I recently read a provoking article in the Metro newspaper, often found scattered about in our local buses and subway transit system. It is entitled “The mother of all double standards,” and it rallies against the medical system which it accuses of offering permanent sterilization for men more readily than for woman.
We are introduced to Andy Prosserman who, though he never got a vasectomy in his 20’s because he “knew that this would be irresponsible,” did in fact get one at the age of 30. While I was under the impression that the journey of self-knowledge takes a lifetime, apparently 30 was enough.
In lieu of having kids, Prosserman is seen posing, ready for his new life of liberty and indulgence: in one frame of a six part montage he is seen holding a bottle of Glenlivet 12 year old scotch, in another a Nintendo controller, and in yet another his passport.
When I looked at these images of what must be at least in part the ideal life of Prosserman, I could not help but be overwhelmed by a sense of deep regret for this man, for the trade that he has made.
My reaction can be explained by another incredible social phenomenon.
Do you ever wonder why Isis has managed to capture the imagination of so many youth?
It is because we live in a world that tells us that scotch and video games, in other words unlimited personal indulgence, is the pinnacle of our existence.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
If someone told me that the meaning of my life was to stuff my proverbial gullet with as many pleasures as humanly possible before I died, I would go join Isis too. At least they understand sacrifice on some level, though they have a very twisted idea of what that means. At least they understand what it means to serve a higher cause, even though what they call a higher cause is actually darkness and death.
Our brothers and sisters join Isis because at least in the sands of the middle east, or even within the borders of their own countries, these young souls looking for meaning can die for something, because even the illusion of a meaningful sacrifice is more tantalizing than the alternative.
Humanity is made in such a way so that our own gift of self to the point of self-sacrifice is the very pinnacle of our existence.
It is said that Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve.
Meanwhile, Prosserman is going to find at the bottom of his scotch bottle his own emptiness looking up at him. One day he will ask himself, “Surely there has got to be more than this.”
What is disturbing is that the author of the article, Sofi Papamarko, doesn’t give any concern whatsoever for the wellbeing and the interior life of these individuals. She does not so much as ask as to whether permanently destroying the body’s capacity to produce life is questionable.
Her only concern: equal access for men and women.
Think about what happens to a society that favours equal rights, or anything for that matter, over a love and appreciation of life.
In The Gospel of Life by Pope John Paul II, it is pointed at that “in the Old Testament, sterility is dreaded as a curse, while numerous offspring are viewed as a blessing.” (44) Nothing is more natural for living breathing beings than to bring life into this world, to continue their existence through their progeny.
From the eyes of this ancient Jewish people, we are all clamouring over one another to have equal access to a curse.
No one seems to care, just so long as access is equal.
Undoubtedly, at this point, someone will remind me that the majority of Catholic priests (there are some married Catholic priests) and all Catholic religious live celibately, which is to say they do not marry, nor have sex, nor have kids.
The first difference between sterilization and celibacy is sex.
Sterilization in modern western society has one purpose: to be able to have sex while undermining its natural result, which is children. They want the maximum pleasure, with the least responsibility. Turning the pursuit and goal of sex into pleasure, however, naturally cheapens it and makes it into yet another item for consumption. Thus, the love within flees before an ever greedy appetite for personal gratification, at no cost.
Celibacy, on the other hand, is focused towards giving life. A priest or religious does not renounce marriage, and by consequence sex and children, because they fear responsibility, or because “they know what they want.” They do it because they want to dedicate their lives in the deepest way possible to the glory of Christ, which brings life in the fullest sense possible.
Take the priesthood as an example:
The man who does not have the desire to be a father, should never be a priest.
For a priest becomes the father of all, the caretaker and the intercessor for every soul. If he lives out his vocation, he gives up the luxury of caring about himself, and learns to die daily for those he loves.
Likewise, I was once told that to become a contemplative monk in order to flee the chaos of the world was a terrible reason, and a false one. Those brave monks and nuns live cloistered lives so that their life may bring fruit in the world via their heartfelt prayers to the Divine who participates in all life.
The difference is enormous.
Prosserman sterilized himself so he could he could pleasure himself; celibate priests, monks, and nuns refrain from the beautiful earthly pleasures of marriage and children in order to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others.
The former sees only himself, while the latter see everyone at once.
What greater form of equality is there than to see others before myself?