March 19, 2013 by lucieromarin
1. When are you going to have a baby?
If you want to help married Catholics end up as roadkill, mow them down repeatedly with this question. I cannot imagine how it feels to have God answer ‘No’ to the prayer for a child; I think I can imagine how it feels to not take vengeance on the people who ask something so insensitive.
Some years ago, a I read a letter in a Catholic periodical asking people to be more tactful. The writer had recently seen some random old guy charge up to a woman at a pro-life event and say, “When are you going to have another baby?” The woman had suffered a miscarriage only two weeks previously. The story doesn’t end there, though; the following month, the same periodical published another letter by an elderly gentleman saying that it might have been sad for the woman, but, and I quote, “Truth is more important than charity,” so pro-lifers (meaning, presumably, the old, unmarried, childless, male ones) should continue to exhort one another (meaning, presumably, the young, female, married ones) to follow God’s law.
I know one married woman who thinks about responding to this question with, “Well, we plan to have sex on Wednesday. Maybe we should phone you afterwards and tell you how it went.” If it were me, I think I’d like to respond with, “Just as soon Subject X-12Q9 has completed Test Phase Three.”
2. Why don’t they have any children?
I’ve had a number of people ask me this question about third parties, and the more I hear it, the more I realise that it is bizarre. It certainly isn’t charitable. Does anyone actually expect me to say, “Because they contracept?” or “Because they have a Josephite marriage?” or “Because they don’t believe in the Church’s teaching?” Why would one devout Catholic even consider the possibility that anonther devout Catholic was childless for reasons other than health? Also, why would anyone assume that a) that they have some kind of right to know the details of another person’s physical suffering, and b) that I would even think of sharing these details with someone whose question obviously proceeds from an ill-thought-out curiosity? Surely it’s obvious that if a woman is not disclosing this information to you, it’s because you don’t have a right to know it?
For as long as we ask each other this question, we show that we still think that other people are guilty until proven innocent, and that innocence must be proved by treating private lives as public property.
3. Everyone is called to chastity…
This statement is usually issued at the beginning of a response to someone who is struggling with chastity, either because he has not married or is unable to marry. It goes something along the lines of, “First of all, everyone is called to chastity (ie not just you. So quit complaining)….”
It is particularly irksome when these words issue from the mouth of a happily married person to someone who, for whatever reason, will never be able to marry. Of course we’re all called to chastity – that’s not the point. If your kind of chastity has sex in it, it’s completely different to the kind of chastity that will never have sex in it, particularly when that kind of chastity is unchosen. Surely this distinction is fairly obvious? Even religious celibacy is not really comparable – Virginity Because God Wanted You is worlds away from the experience of Virginity Because No One Wanted You.
I’d make an exception here, though, for people who have suffered in marriage. Obviously it’s not the same kind of trial as never marrying, but an unhappily married person really does have something to teach us, not only about disappointment, but about the struggle to be faithful to the teachings of the Church.
4. Have you tried prayer?
A bizarre question asked of newly-engaged women to their still-single friends, or pretty much anybody to childless women. What do these people think that their devout Catholic friends are doing in church every day?
This question (and advice like it, such as, “You need to pray more”) are just plain insulting.
Once, I replied, “Obviously I have. How do you think I ended up like this?” My interlocutor was a bit shocked, so I’d advise against trying this one for yourself.
5. When are you going to get married?
Suitable response: “On my wedding day.” Unsuitable response: “I don’t know. When are you going to get some social graces?”
6. Why aren’t you married or in a convent?
Unsuitable response: “Why do you think you have a right to know anything about my vocation?”
Maybe someone could try this: “I’m sorry; the Holy Father advised me against disclosing these details to people who don’t know me.”
Let’s see if I suddenly remember more questions in half an hour and find myself writing yet another postscript about things I forgot!