Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Freedom of Motherhood

Freedom cries out for love to give it direction, purpose, fulfillment. Freedom, in its best expression, is bound. We do not want to be unbound from people we love. Freedom is the opening of the door, but love is the dwelling place inside. And this is why human being desire love more than they desire freedom…

No one conceived a child more freely and more instantly than did Mary… her fiat alone was instantly met with her conception of Christ. By uniting her will with the Divine Will, she became the Mother of God. Her freedom and her motherhood, therefore, are inseparable… Mary represents freedom that is perfectly integrated with love and goodness.

Donald De Marco, The Virgin Mary and the Culture of Life

Reflection – This is from an excellent anthology entitled The Virgin Mary and the Theology of the Body, which I recommend highly.

De Marco is a Canadian Catholic philosopher who has been at the forefront in this country of the culture of life and its intellectual defense. Here we see a truly profound theological reflection on the implications of Mary’s motherhood for issues around procreation and freedom.

It does revolve around the nature of freedom, doesn’t it? In the abortion debate, as well as in the contraception debate, the key argument is that these two things are necessary (although in the case of abortion, most would at least acknowledge that it is lamentable) if women are to be truly free.

If sexual activity is bound to pregnancy, and pregnancy bound to giving birth, if ‘motherhood’ is at least a necessary potential outcome of sexual intercourse, then women are not truly free. And since freedom is constitutive of the good of the person, it is absolutely necessary that contraception be readily available and abortion too, even if the latter does inarguably mean the death of a human being (at this point, a matter of scientific fact). So goes the argument, in essence.

There is a crying need revealed by this argument to better situate the concept of ‘freedom’ in our human understanding, and that is what De Marco is doing, and what in fact the motherhood of Mary shows us. The argument used to justify abortion as necessary for freedom could, after all, be used to also justify avoiding or negating any commitment a person might make in his or her life—marriage, child rearing, responsibility of any kind—or justify any course of action to sever any bond of attachment that might occur that would constrain our autonomy.

Once ‘freedom’ understood as unfettered action is seen as the summa bonum of human life, we can do pretty much anything at all to protect that freedom: lie, steal, kill. But once we acknowledge that freedom is not the summa bonum, then we are logically forced to admit that freedom exists for the sake of something higher and better, and that therefore freedom is not unlimited and absolute.

This is basic logic: either freedom is the highest good, in which case I can murder you in cold blood if you constrain my freedom, or freedom is not the highest good, and I have to sacrifice some degree of freedom if it conflicts with whatever is the highest good.

All of this logical analysis is pretty dry and dusty business, though, and the world of real human beings and their moral choices is anything but. This is the importance of the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the reality of her motherhood, and the fact that the most free action of a human creature ever was this woman becoming pregnant with this Child, this human person binding herself freely in love to the life of this Divine Person.

Freedom is at the service of love, the door ushering us into the dwelling place of humanity. And love is ultimately the life of God and our entry into that life. And that entry into the life of God is ultimately the absolute liberation of our humanity, the realizing of all our human potential in our graced sharing of divine life and love.

These are deep realities that must be gone into if we are to find a way out of the utter mess and tragedy of the sexual revolution and its false, pale parody of human freedom. Ultimately (I believe) we cannot win the pro-life cause without evangelizing the culture—people are far too invested in the model of sexual freedom that requires abortion and contraception, and if we cannot offer a better and more life-giving way of freedom at the service of love, all our best arguments will not persuade.

May Mary’s motherhood give us the confidence and courage to both live out our freedom at the service of love and of God, and may She teach us how to show this freedom, love, and God to people, so that we may put an end to the madness and bloodshed that so tragically characterizes our society.

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