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Issue 05 – Saint Anselm 2021



On the “success sequences” and Bill O’Reilly.


I was delighted to see the editor take aim at the “success sequence” in the final pages of the most recent (Septuagesima 2021) issue of The Lamp. It’s certainly true, as he claims, that the success sequence makes a certain kind of bloodless risk aversion (or “cowardice,” as it used to be called) the norm of human life. Walther is also right to say that the success sequence in many variations involves a contraceptive element. But versions of the success sequence without any (explicit) discussion of delayed childbearing have for years been a sacred cow of what is called “social conservatism” in America, which orthodox Catholics are typically expected to align themselves with.

That is why I was so pleased by the editor’s disregard for the idea. For far too long, American Catholics have been pretending in public that so-called culture war issues can and ought to be settled by appeals to material interests—“married couples have higher incomes,” “the children raised by gay couples score lower on standardized tests,” “teens who delay having sex are more likely to graduate from college,” “giving unmarried parents welfare disincentivizes marriage,” etc. One reason we should stop saying this kind of thing is that many of these claims are simply not true once you’ve understood what the statistics are measuring. But even when these claims are true, they simply are not the reasons Holy Mother Church teaches the things she does. I invite you to search Humanae vitae, for example, for Saint Paul VI’s discussion of the reduced nursing home expenses experienced in old age by those who have children. I assure you that you will not find such an argument.

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