Sir.-Your front-page articles on the disturbingly high proportion of Ca:holic juvenile delinquents and on the need for marriage clinies are timely, but they both neglect a basic problem which affects (perhaps more than any other) both situations. I refer to the very serious strains-physical. economic, psychological and spiritual-which are the normal accompaniment of the large family. And the fact is that the large family is the normal consequence of following the Church's teaching on marriage.
Social investigators have shown that in the large family the qualitative aspect of living often tends to be overwhelmed by quantitative factors, and if anti-Catholic writers have exaggerated the extent to which this is the case. that seems a very poor reason for Catholics to ignore it. Your article on juvenile delinquency did ignore it, and hence the problem was lately misconceived and the emphasis placed on what I shall suggest are not the prime remedies, The article spoke of the need for Catholic social workers to go into homes "advising inept parents." I am surprised that no correspondent has questioned this inept expression! Some parents undoubtedly are inept, and need advice; but almost any parents with a largish family will encounter nisi's that will frequently overwhelm themtrials that are inherent in the situation and not due to ineptitude. What such parents need far more than good advice is practical help. As prevention is better than cure, it would be far more useful to urge all Catholics who are free to do so to become Voluntary Aunts (and Uncles) to large families, than to encourage a few to enter the probation service, Both, of course, are necessary, but your article ignores the need for general friendly help which, if met, would reduce the need for breakdown services.
I venture to suggest that your article is typical of a general trend in Catholic writing on the family: that it fails to take seriously the Church's teaching on marriage mid the family. By that I mean that it ignores the intrinsic burdens involved and tends to assume that only " ineptitude " cart lead to problem families. Behind this I detect a romantic view of the family such as .Chesterton debunked (in " Heretics") nearly fifty years ago, but which apparently still flourishes.
There would seem to he two ways of taking the Chureh's teaching seriously, a right one and a wrong one. The wrong one is represented by those, mentioned in both your articles, who do know what strains a large family can impose, and therefore ignore the (hurch's condemnation of contraception. A London survey a few years ago quoted one such Catholic as sayMg. when challenged on this: " Of course I believe in the Church's teaching, but I also believe in common sense." There is the succinct
and shocking expression of what I
believe is a widespread attitude. and one that needs to he understood. an answer not simply condemned. And the answer cannot be confined to advice, or, "a firm re-statement of the Church's teaching," Father Gerald Vann has pointed out that in many cases the Church's teaching on marriage can only be followed by the exercise of heroic virtue. " To demand heroic virtue," he goes on, " with the easy nonchalance or the impatient curtness with which one might command a boy to stop stealing apples from an orchard is to do grave disservice to God and man alike."
The right way of taking the Church's teaching on the family seriously must involve a realization that most large families, particularly when the children are small, need all the help (M a variety of ways) that they can get. I suggest that what is called for is a much more serious consideration of the injunction to bear one a not her's burdens-he/ore overburdened backs are broken by the umpteeoth last straw, not afterwards.
47, Shaftesbury Avenue, Leeds, 8.