Friday, September 24, 2010

What a Childless Nation Portends

In recent years, many Americans have made the personal decision not to have children. Today, however, even more people, sold on the myth that the earth is overpopulated, have made it clear that it is a civic duty for couples to have only a few children, if any. What was once a personal decision to have a small family is now a secular mandate to discourage couples from having children at all. In the twenty-first century, it has been customary for families with five or more children to either get lectured, sneered at or to be given looks of disapproval by perfect strangers at the local grocery store.

It is a true marvel of human nature that many or even the majority of people can be so zealously opposed to that which is absolutely necessary for survival and happiness. Materialism and secularism can so twist human thinking that people can hate what is positively good for them and love what is positively bad. Such is the mystery of sin and the effect it has on the soul.

I’ll leave it to Steve Mosher and The Population Research Institute to provide all the statistical data why America and Western Civilization is headed for a demographic collapse (see: The point here is that once people cross a certain threshold of prosperity, materialistic lifestyles set in, the appetite for sacrifice wanes and reproductive attitudes harden. It is usually at the tail end of this development that the State sees that a childless nation is not in its best interests. Historically, declining tax revenue and the disportionate ratio between the young and the elderly are but natural results of a low birthrate. In response to this, governments typcially offered incentives to reverse the trend. But when the harm of a nation gone childless was felt, it was often too late for political remedies.

In the last forty years, Catholics- both clergy and laity –have been embarrassed about what may prove to be the most prophetic and important doctrine of our times: the truth of contraception. As a result, very few teachings at the local and diocesan level and even fewer sermons at Sunday Mass have even mentioned what impact contraception has had on marriage, the family and culture. Our silence has left the door wide open for the propaganda that children are a burden to society. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception will undoubtedly be vindicated when the demographic winter has peaked. And we are just beginning- only just beginning -to feel the effects of that winter. We have to pray for our bishops and priests; that they may lead the way in encouraging married couples to be generous with God in terms of having children. It is incumbent on all Catholics, but especially Bishops, to articulate what a childless nation portends.

What the family loses, the State gains. When families shrink and breakdown, the State only increases and becomes more powerful. History bears witness to this fact. The present day challenge of American citizens to retain their liberty and prosperity can be traced (although not exclusively) to the breakdown of the family and the unwillingness of couples to have children. On the other hand, if the American people were to value an abundance of children, this would be a sign of recovery; a harbenger of better things to come.

"But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific. They became so numerous and strong that the land was filled with them." (Ex 1:7)

Long before the birthrate of the West became an issue, Bishop Sheen he issued the following warning:

If our birthrate should again decrease as it did 15 years ago [1933], and that decrease should continue, would we not become the prey of other nations? History does not reveal the survival of a single nation with a declining birthrate in a moment of trial and crisis. On the occasion of the fall of France in 1940, a French general gave the failure of the family to perpetuate itself as the basic reason for the nation’s debacle.

In 150 B.C. Polybius, in writing about the decline of Greece, said: “For the evil of depopulation grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting our attention, by our men becoming perverted to a passion of show and money, and pleasure of an evil life, and accordingly either not marrying at all, or if they did marry, refusing to rear children that were born, or at most, one or two out of the great numbers, for the sake of leaving their well-being assured, and bringing them up in extravagant luxury. The result, houses are left heirless, and like swarms of flies, little by little, the cities become sparsely inhabited and weak.”

The decline of the population always begins with the economic top; those who could most afford to have children do not. The group less economically blessed produces more. Soon the infection against the family spreads from those in high economic brackets to those below, and a civilization goes into decline.

There is no doubt the State will claim more power for itself as the family declines, but the state and society are not identical. As the vital energy of society goes into decline, the mechanized bureaucratic machinery grows by leaps and bounds…Invasion was a possibility from the time Roman morals began to decline.”

-Bishop Fulton Sheen, Communism and the Western Conscience 1948