Julian Kwasniewski was kind enough to interview me by email for The European Conservative.
Dr. Shaw, at the beginning of this year, Os Justi Press published your latest book The Liturgy, the Family, and the Crisis of Modernity, which I read with considerable enjoyment. I wanted to speak with you today on some further questions arising from your discussion in that book of the family and its place in the modern world. Based on your experience, can you say something about how large, traditional Catholic families, which have become something of a stereotype, differ from the current socially dominant type?
Having a large family tends to push one into a more old-fashioned approach to raising children, and away from either of the two extremes modern families fall into. One of those extremes is what we might call the ‘hippy’ model, in which you let your children do whatever they like. This is manifested in the attitude that parents should allow their children to choose for themselves what religion to have, or even how to spell. The other extreme is the ‘tiger mum’ or ‘helicopter’ model: it’s as if the parents are hovering over their children checking everything they do, and intervening if things don’t go as they want them to, and intervening in minor conflicts the child might have even when they are young adults—at university or in employment.
With a large family you can’t allow every child complete freedom, because there would quickly be conflict between the children. You also can’t try to control everything they do, since that is simply impossible. You find yourself governing a community, setting a framework for young people who have a lot of freedom but need to exercise that freedom in ways that do not impinge negatively on each other. But this is not like the liberal ideal of neutrality, since no family can be value-neutral. From the pictures on the walls to the shared activities, parents have to feed their children’s emotional and spiritual lives.
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