I don't want to go through her post point by point, but there's one thing she wrote that I must address specifically:
I have bolded the one phrase above because it is here that my main area of disagreement arises. It cannot be said too many times that the prudent use of NFP to postpone the birth of the family's next child, especially in dire financial circumstances or serious medical needs, is most emphatically a way of remaining open to life.
It is not selfish for a poor mother of many to remain open to life. It’s heroic.
A woman who places her trust in God and accepts new life under less than ideal circumstances is being as generous to God, to her family, and to her community as she possibly can be.
Someone else, who has never had to decide between paying for a baby’s prescription and buying food for her family, might not understand this kind of humble heroism.But Mary does. (Emphases added, EM).
It is simply presumed far too often that using NFP in accordance with God's will and in a deep and humble spirit of following all of the Church's many teachings on the subject of responsible parenthood is somehow not being "open to life." It is also presumed that continuing to add babies into one's family is always the act of humble, generous, selfless parental love, and that choosing not to add to one's family using the morally acceptable means the Church allows and even encourages some of the time is at its core an act of failure to trust God to provide for one no matter what one's circumstances may be.
But this is not true.
The Church does teach about parenthood and responsibility. The phrase "responsible parenthood" is not even remotely the same as the secular understanding of "Planned Parenthood" and all that that evil organization represents. The Church in her wisdom and love understands that parenthood carries with it very serious obligations, and that parents must be ready to accept those obligations on behalf of each and every one of their children.
In fact, Catholic writer William May in his book Contraception, Abstinence, and Responsible Parenthood writes the following:
The debate is "not" over the need to regulate the conception and birth of children. Parties to both sides of the debate recognize that there can be valid, indeed morally obligating reasons, for avoiding a pregnancy. It could be irresponsible for a married couple to allow, through their own free choice, a child to be conceived, not because the conception of a child is an evil--far from it--but because the parents could not, for various reasons, give this child the care and love it needs and to which it has a right, or because the pregnancy might be a serious threat to the life of the mother.Now, what are the primary obligations parents have toward their children? What are those things which parents owe their children, and which they must provide, or be prepared to provide?
The answer is pretty simple: food, clothing, shelter, and education.
By food, of course, is simply meant adequate nutrition. Parents do not have the obligation to provide fancy gourmet meals or expensive ingredients. They do, however have the obligation to meet their growing children's nutritional requirements. If their children are underfed, miss meals on a regular basis due to an inability to afford food, or are otherwise suffering from lack of nutrition, the parents are not meeting this obligation. Please note: I'm not discussing the morality of the situation, here. War, famine, catastrophic crises and so forth may temporarily or even for a prolonged period deprive people of food, and parents do not carry any blame when circumstances beyond their control do not allow them to feed each of their children properly. But the important phrase there is "beyond their control."
Again, in terms of clothing, we are speaking of the basics. No closets crammed with designer togs are required, but a sufficient level of clean and modest garments, even used ones, are necessary. Mother Teresa's nuns each have two saris, after all--one to wear and one to wash. Parents should do at least this much for each child in their homes. The inability to provide each child with sufficient clothing, then, would also be a failure of parental obligation (again, simply objectively, not in the sense of making a moral judgment).
Shelter doesn't mean a McMansion in the best zip code in town--it doesn't even mean home ownership. Basic requirements would be for a roof over the heads of the family and protection from the elements. Renting is fine, though one shouldn't lie to a landlord about the number of people who will be living in the apartment or dwelling as a means of getting cheaper rent, say, in an effort to house a family of eight in a one-bedroom loft. Most of the regulations in that regard are in place for safety concerns, not to keep large families from renting tiny apartments. If one cannot afford to put a roof over the heads of one's children, or must sleep in a car, or must, as a homeschooling family I once met did, go from hotel to hotel and sneak out into the night without ever paying the bills, then one is not meeting one's obligation to provide shelter for one's children (and no, the hotel does not owe you lodging in exchange for your "heroic" witness as part of the culture of life).
Now, on the subject of education we get into something different from the secular world's understanding of the phrase: we are to educate our children in the faith, and ensure their correct spiritual and moral development as Catholics and as future citizens of Heaven. We want them to get to Heaven, and that's the primary focus of our education of them. So the Church certainly isn't saying that all parents must provide twelve years of institutional schooling with another four, six, eight, etc. after that. We can meet our obligation to educate our children with the aid of public schools, parochial schools, or at home; if we homeschool there's no requirement to use one specific method or even to buy our materials, if we can educate sufficiently with what is available in the public library and elsewhere for free.
But one of the ways we educate our children is by our example to them. Families large and small do this; it's not the sole province of large families to lead by example. And families, whether large, small, or in between, whether rich, poor, or middling, teach their children all sorts of values by the way in which they meet the other three obligations listed above.
The rich, of course, have to guard against their children thinking that money is the solution to everything and that mom and dad owe them every luxury available. But the poor have a responsibility here, too, to avoid bringing their children up to believe that it is the obligation of society at large to be the ordinary means by which the family may fulfill their primary obligations to their children.
Some have pointed out that we all pay taxes and we all reap the various benefits. To a certain extent this is true, and in a just society it will always be important for some things to be a shared responsibility. Roads, schools, libraries, and the like are things everyone can use; in addition, people qualify for aid at various times simply because of their age (e.g. Social Security) or their veteran status (e.g., the VA loan program).
But the type of aid which helps families meet their obligations to their children is intended to be short-term, temporary, "safety-net" aid, which people may draw from in cases of need, but which does not replace the underlying duty of parents to provide for their children's basic needs as outlined above. When it is viewed instead as a permanent addition to the family's means of support, I believe that it may have deleterious consequences that are not only financial but spiritual as well. That is probably a topic for another time; but it's not really true that just because some types of "aid" are available to all, that it is necessarily the best or most prudent thing to come to rely permanently on aid which is specifically designed for the economically disadvantaged.
As I wrote yesterday, the decision about whether and when to accept government aid, in conjunction with the decision whether and when to postpone adding to one's family, is going to be an extremely personal one for each family. I can't tell any individual family what to do in this regard; the only proper person to turn to for advice on this sort of thing is a good spiritual director.
However, I think the questions that might be helpful to those struggling in prudence to make the best decisions for their family on the subject might be as follows:
1. Are we already, even without adding to our family, failing on occasion or in a serious way to meet the basic primary obligations toward the children we already have?
2. Will the addition of another child right now directly cause us to fail to meet the basic primary obligations toward the children we already have?
3. Are we already relying on one or more government aid programs specifically designed for the economically disadvantaged (e.g., not public schools/public libraries/etc.) in order to meet any of the basic primary obligations toward the children we already have?
4. Will we have to rely for an extended period of time on a program as described above in order to meet our family's basic needs should we add to our family right now?
5. (And this is possibly the most serious:) If we are already relying on the type of government aid described, will changes to our eligibility seriously impact our ability to provide for our children's basic needs even before we add to our family?
I think "5" is the most serious of these questions, because people tend to forget that these programs and their funding change all the time. Too many people "signing up," for instance, can drain the money and cause the income threshold to be raised, so relying on these programs as if they'll always be available may not be the most prudent thing.
To sum up: being "open to life" and practicing "responsible parenthood" are not mutually exclusive goals. While each family will have to make specific prudential decisions that are properly speaking their own business to decide, it is not the case that parents may indiscriminately add to their families children for whom they can't provide those things which parents are morally obligated to provide for their children, just as parents may not indiscriminately postpone having children in the absence of just reasons or with a contraceptive mindset. The acceptance of government aid during times of hardship, for temporary reasons, or because of unforeseen economic catastrophes is not imprudent, but coming to rely on some types of government aid permanently or for extremely prolonged periods may sometimes be less than prudent. We are not to judge families whose circumstances are different from ours, but we should take care not to brush aside prudential concerns about parental responsibility as if these very serious obligations which the Church insists we have are somehow unimportant.