Lessons on Openness to New Life

COMMENTARY: Our attitude toward new human life determines what kind of future we can expect.

The sacrifices that the family requires builds character.
The sacrifices that the family requires builds character. (photo: Maxim Ibragimov / Shutterstock)

Tom Monaghan, best known as the founder of Domino Pizza, honored the passing of a dear friend of his on the pages of Legatus, a magazine for the organization that he also founded. The late John (Jack) Donahue, who passed away at the age of 92, was an immensely successful business man and founder of Federated Investors. His accomplishments in the business world, however, pale when compared to his role as the patriarch of a large family. To Monaghan, Jack was both a “friend” and a “hero.”

Jack and his wife, Rhodora brought into the world 13 children who sired 84 grandchildren who, in turn, were parents of the Donahue’s 109 great grandchildren. The numeration of the great, great, children will be left to posterity. The numbers may be staggering but it is important to know that all the grandchildren attend Mass every Sunday.

On the occasion of his and his wife’s 50th wedding anniversary, Donahue penned the following words for his family:

“In the realm of the spiritual, there are important thoughts on which to reflect. Always remember that your goal in life is to go to heaven and to help others in every way possible to get there. You cannot repeat this thought often enough; it should be a part of your very being.”

Two passages from the Psalms come to mind. The first is from Psalm 127:3-5, which reads, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” The second is from Genesis 9:1: “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

In stark contrast with the Donohue clan, or any family for that matter, is the married couple that decides not to have children so that they can live more happily without them. They are labeled by the unattractive acronym that has a metallic ring to it, DINK (dual income no kids). Promotional videos are particularly prominent on TikTok, one has captured six million views.

The DINK lifestyle, according to its promoters, offers a more unencumbered life. DINKS speak of more time for travel, eating in fine restaurants, spending their disposable income on themselves, and building up a retirement income. That is the positive side.

On the negative side Dinksters will not be awakened at night by cries from the nurseries, will not have to erase crayon marks from the walls, attend boring school plays, or put up with whining children. As one childless couple, boasting about traveling to 30 states and many European countries puts it, “I mean we have disposable income that’s not being spent on diapers and tuition. So why not?”

The DINK phenomenon has been around for some time, although it is presently experiencing an upsurge. A 1978 article in Time magazine, entitled, “Here come the DINKS,” begins with the following slightly tongue-in-cheek, but glitzy description: “The members of this newly defined species can be best spotted after 9pm in gourmet groceries. ... In the parking lot they slide into their BMWs and lift cellular phones to their ears before zooming off to their architect-designed houses in the exurbs.”

Ironically, life without kids does not turn out as advertised. Roughly two thirds of married DINKS terminate the relationship by divorce. This makes perfect sense. It is the hard logic of a philosophy based on being “without.” If life is better “without” children, would not life be even better “without” a spouse? Finally, the last one to be “without” is the God of generosity of love.

The DINK way of life is a dead end. It produces PODWOGS (Parents of DINKS without grandchildren). The Book of Proverbs states that, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged” (17:6). And who shall care for Dinksters when they are no longer “tripping the light foot fantastically”? As one critic acidly remarks, “Disneyland will not come take care of you in your old age.”

Radical selfishness inevitably leads to loneliness. Social workers may come at a high price, but they do not bring with them the warmth of familial love.

The prolific Donohue family is not one that can be imitated in detail. But it does send a few important messages. The Bible and Catholic teaching provide more practical wisdom than can be found on You Tube. Love is more binding than dining at gourmet restaurants. Caring for children is humanizing.

The sacrifices that the family requires builds character. Self-indulgence is the road to nowhere. Life is a rewarding as it is demanding. A philosophy of “without” is unavoidably one that is “without” joy.

In his 1981 apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (the Community of the Family), Pope John Paul II criticizes the lifestyle of couples who are “imprisoned in a consumer mentality and whose sole concern is to bring a continual growth of material goods.” What they are without, he states, is “the spiritual riches of a new human life.”

This is a deprivation that DINKS cannot begin to appreciate. They are distracted by the lure of money and neglect the power of love. At the close of his exhortation, St. John Paul famously states:

“The future of humanity passes by way of the family.”

Not every couple can have children and not every individual should marry. Yet, the great lesson that John Donohue has bequeathed to us is an affirmation of what John Paul II has made clear, that our attitude toward new human life determines what kind of future we can expect. Need we say anything more?