Can Europe Survive Its Population Plunge?

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Europe is dying. The Washington Post, among others, reports that, within a hundred years, there will be the rare German in Germany or Italian in Italy. Some demographers believe it is too late to correct Europe’s plunge into extinction. “The fall in the population can no longer be stopped,” reported Walter Rademacher of the German Federal Statistics Office.

Replacement fertility rates are 2.1 children per woman in developed nations. No nation in Europe can claim that rate, and most fall under 1.6. At those levels, each generation is barely half the number of the preceding one. The working-age population is reduced by 30 percent in just 20 years, having a devastating impact on economies. Today, European Union and United Nations experts are sufficiently alarmed to call councils to address the population crisis. The irony is that this is a crisis of their making.

In the 1960s, futurists painted a dire picture of population explosion and its concomitant depletion of resources. As recently as ten years ago, the UN’s own Millennium Summit Declaration insisted, “We must spare no effort to free all of humanity, and above all our children and grandchildren from the threat of living on a planet irredeemably spoilt by human activities, and whose resources would no longer be sufficient for their needs” (22).

Global policy planners set about crafting a means to curb world fertility. Contraception and abortion as social policy necessarily pitted planners against Christian teaching and traditional families. Predictably, these policies led to tacit devaluation of marriage and the acceptance of divorce, cohabitation, and single parenthood in the developed nations. Worse, a militant secularization of Western culture deprived two generations of the foundational reasons for family formation. Sociological tinkering as part of the Human Potential Movement sought to detach people from “religious superstitions” and apply scientific methods to the management of human beings. Their mistake was a crucial misunderstanding of the nature of family: Is there an inherent, ontological basis for families, or can the nature of a “family” be recast at the whim of international governing bodies?

 

In March, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) released the “Policy Brief on Ageing #5,” which stated, “Populations in the UNECE region are ageing rapidly. To maintain economic growth and standard of living, people would need to work longer before they can retire.” Left unsaid is the root cause: “Because we have aborted or contracepted a large percentage of our future generation, the current aging generation can expect less support in old age from the children they did not have who cannot now contribute to the GDP, thereby threatening our standard of living.”

Yet another effort to address the European crisis is the cheery sounding formal paper “The Happiness Commonality: Fertility decisions in a low fertility setting.” The paper gushes with false hope and a bald assertion that children are a valuable consumer commodity:

The main idea of this article is that the quest for happiness, and the compatibility between happiness and childbearing, is the “commonality” that may bring an understanding of fertility differences in contemporary advanced societies in Europe and North America. . . . In this framework, the decision to marry, to divorce or to have a (nother) child is taken when we expect to be in a better position (in other words, happier) when comparing the status after this decision (to have a child) has been taken with the current status. If children are considered as “consumption goods”, we have children because we derive utility from having them.

Despite semi-hysterical attempts to reassure the remaining European population that having children could lead to greater happiness, there are very powerful social and political forces that cannot be turned around quickly enough.

 

First is the addiction to the oft-stated “standard of living.” Child credits or family-friendly economic policies are insufficient — around 4 percent of GDP in the best case, Denmark. Tax or direct credits are less in other nations, and in any case the incentives have not proven effective: It has become a strong cultural norm to have fewer children, and monetary assistance is simply not enticing. Italy’s “Bambini bonus” did not result in a measureable uptick in birth rates. Simply stated, even where the nation is willing to make the social and economic investment in the next generation, its individual citizens often are not. Why is this?

population2_articleEconomic analysis reveals that a disproportionate percentage of the retired population leans on its ever-fewer young citizens. Their tax burden is too great (spread over too few taxpayers), couples end up postponing or foregoing children altogether, and the depopulation spiral gains speed.  Further analysis shows that a woman who interrupts her productive working years for an aggregate of ten years in order to raise a family loses 20 percent to 25 percent of her lifetime earnings. Government birth credit policies are no match for this monetary and professional loss.

Additionally, quality commercial care for young children can cost 10,000 Euros per year. Southern Europeans are faced with the choice to sacrifice children to career or career to children. (In the Nordic nations, government subsidy is far higher and is partially borne through a compulsory daycare attendance from 13 months.)

Studies show that American men are more likely to assist their wives with domestic tasks; European men, meanwhile, especially in Mediterranean countries, are less likely to tackle child care and domestic chores. For dual-income couples in Europe, one predictor of a second birth is the degree to which the father has assisted with the first child. Added responsibilities, such as care for elderly parents, means a second child is a rarity.

Conversely, for Europe’s intentionally childless couples, freed of child-care obligations, the standard of living can be quite high. And, as they age, they will draw on the productivity of younger citizens, though they produced none themselves — a free ride of sorts.

In the final calculation, couples, especially women, feel no obligation to contribute to the nation’s demographic health. Her free choice and personal fulfillment are devoid of concern that her nation’s future is in peril because, quite simply, she will not be around to endure the consequences.  An egotistic, nihilistic message underpins this lifestyle: “This is all there is. Get what you can, because soon it will be over.” Commitment beyond my immediate need is of no consequence to me. Even the very concept of national community is reduced to an exchange between citizens and their state where tax revenue is pooled; and education, health care, and infrastructure maintenance are consumed by citizens in the pool.

 

As secularization systematically erases all reference to cultural tradition, religion, and transcendence, it removes the anchoring identity of the people. What does “nation” mean to postmodern men raised in a history-erasing state school? High-worth citizens (educated and possessing specialized skill sets) may shop for the “nation” that offers the best exchange of services for joining its tax pool.

Secularized elite Westerners who imagine they will have the luxury to exchange skills for a life lived within the political arrangement of their choice have gravely miscalculated. The United Nations Security Council’s permanent seats are on course to be dominated by Muslim-controlled nations. The European seats of Britain and France, as well as Russia’s seat, are already compromised: As their percentage of immigrant Muslim citizens rise, they dare not risk a Security Council vote against another Muslim state, lest their own citizens riot. If Islam ascendant inherits the reins of the EU, toleration of postmodern lifestyles will not be its distinguishing feature.

In Habermaus’s term, “post-metaphysical” secular Europe intentionally and legally eliminated Christianity as a recognized foundation of European culture — all in the name of freedom. When the European Union drew up its new constitution, Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger futilely urged leaders to acknowledge the Christian contribution to the making of Europe (see “The Dark Side of the European Union,” from the June 2003 issue of crisis). The Christian worldview is the genesis of the very idea of human rights, yet this foundation was casually swept aside. Many reasoned voices echoed Hillaire Belloc, warning that a people without the intimate knowledge of their common origins cannot perdure as a cohesive society.

Secularists realize, but do not publicly admit, that that loss of Christian moral foundations has plunged Europe into a depopulating death spiral. What secular moderns omitted from their war-gaming gambit for population control was that the huge physical and spiritual vacuum of a post-Christian, depopulated Europe would leave them prostrate before an intolerant Islam. In the halls of international institutions where “global governance” has been methodically planned for more than 50 years, the assumption has been that those who lived to see this dream come true would be other “post-metaphysical” elite. Instead, the global system they planned may be delivered by population default to the nations of Islam, China, and India.

Mary Jo Anderson

By

Mary Jo Anderson is a Catholic journalist and public speaker. She has been a frequent guest on "Abundant Life," an EWTN television program, and her "Global Watch" radio program is heard on EWTN radio affiliates nationwide. She writes regularly for Crisis Magazine. More articles and commentary can be found at Properly Scared and at Women for Faith and Family. Mary Jo is a board member of Women for Faith and Family and has served on the Legatus Board of Directors. With co-author Robin Bernhoft, she wrote "Male and Female He Made Them: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions," published in 2005 by Catholic Answers. In 2003 Mary Jo was invited to the Czech Republic to address parliamentarians on the Impact of Radical Feminism on Emerging Democracies.

  • Austin

    A big problem is that the tax codes are usually not family friendly. A $3000 exemption for each child is hardly enough to even begin to cover the expenses of raising a child. You have the living expenses and also, if you try to send your child to a Catholic school, you pay taxes forn the public school [which you are not using, but have to pay anyway], and pay tuition for the Catholic school. The tax code does not really help you much.

  • Kathryn

    The following link is to an interesting article about social security/welfare and its impact on child bearing.

    http://mises.org/daily/2451

    If the author’s interpretation of what is going on is correct, then people (espcially Church officials) need to be rather cautious about advocating for governmental social safety nets and the like.

  • Wolfgang G.

    Without doubt there is a population problem. But unfortunately the article mixes facts with spin. There is no “population plunge” in Europe. Last year the population of the EU (which does not yet include populous countries like the Ukraine) grew beyond the mark of 500 million. The population grows, but nearly exclusively as a result of immigration. Over the last decade, Eurostat attributed 85-90% of population growth to immigrants. The EU is roughly in the position that the US were in during the 1880s, in the first two decades of the 20th century, or in the 1990s, when the rate of immigration by far outstripped that of the growth of descendants. The difference is that immigrants to the EU come from more diverse backgrounds in ethnic, racial, religious origins, and particularly from outside the continent, whereas immigration to the US still comes predominantly from “south of the border.” But the author’s explanation must be seen with some scepticism. Much as the secularist trend is deplorable — why is it that the most secular societies in the EU, particularly those of Sweden, France, the UK, and Cyprus, have among the highest natural growth rates whereas some of the most religious, particularly those of Poland, Portugal, or Ireland, have some of the lowest? Why is the fertility rate in France, one of the highest in the EU, at the same level as that in the US but much lower than that of Germany? The causality here is much more complex and cannot easily be reduced to one factor. Somewhere in the mix might then be the trends the author presents as the sole explanations. Recently the fertility rate has slightly increased in Germany, Italy, and elsewhere – at least by enough to slow down decline of the indigenous population. Yet there certainly is a problem, and Americans may learn from it, for present US trends go pretty much in the European direction. The fertility rate in 2009 was 2.05, and below the replacement level. For non-Hispanic Whites it was 1.83 (which is about the EU average), for Blacks 2.09, but for Hispanics 2.89; ironically, the Hispanic population “bails out” the others and guarantees that not quite as many new (Hispanic) immigrants are necessary to grow total population as Europe needs Africans and Asians. New England states already now are at European levels. This shifts the question on both sides of the Atlantic to immigration, and the integration of newcomers, rather than to religion as the central piece in the puzzle.

  • Brian English

    “Many reasoned voices echoed Hillaire Belloc, warning that a people without the intimate knowledge of their common origins cannot perdure as a cohesive society.”

    Reading Belloc’s books now, it is hard to believe they were written 80-90 years ago.

  • Brian English

    “This shifts the question on both sides of the Atlantic to immigration, and the integration of newcomers, rather than to religion as the central piece in the puzzle.”

    They actually work together to create the problem. Secularists who don’t want nuisances like children around to spoil their fun need someone to comprise the workforce and support them in their Golden Years. Enter the immigrants.

    However, if the secularists in the host nation view their culture as being a blight on the planet, they are not going to make any effort to assimilate the immigrants into that culture. The situation is even worse when the immigrants think the culture of the host nation is evil and have no desire to assimilate.

  • Bob G

    I don’t understand why Wolfgang regards immigration as any solution to the problem of low birth rates. In Europe the immigrants swarming in are muslim and hostile even to the latest secular state, not to mention Christian culture. The price of this solution is living under sharia.

    Here in the US immigration from Mexico seems to be a short-term solution. But will these immigrants adopt American ways or insist on retaining their older culture? If they don’t assimilate on traditional terms, our society could become as balkanized as Europe’s. Besides, most of these newcomers are lower-class and won’t pay income taxes, from which up to 50% of all citizens are now exempt. So their demographic impact may be offset by their economic cost, because they will certainly be “entitled” to all usual benefits.

  • Tom

    Europeans are supposed to be organized into neat, little units is of recent origin. What we’re seeing now is a new movement of peoples, similar to that during the 5-9th centuries. It’s not a question of “assimilation” or adopting “our” ways, at least in the short term. It’ll probably be nearer to what happened in late antiquity: chaos at first, then a resurgence of “romanitas,” configured in the ways of the newly-arrived. But in no way is this something new.

  • Stephen

    and Wolfgang knows it, which is why he refers to gross population figures showing modest increases in population while intentionally downplaying the author’s point, which is that ethnically indigenous populations are suffering a major decrease in fertility. As demographers constantly remind us, it takes a while for even the precipitous declines in European fertility take a generation or so to result in actual net population declines, as the elderly start to die off and are not replaced by the next generation.

    Russia and Japan are already seeing population declines, and are rightfully in a panic about it. And despite what Wolfgang says about the French, their fertility rates are not the same as the US, which is barely clinging to 2.1. France and other countries are now offering huge incentives to have children, to little effect. The “plunge” is only beginning, as the population controllers have only had success in telling people to eradicate themselves in the last couple of decades.

    And Wolfgang, please check your “religious” stats a bit more closely. Look for a correlation between the PRACTICE of religion and birthrates. Even secularists agree that religion must be stamped out in order to advance their goals of legalized abortion, homosexualist promotion and bathing entire nations in contraceptives. Tell me, Wolfgang, are these last three undeniable goals of the secular left meant to promote procreation or reduce it?

    The correlation is stark. A country that abandons its history abandons its future as well.

  • Gabriel Austin

    Belloc ascribed the appeal of Islam to its simplifications of the rules of the existing orders. Chesterton writing about the number of new Fascist regimes in Europe of the 1920s made the same points. The French Revolution “came from nowhere” and in a few months swept aside the ancient intricate rules-bound monarchy and Church.
    It is part of human nature that all its institutions gradually become too complex to grasp. {Consider the U.S. Tax Code, the new Health Insurance Bill, the Rules and Regulations of Government Bureaus].
    I suspect that the economic crisis may precipitate a political crisis, aiming at a restructuring of the government. Consider the fatuity of one man as a judge reversing Proposition 8 with wordy arguments, a law which had been voted in by over 50% of the voters.
    The strong idea of self-restraint has been diluted, possibly beyond recovery. As chaos more and more settles in, there is the likelihood of a man on the white horse [or the black] riding in to save the polity; and bending all to his will. It happened all over Europe in the 1930s. Who is to say it will not happen here? Who will guarantee that the language spoken will not be that of the Koran? And perhaps especially because it preaches self-restraint.

  • Stephen

    Is the idea of Europe being “organized into neat, little units” a recent development, or is it “in no way … something new”.

    But your bigger problem is the “well, it happens all the time, what’s the problem?” attitude. Wars and slaughter happen all the time, too. It still makes sense to call attention to injustice and error when it occurs. What is unique about Europe’s situation is not only the rapidity of its decline, but also the fact that it isn’t a “disease” or an aggressive foe who is wiping them out – it is the Europeans themselves. One could say that it is in fact a disease and/or an aggressive foe that is doing the eradicating, and it’s pretty easy to see who that is.

    I, for one, am grateful for the various independent yet interrelated cultures of Europe, and the beautiful art (mostly Christian) that this/these culture(s) gave to the world. It seems a curious approach for one who appreciates Western art, philosophy, architecture, and the concept of rights to whistle past the graveyard as the cultures that gave us these gifts commit slow suicide.

  • Todd

    A few things.

    Ethnic indigenous populations are always relative. Present-day white Europeans came from somewhere else, if you poke back far enough.

    When a conservative morphs the issue into a liberal scarystory about government safety nets, then yes, the deciding factor isn’t the white replacement rate, but the overall population trend. I can see why a rich rightwinger might want to close the borders, crank up fertility, and declare every bank account for himself.

    I’ve read that the link to declining birthrates isn’t religion, but the education of women. From what I see, the Muslims are running even more scaredy-cat on this than white supremacists.

    Sometimes (but not always) it seems to me that what is bemoaned is not the loss of Japan or Russia, but a serene late-19th century world order: aristocracy, colonialism, and a general ignorance of the world. Good luck recovering that.

  • Mary

    Perhaps old age pensions should be tied to the number of children the person has — perhaps limited to children not in jail or supported by welfare programs.

  • Tom

    I’m not “whistling past the graveyard,” I’m simply describing what is going on.

    By the way, the beautiful Christian art you like mostly came before the “neat little units” of nation-states that you are lamenting.

  • Cord Hamrick

    What, I wonder, would it take, in the area of tax credits, to sufficiently encourage childbearing to exceed replacement rates?

    My thought is that the per-child annual tax credit ought to be something along the lines of $16,000 per child 10 years of age or less, and let it drop by $2,000 per year per year after that.

    It would certainly make my life easier.

    But would even that do the trick? After all the chief tension-causer for parents of young children is the feeling of being a constantly on-duty wait staff, and having to feign interest in certain topics of chatter which, while of intense interest to a five-year-old, is less interesting to an adult.

    But take away the financial strain (thereby also making regular babysitting more affordable in the family budget), and you’re sure to get some marginal increase in fecundity.

  • MJ Anderson

    The article does begin with the observation that Germans in Germany and Italians in Italy, that is native Europeans, are the subject of the plunge. As assumed carriers of the civilization that gave us “human rights” the projected disappearance of Europeans (not immigrant Europeans) is particularly alarming, because as other comments and the article point out, there are large segments of the immigrant population that does not wish to live under the Western concept of Rule of Law.

    As for France posting new census figures which indicate that France is now back at replacement rates, the report is, shall we say, “nuanced.” I’ve just returned from Italy where the BBC TV news broadcasts indicated that while France has posted an uptick in new babies, this is due to the 10% Muslim population having an average of 4.6 children per woman.

    One other clarification I’d like to offer is that the nihilism that finds no joy in family formation is a direct, immediate threat to their nations. Unattached people, those minus loyalty to a culture, a distinctive identity, or a formative history is unknown in history. It is not simply a change of nation, or a migration of the culture to new territory, but a disinclination to attach to any concept of nationhood or culture.

  • Marthe L

    Last year I picked up from my rather considerable personal library a little book that I have owned for decades and had not completely read. It is called “The Limits to Growth”. As I perused it with my current level of experience, it struck me that it seemed to put a lot of emphasis on population control, and to give little, if any, attention to the growth of other things, such as the economy, and businesses and international corporations, for example. I gave the impression the blame for depleting resources went almost exclusively to the human population. Since I have been brought up and educated within a Catholic context, I have usually held the view that humans were given dominion over the world and all its riches, not the other way around. However, the efforts to convince people that it was more responsible NOT to have children, in order to avoid putting too much a load on the earth, seems to have caught the attention a large numbers of people, who, with their descendants, are still strongly convinced that there are too many people on the earth. Turning that tide will be difficult. And, on the other hand, the health of corporations, as well as econimies, is still measured in terms of “growth”, as if resources were unlimited. Where can we start in criticizing our “consumer’ society: on the general population who, being constantly bombarded with skilled advertising designed to make people want all that stuff, are making the purchases, and we talk of “consumer confidence” when talking about economic recovery, or corporations that are convinced they need to increase their sales and profits, not every year any more, but every QUARTER of a year if they want to be taken seriously by the financial market, and therefore produce increasingly large amounts of consumer goods of dubious usefulness that most people lived very well without not that long ago. Inn my opinion, we need to consider the concept of “optinal level of development” for economies much more than optinal levels of population. Why are “we” producing enormous quantities of goods just so that people have jobs that occupy them 40 hours a week? It might be much better to produce less and give people time to live their lives, and in that way a lot of family and relationship difficulties might become more controllable. There were “futurologists” in the 70’s that were suggesting that in the 21st century people would not need to work more than 4 hours a day. If in the work world children were not considered as obstacles to productivity, but as investments in the future, maybe a change in organization of the way work is done could give men and women time to have children and get actively involved in parenting. My impression is that children are now considered just as another leisure activity that in no way can be allowed to interfere with a worker’s “productivity”. If we want people to have more children, fiscal measures alone are useless, we should allow people to stop wasting all of their time and energy for their jobs and keep some for relationships, families and the responsibilities and joys of having children.

  • Kathryn

    to Cord:

    Tax credits may help (significant ones) but there may be more to it than that. I think you are on to something about adults being somewhat less enthused about certain topics than five years olds like.

    An interesting little stat that I have seen in the book “There’s No Place Like Work” relates the advent of public schooling to smaller family sizes. The book also notes that homeschoolers have, in general, larger family sizes than non-homeschoolers.

    I don’t know too any homeschool moms (dads) who are bored and wonder what to do with themselves during the day. They may be pulling their hair out occasionally over Johnny’s spelling or resistance to math or not being able to decline the word “Terra” properly, but they aren’t bored.

    Constrast this with some stay-at-home moms that I know who wonder what to do now that the kids are in school all day. Clean house all day? Yeah, right. Go back to work? Well, economy is lousy. And if they do go to work, then there is the hassle of making work/school/family life mesh. And not everyone is interested in volunteering.

    If your “job” is homeschooling, mentally and economically, one more child probably isn’t that big a deal. But if you have to juggle outside work, outside school, outside sports and activities, yeah, I can see where having more than two children would be an issue. And I am not at all sure $16,000 tax break would help matters much. There is only 24 hours in a day, and cloning ourselves so we can get it all done isn’t yet possible.

  • jetpilot

    You’ve nailed it Mary Jo. I dips me lid (as they say Down Under). A desolate, bleak landscape you have painted, but the facts is what they is.

    If I can take issue with some of those who in response have made comments like, ‘well its happened before, so what’, the only thing remotely similar is the fall of Rome. Christianity replaced it with an even greater, more prosperous empire that has given the world all it has today in technology, civility and the truth that is Jesus Christ.

    One can nitpick around whether or not it can be described as an empire, being constituted of independent states, but certainly, inasmuch as they were Christian and had a very similar worldview and laws based on Christianity, the differences in languages and customs were insignificant compared to the commonalities. Sure they fought each other, often brutally, but the thread of a common belief in Christ held it all together, and allowed Europe to develop, to prosper, and grow well beyond its shores.

    This time round the replacement of the ruling power will be alien to Christianity and the Christian ethic. The latter has allowed (mistakenly I believe) Muslims to freely enter and multiply within its walls. Exactly how alien will be seen in a relatively short time, maybe even within our lifetimes. There will not be the beneficence and magnanimity of a Constantine or Charlemagne, but a brutal institution of an evil and devilish doctrine that will enslave and emaciate the humanity that was allowed to flourish and grow in the garden that was Europe watered by the Holy Spirit.

    Yes, its happened before, and it was a thing of beauty. It will happen again, but this time it will be as ugly as Satan.

    Every truth worthy of mention can be found in the Psalms. Truly we have become fools who say there is no God (French Revolution). We are corrupt and condone abominations (homosexuality, abortion, indifferentism). The results are there for all to see.

  • Philip Ney

    Those people whose mother had an abortion are survivors. They characteristically have: existential guilt, compound fears of the future, distrust of parents and social institutions and a persistant disinclination to have children. It is not suprizing that there is almost a universal, exponential decline in fertility rates. It is also clear that at some point in the curve, the trend becomes irriversible. Even if incentives to have more children are powerful, I doubt they can overcome the profound antagonism of abortion survivors toward children.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Kathryn:

    Since you say that you doubt the $16,000 per would help sufficiently, perhaps adding a voucher system along the following lines would: Take the amount spent per kid for public school education at that kid’s age, and offer a voucher of 1/2 that amount for private schooling or homeschooling.

    I seem to remember about a decade ago Atlanta city public schools, the quality of which was less-than-inspiring, tended to spend around $20,000 per kid. Half of that, or $10,000, would be quite a boost to getting kids a decent education…and the remainder could be spread among the remaining public-school kids to test the proposition that a lack of funds is somehow the problem. (In fact nearly all proposed voucher systems have been designed this way: They increase the per-kid allocation to public school children by having less than the full amount “follow” a kid who departs that system for private or home schooling. Those who don’t depart benefit from the remainder. That these systems were rejected anyway speaks volumes about the power and the purpose of teacher’s unions, for whom monopoly-maintenance is far more important than child welfare. But I digress.)

    Why am I talking up vouchers? The relevance to reproduction rates is that the additional cash represents additional incentive to home-school or private-school; it brings either one more within reach of families who otherwise would have struggled with sacrificing one of two possible incomes. And homeschooling is family-centric and multiple-kid-friendly, and ought to be encouraged. A voucher towards homeschool expenses is, for the home-schooling family, tantamount to an additional per-child tax credit.

    In any event, I believe Austin nailed it: The current tax exemptions, had they been set at their current amounts in 1960 and indexed for inflation ever since, would have perhaps been realistic all along the way. Their current levels are ludicrous: The economic reality is that prosperity and savings result from, yes, doing all the Dave Ramsey things…but also by not having children.

    There is a feedback loop in play: Contraception doesn’t lead to a childless society in a unidirectional flow of influence. Rather, the economic benefits of childlessness place social influence in the hands of people with few or no children; this in turn shifts prices and offerings and jobs towards the childless, which further incentivizes childlessness. As a result, couples contracept more often than they would normally have cared to do, to preserve the hope of economic stability for the children they do have.

    Dorothy Day defined a good society as a society “which helps you to be good.” I wonder how much better off we’d be in twenty years if every ounce of Catholic political effort in favor of nationalized health care had instead been put into what would likely have been an easier “get”: Quadrupling the child tax credit and indexing it to inflation.

    This problem has ripples in many areas of life. One small example: The public square is pornified: Why? Well, the leftist judiciary’s odd notions about protected speech is a problem, of course. But if parents and grandparents of young children still vastly outnumbered those who had no children, as in earlier generations, you can bet the voting patterns would have produced different laws. At the present time, there aren’t enough parents protecting their kids to produce enough outrage to change the laws. Our society has been restructured into an adults-only playground, because the political class is catering to the majority of its customers: And they’re not parents.

    In any event, this is a fallen world and its renewal is the only thing that’ll produce a good and fair society. Sans the eschaton, changing incentives in helpful ways is our best strategy for improving our lot. A very big child credit, and a voucher for private- and home-schooling, would go a long way.

  • Kathryn

    Cord: with vouchers come government control over one’s curricula choices. That’s why Hillsdale and Grove City (I think it is Grove City) refuse to accept students who want to use a government backed loan or grant. Tax credits are simply another government control mechanism as well–why should my childless siblings have to pay more in taxes and me less simply because life dealt them a different set of “fertility option” cards?

    I have a better idea: cut taxes, business taxes and regs, downsize government, etc. Phase out all government social safety net programs (and public ed!) and return all that to the religious and private sector. Allow the market to actually be free, as oppose to the current mess we have now, which isn’t at all free.

    Allow people to keep more of their own money–and keep our church leaders busy actually having to help the poor instead of figuring out ways to have the government/taxpayers do it for them, whilst downing coffee and donuts at the latest “visioning session” where they try to “discern” what the Holy Spirit wants them to do…

  • MJ Anderson

    All the comments are thought provoking. As governments and the UN scurry to “solve” the problem of low birth rates with studies and incentives what you will not find is any official recognition of the emotional malaise and outright inertia that smothers “post – metaphysical” Western nations. Can purely economic incentives reverse the trend at all? That is a large question.

    The very terminology of the UN study that refers to children as consumer units tips the world over into abyss of meaninglessness. Is the sum total of our existence to create consumer goods and to consume them? Without faith and family where does any meaning to our atomized existence reside? There is an immense loneliness even among those who have managed to achieve the top rungs of the “good life.”

    It is not at all unusual for eight European great grandparents to have just one great grandchild among them. Many middle aged Italians lead lonely lives as they have no siblings and no first cousins.

  • Lynne Gilham

    Western governments and business interests have made rearing children in their societies very difficult. Simply put, there is not enough support offered women so that they can bear and rear children. Western society has made it impossible for women to bear and rear children. Businesses demand more and more time and energy from fathers which leaves less time for child rearing. Thus the time demand on women increases. Women must also work to support the family because affordable housing is hard to find. Childcare is a necessity but impossible to find at a rate women can afford. When the society’s perceived value of women in childbearing is heightened, women will be able to have children again. Not until then.
    Many Western communities do not take care of the children already born. Why bother to have more children. Children are a burden, at least perceived by many men that way. Let’s face it, we do not live in a child-friendly environment. Most men do not like to be around children; do not like to share their lives with children; do not like to share their living environment with children; reject women who mother their children. So, Catholic Church, do not blame the childless society on women alone. Women need support from men, societal leadership and businesses to rear children. They get nothing, no support. Mothers on welfare are castigated and denigrated. Welfare programs are eliminated. Men fight NOT to pay child support. So what are women supposted to do? They cannot raise children alone!!! More and more men do not want to commit to marriage and raising a family. It’s easier not to. They do not want to shoulder the burden. It’s easier not to grow up. You Church Fathers should say nothing. You do not know what it is to raise children and have a family.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Kathryn:

    I agree with you so much! But at each turn, I am willing to accept a smaller improvement over a larger one. So please don’t see my suggestions as in competition with yours; rather, see them as in competition with the status quo and representing more incremental moves in the right direction than yours.

    For example, you state:

    Cord: with vouchers come government control over one’s curricula choices. That’s why Hillsdale and Grove City (I think it is Grove City) refuse to accept students who want to use a government backed loan or grant.

    Well, yes. And that’s a problem. And in college and post-grad education, it’s the worst (economic) problem because college and post-grad education are, apart from government-backed loans and grants, a competitive system as they ought to be.

    But in K-12 education, the problems are so vastly worse that what we call a flaw in college and post-grad education would constitute a major improvement in K-12! For of course, in K-12, the government has a taxpayer-provided, police-enforced monopoly.

    To use an economic truism somewhat unconventionally, “bad money drives out good,” and in this case the “bad money” provided by government in the realm of K-12 has driven alternative providers completely out of the market for price-sensitive K-12 education. The remaining alternative providers exist only in parallel markets; namely, the price-insensitive “quality trumps all” market and the price-insensitive “faith values trumps all” market.

    So, you’re right: Government provision produces government intrusion, and that’s bad. But it’s a fallen world, and apart from our daily conversions to Christ, there are no choices we make that don’t come with a mix of benefits and drawbacks: We choose always from imperfect alternatives, seeking the lesser of two evils or the greater of two goods.

    Given that, in K-12, a voucher system would be preferable to the current state-of-affairs because the government monopoly already produces wholesale government control over K-12 education for most families. You can’t get any worse than that! It is not as if we would be introducing vouchers into a private market, where it would represent a fresh intrusion; rather, K-12 vouchers would represent an increase in consumer choice over the current state of affairs.

    Having said all that, I agree that the ideal is not vouchers, but lower taxes so everyone pays their own way. But I would add: We would in that case have to outlaw government ownership and operation of schools, entirely. Privatize the entire system. I’d love it if that could be done: It’d be so much better for the children and the country in the long run! …but do you see it happening? I don’t. Hence my willingness to accept half-measures which improve over the status quo, like vouchers.

    You also ask:

    Why should my childless siblings have to pay more in taxes and me less simply because life dealt them a different set of “fertility option” cards?

    Oh, well, you got me: In an unfallen world, they shouldn’t. But our world is fallen. How to respond? We do what we can, provided that we avoid intrinsically evil acts in doing so (since an absolute rule is that “you shall not do evil that good may come from it”).

    So although I’m on the libertarian side of conservatism — or the conservative side of libertarianism, perhaps — I’m willing to accept and even propose measures which strain or sprain my ideals…so long as they produce an outcome which is substantially closer to my ideals than the status quo. If we still had a government remotely resembling the Constitution as originally intended, I’d have proposed none of the tax credits and whatnot proposed in this thread.

    But as we don’t have that, what now? The government is stretching the economy out-of-shape; and currently in an anti-procreative fashion. And in this case, to the extent that the childless will be supported in their old age by the children of the fruitful, and given that 90% of the childless in our society at-large are that way voluntarily rather than through medical difficulties, I am willing that the situation be remedied in a less-good way (through the credits and vouchers and whatnot) if the ideal way is not going to happen.

    (The moment the ideal way looks reachable, I will change my tune.)

  • Fishy2me

    “Emotional malaise” as an individual issue is sad.
    “Emotional malaise” as an international issue is terrifying.
    I learned in my youth this “law” of humankind:
    “the most dangerous creature on Earth is one with nothing to lose”.

  • Marthe L

    Ouch! I for one am not childless by choice. A number of circumstances in my own life have made it impossible to get into a relationship that would have produced children: such as mental illness, childhood sexual abuse and its lifelong consequences, never findidng myself at the right place at the right time, etc. And about priests and religious who have remained celibate because their commitment to the Catholic Church requires it! And if we start making distinctions between having been childless by choice or not, or being childless people who have been more useful to “society” than others, I think that we will have a lot of problems, while many seniors will die for lack of resources long before a solution if found. Of course, since we believe in life everlasting in heaven, maybe it is not such a bad idea: when they die these seniors will get there ahead of us… But… is this an acceptable way of looking at things? Does pro-life only mean “life for the not yet born” but not for the not yet dead?

  • Mrs. F

    EWTN sometimes shows the specials “Demographic Winter” and “Demographic Bomb” which address this topic. The latter talks about how the focus on controlling population has led to human rights abuses in developing countries (China is the most well known, but there are others). They are worth watching.

  • jetpilot

    As a single father of 5 children ages 16 down to 8 whose wife left him for the “good life”, I know exactly how hard it is to raise kids alone. The “good life” that the world offers the young people of today is one of a life of pleasure and faux fulfillment without long term commitment to anybody or anything, except pleasure and faux fulfillment. The evil and soul destroying allure of this “freedom” is what prevents many young people of both sexes from entering into long term commitments and taking on the responsibilities of parenthood. Even more tragic are the older people who leave marriages and children to jump into this powerfully enticing vortex the Devil has created for them.

    Living as we do in this post-modern mileu of selfishness and pagan hedonism, it is important for the Christian to stand apart from and not be sucked in by the heady vapours that spew from the culture. The Big Questions – is marriage sacred? should we be open to life? have timeless answers – Yes and Yes, regardless of the circumstances around us. The Truth is true yesterday, today and tomorrow.

    As soon as Christians compromise on the truth because of a fear of suffering (the fear of death), they have denied Christ. Far from judging such people we should be truly concerned for them because without Christ they are leaving themselves increasingly open to the clutches of the Devil and damnation, which is nothing to envy.

    We are in a culture that has mandated no-fault divorce, abortion, the desecration of the family and Christian family values. In this environment it is not at all surprising that men (and women too) do not hold family life in very high regard at all. As Christians we must (with Christ, always with Christ) stand against this evil by our love. The Devil uses Fear to get us to deny Christ and fall in with him. We cannot be accessories to the crime that is being perpetrated around us because we are afraid of being uncomfortable, or because it is inconvenient. If Christ is for us who can be against us?

  • Austtin

    Raising five children by yourself? You sir, are a hero, and I salute you. May God bless you and your children.

  • Kathryn

    Cord:

    I suggest that the most fair thing to do regarding the tax code (or at least the least unfair) is to stop using it to get the population to do XYZ, whether that be to buy a house, an electric car, or have more children.

    You make a buck, $0.05 goes to US (actually, my thoughts are a bit more than that, but I’ll just stick with this one basic idea for now). If my hubby pulls in $1000 per year (using easy numbers here), then our tax bill is $50. If I go to work and get another $1000, then I pay $50 also. If we have a child, then we have a child. No credits or deductions. If I don’t work, I don’t work. We don’t have a reduced rate simply because my husband is now married and supporing a non-incoming pulling in wife and child. If my sib makes $500, she pays in $25. If she pulls in $2000, she forks over $100. If she buys a house, she buys a house. No credits for that, or for her silly eco-friendly car.

    Heck, if my neighbors pull in $1 million per year, they fork over $50,000. So what if they don’t have kids and we have ten? My husband’s and my fertility is not their problem any more than their infertility is my husband’s and my problem–although if they ask me to pray to St. Gerard or St. Anne for them, fine. Offer Mass, fine. Done.

    This would be (part of) my way to handle things, although I suspect a lot of people will scream unfair.

    Anyway, I seriously doubt such an idea will happen any time soon, as the tax code gives the governmental authorities a lot of power they won’t want to give up anytime soon.

  • m

    I was going to write to Lynne, but you beat me to it. My brother is going through a tough time right now, as his wife will probably leave him, and who knows what will happen to their beautiful children–it is not always the men who are unwilling to commit!!!!

  • Philip Ney

    By abortion survivors, I mean in the sense of those who live when any family or friend died as a result of some event or force over which they oculd have had no control eg. the only survivor of an armored vehicle blown apart by a landmine. In this day and age, only wanted children survive. Wantedness has become the criteria that determines who (Preborn, elderly, handicapped)lives and who dies, It is the most pernciously evil idea ever. To be alive because you are wanted bring no joy. It brings survivor guilt etc and a fear of and of having children.
    About 50% of the world’s popultion are abortion survivors. I believe this is what is the main cause of population implosion.
    Think more deeply.

  • Kathryn

    Cord: Here’s a link to the New Orleans voucher program. Don’t know if you know about this. Test scores are rising.

    Now: if they are able to keep this up, will birth rates? We may not know for several years.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsEP_5axdLI

  • Alex

    Working people limit their number of children to their income, others, who live off the public dime don’t. Why should they? Immigrants from Africa,Middle East, Mexico, South America go where the free living Socialist system supports them and their numerous children. Why improve yourself when stupid people will give you everything they have. Who’s taking over the world, well just look and see.

  • Larry Pierson

    A massive tax on childlessness that more than compensates for the additional income a 2nd wager earner would otherwise acquire, coupled with mandatory restrictions on the retirement comfort level that is coupled to the number of children a couple bears, is the only way to force childless couples to make the moral commitment to provide for the next generation.

    The selfish, self-centered attitude of childless couples, who depend on the sacrifices of those who do raise children to take provide for them in their old age, is deplorable.

  • Claire Solt PhD

    Here again you have the modelers coming up with a counter factual prediction. As a historian, I am not conovinced. Europe has experienced hugh population losses in its history without ending civilization. See the Black Death or even the 50 million lost in WWII.

    I asked a Dutch friend if they didn’t think they were already overpopulated. The Netherlands has the densest population in the world. Farmers are leaving because land has gone to 60,000/acre. She said that is how they see it.
    Europe is overpopulate4d now and a decline would be welcome.

  • Brian English

    “Here again you have the modelers coming up with a counter factual prediction. As a historian, I am not conovinced. Europe has experienced hugh population losses in its history without ending civilization. See the Black Death or even the 50 million lost in WWII.”

    But this generation of Europeans doesn’t appear too interested in reproducing, and they also do not appear very interested in assimilating new immigrants into their culture. How does a culture survive that set of circumstances?

    “She said that is how they see it.
    Europe is overpopulate4d now and a decline would be welcome.”

    Is your Dutch friend aware that half of the population of Rotterdam is of non-Dutch origin, with at least 25% being Muslim, including the mayor? We are not just dealing with numbers here. We are talking about culture. Does there come a point where Holland is no longer Holland?

  • MJ Anderson

    @ Claire Solt

    Claire, the 50 million deaths of WWII are a total for the war–NOT a European total. Most of the 50 million were in the Pacific.

    Total WWII deaths, military and civilian of
    France: 567,000 or 1.35% of population
    Italy:456,000 or 1.02 % of population
    Poland:5,620,000 or 16% of population
    Netherlands: 301,000 or 3.45% of population

    The distinction is important if your idea is that Europe can recover–the voluntary depopulation of today is FAR more devastating. Italy lost 1% of its population in WWII, whereas today the plunge for Italy alone is 28% by 2050!

    In 1950, after WWII, Europe held 12% of world population, but according to EUROSTAT, by 2050 Europe will hold only 4% of world populations, and of that 1/3 will be immigrants not native Europeans.

    The UN Replacement Migration Report projects that between 1995-2050 Europe will require * 700 MILLION* immigrants to maintain their economies and social programs–that is a staggering number–far dwarfing the loss after WWII.

    The plunging population of Europe is acute. Once the fall passes 2 generations (as it has) it is nearly impossible to reverse because the number of women born continues to decrease geometrically which means each woman born in 2050 will need to bear 4-5 children to replace her mother’s generation’s loss. And these fertility figures do not account for possible plagues (Avian flu, etc.)

    Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#Human_losses_by_country

  • Ed G.

    I am responding to the post entitled “What population plunge?” In it, Wolfgang G. says the US birthrate for non-Hispanic whites was 1.83 “which is about the EU average.” No, he is way off. According to http://europa.eu/rapid/pressRe…nguage=en, “The EU’s birth rate has been falling for 30 years. The total fertility rate for the EU in 2003 was 1.48 children per woman.” Also, http://eh.net/encyclopedia/art…demography says that the white fertility rate in the US in 2000 was 2.05. One can search for these numbers on the Web, and conclude that the writer is picking an unusually high number for European fertility and an unusually low number for US fertility. Otherwise, his analysis is sound … but take his numbers with a grain of salt.

  • Alex

    Nations die out and change. It happens. It has happened in Europe, more than once.

    Where are the Prussians, the Picts, the Goths, Vandal, Langibards, Dacians, Gauls, Armoricans? The “Moors” in Spain?

    or do you only care about nations nominally Christian? How un-Christian of you.

  • Brian English

    “Nations die out and change. It happens. It has happened in Europe, more than once.”

    So the whole Western Civilization thing means nothing to you? One culture is just as good as another?

    Are you going to be living in Europe over the next 25 years? The people who actually are going to be living there will probably have to live through something that they will think is a very big deal.

  • Marthe L

    One little question: In the Gospel, Mary had committed herself to remain a virgin. Would not she then have been childless by choice? God had other plans for her and she generously accepted, but maybe we should give some thought to some exceptional people who choose to remain childless in order to give themselves to a cause, or a ministry. In the event it became a policy to grand old age support according to he number of children a person had, would those people, once too old or weak to continue their work, have to appear before some tribunal to defend their entitlement to some kind of old age support?

  • Marthe L

    Oh, by the way: Yes, I somewhat agree that one culture is just as good as another. Cultures evolve, sometimes become great, sometimes not, the great ones begin to decline, weak ones grow… We are probably witnessing the decline and fall of a part of Western culture, or all of it, which will eventually be replaced by another one, and who knows, maybe it will become greater than the one we currently live in. I remember a quip that was attributed to Gandhi on his first visit to the U.K.: When asked what he thought of Western civilization, he is repored as having replied: “It would be a good idea!”
    The only certainty is that the Church of which Jesus is the head, which is the Catholic Church, will be maintained until the end of times. That should be the only thing that counts for us Catholics.

  • Brian English

    “We are probably witnessing the decline and fall of a part of Western culture, or all of it, which will eventually be replaced by another one, and who knows, maybe it will become greater than the one we currently live in.”

    Looking around the world at the possible replacements, it is not very encouraging.

    “The only certainty is that the Church of which Jesus is the head, which is the Catholic Church, will be maintained until the end of times. That should be the only thing that counts for us Catholics.”

    The Catholic Church created Western Civilization. The reason Western Civilization is falling is because that has been forgotten.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Kathryn:

    I agree with your last post entirely as a best-case scenario.

    I presume you have 5% income tax as your pegged amount for the Federal Government if it were to limit its activities to the Constitutionally authorized ones? That would probably cover it, especially since (over time) the resulting increase in economic activity would offset some of the lost revenue (the Laffer curve gets abused, but it is an economic fact of life).

    I don’t see your proposal being half as likely in our lifetimes as my earlier ones — not that they’re a hair’s-breadth from implementation either! — but it’d be nice, all the same. From your lips to God’s ears.

  • Sue

    One point to consider – what affect will the lopsided numbers of women attending undergraduate and graduate programs have on the future U.S. population?

  • Wolfgang G.

    Using a cutoff point (without immigration) of 2.1, about 70 nations no longer have enough children to replace themselves, including the United States, with a fertility rate of 2.05, Iran (2.04), Ireland (1.96 ), Chile (1.94), Brazil (1.90), France (1.89), the UK (1.82), Australia (1.79), China (1.73), Canada (1.53), Cuba (1.49) and Japan (1.27). Many others will join this group soon. My point stands that if you regress birth rates on proxies for religious behavior (which is notoriously difficult to measure) among historically Christian countries, no significant correlation results, neither for Europe nor for the world. Comparatively pious countries such as Poland (1.28!) or Ireland have low rates, more secular countries such as Sweden and France surprisingly high rates. The demographics don’t show a clear connection between religion and fertility. In Europe, the drop in births has by no means been uniform, but religion itself is among the lesser factors explaining the difference. On the other hand, it is a well known fact in the social science literature that fertility rates are significantly different across world religions.

    My comment criticized the article not for what it said but for what it left out. It is too unidimensional to capture the phenomenon of population development. And the headline simply isn’t true – the population of the EU (which of course is not all of Europe) has been growing, and is predicted to grow further, albeit mostly through immigration. And yet I share the concern the article expresses. The indigenous population may not have started to decline if Europeans had been less engaged in self-indulgence and more inclined to sacrifice even small parts of their high standards of living for the joy and satisfaction of larger families. America, behold your future.

  • dwhit

    At Fatima, the Blessed Mother said, “several nations would be annihilated” if her wishes were not heeded.

  • MJ Anderson

    @ Dr. Grassl

    I’m reminded of a roller coaster as it reaches toward its pinnacle, still chugging upward, just before the plunge….

    Some factors that were not detailed in the article but bear upon the interpretation of figures include the increased longevity of Europeans. This means the raw population of Europe, for the next few years, will increase slightly as the standing population lives longer and ( lower) numbers of children are born. But when these aged die, there will be insufficient births to replace them, and the plunge begins–it is already unavoidable statistically–the question is how deep and how long will the plunge be?

    Here are some figures from non-religious sources:

    Business Week (Aug 200smilies/cool.gif

    “The overall population of Europe is set to drop from 591 million today to 542 million by 2050, while the proportion of over 65 year-olds will grow from 16 percent to 28 percent, according to a report by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development.

    European women on average have just 1.5 children, compared to 2.5 in Asia and Latin America and 5 in Africa, with a level of 2.1 needed to sustain population figures over the long term.”

    According to globalaging.org

    Between 2000 and 2010, several industrial nations, including Germany, Japan, Austria, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and Greece, will for the first time in modern memory experience a contraction of their working populations. The century

  • Mary Lee

    A wise man I knew said over 50 years ago that the depopulation was happening because people were being taught to be selfish. He pointed out that it took the Catholic church a thousand years to teach unselfishness to people. He also pointed out that once the population was taught to be selfish it (and the resulting population decline) was almost impossible to reverse without a direct act of God.

  • Joan Maurer

    I would like a copy of Can Europe Survive its Population Plunge? by Mary Jo Anderson. Is this possible?

  • Kathryn

    Yes, the Fed would be limited to the items listed in the Constitution: (those items listed in Section 8 ). The only thing that is iffy is the Post Office. I read that the kids of 2014 don’t like email because it is too slow. Snail mail is quaint and has a certain cult following, but not enough to keep the Post Office running in the black. Kids like Twitter and Facebook. I must confess, although I am middle aged, txt-ing is my prefered mode of communication with certain people. (I’d rather not do Twitter or Facebook.)

    I used a 5% income tax as an easy example. In my fantasies, the money is actually funneled through the various States; the Federal government would have no direct power to tax the people. That of course, won’t happen.

  • Kathryn

    That little face there should be an 8. The Constitutional powers are generally listed in Section 8

  • Cord Hamrick

    We’re having a fun little side-conversation here, aren’t we?

    If you’re particularly interested in money being funneled to the Federal government through the states, then the best first step is to restore selection of Senators to the state legislatures, rather than popular vote.

    That, in fact, would go a long way towards repairing the state-to-federal balance and some semblance of Federalism (Subsidiarity). Unfunded mandates would be harder to maintain when the Senate approving them would lose their next election back at their respective state houses. Or so I suspect.

  • Kathryn

    Yes, I agree: Senators should be put in place by the various State Legislatures, not popular vote.

    My fantasies go further-the States don’t get to tax the people either, money has to be funneled through the various counties.

    But again, that has about as much happening as my fat cat NOT trying to make off with my morning bagel and cream cheese (at least at don’t have to defend my coffee).

  • Mary

    Aside from OFFICIALLY childless nuns (who had secret abortions) and priests (who made their mistresses get abortions), the Catholic Church is guilty of 2000 years of global genocide of “heretics”, midwives, AIDS sufferers, mothers, Native Americans, Vietnamese Buddhists, Rwandans, Jews, Muslims, and Serb Christians to name a few victim groups. The Vatican ordered German Catholics to vote for never-excommunicated Catholic Hitler and we all know how that ruined European, Russian, and Allied populations. Paul VI should have been hung at Nuremburg for funding nearly 30 Nazi Catholic Croatian Ustashi death camps that slaughtered 1 MILLION Serb “heretics” in WWII. If it’s mandatory for Catholic clergy to remain officially childfree (by hoodwinked abortions!), it’s SMART for troubled married couples to do the same. Why should wives suffer the indignity of childbirth fistulas and annulments just so pedophile priests can have fresh victims? A global birth strike to reclaim scorned women’s health and to thwart coddled pedophile and war criminal priests is an overdue morality lesson the criminal Vatican deserves.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Mary,

    I strongly recommend that you correct your historical ignorance on these topics.
    While there’s a grain of truth in the items you list, there’s vastly more exaggeration and outright fantasy.

    The support-for-Nazism trope especially has been shown to be false by every serious historian of that period; faithful Catholics (and other Christians) were often among the persecuted. Naturally, certain non-faithful Catholics exhibited their non-faithfulness by supporting or joining the Nazis…but since even some Jews did that, one can’t hold Catholicism responsible for it any more than one can hold Judaism, as a religion, responsible for the Holocaust (!).

    And likewise in regard to faithless, disobedient priests and nuns. What of it? When an American citizen becomes a murderer or rapist, do we blame American laws against murder and rape for it? Of course not: Such things are against the law. Why then blame the laws of God for the fact that some people violate the laws of God? Are we to argue that there should be no such thing as moral law, so that, in its absence, nobody could do anything immoral?

    Or, since you blame the “Vatican”: It is always psychologically tempting for children to blame their parents (or parishoners, their church leaders; or citizens, their heads-of-state) for everything that grieves them. But just as the American president cannot be blamed for every American who rapes or robs another — or even for every postman who “goes postal” — so too the Pope cannot (rationally) be blamed when people who were raised Catholic act in a fashion inimical to their Catholic faith.

    The most you can rationally do is say that we’ve had some bad popes, some not-faithfully-Catholic popes. True: And largely during the lay investiture era. But not recently. So why all the rage right now? The Borgia popes of several hundred years ago can’t possibly be causing your feathers to get so ruffled today. That would be like marching outside the White House today to protest the corruption of the Harding administration!

    Mary (I note carefully the name), are you a former Catholic? Were you perhaps raised Catholic, then turned off by the misbehavior of someone within a Catholic church, clergy or layperson?

    I’m sorry if, by asking that question, I seem to be putting you on the “psychiatrist’s couch”; I don’t mean to, and I don’t intend any disrespect. But in observing your anger at Catholic Christianity and Catholic Christians, I can’t help but wonder “what else is going on here?” Is there anything in your personal history which biases you against Catholics, so that you’d be more willing swallow whole some of the Jack Chick-like anti-Catholic propaganda?

  • Cord Hamrick

    What happened to the aggrieved post by Mary, to which I was responding? Was it moderated out of existence, or did she remove it somehow?

  • DC

    Sue said: “One point to consider – what affect will the lopsided numbers of women attending undergraduate and graduate programs have on the future U.S. population?”

    That is an excellent point. If the majority of those completing undergraduate and graduate studies is women then women will be setup to be the bread winners of the families in the coming generation. It will be majority women with professional careers. Couples won’t have the luxury of interrupting and negatively impacting the career of the primary wage earner in the household for 2.1 children or more.

  • Meg

    Brian English writes, “Is your Dutch friend aware that half of the population of Rotterdam is of non-Dutch origin, with at least 25% being Muslim, including the mayor? We are not just dealing with numbers here. We are talking about culture. Does there come a point where Holland is no longer Holland?”

    So the “problem” as you see it is not that the number of white Europeans is dropping; it is that the number of non-white Europeans is growing? Young people growing up in Europe, whether white, brown, or yellow; Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or atheist/agnostic (the “prevailing” view in Europe), have the advantages of being exposed to a rich, liberal European education. They will learn about the Enlightenment and progressivism. And as a result they will probably make healthy choices, as people presented with healthy choices generally do. They will most likely reject sexism and racism. They will most likely embrace equal opportunity for all. They will learn that violence is seldom a solution. They will learn to respect people of all backgrounds. They will grow up to be enlightened and progressive thinkers. When it comes to worrying about over-controlling, self-righteous, violent theocrats wanting to impose their beliefs on the rest of the world, I honestly don’t think Europe is the continent we need to be worrying about.

  • Donna

    I’d feel more inclined to take you seriously if you could name a few Muslim majority countries that let people convert to other faiths freely, where there is no shariah law and no attempt to impose it, and where non-Muslims are not subject to harrasment and discrimination.
    While I don’t doubt that in Europe racism plays a part in some anti-Islamic movements, they are two separate issues. This can be shown by the fact that Muslims in Muslim countries seem to have no compunction about persecuting non-Muslims of the same ethnicity. (Ask any Copt. )

    As for assimilation, I’m reminded of a case from here in the US. A teenaged Muslim girl, born here, was a model of assimilation. She was a great student, had a part-time job, and an American boyfriend.

    Her immigrant parents decided that she was shaming the family honor, and her father stabbed her to death while her mother held her down. Fortunately, the father was suspected of terrorist ties and his house was bugged. Thus the prosecution could play an audio tape of this poor girl begging for her life as her parents snuffed it out.

    An extreme case, no doubt, but it suggests that assimilation, particularly for young Muslim women, may have a much harder time taking hold than it usually does…

  • Mike

    Sure seem to be endorsing the secular perception that living your faith, growing a family, and being responsible bears absolutely no fruits in this life, and is nothing but a burdensome sacrifice done for the glory of god. Is that really true?

    I know the DINK lifestyle is alluring and all, but are your lives not enriched by your children, by your fidelity?

    Perhaps a little pity is in order for those who will one day be confined to a nursing home, alone, without visitors or any type of legacy, watching The Price is Right reruns and waiting to die.

  • Meg

    “An extreme case, no doubt, but it suggests that assimilation, particularly for young Muslim women, may have a much harder time taking hold than it usually does… ”

    What percentage of Muslims in this country have these experiences or indulge in these sort of behaviors? The majority of Muslims in this country condemn such behavior, just as they condemned 9/11. My guess is that mental health issues played into this. In recent years, we’ve had white Christian women kill their own children. Andrea Yates in Texas killed five. She apparently believed God called her to do so. Does this reflect on Christianity? The Old Testament commands some pretty horrific punishments by stoning, burning, etc., for relatively minor infringements (e.g., Leviticus 20 demands death by stoning for acting as a medium or fortune teller.) Most of us born into the Judaeo-Christian tradition would not dream of participating in stoning. The Muslims who buy into similar passages in the Koran are very unlikely to be growing up in humanist, progressive, enlightened Europe. I have Muslim friends. They are shocked by honor killings, etc. Honor killings have also occurred among Jews in Israel, but they are rejected by the vast majority of both Jews and Muslims. I think we should stop judging Muslims by the behavior of a very small and benighted minority and start looking at the incredible contributions they make to our society. Muslims in the US are often very well-educated, intelligent, and education-conscious. The immigrants often get her via top universities such as IIT in India. These people are part of OUR country. They are Americans too. And European Muslims are Europeans too. As you must surely know, there is no single, uniform, centralized Muslim teaching. Each Imam has his own interpretations and beliefs. The Muslims I know have very different perceptions from the illiterate extremists who have little chance to develop their beliefs. Sure there are some educated lunatics out there, but this is true of all groups. And, just as with the Catholic IRA, their beefs tend to be politically rather than religiously driven. If some manipulate religion to support peculiar beliefs, as slave owners in this country once did, it is sociopathy and self-interest rather than religious sincerity that is usually at the root of the problem.

  • Kristain

    Bussels said; The Indigenous peoples has contributed much to the world’s cultural heritage and to the sustainable development of the planet Earth, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union.

  • Donna

    the Yates case, horrible as it was, was a case of one woman with serious mental instability – and her husband was not a party to the deaths of the children . “Honor killings” and attempts at them are a frightening pattern spread through certain Islamic societies, often involving multiple family members. The parents I mentioned in my comment, unlike Yates, were, from all accounts, not delusional. Unlike Andrea Yates, they did not have ‘voices’ in their heads telling them they needed to kill their daughter to save her soul, as Mrs. Yates was tormented by auditory hallucinations which said her children would go to Hell unless she killed them while they were still innocent. Perhaps most telling of all, they tried to cover up the murder, while Andrea Yates immediately called her husband and told him to come home and to bring the police.
    I’ll respond to the rest of the post later…

  • Cord Hamrick

    Mike,

    Parents’ lives are enriched by children…but early on, after the baby-cuteness wears off, the parents’ “enrichment” is sometimes very nearly balanced by the accompanying impoverishment, hassle, and worry!

    All the best blessings of life grow to fruition when remembered and reflected upon, and delayed gratifications are usually the deepest ones. Corollary: A lot of the best gratifications are long-delayed, and during the early years, one sometimes struggles to find enough short-term reward to “keep one’s pluck up” in the quest for the long-term reward.

    The fullness of the blessing of children is to be old and surrounded by grandchildren who know and love you.

    The fullness of the blessing of being a good and faithful parent or spouse or friend is to go to your grave knowing that the people standing around the casket do not regret what you did or regret having you for a husband or father or friend…but rather, that they look back on how you touched their lives with fondness and wouldn’t change a thing.

    After serving and pleasing God, that is quite likely the highest goal of life. (And the two generally coincide.)

    In any event, the above is a mature understanding. When your wiser elders teach it to you, you may doubt it, thinking other pleasures to be better. Or, if you accept it, you may accept it with your head, but less with your heart and scarcely at all with your habits. (Certainly that was the case with me, and still is sometimes.)

    Therefore, youngsters, whose heads and hearts and habits are imperfectly adapted to this high calling, can benefit from some emotional and financial assistance to “sweeten the deal,” to help keep them “in the game” until they can grow to appreciate it fully.

    Which is why it helps for a society to reward, not punish, those who are faithful in having and raising children…especially early on! They’ll look back on their efforts with joy and pride later on, but when they’re “in the trenches,” a bigger child credit to help them live closer to the exalted levels of their DINK friends could help a lot.

    It’s Dorothy Day again: “A good society is a society that helps you to be good.”

    There are limits to that, of course! I don’t believe for a minute that Saudi Arabia’s “morality police” helps anyone to be good, because there, to whatever degree women are modestly dressed or whatever, it’s because they’re cowed by the thuggish morality-patrol. Wearing a sack under threat of assault isn’t the same thing as modesty for modesty’s sake! That society doesn’t help anyone to be good.

    So I am not in favor of bribing folks to be parents. But the problem is quite the converse, at the present time: Society as it currently exists rather “bribes” them to avoid children altogether! Folk may disagree about how firmly or gently a society can “help us be good” without crossing a line and injuring liberty (and I myself am rather conservative or libertarian on such questions!) but nobody, I suppose, thinks society ought to incentivize bad or damaging behavior!

  • Mary

    on the treasonous Vatican/Nazi ratline that smuggled 100,000 Nazis to the Americas and Cardinal Montini’s (Paul VI) genocide of 1 MILLION Serb “heretics” in WWII. YOU don’t know history because American media is controlled and corrupted by Catholic Nazis from WWII. Since the Vatican has slaughtered a billion people during its bloody history, it has no right to whine about sensibly childfree couples. The Vatican caused WWI, II, the Vietnam War, the many Rwandan genocides and countless Latin American wars to name a few recent atrocities. How offensive that its misogynist pedophiles now whine about “not enough SLAVE CHILDREN to support its aging” WAR CRIMINALS! How about prosecuting Nazi popes and profiteers instead of blaming childfree couples?! Google Ustashi death camps to get a clue about your unholy death cult. And the ban on condoms is murdering millions of innocent wives and their children. A church that mandates (and indulges) its clergy to avoid the deadly, disfiguring and bankrupting miseries of childbearing has no right to force those calamities on the nop-clergy. No woman should have to suffer stinky childbirth fistulas and female fetus-caused face and breast cancers just to restock pedophile priests’ supply of altar boys and Bush Nazi crime family wars. We survivors of massive global Vatican atrocities are linking through the internet, so your criminal cult’s days are numbered. Your historical revision and contempt for us victims is typical of the Holocaust and pedophile priest deniers.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Mary:

    Bwahahaha! Oh, wow. (Whew!) You had me going there; I thought you were serious. smilies/grin.gif

    Thanks. (Although, you almost owed me a new keyboard!)

    Keep it up! If you work on that one a bit longer, you’ll be able to branch out into Fred Phelps …or Father Coughlin. (*ahem*)

    One caveat: In all seriousness, who on earth “denies” that there have been evil Catholics? Not Catholics, for sure! The pedophiles and the “lavender mafia” have been the subject of rage and anguish on conservative Catholic bulletin boards for as long as there have been any such thing.

    So I think that, at that particular moment, your otherwise quite realistic emulation of an internet loon goes a bit over-the-top. One must not turn one’s lunatic impersonations into caricatures: Over-actors are poor actors.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Mary,

    If I hadn’t noticed the phrase “us victims,” I’d have nearly posted a very different reply to your note.

    Objectively, your note is, well (sorry) entirely crazed. Not that any reasonable soul denies that there have been, scandalously, among the Catholic clergy, some men who can be best described as horrifyingly evil scum! But that’s just it: Nobody denies it. To suggest that it’s some closely guarded secret! …well, I could nearly have laughed out loud, until I saw “us victims.”

    Did I say, “entirely crazed?” Well, I did ask if you had some negative history with bad Catholics or with bad Catholic clergy. I suppose that’s my answer. How can I react with adequate empathy, when my own experiences with Catholic clergy have ranged entirely between “mildly disappointing” and “worthy of enthusiastic cheers?” So I like most other folk, have had it easier than you have. I can only imagine that were I, or someone I cared for deeply, a victim of some sufficiently deep injury, I too might be reduced to “entirely crazed” status.

    And yet if you retain any belief in God — and remember, His pain over whatever injuries you have suffered exceeds yours as infinity exceeds the finite, and yet remains exact, focused, and no impediment to His clear wisdom — if you retain any faith, then you must know: Truth! Truth, Truth, Truth first: And the Truth, always spoken in Love. He suffered to see you suffer: More than you did, yourself! Yet, He remains The Truth. And He remains Love. And He forgives, at tremendous cost to Himself.

    One’s own life may be horrific, as much in the United States as in Sudan or Rwanda: Yet God is not missing, and the Judge of all the Earth will do right. Every tear — every tear! — will be wiped away: But do not become an instrument of suffering, yourself, for the sake of your own suffering. Fight evil, but don’t become it.

    I am not injured by “criminal cult,” et cetera. I know exactly what I think on all those matters and am untroubled.

    But are you hurt by it? It took me a good seven years to begin to forgive my father for abandoning my mother. Have you begun to forgive whoever victimized you? (How can I dare ask that! But I do dare. I dare such outrageous cheek, because I remember how my immortal soul and my terrestrial sanity were at risk while I remained unable to forgive.)

    You could list the evils of Catholics that were actually real — not exaggerated or drawn wildly out of context — and come up with an equally shocking list which was much more effective for being plausible and levelheaded. You could become the greatest decrier of immoral behavior by Catholics the world has yet seen. You could, in that fashion, do service to the Truth, and to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

    You could go on that way for decades. You could go that way right up to the moment you go to your eternal rest.

    But, “ay, there’s the rub.” Rest?

    To sleep, “perchance to dream.”

    There’s that knotty bit in the Lord’s prayer begging God to forgive us exactly as, and to the degree that, we forgive those who trespass against us. And Scripture cautions us that we have no assurance at all that we can be forgiven, at all, under any other auspices.

    Set aside that it’s good for health. Set aside that it allows victim to rise to freedom, casting aside forever the impact of an attacker or abuser on his or her life by transforming that hideous past into an exercise of grace. Set aside all that, though it’s all well worth considering.

    But set it aside and consider: Everyone will receive his just reward. Justice will be done, in the end, never fear. But will you miss out on the wedding-feast afterward, when all evil has been set right permanently? When, if a particular evil thing is not forgotten past recall, it is remembered instead as the implausible beginning to some unexpected glory or triumph?

    Don’t you want to be there, Mary? For that final victory, that true rest?

    Say for a moment that every criticism you have leveled is true, but that God still exists and still insists that human beings are forgiven their sins only inasmuch as they forgive sins against them. That is what Scripture says, after all.

    In that circumstance, what will you do?

    If you can’t manage forgiveness, well, I confess, I am just the same, or was. (And probably over a lesser injury!) The thing seems impossible, doesn’t it?

    But your namesake will be pleased to pray for you, if you ask her: She probably already has, without your asking. And then ask Him. Forgiveness is a gift of grace…but God does not force you to it; He gives you grace gradually, as you ask for it.

    So what will you then do?

    Are you broken? If so, join the rest of us. We’re like abused playthings on a preschool classroom floor: Bits and pieces everywhere. But the Toymaker is doing His rounds, fixing all of those toys in the playroom which are broken through one misadventure or another. And there’s a rumor that some of us, if we put up with His meddlesome fixing, will come to life one day: We’ll be real, like the Velveteen Rabbit.

    But first (and here the toy analogy breaks down) we have to forgive, those of us who were broken in particularly harsh ways. It’s cruel to say it, but crueler not to: So I can’t be silent. Hell is unforgiving. A lifetime — let alone an eternity — of nursing an injury would be a living Hell. (In fact I think that may be the precise technical term for what it would be.)

    So what will you do, Mary? You needn’t answer me. You owe me no explanation at all.

    But what will you do? There it is, the nasty distasteful truth: One day, you must forgive. Will you?

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