There are far too few babies being born, particularly in the West. Will we figure this out before it's too late?
Yes, the drumbeat of ideologues claiming the opposite has been steady for a long time. But a quick look at the facts shows the indisputable truth.
A recent issue of the weekly magazine Foreign Policy, for instance, features a child on its cover with the heading: “Wanted: More Babies.”
It's author, Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute and Harvard University, notes that “population growth is poised to decelerate markedly over the next generation,” and that “83 countries and territories are thought to exhibit below replacement fertility patterns today.”
Ireland, for instance has the highest fertility rate in Europe, according to new U.N. statistics — but even there, it is a dangerously low 1.88 children per woman. Italy has the lowest: 1.19 children per women.
What's the effect in the United States? Citing U.S. Census Bureau statistics, Eberstadt says that “in 2025 the projected median age will be 43.”
Last month, in the Swedish daily Dagens Industri, tennis star Bjorn Borg called on Europeans to have more children. “If nothing drastic happens soon there won't be anyone who can work and put up for our pensions,” reads his full-page ad.
Though Western countries often marshaled economic arguments against having children, European economists now worry that the society will not be able to afford the retirement costs of the next generations of seniors, since there may be too few people of working age to support them.
As the Population Research Institute points out, children could easily become the principle factor in future wealth.
As Europe and Japan face futures with large numbers of elderly supported by shrinking numbers of young people, 99% of projected population growth is going to occur in the developing countries.
Why should we assume, asks the institute, that these countries will remain poor?
They will have an increase in producers who can fuel the economy and consumers to use products, without an oversized population of older people to support. If they add to that a system of laws and rights, there will be nothing to stop what happened in America from happening in Africa and South America: an economic boom time.
All of this should encourage Catholics in particular in at least two ways.
Our teaching on contraception is sound and sane. Last Lent, Pope John Paul II asked God's forgiveness for the past mistakes of Catholics. Will a future Pope have to apologize for the embarrassed silence that Catholics have given to Church teaching on contraception, precisely when Europe and America most needed to hear it? Too many of us were too willing to believe the population doomsayers and disbelieve our own faith. In particular, Catholic academia seems to be inflicted with a form of immigrant complex that keeps them busy trying to impress the secular world, leaving no one to expound and unfold the riches in the Church's teaching. A vigorous emphasis on the Church's teaching on contraception could still help turn around the demographic crisis that will soon engulf the West's financial resources.
The meek will inherit the earth. Beware schemes that try to thwart nature. They are bound to fail. European population gurus have been pushing contraceptives on Third World countries when Catholics knew all along that what these poor people really needed was better food distribution. Now the Europeans face extinction, and developing nations will out-develop them to the extent that they reject the contraceptive mentality that is killing the West.
It is now clearer than ever that the Church's teaching on contraception will long survive the secular saviors of our day who push sex and an easy life.
This should be no surprise to us during Holy Week, when our attention is on the world's one savior, and on his Cross.