family lessons from “call the midwife”

Image

 

In my latest Prairie Messenger column I explore the many family lessons one can learn from watching “Call the Midwife”. The series follows the work of midwives in the East end of London in the late 1950’s and the families that they serve. Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, the stories are heart-warming and often uncomfortably realistic. This is, after all, what real family life is like. It can raise you to moments of great joy, or mire you in its messiness and challenges. Children are welcomed as a much desired gift, or as an unwanted addition to an already over-burdened family.

Bishops from around the world are preparing for the upcoming Synod on the Family in October. Questionnaires were distributed (though not with equal success) in order to measure the pulse of family experiences and church teachings. One of the big questions, of course, revolves around the issue of birth control.

“Call the Midwife” takes place in the years before the dawn of the birth control pill. Humanae Vitae and it’s prohibition against any unnatural forms of family planning caused guilt-ridden grief to many women and men of my parent’s generation. Here was an answer to all their worries about unwanted pregnancies, only to be followed by threats of eternal damnation if couples chose to regulate births by artificial means. Today, even while most Catholics ignore the teachings of Humane Vitae, some bishops continue to make headlines fighting against easy or free access to birth control.

This week, the Supreme Court in the Philippines approved a controversial birth control law which will give women free access to birth control. The law faced fierce opposition from the Catholic bishops in a country where 80% of the population is Catholic. In the USA, Catholic bishops denounced Obama’s healthcare plan because of its access to birth control. Do bishops really understand the reality of family life? Do they really understand the deep fear of an unwanted pregnancy? Are they truly being pro-life if they expect women to have baby after baby with no regard for the health or welfare of the mother or family?

(A wee bit of trivia…I was birthed by a mid-wife in England during the same era as “Call the Midwife”!)

how can an increase in births be promoted?….should it be?

There are friends, and then there are kindred spirits. Sometimes they show up in the most surprising ways. Maureen Weber is an editor for the Prairie Messenger. I first “met” Maureen back in the spring of 2011. I had hesitantly sent an email to the PM with a link to this catholic dialogue blog. I wasn’t sure what would come of it. What came was a quick reply with an offer to write my own catholic dialogue column for the paper.

Maureen encouraged me through the fear and trepidation of those early months, and continues to do so each time I send in an article. Through emails and phone calls, we quickly became friends. Just as quickly, we realized the many similarities in our lives. We are the same vintage, share many family and life experiences, and think and feel the same on church issues. When Maureen writes, her words resonate with my mind and heart….you said what? Me too!!!

In this week’s Prairie Messenger, Maureen writes a moving and honest reflection on her experience of motherhood. One of the survey questions for the upcoming Synod for the Family was“How can an increase in births be promoted?” For Maureen this is a perplexing question, and seems to be a throwback to days gone by.

Here is Maureen’s article.

Should parenthood be considered obligatory for all couples? Should women and men be pressured into having children, or having more than they can physically, emotionally, or financially support? What do you think?

The unconscionable consequences of conscience exemptions | National Catholic Reporter

The unconscionable consequences of conscience exemptions | National Catholic Report

This Canadian woman spends too much time musing on American politics, especially when they intersect with the Catholic Church. This week’s news story on the Obama administration’s refusal to allow a religious exemption for health insurance coverage for contraception has me intrigued. I take universal health care for granted. What is available to one, is available to all – regardless of religious affiliation. Each person has the right to accept or refuse a procedure or treatment.

It’s not that Canadian’s don’t struggle balancing religious rights and civil rights. We have learned the hard way that tolerance needs guide-lines. With the passing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, a Pandora’s box was opened to outrageous claims hiding behind the right to freedom of religion and expression. The courts have tried to uphold the basic belief that individual freedoms cannot endanger or infringe on the freedoms and rights of others. It’s not always easy or clear cut.

Abortion is still a hotly debated topic in Canada, usually during election times.  Abortion deserves serious attention and ongoing dialogue whether it has been legalized or not.  Access to contraception, on the other hand, is a non-issue in the public forum. And, it is a non-issue for most Catholics. I can’t recall ever hearing a pastor preach on Humane Vitae from the pulpit. That’s why I’m so fascinated with this American news story. Is this really a case of anti-Catholic behaviour on the part of the government? Are Catholics’ rights really being impeded? Are the bishops in tune with the majority of folks sitting in the pews?

Earlier this week, I mentioned a well written editorial by David DeCosse. He explains the model of conscience used by the bishops compared to the traditional model of conscience espoused by moral theologians. The former focuses on obedience and authority; no questions asked. The latter on personal freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. Now, Jamie L. Manson has added another valuable voice to the dialogue. It’s a worthy read!