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BY The Editors
The real problem with Social Security is
painfully obvious — with the emphasis on the pain.
What’s so obvious is that the system is running out of
money for one simple reason: It was created for a world where people had a lot
of children who grew up and paid into the system. That world is gone.
Now we live in a world where people have very few
children, and where 1.3 million children are aborted every year. Our population
would be at or below zero replacement level if immigration weren’t propping us
This truth is painful because the only real solution for
Social Security is the most difficult one: a massive lifestyle change.
When the Depression-era system was founded, dozens of workers
paid in for every one beneficiary. In 1950, there were 16 workers to support
every beneficiary. That figure is down to 3.3 workers today. It will soon be as
few as two.
The Social Security debate isn’t just a national debate.
Similar systems around the world are facing the consequences of the
contraceptive revolution. For decades, the decision to have very few children
seemed like a great idea. Now, from Russia to Japan, it’s beginning to look
like it was economic suicide.
The Catholic Church is in a unique position to be a
catalyst for change in this regard. Its teachings against contraception and
abortion remain the best way to be not just morally sound, but economically
There are two groups with whom the Church’s success or
failure will determine how severe our own economic crisis might be in the long
Suburban Catholic Natalists. David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times about the “natalist”
movement, his name for those who are defying the national trend against having
“They are having three, four or more kids. Their personal
identity is defined by parenthood. They are more spiritually, emotionally and
physically invested in their homes than in any other sphere of life, having
concluded that parenthood is the most enriching and elevating thing they can
do. Very often they have sacrificed pleasures like sophisticated movies,
restaurant dining and foreign travel, let alone competitive careers and
disposable income, for the sake of their parental calling.”
He tracks their growth by looking at the swelling
suburbs. He tracks their beliefs by showing the sharp “fertility inequalities”
between voters who vote to protect marriage and the unborn in the “red”
counties and those who don’t in the “blue” counties.
Catholics have an opportunity — in fact, a responsibility
— to grow and deepen this “natalist” movement. We can
do it best by promoting the family — the joys of family life and the virtues of
family sacrifice. But we also need to promote the Church’s teaching on family
Already, flourishing apostolates
in American are doing both: groups you’ve read about in the Register, like
Familia, One More Soul and many others. These need to grow, and more such
groups need to sprout. We have to disprove the final sentence in Brooks’
column: “People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too busy to
fight a culture war.”
Immigrant Values. As it turns out, in an indirect
way, the Catholic Church is the key thing that has preserved America from
hitting the disaster point already.
The influx of workers from Mexico — with their Catholic
heritage — has kept our workforce strong enough to support our retirees. These
new immigrants bring values of hard work and larger families, two vital
components for our economy.
Unfortunately, though, these immigrants are falling
through the cracks, spiritually. American Catholic churches appear foreign to
their religious sensibilities. There are very few organized efforts to reach
Like Irish and Italian immigrants before them, they seem
destined to become indistinguishable from their neighbors, and TV, movies and other modern homogenizing
influences greatly speed up the process.
Already, Hispanic politicians are rushing to distance themselves from
their pro-family heritage. Ironically, by becoming more liberal, they are doing
exactly what the anti-immigration right wants them to do — change utterly in
order to blend in.
What can the Church do in the face of this? The parishes
with the best records of reaching the new immigrants pack them in with popular
devotions like the rosary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Divine Mercy, the Stations of
the Cross and enthusiastic signs of affection for the Eucharist.
More parishes should
follow suit. To do so would strengthen the nation economically. More importantly,
it would make us immeasurably stronger spiritually.