The West has problems too deep to be solved simply with more bombings. What we really need is more babies.

In Bologna, Italy, Cardinal Giacamo Biffi rubbed many the wrong way last year with comments about immigration. He said that immigration caused “serious concerns” about “the identity” of Italy.

He noted that Italy's many Muslim immigrants — estimated at 35% of the country's foreign residents — have profound differences not just in diet and holy days, but in family structure and the treatment of women.

Whatever you think of his conclusions, he's certainly right about one thing: After decades of contraception and abortion, Europe is on the brink of a massive demographic change.

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, by 2050, Europe's population will have plunged from 722 million to 600 million. As the median age will be the mid-50s, a shortage of fertile females will mean that the depopulation will actually accelerate after that. (We have already seen one early warning: Last year, for the first time in history, people over 60 outnumbered kids under 14 throughout the industrialized world.)

Italy has a total fertility rate of less than 1.4 children born per couple, far below the 2.1 necessary to replace the national population. If current trends continue, Italy will cease to be populated by mostly Italians some time within the next several decades. It is not unthinkable that Italy could become a Muslim country.

America is better off in the baby-making department — but not well off. Our fertility rate is just below 2 children per couple. The United States must also rely on immigration to overcome the economic implications of our baby shortage. In our case, immigrants come mainly from the Catholic countries to our south. But the economic ramifications of our demographic changes are also severe.

At congressional hearings last year, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan praised the economic benefits of increasing immigration rates while seeking to persuade Congress to admit 130,000 additional workers annually. But Greenspan acknowledged that some immigrants are not assimilating as well as in previous generations, forming a new underclass.

What's the solution? It's clear: We need to have more babies.

E The magazine Foreign Policy earlier this year featured a child on its cover to accompany the article “Wanted: More Babies” about the dangerous depopulation of the West.

E Even tennis star Bjorn Borg, in the Swedish daily Dagens Industri, 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,” read his full-page ad.

E In his 1999 book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, renowned business consultant Peter Drucker declared that “the most important single new certainty — if only because there is no precedent for it in all of history — is the collapsing birthrate in the developed world.” He called the situation in Japan and Southern Europe “national suicide,” and added that North America is not far behind.

It's time for Catholics to stop being embarrassed about Church teaching on contraception and abortion, and return to the truth that having children — even having a lot of children — is a blessing, not a curse.

The contraceptive-free life is healthier for women (compared to the side-effects of the birth control pill), happier for families (divorce rates are practically nonexistent among those who practice modern natural family planning) and moral. It's also urgently, desperately needed in the West for economic reasons.

The Catholic laity has the numbers and the know-how to widely promote this teaching in creative and effective ways as never before. Let's do so.