Appeared in Spring 2001, Vol. XXVI, No. 1
One striking way for me to begin this reflection on alternatives to the family is to recall that I myself live in one of the classical “alternatives” to the family. The clerical life is an alternative life to the family. It is not, be it noted, a rejection of the family, as if the family were somehow a flawed institution, nor is it a replacement of it. Without families, clerical life cannot exist. But the clerical or monastic life is a choice not to live in the basic domestic institution. The new recruits to monasteries or convents do not arrive as natural offspring, as with the family.
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