Monday, May 25, 2015

Beyond Birth Control: Quiverfull vs. Catholicism

In the wake of the tragic Duggar molestation news, I have seen several articles that essentially reduce the Quiverfull movement to being anti-birth control.  Yes, they are, and yes, they use that as a weapon against women.  However, I can imagine many well-meaning Catholics and others who do not use artificial birth control scratching their heads or even wanting to defend Quiverfull.  I can also imagine those who do use birth control wanting to lump Quiverfull and Catholic beliefs together.  Growing up Quiverfull sent me screaming away from the oppression and misogyny inherent in its system.  Before converting to Catholicism, I wanted to make sure I wasn't just trading names.  Here are some of the differences I see:
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Family Planning:
Since birth control is the obvious parallel, let's go ahead and tackle that one.  In the Quiverfull movement, the goal is always more children.  Anything that could possibly prevent that, either natural or artificial, is condemned.  This leaves no place for infertility (a sign of God's judgment against probable sin in the family), the mother's health (God won't allow more than you can handle, and if you die, then you are a martyr), or common sense (having more children will mean that you cannot provide for your family).  Children are your army, and the goal is to always have more soldiers than your enemies.

In Catholicism, while openness to life is important, the goal is not to create as many children as possible.  Infertility is not a punishment, and the health of the mother and common sense matter.  The difference here is a mutual call to unselfishness.   All Catholics find that their sexuality offers opportunities to live generously and to sacrifice.  Couples can practice NFP (Natural Family Planning) and abstain during fertile times.  Infertility is not punishment, but another way to offer up our own desires.  Health issues with the mother bring their own forms of sacrifice.  Choosing to have children also brings opportunities for self-control.  Many Catholic families will follow the Church and not have many children, because children in and of themselves are not the goal.  Rather, our goal is to draw closer to God in whatever way is best for our individual families.

Gender Roles:
Quiverfull followers abide by incredibly strict gender roles.  Men are the absolute authority (theoretically under God, but since God calls you to follow your man or suffer the consequences, it amounts to the same thing).  The hierarchy is extreme, far more than outsiders can imagine.  If you are a woman, everything you do, from the choice of hairstyle to entertainment to employment must revolve around the preferences of the husband/father.  He may be a benevolent dictator, but even if he isn't, you must obey and look happy while you do, since allowing anyone to see possible unhappiness means that you are ungrateful to God, deliberately shaming your head, and practicing witchcraft (rebellion) in your heart.   Sure, men are encouraged to listen to their wives, much the same way that most parenting articles would advocate listening to your toddler: let them choose the red shirt instead of the blue shirt if it doesn't really matter, but the man is the one in charge, and ultimately, it comes down to what he wants.  Since any church authority ranks below the family authority, the role of women there is moot, but it generally means that women can cook and clean for the church and perhaps teach Sunday School (for girls, and possibly little boys).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church does NOT establish a hierarchy between husbands and wives, but instead emphasizes mutuality.  Husbands and wives are called to serve each other.  In terms of the Church, I can see how it looks as though men are above women.  I honestly don't have a simple answer for that one.  However, women are encouraged to teach, to preach, and to exercise all of their spiritual gifts, including in positions of leadership.  The main distinction I see is that a priest can give life through the Eucharist, and women give life through birth.  Additionally, all men look to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the example of a Christian life.  Strong, outspoken and independent women are venerated in the Church, and I do not see the subjugation or idea that men are superior that is prominent in Quiverfull churches.

Education is suspect in Quiverfull circles, because it opens one up to satanic and worldly influences.  Some men may be strong enough to resist, but even then, it is better to do an apprenticeship of some sort instead of going to college.  Women, on the other hand, are easily deceived and should stay at home and learn how to serve future husbands by practicing on their fathers and brothers.  For younger children, homeschooling is the only option.

Catholic families strongly value formal education.  Families choose what works best for them--public, Catholic or homeschooling.  College education is a priority, both for boys AND girls (just look at the history of women scientists, mathematicians, physicists, doctors and more in the Church!).

Quiverfull parenting looks to authors like the Pearls, who insist on first-time obedience even for the youngest of children, and use corporal punishment on babies as young as few months old to "train" them.  Spanking, often with a plumbing pipe, belt or switch, is the main or only form of correction.  They believe that the Bible commands spanking, and that lack of spankings equal lack of love for their child.  Appearing happy at all times is very important here, too.  Children must always obey with a smile and show a light in their eyes, and looking unhappy or having a wrong attitude is grounds for yet another spanking.

Catholic parents have a great deal of leeway in how they choose to parent, but many choose to parent gently, and several saints in the Church like Don Bosco and others have spoken very strongly against corporal punishment.  Popular Catholic authors like Gregory and Lisa Popcak advocate for gentle parenting,and most Catholic schools now forbid any type of corporal punishment or humiliation of the child

Sexual Abuse:
There has been systemic enabling of sexual abuse in both Quiverfull adherents and the Church.  Both have failed terribly, and that has resulted in horrible harm to countless children.  I will not make excuses or minimize the faults of the Church in this.  The difference that I see now is that Quiverfull is still caught in secrecy and victim shaming, the phony spiritualization of their own version of forgive and forget, and perpetuation of all that led to the problems in the first place.  Their "counseling" is crap from Gothard who was also a sexual predator.

In contrast, every parish, every school, every teacher that I know of is now receiving training--real training--to help identify abuse and pursue prosecution for abusers, and real counseling and help for children and adults who have been abused.  It is open, talked about, and meaningful and active work is being done to change.

These things are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the differences between the Quiverfull mindset and Catholicism, but they are important ones.  Yes, we both avoid artificial birth control, but when you look at the larger picture, the distinctions between Quiverfull and Catholicism are very great indeed.

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