Speaker: Responsible parenthood begins before baby

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | April 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

Moral theology professor says Church’s teachings on sexuality promote meaningful, joyful life

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Is “conscious parenthood” a new trend in enlightened Zen child rearing?

St. John Paul II had something else in mind almost 60 years ago: understanding that sex brings with it the possibility of conceiving a baby and allowing that knowledge to govern decision-making about sexual activity, said moral theology professor and author Janet Smith, who spoke April 16 at the University of
St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Not practicing conscious or responsible parenthood “is actually to be less than human because we’re capable,” said Smith, whose talk, “The Real Meaning of Responsible Parenthood,” was sponsored by the Siena Symposium for Women, Family and Culture and was attended by about 150 people.

Drawing from the 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” and the writings of St. John Paul II, Smith outlined a Church-based approach to courtship and parenting that involves giving oneself rather than using the other, and accepting parenthood as good.

Smith, a professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, speaks internationally about Catholic teachings on sexuality and bioethics. She is especially known for her talks and writings on contraception.

R. Mary Lemmons, St. Thomas’ philosophy professor and Siena Symposium co-director, said Smith was invited to speak because of “her courage and dedication to promoting the truth of the Catholic vision for women and the family in today’s culture.”

The Siena Symposium is an interdisciplinary faculty group at St. Thomas whose interest is in developing the new feminism called for by St. John Paul II.

Before her lecture, Smith was presented with the symposium’s 2015 Humanitarian Leadership Award.

Parents can show joyful life

The mission of conscious parenthood is for spouses to recognize their duty toward God, themselves, family and human society, said Smith, who will give two talks at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this fall.

Through mutual self-giving, spouses form a communion through which they perfect each other to share with God the task of procreating and educating children, she said.

The danger is when men and women want each other for their own ends rather than affirming each other in the sexual act, Smith said. True love wants what’s best for the other.

People should choose a partner who they think will be a good parent, Smith said, adding that the union needs to be accompanied by both spouses’ willingness to be parents.

“It’s not just a baby on the other end, but you now have a lifetime response to this person,” she said.

Spreading the message about the beauty of Church teaching on parenthood starts in the family, Smith said. She suggested that parents give their children positive examples of parenting and opportunities to be around babies.

John Vinton, a student at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, said he liked Smith’s description of the beauty of loving the whole person for who he or she is.

Anne Meurer of St. John the Baptist in Jordan appreciated Smith’s discussion of love as a mutual sacrifice, she said, because some Catholic speakers don’t talk about reciprocity in a marriage.

“They don’t talk about the fullness of truth — the whole truth, which is not just giving until you’re exhausted, but [also], is the other person loving back?” she said.

When Catholics live the Church’s teaching on sexuality, people in the world see that they’re living a meaningful, joyful life, Smith said.

“You have to start on the inside to work out,” she said. “Catholics have to believe it first and then they have to go out and teach it to the culture. We’ve got a rationale, we’ve got a system, we’ve got an institution. If we don’t get our act together, there’s no way to change the culture.”

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Category: Faith and Culture