Fill in the Blanks
“The rate of population growth needs to be
taken into consideration. The right path is what
[Fill in the
Blank] calls responsible parenthood; this is
taught by [Fill
in the Blank] family counseling programs.
Responsible parenthood is the necessary condition for human love, and it is also
the necessary condition for authentic conjugal love, for love cannot be
[~Who Wrote This?]
If you guessed that Margaret Sanger was the author you came close, but no cigar. In doing some research in order to write last weeks comment on the USCCB's “Natural Family Planning Awareness Week,” I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal, by Mark Steyn, “It's the Demography, Stupid: The real reason the West is in danger of extinction.” From other the material I was able to read on the Internet, it is not clear whether or not Mr. Steyn is a Catholic, but the “Demography” article is compatible with traditional Catholic teaching on procreation. He clearly understands the importance of religion for the survival of Western society as such. As a priest and a student of history, I share Steyn's concern with the resurgence of Islam, particularly as it once again moves into the traditional territory of Western Civilization or Christendom. Further I share his concern that what he calls “multiculturalism” (and I call “Cultural Marxism”) prohibits most reasoned debate about the compatibility of Islamic and Western cultures. Some of his other writings appear to be “neo-conservative,” so I suspect that I would disagree with him about the morality and utility of Mr. Bush's wars in the Middle East—but, to be fair, the “Demography” article stands on its own without any agreement or disagreement about war.
What I was looking for when I found Mr. Steyn's article were some figures about where population control is taking us. I question the wisdom of promoting the widespread limitation of conception as fostering a contraceptive mentality, but even if we fully accept the morality of Bishops' Natural Family Planning (NFP) initiative, there needs to be some re-thinking of its advisability. All too often we hear buzz-words like “sustainable development” “sustainability” and anthropogenic “climate change”—and we hear them not only from the left-wing crazies who want to cut humans back in numbers so they will take no more than a “just and reasonable share” of the earth's resources, recognizing the “rights” of the snail darters and spotted owls to to their “just and reasonable share”—we hear the same jargon from prelates and Popes.
Steyn presented some very interesting figures that the “responsible parenthood” types at the NCCB and the Vatican ought to be taking very seriously:
"Replacement" fertility rate--i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?
Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%. In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU
Back in the 1960s—not coincidentally the period of Vatican II—it was fashionable to be concerned with “the population explosion.” Any moment, then, we all expected humanity to be standing shoulder to shoulder, occupying all the inhabitable land on the planet. World War III would surely be fought over drinking water or farmland. Steyn reminds us:
You know the classics of the genre: In 1968, in his bestselling book "The Population Bomb," the eminent scientist Paul Ehrlich declared: "In the 1970s the world will undergo famines--hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." In 1972, in their landmark study "The Limits to Growth," the Club of Rome announced that the world would run out of gold by 1981, of mercury by 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead and gas by 1993.
None of these things happened. In fact, quite the opposite is happening. We're pretty much awash in resources, but we're running out of people--the one truly indispensable resource, without which none of the others matter.
I am going to close on that last remark. People are “the one truly indispensable resource.” That is why God said “go forth and multiply”—“to show forth His goodness in this world, and to be happy with Him in the next.” Paradoxically, Pope John Paul II was right in saying “The rate of population growth needs to be taken into consideration.” The pundits, prelates, and Popes of Christendom need to recognize that “the rate of population growth” is negative and the Vatican may some day be a mosque.
Now go ahead and read Mark Steyn's article “It's the Demography, Stupid: The real reason the West is in danger of extinction.”
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