Thursday 14 May 2020

Are We a Family?

Good morning! It's a beautiful sunny day. I haven't yet visited my plants, but I have read Chapter 3 of Fr. Crean's and Dr. Fimister's Integralism, so let's crack on.

Chapter 3 is about the Family and easier to read than Chapter 2. Pursuing the author's train of thought on the Family is like striding through a sunny meadow after climbing a slightly difficult ascent. It's all great fun, and the margins of our copy are now penciled with many heart symbols (solid agreement) among the electric light bulbs (new ideas).

Fimister and Crean return the goods of marriage to their proper order, leaving the so-called "unitive aspect" many paragraphs down from its primary purpose, which is the generation and education of children. Marriage is not primarily for the spouses but for their children, a truth I very much enjoy, for it means my Aged Ps are on the hook for the rest of their lives. Ah ha ha ha!

But here is a most interesting point: Fimister and Crean assert that the family is the society generated by marriage, and in a footnote they state that "In the absence of children, husband and wife may be said to have simply a marital society." This is absolutely true, and thus the supreme importance, for a childless Catholic couple, of being grafted to each other's families of origin and at the same time not to separating ourselves from our parental branches.

It is important to be a part of a family, a necessary society, for the bonds of friendship therein, as well as for the generating, educating and all that part of it. I note with joy that Aquinas believes parents are to "lay up wealth" for their children to inherit, and this counts as part of the children's "education" which goes on for our, ahem, their entire lives.

"...It should be said that matrimony, from the intention of nature, is ordered to the education of the children, not for a certain time only, but rather for the entire life of the children (which is the reason why, by the law of nature, parents are to lay up wealth for their children, and children should inherit from their parents)," says St. Thomas and goes on to explain this is why parents must never, ever divorce.

It's all a win for children, I must say, especially as it's a myth that adult children are usually a-okay with their parents divorcing. Meanwhile, children owe their parents obedience until we attain our majority, and there's something in there about deference, respect for the experience of the aged, etc.

But lest you think I am merely enjoying this all for the goods Chapter 3 confers upon me, let us turn the pages swiftly, past the explanation of why same-sex marriage is  impossible, and look at the following exciting sentence:

"The husband has by natural right the authority to govern his wife so that the family may attain its end."

There's more, and you should read the chapter yourself to see if you find it convincing. There is a recognition that a wife is a rational being and so the husband should "desire her counsel" and "explain the reasons for his decisions" and to "recognise her right to accomplish her household tasks in the manner she judges best." Also the wife may work outside the home ("by her husband's consent") "if her domestic duties are not thereby harmed."

The authors point out that in a well-regulated society this outside work wouldn't be necessary for the maintenance of the family, and I happen to agree with this. I also agree that children shouldn't be neglected so that their mother can have prettier clothes, snazzy holidays, or legions of adult minions under her command. But I will point out the stultifying boredom, for many women, of spending their day entirely around children, and then having only a tired man who doesn't want to talk, or accompany his wife from the house, for company at night. This is a very real thing. It must be addressed.

As for husbands having the natural right the authority to govern his wife, I have two thoughts. First, this is not such a horrible thought if the wife chooses the husband very carefully (so carefully, in fact, that you run the risk of becoming too old to have children). Second, when it comes to the care and feeding of husbands, it helps them flourish and I think the good ones are deeply humbled by it. If I were a man, I think I would feel awe and even a dose of fear if my wife were to say, "Well, you're the husband, so you win." It's a heck of a responsibility.

Oh dear, there's a lot more, including delightful appearances of Marx, Calvin and Hobbes, so they can be swatted like the pop-up creatures in "Whack-a-Mole". There are many heroes, too, like Leo XIII. However, I have only ten minutes before work, and I want to visit my plants.

In gardening news, one of the tardy courgettes has actually sprouted. The basil, thyme and cucumbers are thickening in their pots, but the runner beans are still entirely MIA. I shall go have a look at my gardens. I must say those April radishes are taking their time, but I suspect the soil quality in the raised bed is very poor.


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