We are not frogs. But we are in hot water.

By Sister Clare Hunter, FSE

We are all probably familiar with the “boiling frog story” or “syndrome:”

If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death 

– Daniel Quinn 

As I looked for the “official” source of this story, I learned that there is debate over the scientific truth of the statement. As a pro-life Franciscan, I beg you all to take value from the principles of the metaphor and not to boil frogs. The point I want to make is that we, like the frog, can get comfortable, placid and indifferent as we live our day-to-day lives, unaware of the influence of our culture on our thoughts and actions.

How often do we enjoy a television show or a movie only to realize in the midst of it that we are taking pleasure in subject matter that should, in fact, be treated with respect, dignity or sacredness? Of course it is important to laugh, and I thoroughly enjoy a good joke. But when the entertainment industry is using humor to make us comfortable with immorality and the violation of the human person, isn’t it time to consider the “water” in which we are sitting?

When I get ready to give talks to teens on pro-life issues and sexuality, I like to know about my competition. If I am going talk about the value of human life from conception until natural death, it helps to know of the popular movie, “The Back-Up Plan,” or an upcoming summer movie, “The Kids Are Alright.” Both involve issues like in-vitro fertilization (which removes the unitive aspect of sex), pre-marital sex, same-sex marriage and false notions of love and marriage. Or I might refer to the television show “Scrubs,” which has tried to make us laugh about abortion. Yes, joking and laughing about abortion!


There are countless examples, and the teens are usually eager to point out more, and can oftentimes be more scrupulous in examples of Commandments broken. Together, we dissect the media that is making us comfortable with these issues and that ultimately hurt the dignity of the human person.

Sadly, merely pointing out the denigration of men and women, the human body, the killing of babies and the mixed messages in our media can have momentary shock value, but we still live in the water.

Luckily, we are not frogs.

We are rational, thinking human beings, body and soul, with the capacity to make informed decisions and to be critical and conscious of the kind of “water” in which we wish to live. We have a loving Mother Church, who desires that we live our lives to the fullest and be treated with the love and dignity for which we were created. She gives us the structure, the “pot” if you will, to allow this to happen. But we must start to look around, to raise our consciousness, to get critical and get educated.

The good news is: we don’t have to get boiled!

3 thoughts on “We are not frogs. But we are in hot water.

  1. Dear Sister Clare – you got my attention with the poor frogs. It brought back memories of a childhood friend who did not treat them well; but he learned how to be remorseful and to value creatures more as a result (Thank the Good Lord!)

    On the subject of how we can, in a way, become “slow-cooked” into believing and embracing what we should not, I am in sincere agreement.

    How is it that our generation has been convinced that all must try to go to college and become finanically secure BEFORE considering marriage? The emphasis here drives us to value security in the independence of self rather than security in the complementarity of man and wife, father and mother and child. We teach our children to first love themselves and ambitiously secure their independent spot in the world and then, as a distant priority, consider opening up to the prospect of a spouse and children. THIS is one of the reasons why LIFE is devalued amongst young people. LIFE, for many children, is not as important as being successful and secure before marriage. It is only after we have finished college and become secure that we can begin to relax and become open to sharing our goods with a spouse and children. This is what the western world has taught and still teaches to its youth. By our emphasis on worldly success and security prior to marriage, we devalue love and life along the route to success and security BECAUSE we put a higher priority on “mammon” than we do on the Will of God.

    I believe that we do not place enough emphasis, much earlier in the life of children, in considering marriage and a suitable spouse and on that couple moving forward together through their education and jobs and family life to become financially and emotionally secure TOGETHER. If children know who they are going to marry, even when they are still teens, then they will be devoted firstly to that future spouse — all of that sexual energy will be oriented toward life and love and virginal monogamy – and they will support each other on the path to financial security – with the support parents and of those who have gone before them.

    But, have we been in the secular “hot water” too long? Are we already “cooked”? No. Not if we know we are in hot water. We can always get out and cool off again. 🙂

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