Something quite amazing is playing out before us on national television that shows the wisdom of Catholic teaching such as Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life). In spite of all the horrific pro-death, anti-life, anti-family decisions made by our politicians, one fact remains: In the end, you can’t buck natural law. Or, in the words of another common adage from years gone by, “You can’t fool mother nature.” But, boy, the drama of watching it play out on reality TV is both heartrending and amazing. Since becoming Catholic I’ve been enamored with the phenomenon of large families, especially Catholic families. As a filmmaker I wanted to do a documentary on a couple of them, but never got together the resources. Lucky for me, others were able to mount projects (although not Catholic), and we’ve been enjoying The Learning Channel’s productions of the Duggars (18 Kids and Counting), and the Gosslins (John & Kate Plus 8).
Both families have Christian roots. The Duggars have a more explicit Christian presence (www.duggarfamily.com ), but on the Gosslin’s show Scripture verses can be seen taped to the end of John and Kate’s kitchen cabinets, and John has been seen wearing T-shirts with Scripture references on them. But I saw a huge difference in these families, and recently the difference has become a news item on just about every news show and website. I’m speaking about the breakdown of John and Kate’s marriage, and the very public playing out of the conflict on national television. The news media would have you believe the problem is the stress of success by having a hit show to which ten million tune in weekly. And indeed that is probably a contributor. But I noticed something early on. Did you? There has always been a romantic detachment in John and Kate’s relationship. They look at each other as if there was no romantic relationship between them whatsoever. They are like romance zombies… the romantic walking dead. You could never tell by their non-verbal or interactions that these two people love each other as husband and wife. They could be complete strangers thrown together in a reality show where they’re trying to get along, but it’s a strain. I have always felt sorry for them because of that.
But, if you watch the Duggars, the difference is startling. Now, the Duggars don’t have 8 kids to deal with, they have 18. Let’s say that again: THEY HAVE EIGHTEEN!!! And have you ever noticed the nonverbal between Jim Bob and Michelle? It’s like “love at first sight.” When Jim Bob talks and Michelle’s within sight her eyes are on him as if he was the most wonderful man in the world. She is totally in love with this guy. And when she talks, Jim Bob watches her affectionately. His eyes never wander. The love and respect is palatable, even through the silly, flat TV screen.
Why the difference? Did you ever wonder? Well, Paul VI could have told you, as well as John Paul II, and a few others. And while I don’t want to be labeled a judge of people, I can’t help but take note of one particularly public difference between the sexuality of these two couples and Catholic teaching about natural law. In the case of John and Kate Gosslin, all eight of their babies were conceived via intrauterine insemination, which involved implantation of Jon’s sperm via a catheter. Kate compares the procedure with in vitro fertilization, (but) “there are no eggs removed or put back, as with IVF.”
Now consider the Duggars. While I’ve found no specific reference to how their children were conceived, (and there wouldn’t be if they were natural) their frank discussion of how they came to give up the contraceptive pill and let God have his total will with their lives and how many children they would have, explains that the Duggars, while not Catholic, have come to understand and apply natural law for all their pregnancies. On their website is a FAQ where they discuss how God told them to give up the contraceptive pill.
Through these two high-profile network reality shows we see the impact that natural vs. non-natural fertilization methods have. Catholic teaching is founded on natural law. When we follow what is natural, husbands and wives are drawn close together in a natural and supportive love. In the sexuality of marriage, when we reject what is natural, we enter the danger zone: a separation between the unitive and procreative nature of marriage. Paul VI writes “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its ordination towards man’s most high calling to parenthood” (Humanae Vitae, 12).
This all become very real for me recently as I’m in the midst of producing a pro-life Catholic television drama on in vitro versus natural fertilization. The project is titled TIGER’S HOPE, a co-production of the Diocese of Lansing and my production company, SWC Films, with seed funding from Our Sunday Visitor. We hope to shoot it this fall in Michigan. Through the power of story, this short movie will give an accurate picture of the state of both in vitro technology with its health hazards, its low probability of success, and its health effects on children and mothers. All that will be dramatically contrasted with natural methods that have no side effects, almost no cost, and a success rate that is 300-400% greater than in vitro. The cultural ramifications of separating the conception of children from the martial act will also be revealed in light of the Church’s teachings on marriage and the dignity of each human being. The differences between the Duggars and the Gosllins dramatically underscore the need for a clearer understanding of natural law, and why Church teachings are so vital for healthy and happy marriages. TIGER’S HOPE is designed to reach television audiences world wide with that message in a dramatic, movie format. If you’d like to be involved in this unique international film project, or know someone who would, visit the project website at www.TigersHope.com.