, “in the last 20 years, the number of singletons … has more than doubled to between 20 and 30%.”

The question must be asked: Is this a good thing? Is it good for individuals, families and society to have more and more children grow up without siblings?

Newman claims that “If you’re happy (as a parent), your child will be happy.” We need to ask: What is truly going to make us happy? In our society, happiness has been reduced to what makes us as individuals feel good. Thus if we’re not doing what we want, then life should change to suit our fancies.

If a vast majority of people take this view of life and pursue happiness from this perspective, what we’ll see, as we do now, is a society full of people who only live for themselves: spoiled, perpetual adolescents with a bloated sense of entitlement who believe their own (limited) happiness is the most important thing in the world. People who, when they don’t get what they want, cry and complain that life’s not fair, and fight for their “right” to have everything handed to them on a silver platter.

Yet we can have our happy meal; but after 15 minutes, we want more fries. And we can have our happy hour; but if we’re not careful, we’ll be worshiping the porcelain god. If we’re truly honest, we want something more than five minutes of momentary pleasure. We want more.

What’s going to give us this “more?” To answer this, we must remember one key rule about life: We weren’t created to be merely “happy.” We were created to be joyful. This is what Jesus was referring to in the Sermon on the Mount with all the “Blessed are’s.” It is a seeking out what is beyond the mere temporal to the eternal. Thus, what we want, in the depths of our heart, is everlasting joy.

Yet how are we to attain joy? By being holy, or becoming the best version of ourselves. We were created by God to make a sincere gift of ourselves. Yet the tension of this world is that it doesn’t encourage us to make a sincere gift but instead to make selfish choices. And it is this selfishness that is killing our capacity for joy.

This brings me back to the main point of this article: One child is not enough. Without other siblings in our family, our opportunities are reduced to learn those very traits that make us human: namely patience, kindness, giving and self-control. We don’t learn to put others first and that we’re not the most important person in the room. We don’t see how the many sacrifices that a family has to make build us up into people that will honor God, family and our nation.

Why has this situation come about? Essentially, married and unmarried couples have accepted wholesale a contraceptive mindset, founded upon the notion that sex is merely for pleasure. Openness to children is not viewed as an essential element to fulfilling ones marital vows, but as something we might get around to if we can squeeze it into our schedule or our financial plan. Nor are children created within the loving embrace of dad and mom, united in marriage, and loved into existence for their own sake, but as a means to complete that “one-more-thing-to-check-off-my-life-goals” checklist. The view of children has been transformed from being considered the supreme gift of marriage to something we have the “right” to obtain. In a sense, children have become commodities, and now we get to determine if, when and how they should be created, with very few limitations.

The entire world is beginning to feel the weight of the choices of two selfish individuals multiplied a million times over. For what we are facing in the not-too-distant future is massive under-population. Newman herself acknowledges this by stating that “UN figures show that 25 developing countries, including Iran, Sri Lanka, Cuba and North Korea, are already at or below replacement-level fertility,” but glosses over this as a non-issue. On a very practical level, this is a MAJOR problem, for world economies are made up of people filling jobs. And if there literally are no people to fill those jobs, what we will see in our lifetime is a shrinking economy, and thus less money in everyone’s pocket (see the documentary Demographic Winter for more evidence of this). If things don’t radically change, the same kind of rioting in Greece will happen here in America, and it will make the Occupy Wall Street gathering look like a Sunday picnic compared to the civil unrest that will be unleashed when entitlement babies grow up and are told there are no jobs to be hand.

To quote Blessed John Paul the Great,

“Decisions about the number of children and the sacrifices to be made for them must not be taken only with a view to adding to comfort and preserving a peaceful existence.  Reflecting upon this matter before God, with the graces drawn from the Sacrament [of Matrimony], and guided by the teaching of the Church, parents will remind themselves that it is certainly less serious to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety.” (October 7, 1979, at a Mass on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C.,)

To quote the Carpenters, “what the world needs now is love.” Is anyone listening?

If we truly want to be joyful, we need to return back to God’s original plan and intention for marriage and the family and learn that if we’re married, we need to see children as a beautiful part of the package, not an optional add-on. This doesn’t mean that married couples who (through no fault of their own) can’t conceive are to be viewed as less than spouses blessed with multiple children. Whether a child is conceived is more God’s doing than our own. But we must constantly be open with each and every marital act, living a hopeful expectation that God wants to create something even more beautiful in our marriage.

It’s not so much about how many children we have, as it is about our attitude toward children. The Church does not require that we have as many children as possible. The Church also does not require that we only engage in marital union in order to have children, but that we can receive children lovingly through adoption. The Church’s teaching on marriage and family life, at its core, protects the dignity of each and every human person, and encourages us to do everything we can to ensure that we and the world around treat every person as a person to be loved and welcomed, and not an object to be used and controlled for selfish gain.

We have a duty as Catholics to give witness to the hope within us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), and as husbands and wives, it is our duty to make sure in and through our families this is accomplished. Is not each child a sign of new life and a spark of the divine? Do we not see that not just the future of humanity but the presence of God is manifested through each and every child conceived? Is not our duty to give our children not every material thing but what they need most, a family? Thus we must say yes to giving them brothers and sisters. It means we must say yes to God’s plan for love and life.


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  • Claire Boeck

    As the parent of an only child, not by my choice, the title of this article really upset me. I felt a little bit better after reading further. I firmly believe that parents should be generous in giving their children siblings, and I would love nothing more than to be able to give my son a sibling. But in my case, apparently one child is enough, because that is God’s plan for my family. And my son is by no means spoiled, and I can guarantee that he will not grow up to be selfish.

    • Claire, the article title was not intended to be dismissive of those couples who cannot have more that one child because God has not granted them this gift. The original article I was responding to was making the argument that couples should only shoot for one child. This contraceptive mentality is pervasive, especially among Catholics, and I was drawing attention to the face that we need to think maximally, not minimally, regarding the physical and spiritual blessings that God wants to pour out upon us.

  • Claire Boeck

    Hi Steve, yes, I realized that as I read further. And I agree that intentionally striving for just one child is not a good approach.

  • Being an only has always been a trial for me. Fortunately my Mom has younger brothers, close to my own age, who have always filled-in as emotional brothers. But still I always wished I could have the real thing.

  • one child is enough

    Mr. Pokorny, the insensitivity and ignorance displayed in your article is startling. The insensitivity lies in the message you’re sending to parents who have one child, but not by choice: that only children are doomed to grow up selfish and spoiled lest they have siblings.

    The ignorance lies in the fact that you imply that parents who choose to have one child do so only for financial reasons. You fail to consider other reasons that might factor into their decision: eg. difficult pregnancy, traumatic birth experience, post-partum depression, etc. It’s understandable that you might overlook these issues since they’re experienced by women rather than men.

    There’s another reason that parents might choose to have one child: to preserve marital happiness. For some parents the stress of taking care of a child can be so great that having another child would strain the marital relationship. More important than having a sibling is having parents who share a close, loving relationship.

    As Susan Newman states: “If you’re happy (as a parent), your child will be happy.” The happiness she’s referring to is not (as you imply) selfish pleasure-seeking, but rather an overall sense of well-being that has a positive impact on a child. Ask any child with siblings whose parents are unhappy which they’d prefer – siblings or happy parents – I’d venture to say they’d prefer the latter.

    However, it sounds as though you’re less concerned with the merits of having siblings than you are with the prevalence of contraception among Catholics. And if this is the case, then why does your disapproval lie only with parents who choose to have one child? What about parents who choose to have only two children, or only three children, or only four children, or only five children? Are parents with one child the only ones using contraception? I think not.

    Mr. Pokorny, for some parents one child IS enough. That you would try to shame parents who choose this – for whatever reason – is very sad.

  • To Onechildisenough:

    I want to thank you for your honesty and willingness to engage this topic. My intention was not to offend anyone but to cause everyone, especially married couples, to ponder deeply what the contraceptive mindset is doing to all of us, and esp. our understanding of the family.

    Some points to ponder:

    1) I state clearly in my article: “This doesn’t mean that married couples who (through no fault of their own) can’t conceive are to be viewed as less than spouses blessed with multiple children. Whether a child is conceived is more God’s doing than our own.” The the article is directed at a) specifically a response to Susan Newman’s article; and b) those married couples who are intentionally not discerning through prayer what God’s will is for their family, but simply using a short sighted vision for what they think their family size should be.

    2)Certainly “onlies” who grow up could do so well adjusted and be truly generous. My argument is that the goal of their lives, to learn how to live as a sincere gift, will be seriously challenged in our culture that views the meaning of life as living for oneself. The mentality coming from the “sexual revolution” inspires selfishness and it has not made people more happy. It is within the family we are to learn the virtues necessary to be gifts, and without siblings, acquiring those virtues can be much more challenging, let alone impossible, if the opportunity is not provided during one’s formative years.

    3) I certainly don’t deny the other factors you mention regarding the decision to conceive a child. I was responding to Ms. Newman’s article, which puts the decision of having only one child on merely a financial level. To be clear: the decision of whether to have a child within marriage is to be done from a generous heart, and to seriously discern whether God is calling them to have another child. So many couples, esp. Catholics, have bought into the contraceptive mindset thinking they won’t have enough to give (esp. on the financial level). They forget that love doesn’t shrink when there’s more people; it multiplies. After each child is born, couples must continually to ask the question what God’s intention is for their family, esp. regarding family size.

    4) Being a father of one born and one unborn child, I know just how difficult it is to be raising children. I have, at times, desired to have some time to myself to be able to take care of the things I want to do. If I were to keep this perspective, I know this would lead me to pursue my own selfishness. Through our discernment, my wife and I realize that our marriage is not our own. He desires for us to give to our daughter another one like her who can give her the opportunity to foster the virtues.

    5) I will challenge your understanding of the purpose of marriage. The goal of marriage, for Christians, is not for our own personal happiness, but it is for our holiness. While it may seem for some couples who have only one child (who have chosen this for a non-serious reason) that to have another would be a huge burden, I would challenge them to limit their understanding of happiness. As the Church teaches, children are the supreme gift of marriage, and if they are purposely saying “no” to these gifts, their happiness will be limited and even reduced. Our happiness only lies in pursuing the will of God, which ultimately will lead to our holiness and sanctification.

    6) No where did I claim or insinuate that only those with one child are using contraception. The focus of the article was as a response to Ms. Newman. A large number of Catholics (at least 86%) are contracepting, and much of this comes from fear, selfishness, ignorance of their wedding vows, not discerning the will of God and a combination of all of them. Using NFP for the right reasons will help to eliminate so many of these reasons and guide couples to a deepening of their marital intimacy and joy.

    7) Certainly, one child MAY be enough, but I challenge: Is that married couple continually discerning, through the many different times, weeks, months and seasons, what the will of God is for them? If we simply say “one and done,” and forget to keep asking the question, we will be cutting ourselves off from true happiness, which is being centered in the will of God.

  • one child is enough

    Mr . Pokorny, if your intention was to cause married couples to ponder the contraceptive mindset, then why does your article address only the families with one child? Do you think they are the only ones using contraception?

    In response to your points:

    1. Yes, you make the statement in your article that married couples who (through no fault of their own) can’t conceive are not to be viewed as less than spouses blessed with multiple children. However, the title of your article implies otherwise.

    2. There are people with no siblings who live only for themselves, and there are people with siblings who live only for themselves. The acquisition of virtues does not depend on whether a child has siblings, but rather on how they are parented.

    3. You say that each couple should “seriously discern whether God is calling them to have another child.” Yet in your article you state that “we must constantly be open with each and every marital act, living a hopeful expectation that God wants to create something even more beautiful in our marriage.” If we’re to be open to (and hopeful of) conceiving life with every marital act, then what is there to discern?

    4. Your implication that it is selfish to have time for oneself is misguided. It is when we replenish ourselves (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually) that we’re able to give our best to others. And this replenishment requires that we take time for ourselves as individuals.

    5. The purpose of marriage may be for “holiness”, but if happiness is not a core element in a marriage then it is an un-holy union no matter how many children a couple has.

    6. Natural Family Planning is one of the greatest hypocrisies of the Catholic church. It is not couples trying to discern God’s will for their family size; it is couples trying to avoid conception. The fact that is “natural” (vice artificial) does not negate the fact that couples are trying to control their reproductive behavior. It is also yet another example of the Catholic church’s subjugation of women, since it requires abstinence during the time of the woman’s peak sexual desire (ovulation) for the entire duration of her fertile life, except for the handful of times when she conceives.

    7. You question whether couples with one child are trying to discern God’s will for their families. Do you question whether couples with two children – or three or four or five, etc. – are doing the same?

    Mr. Pokorny, if your real concern is the prevalence of (artificial) contraception among Catholics, please refrain from using couples with one child (by choice) as the sacrificial lamb.

  • To Onechildisenough:

    1) Please hear me clearly: My article title was a direct play on words to Susan Newman’s title, “Why one child is often enough.” I was trying to keep the scope of the article focused on that.

    2)Yes, it is true that those who grow up in homes with multiple siblings can fail to acquire unselfish virtues. Don’t miss my point, though – for couples to willingly create the environment for their child to not have brothers and sisters without proper discernment is contrary to the child’s good.

    3)Your third and 6th point need to go together. I’m going to challenge you to research NFP and to take a class because you’re writing from ignorance. The Church is not for NFP because it’s more “natural” vs. “artificial.” It’s against contraception, and in no way can NFP be contraceptive. Contraception means “against life,” and at no time are couples who use NFP putting a barrier, chemically or physically, that would prevent the conception of a child. They are working with the knowledge of how the body works and their shared fertility to either a) postpone pregnancy (for a serious reason) or b) achieve a pregnancy.

    NFP is anything but “subjugation of women,” for it helps to affirm the beauty of women in her totality. It helps husbands to not see his wife as a sex object or that her fertility is a hindrance to his own libido, but instead affirms her totally. A woman who knows her husband is going to respect everything she is will feel deeply loved and cherished. I highly recommend you study the Church’s teachings on women (start with Mulieris Dignitatem and Letter to Women) to see that the Church is anything but anti-women.

    If a couple is open to life, but has a serious reason to postpone, they can use the naturally occurring signs to avoid pregnancy w/out doing anything that would violate the nature of their marital vows or the dignity of who they are as men and women.

    4) What is your definition of happiness?

    5) I’m not questioning the intention of anyone, esp. those with more than one children. All I’m drawing to attention is that married couples who use contraception are missing out on the beauty of all that marriage is supposed to be and not being open to the gifts that God has for their family.

  • Perinatal Loss Nurse

    As Susan Newman states: “If you’re happy (as a parent), your child will be happy.”
    I dont know who the heck Susan Newman is, but in my almost-50 yars of life, I have heard that phrase used to justify some horrible selfish behavior including the total destruction of families. We would be wise to take a deeper, slower look at what we are considering and why before we ever let that philosophy direct us.

    I am compassionate to those who are unable to have a child or only one, but for those of us who are blessed to have the chance to give our first the gift of siblings, we need to not look at just our immediate wants but to discern Gods bigger will for us…

    Based on dramatic life experiences, I was terrified to have a girl, I really didnt WANT one and after having 2 sons, I was tempted to stop. God wasnt done and He lead me to have another child who was a girl and the most wonderful experience unfolded. The change in me was real and profound. My feelings before were real and extreme, but Im so glad I didnt close the door to growth and change. I joke that if my 1994 self had lunch with my 1996 self, they would have gotten into a fistfight and I dont know who would have thrown the first punch.

    My daughter is amazing, she is wonderful and I love her so much. She will turn 16 soon …she and I are going on a wonderful trip to make a memory together…oh my…what a HUGE loss it would have been to miss out on this!!!

    • Perinatal, thank you for your witness. This is what I’ve been trying to convey in my article and responses. Every child is a gift and has the opportunity to unfold unforeseen blessings into our life. We must not reduce our understanding of happiness but recognize happiness is ultimately found in being centered in God’s will. His will often changes us and moves us to where we need to be, and in turn, expands (not restricts) our happiness.

  • one child is enough

    Perinatal Loss Nurse,

    The statement “If you’re happy (as a parent), your child will be happy” should not be used to justify behavior that is detrimental to a child. The intention of the statement is that, generally speaking, when a parent is happy (ie. experiencing an overall sense of well-being) it has a positive effect on a child. In like fashion, when a parent is unhappy it has a detrimental effect on a child.

    The idea of giving a child “the gift of siblings” is misguided. As Mr. Pokorny stated in his original article, a child should be “loved into existence for their own sake”, not as a “gift” for the existing child.

    Mr. Pokorny,

    You stated that “NFP is anything but ‘subjugation of women,’ for it helps to affirm the beauty of women in her totality. It helps husbands to not see his wife as a sex object or that her fertility is a hindrance to his own libido, but instead affirms her totally. A woman who knows her husband is going to respect everything she is will feel deeply loved and cherished.”

    Having attended 12 years of Catholic school (including college), I’m familiar enough with the church to know patriarchal church speak when I hear it. This is simply flowery verbiage that justifies the church’s teaching on NFP, which IS a form of contraception: it is trying to prevent the conception of a child by means of regulating when a couple has sexual intercourse. As you stated yourself, the couple is trying to “avoid pregnancy”.

    You also stated that “for couples to willingly create the environment for their child to not have brothers and sisters without proper discernment is contrary to the child’s good.”

    1. How do you know that couples with one child by choice have not tried to discern God’s will for their lives? Do you know their hearts and their personal relationship with God?

    2. Again, what is the main point of your original article – your belief in the necessity of a child to having siblings, or your disapproval of artificial contraception?

    You asked what my definition of happiness is. As stated in my previous response, happiness is an overall sense of well-being.

    You have yet to address the question in my previous response. You say that each couple should “seriously discern whether God is calling them to have another child.” Yet in your article you state that “we must constantly be open with each and every marital act, living a hopeful expectation that God wants to create something even more beautiful in our marriage.” If we’re to be open to (and hopeful of) conceiving life with every marital act, then what is there to discern?

  • Dear One Child is enough,

    I would first contend with your definition of happiness. For a Christian, our well-being is found in being centered and pursuing the will of God. Only if we are faithful to that will we truly attain happiness. We need to keep this perspective when we discuss NFP.

    The fact you attended 12 years of Catholic school doesn’t lend much to credibility, sadly. So many Catholics have not been catechized well in the past 60 years, esp. regarding matters involving human sexuality. If your education has not been steeped in Theology of the Body and the works of John Paul, then I encourage you to re-examine your education.

    A little snippet from Familiaris Consortio 32 (I really encourage you to read the entire encyclical, esp. the context): “the difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle: it is a difference which is much wider and deeper than is usually thought, one which involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.” IN NO WAY IS THE CHURCH SAYING NFP IS A FORM OF CONTRACEPTION! They are diametrically opposed to one another. With contraception, it is definitively selfish; with NFP, used for serious reasons from discernment, it is about a total gift of self.

    Have you taken a full-series class on NFP?

    I’m not judging individual couples. They need to answer to God for their questions. Yet if a couple is taking a “one-and-done” approach, and they close the door to God and the continual conversation about children that needs to take place, then they are missing out on the beauty of what marriage and family life is all about. That selfish mentality will have its negative effect on their marriage and family.

    “[W]hat is the main point of your original article – your belief in the necessity of a child to having siblings, or your disapproval of artificial contraception?” My answer: yes to both, with a tweak. The problem isn’t natural vs. artificial. It’s contraception v. being open to new life. To restate: if couples have a serious reason to postpone, they can use the knowledge of the naturally occurring signs of their shared fertility to do so and it would be morally acceptable. Yet if they are refusing to have another child, to provide another sibling to the child or children they already have, they will be held accountable for their selfishness if it is not repented of and the situation rectified.

    “If we’re to be open to (and hopeful of) conceiving life with every marital act, then what is there to discern?” This is exactly the problem with the contraceptive mindset: couples who use contraception aren’t discerning at all. They’ve stopped asking the question: what is God’s will for our lives, marriage and family life? They’ve closed themselves off to the beautiful gifts God wants to give to them, whether it be a physical gift of a child or a continued strengthening of their marital bond. Whether they recognize it or not, it will have an effect in their marriage.

  • one child is enough

    “Couples who use contraception aren’t discerning at all. They’ve stopped asking the question: what is God’s will for our lives, marriage and family life?”

    Not true, Mr. Pokorny. Just because a couple uses artificial contraception does not mean that they’ve stopping trying to understand what God’s will is for their lives. You may know Catholic doctrine well, but you do not know the hearts of other people.

  • One Child is Enough:

    Let’s look at this issue through the language of the body. Just as we can speak a truth or a lie with our words, we can speak a truth or a lie with our bodies.

    The language of our bodies in marital intercourse is that we are giving ourselves completely to the other person, including our fertility. When contraception enters in, it is a contradiction of the very language of marital love, where a couple is in essence says “I don’t give you everything.” At the most intimate moment, where we’re supposed to be speaking the full truth of ourselves, we’re lying, and this has a profound effect on our marriage.

    It can never be an act of love to lie to someone. I’m not judging a person’s heart, but their actions. By using contraception, couples are cutting themselves off from the voice of God and aren’t really listening. Without listening, discernment is impossible.

    Apparently, this is a very personal issue for you. I strongly suggest you speak with a priest who is 100% on board with the Church’s teachings regarding contraception and NFP.

    I will be praying for you.

  • one child is enough

    To say that the use of artificial contraception means that we’re “lying” to our partner is a convenient extrapolation.

    As for your advice, I would no more speak with a priest about contraception (hence sexual relations) than I would with a plumber about gynecological issues.

    And note your words: “the Church’s teachings regarding contraception”. It is the Catholic church – not God – which has laid out rules regarding contraception. Where is the Biblical basis for the Catholic church’s teaching?

    Instead of praying for me (that I might be open to conceiving more children in an already overpopulated world), consider praying for the 160 million children who are already here who need families. You might start with these children: http://reecesrainbow.org/

    In the future, if your point is to speak about your views against the use of artificial contraception, you would be wise not to use couples with one child (by choice) as examples, since there are just as many couples with two, three and four children (by choice) who use artificial contraception as well.

    • Mary Kochan

      One child,

      Regardless of whether the extrapolation is convenient, meaning that it goes the way of Steve’s argument, the pertinent question is whether it is reasonable and true. Either human sexuality is meaningless, and given both the fact that it has enormous implications for our personal identity AND is the way that human life is transmitted, that would be tantamount to saying that life itself is meaningless, OR it is meaningful. If it is meaningful, then it is the proper subject of a search for truth. We recognize many areas where actions speak, and we even have the common expression, “actions speak louder than words.” If human sexuality has a true meaning, then actions which betray that meaning are indeed lies.

      As for your question about the biblical basis for the Catholic teaching, allow me to remind you that this Catholic teaching was the teaching of ALL Christian denominations until the middle of the last century, including all the “sola scriptura” Protestants. So are we to understand from your question that if you are shown the biblical basis for this teaching, you will immediately align yourself with it?

      Finally, it has been explained to you repeatedly that the reason why Steve was focusing on one child was because he was responding to an author who was writing specifically about having only one child. It is illogical to attempt to make an argument from silence as though the fact that Steve did not talk about people with two, three or four children means that he considers contraception to be okay for them, or that he is in some state of ignorance regarding the use of contraception among such couples.

      • Claire

        Well said, Mary.

  • Mary, thanks for your response.

    One Child is Enough, the only thing I would add to Mary’s response is that the world is not overpopulated, but radically underpopulated. See the secular documentary “Demographic Winter” for more info. The reason why Greece is having such economic problems is because of a radically low birthrate, where there aren’t enough people to pay for the entitlements. The same thing is happening in Italy, Spain and England, and will be manifested soon. We would be in the same boat if it wasn’t for immigration, especially by hispanics. People aren’t the problem; selfishness is.

    As for the site you mentioned, I’m all for adoption. We need to do some serious reform on adoption law, so that husbands and wives who are looking to adopt can do so more easily than the process we have currently. That’s a topic for another time.

  • one child is enough

    Ms. Kochan,

    My point in asking for the Biblical basis for the Catholic church’s teaching on contraception is that it comes from man-made doctrine, not from God. So I’ll rephrase my question in the hope of getting an answer: Where does this teaching come from? Where/how has God expressed displeasure with His people preventing conception?

    As for actions speaking louder than words, if you must insist that using contraception is akin to lying, then NFP could be seen as sneaky since the end goal is to avoid conception (although I imagine God isn’t fooled by this). NFP is the Catholic contraceptive, plain and simple.

    As a side note, NFP doesn’t work for everyone since not all women have regular cycles. So what then? Are these couples to be subjected to an endless number of children?

    Mr. Pokorny,

    The world IS overpopulated. The world population has risen from three billion people in 1959 to seven billion people in 2011 (http://www.overpopulation.org/). It’s widely known that sustainability, in terms of the earth’s resources, is an emerging problem.

    The documentary “Demographic Winter” does not assert that the world is underpopulated. The problem it addresses is the declining birthrates in developed countries, which are below replacement level from an economic standpoint. From what I understand, your stance against contraception is based not on economics but on religion. But again, the basis for the teaching is still unclear.

  • One Child is Enough,

    In regard to interpreting the Bible, the most important thing we need to keep in mind is context. We can’t simply take one verse out and use it to prove a point, if that flies in the face of the whole teaching of Christ as handed down by the Catholic Faith.

    One place we can see Biblical support against contraception would be in Gen 1:28, where the very first command of God is “Be fruitful and multiply.” While it’s true the word “contraception isn’t found in Scripture, either is the word “Trinity,” yet one must believe in the Trinity to be a Christian. As Mary said, for at least 1900 years, all Christians were united on this teaching against contraception, and it is rooted in God’s original plan for man and woman in marriage, namely that we are called to always be open to life and fruitfulness. To do otherwise is to go against the very nature of who God is, and because we’re made in His image (Gen 1:26), it goes against ourselves.

    The Catholic Church builds upon this understanding, especially b/c of the Person of Christ, who commands us to “love as He loves,” namely freely (John 10), totally (John 13:15), faithfully (Matt 28:28), and fruitfully (John 10:10). It is this kind of love we need to have in our lives, let alone our marriages, in order to be truly joyful.

    NFP is never contraceptive, for it never blocks an act of intercourse (a husband ejaculating into his wife’s vagina and she is not chemically sterilizing herself). Certainly, NFP could be used in a selfish way, but in no way are they trying to impede the sperm from reaching the egg in an act of intercourse.

    “As a side note, NFP doesn’t work for everyone since not all women have regular cycles. So what then? Are these couples to be subjected to an endless number of children?”

    This is precisely why I challenge you to take a full class in NFP. NFP is not the rhythm method. It works with the naturally occurring signs of a couple’s shared fertility. Regardless of a woman’s cycle, simply by observing her own naturally occurring signs, she can chart and know when/when not she’s fertile. Couples are able to use this knowledge for their family planning intentions.

    The problem is not resources; the problem is selfishness. We could feed the world 3x over and still have food left over. And there’s plenty of space in the world to put people, as we could put every person in the state of Texas with 1250 sq. ft., and there would still be room left over there. We need to work on better allocating resources to people, not trying to eliminate people.

    I can discuss the issues of contraception on an economic level, but that wasn’t the primary point of my article. This issue affects all aspects of life; I was simply trying to keep the argument focused (hence the repeated reminder that this was directed specifically toward married couples who selfishly choose to have one child and no more).

    I will continue to pray for you.

  • one child is enough

    The command “Be fruitful and multiply” is not support against contraception. Again, extrapolation. Further, God does not specify how many times a couple should multiply — unless the additional phrase “and the minimum requirement is two” has been deleted from the Bibles I’ve seen.

    To point out that NFP does not “impede the sperm from reaching the egg in an act of intercourse” is an act of hair-splitting. The fact is that a couple who practices NFP is trying to avoid conception. And if, as you say, God requires that we always be open to life, then NFP violates that.

    As for NFP working with the naturally occurring signs of a woman’s fertility, some women don’t have those naturally recurring signs and therefore don’t know when they’re fertile.

    You say that “couples are able to use this knowledge (naturally recurring signs of fertility) for their family planning intentions”. Yet you also say that a couple should always be open to life. So what then is there for a couple to plan? Do you not see the contradiction in your words?

    As for overpopulation, the issue is not to try to “eliminate people” as you say. Contraception does not involve the destruction of life.

    You say that couples who choose to have one child (and no more) are selfish. You might remember Matthew 7:1, “Judge not lest ye be judged”. However, why do you judge these couples as selfish?

    • Claire

      NFP is always open to life, whether the couple is trying to conceive or trying to avoid. The timing of the act might make a conception less likely, but the act itself does not block new life. It does not utilize chemicals to artificially render sterility, it does not utilize chemicals to abort a fertilized egg when the original mechanism of preventing a conception is unsuccessful, and it does not put a barrier between a husband and a wife. There is nothing unethical about having relations during an infertile portion of the cycle. Causing the act to become infertile or artificially extending the infertile portion of the cycle is another story.

    • Mary Kochan

      I await with interest your explanation of how one is a multiple of two. The new math apparently has nothing on contraceptive math…

  • goral

    What do Thee Dog Night and The Psalmist have in common?

    “One is the loneliest, one is the loneliest
    One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do”
    Three Dog Night

    Psalm 127 (ESV)

    “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
    Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children[a] of one’s youth.
    Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
    He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

    Shame and loneliness are the fruits of a selfish heart.

  • one child is enough


    1. I believe the Three Dog night song refers to a romantic relationship, not a sibling one. (“It’s just no good anymore since she went away”)

    2. How many arrows are sufficient to fill the quiver?


    “The timing of the act might make a conception less likely…”
    Exactly. The couple is trying to avoid conception.

    Ms. Kochan,

    1 woman X 1 man = 1 baby

    I still await an explanation for the Biblical basis of the Catholic church’s doctrine on artificial contraception.

  • Claire

    Trying to avoid a conception by having relations during the naturally infertile portion of a cycle is not the same as rendering the act infertile. The act would likely (not always) be infertile during that part of the cycle anyway, and there is no moral imperative to wait to have relations until the time of ovulation. Rendering the act infertile is another story. As is using chemicals which abort an embryo when their original mechnism (of preventing ovulation) has failed.

    Clearly you have a lot of bitterness and resentment toward the Catholic Church, particularly its teachings on sexuality and contraception. Yet you’re on a Catholic site that upholds these teachings. Another mathematical puzzle.

  • wild rose

    The Catholic Church’s teaching on Faith and Morals has never changed in two thousand years. From the Old Testament: “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28); from the Ten Commandments “You shall not kill.” (Exodus 20:13) The Jewish faith teaching included openness to life and banned abortion.

    The openness to fertility from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (1652)
    “By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory.”
    Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God himself said: “It is not good that man should be alone,” and “from the beginning (he) made them male and female”; wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Gen 1:28). Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it, without diminishment of the other ends of marriage, are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.”

    One child is enough,
    There is nothing quite as startling as reading the recollections of former citizens of totalitarian states. Personal experience is enough to get the point across.
    War on Women? Count Me for the Defense

  • goral

    Romantic relationship??? You mean the kind that produces baby(s)?
    I thought they were singing about three dogs.
    I don’t know the capacity of a quiver because I pack a
    six-gun. My guess is that a quiver could easily hold the capacity of a hospital delivery room.
    No shame in that.
    Fertile blessings.

  • GuitarGramma

    One child — I beg you, please read Jennifer Fulwiler’s article currently on Catholic Lane, “Contraception: The Discussion Has Finally Begun.” Ms. Fulwiler has done a marvelous job of pointing out why the foundational assumptions that are preventing us from hearing each other in this discussion. (Obviously, this is my first contribution to this discussion, but I’ve been lurking with great interest.)

    And may I say, as a mathematician by training, that your answer to Mary (1 woman X 1 man = 1 baby) was truly clever. I cannot fault you there. Yet I must ask you, do you think that’s what God meant? Were Adam and Eve being commanded to stop at one?

    Blessings to you!

  • one child is enough


    Why is it puzzling that I’m expressing my opinion on Mr. Pokorny’s article? Is this website not open to independent thinking and open debate?

    Wild Rose,

    In no way am I advocating abortion, which is the destruction of life. What I believe in is the right of a couple to decide when they’re open to the creation of life through the use of contraception.

    Children may be the “supreme gift of marriage” but not all couples desire to have children. And of those who do desire to have children, not all desire the same number of children.

    As for your statement, “There is nothing quite as startling as reading the recollections of former citizens of totalitarian states”, please clarify its meaning/relevance to this discussion.


    Are women supposed to be open to bearing and raising “a hospital delivery room” full of children?


    First of all, thank you for the kind and respectful tone of your comment. I acknowledge and apologize for the fact that the tone of a few of my comments has been less than kind and respectful. Thank you for your example.

    I’ve read Jennifer Fulwiler’s article (“Contraception: The Discussion Has Finally Begun”), and disagree with her assertion that a couple does not have the right to “enjoy the pleasurable aspects of sex without being open to any new life”. She says that “if they really, really, really, really cannot have a baby, they should not engage in the act that creates babies”.

    As I said to Wild Rose, in no way am I advocating abortion, which is the destruction of life. But I do believe in a couple’s right to avoid the creation of life (through the use of contraception) if – for whatever reason – they do not feel they can have a child.

    Whether a couple feels that they cannot have any children at all, or that they cannot have any children for the time being, or that they cannot have any more children, I do not believe that God would want them to abstain from sexual activity, as it is an essential expression of love in a marriage.

    Unlike Ms. Fulwiler, I do feel that the Catholic church’s teaching about sexuality (and contraception) comes primarily from a male-dominated institution which places restrictions on women’s roles not only in the Catholic church, but in other aspects of life as well.

    As for my answer to the mathematical question, I do not believe that God desires all couples to have only one child. (In fact, I should have made my username “one child is enough for some”). What I believe is that when God said, “Be fruitful and multiply”, the statement was directed to the people as a whole in order to continue the human race – not necessarily as a mandate for every individual.

    Some couples desire children and some couples do not. The couples who desire children will accomplish God’s desire for the human race to continue. And among those couple, some desire one child and some desire two, three, four, five, etc.

    The issue of contraception aside, the title of the article (“one child is not enough”) and Mr. Pokorny’s statement that couples who choose to have one child are selfish, are very hurtful. Each couple who chooses to have only one child has their own reasons for doing so, and those reasons are not necessarily selfish.

    I do not believe that God (a) requires every couple to have children, and (b) requires them to have a minimum of two. I believe that God speaks to each person’s heart – a conversation that cannot be heard (and therefore should not be judged) by others.

  • Claire

    One Child: yes of course this site is open to other opinions (not that I work for this site or represent it in any way, but from what I’ve seen it is). I didn’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t express your opinion on this article. It’s just that some of your comments seem to be horrified that this author promotes Church teaching on contraception, and I don’t know why that should be so surprising.

    I don’t know if you saw my original comment, which was the first one on this article. I was also hurt by the title of the article, but by the time I read the article itself, I understood the reason for it. (I only have one child, on earth anyway.)

  • goral

    GuitarGramma, you’re being way too lax in your consideration of the totally faulty math that is being applied in this discussion. I refer to –
    (1 woman X 1 man = 1 baby)

    Yes, the identity property for multiplication tells us that one is its own factorial, square, cube, etc. That only applies when each “one” is IDENTICAL to the other.
    We frequently use that as an explanation for the Trinity because each One is con-substantial with the others.
    We can’t use that in this case because in algebra, 1W X 1M = WM and not B.
    Inversely, you can’t divide W by B and get M.

    The only way this happens is through the miracle of life. X and Y chromosomes come together and form a third combination of chromosomes that can not revert back to either of the producers.
    This also happens chemically with thermoset epoxy resins, for instance, they can not revert back as CO2 or a mathematical equation can.

    I believe this is what Mary was questioning in her request to demonstrate that when a man and a woman come together they do not produce a child that is a multiple of either or both of them but a completely new life with his or her unique set of chromosomes.

    It’s a total misapplication of math not to consider the chemistry and all the while we are not even considering the most important component, the soul.

    Keep in mind that even mathematically speaking, the number one is also known as the empty product, that is to say, that any number multiplied by one is itself. This produces the same result as multiplying by no number at all.

    Anybody see any parallels here to the empty spirituality of those who are looking out for number one?

  • one child is enough


    I did see your original comment and I’m sorry for the loss of your other child.

    I understand that Mr. Pokorny’s stance on contraception is in line with the Catholic church’s teaching, and it’s not surprising given that this is a Catholic website. I was simply expressing my views and challenging that teaching.

    What is disappointing, though, is Mr. Pokorny’s passing judgment on couples with only one child by choice as being selfish. The reasons a couple may have for choosing to have only one child are varied, and classifying all those couples in this way is unfair and unkind.


    One child is not an “empty product” as you imply. If it were, then your statement is condemning even to those (like Claire) who have only one child but not by choice.

    My response to Ms. Kochan’s mathematical question was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. The reason is that when God said, “Be fruitful and multiply”, the number of offspring is not specified, so – if we’re looking to be exacting – even one offspring (I believe) is acceptable to God.

    • Carla

      Thank you for your insights. Please see my comment above

  • goral

    Challenging the Church on moral teaching and doctrine is a pass time that leaves the challenger broken and desolate, all the time.
    It’s never worked.
    The vision of a Church that is a product of the age is sheer calamity, like the last days of Pompeii. Now, that would be an “empty product”.

    The great tragedy of our nation is that we encourage those who find it exhilarating to sail at night into an iceberg and then dismiss the lesson.

    One Child, neither Mr. Pokorny is passing judgment nor am I implying that one child is an “empty product”.
    All I’m saying is that your math is messed up, tongue-in cheek or otherwise.
    Math like our Mother Church is both tangible and mystical.
    An infallible statement by The Church is tantamount to a math statement.
    It is what the statement says it is and it’s not open to opinions and challenges.

    • Carla

      I read through all this and the comments. If 86 percent of Catholics are “contracepting” and that is not supposed to follow church doctrine then there is a problem. Do we exclude those 86% in order to be a more perfect church? I think not. A perfect church exists only in heaven. Jesus did not include only perfectly religious (doctrinal) people among his followers and friends. In fact, the perfectly religious were the Pharisees, the farthest from heaven according to Jesus. Judgment and pride are sins like any other. It does seem that NFP and all this talk of Catholic sexual ethics are distractions and we are forgetting the main points of Catholicism, which can be found in the Apostles Creed and the belief in transubstantiation, for example. Let’s stop closing the door on the imperfect and show them some of Jesus’ love. Please be more humble, like Jesus – and Pope Francis.
      Jesus said:
      But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

  • Non-Catholic*Adopted*Only*Child*666

    Oh, you are SO wrong! You got it all backward. Society NEEDS more
    onlies!!!! The Only Child is kind and thoughtful, just introverted. Society
    demonizes introverts. Introverts work, not yack yack thoughtlessly. Many onlies
    go crazy and/or end up on their own because they are in constant clash with
    non-adopted sibling rich extroverts – so outnumbered! I was so miserable and
    all alone growing up in the 80s probably as the only Adopted Only Child in all
    of the state of Tennessee, going to all girls Catholic schools – I wasn’t
    Catholic, just wanted to get away from the boys bullying me and hurting me all
    the time (oh but that’s my fault, too, right? – bullying Is a necessary rite of
    passage and it’s my fault for being a targeted wimp, isn’t that what you are
    going to say? Of course it is, Mr. Twistix – twist it on around! ) I’ll do the
    Twist, too (oh dear, there I am talking funny just like an Only Child does!) I
    was just fine until everybody started GETTING AT ME in all directions! Society
    caters to non-adopted sibling rich extroverts and won’t give quiet folks a
    chance (onlies tend to be quiet).
    Society is cruel. Loud, kicking, screaming, hair-pulling, downright ugly
    – see a connection? All the bullies in school came from big families. Bullies
    run corporations. But bullies are not selfish? The only child sits quietly in a
    corner minding his/her own business, just wants to work, just wants to help.
    But nice guys finish last. In this world. All action, all kindness, yet no
    preachy, mindless chit chat. Not a thing wrong with that. And the world IS
    overpopulated. Just step out your door and you see it immediately everywhere
    you go. Too many folks, not enough jobs. Everything – environment, economy – is
    deteriorating because of overpopulation. Oh, yes it is.