Our Culture Despises Innocence Because It Fears Its Power

Innocence is under constant attack, but the fact that it still exists gives us hope, and demands our protection

Carl Bloch (1834-1890), “Christ With the Children”
Carl Bloch (1834-1890), “Christ With the Children” (photo: Public Domain)

“We settled to go together to the country of the Moors, begging our way for the love of God, that we might there be beheaded; and Our Lord, I believe, had given us courage enough, even at so tender an age, if we could have found the means to proceed; but our greatest difficulty seemed to be our father and mother.” 

St. Teresa of Ávila writes in her autobiography that she sought the martyr’s crown as a girl of 7 with her brother Rodrigo. The Great Teresa continues, “As soon as I saw it was impossible to get to any place where people would put me to death for the sake of God, my brother and I set about becoming hermits.” Her childhood dreams of martyrdom quashed, Teresa would grow up to become a great mystic and Carmelite reformer.

Teresa’s parents protected their children — but nowadays the acceptance of abortion, contraception and various reproductive technologies have objectified children. They are no longer an inherently precious gift, but used as advocates, shields and often as threats. 

We’ve seen this exploitation before in the unhappy example of Greta Thunberg. Environmentalists have used her as a human shield, taking advantage of her autism. Adults have let her fight their battles. 

Back in 2008, the issue of same-sex marriage — California’s Proposition 8 — was debated. Both sides brought their families to the rallies. Children carried signs ranging from “My family is my two mommies” and “Love makes a family” to “Kids need a mom and dad.” Children were deployed by both sides to “get out the vote,” though they could not vote.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Christians brought their families to protest Disneyland’s “Gay Days.” Children would hold signs of stick figures engaging in homosexual activities. Some families still bring their children to protest so-called “Pride Parades.” 

Is it really “family values” to bring children to a venue that one considers morally offensive and perverse? Is it really a “teachable moment,” or just another instance of adults using children?

The educational establishment has replaced education with exploitation. Take the case of meditation. Back in 2016, the Calmer Choice mindfulness program in public schools on Cape Cod was controversial. In a February 2016 Cape Cod Times article, Christine Legere wrote of 7-year-old students lobbying on behalf of Calmer Choice at a Dennis-Yarmouth School Board meeting. The children were treated as human shields — if they made the argument, there was little one could say in opposition. 

Parents concerned over indoctrination and the effects of mindfulness teaching were defenseless against children when they were used to lobby for Calmer Choice. Instead of adults standing up as primary educators of their children, it was children who were used to guide the curriculum. The debate was resolved when it was pointed out that parents could use the opt-out clause. Calmer Choice was implemented in all Falmouth public schools, and flourishes to this day. 

Now, the teachers’ unions use children in the issues of masking and remote learning.

Despite their low mortality rate regarding the virus, the current “War on COVID” has made children into “super spreaders.” A radio PSA from the National Ad Council encouraged children to have virtual play dates and use Zoom to “stop the spread of germs.”

Andy Slavitt, a former senior advisor for COVID-19 response for President Biden, compared children to disease-spreading mosquitoes in a January 2021 social media post. He made the post in context of his son’s return to school.

Last June, children from the Ark Children’s Cultural Centre testified before the Oireachtas Committee in Ireland. They had been labeled as “COVID vectors,” leaving them stigmatized, anxious and depressed.

Inserting children into an adult problem that rarely affects them is the height of exploitation. Children are pawns, and parents are vilified if they dare disagree.

Contrast this with how Our Lord taught about divorce, remarriage and the calling of celibacy for the Kingdom (Matthew 19:3-12). Jesus challenged the Pharisees on divorce and remarriage, calling remarriage adultery. 

But he did not make children part of the debate. This was clearly an adult problem with adult answers. The Lord did not use the “resilience” argument, or the self-gratifying contention that children would be happier if the parents were happier. Jesus did not involve children in the argument. He established an overarching principle. Jesus blessed the children, saying (Matthew 19:14), “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Our Lord stood up for children. He treated them as a blessing, whose innocence made them worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

That seems to be the core of the issue. Children, especially babies and the unborn, are the epitome of innocence. This innocence is considered dangerous when the culture celebrates sin, blame and guilt. Children are an indictment. Their mere existence is an accusation, a condemnation of crimes in this culture.

Our society is deeply cynical, ready to assume the worst. The fact that innocence exists at all is shocking

The innocence of children is a rebuke to a guilty, ashamed society. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states (CCC 2378):

A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. … A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged ‘right to a child’ would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights … ‘the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.’

What an extreme idea! The consequences of such a concept are deep. However, one thing is unavoidable — it is the parents’ obligation to protect this priceless gift, not exploit it. The gift comes from God himself, who is innocence par excellence.

Innocence is powerful in a culture that celebrates death. In Scripture, Pharaoh and Herod saw innocent children as the greatest threats to their power (Exodus 1:15-22, Matthew 2:16-18). Innocence reminds us that God is greater than our human plans.

When St. Simeon held the infant Jesus, he said (Luke 2:34-35), “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” St. Simeon saw, in that little baby, the singular power of innocence that would transform the world.