The birth rates have emerged as a pressing secular issue of this era. The Religion Guy is old enough to remember the alarm of progressives over a severe “population bomb” and enthusiasm for “zero population growth.”
While those ideas persist, all the buzz these days is about the great birth defect of the world.
The main article on page one of January 18th New York Times had the headline “Concerns in China that the population may shrink soon.” The trend in that nation’s official demographic report, released the day before, suggested that 2021 could be the last year that births exceed the number of deaths as the population begins to decline. The birth rate is even greater than in 1961 during Mao Zedong’s infamous “Great Leap Forward” economic scheme, which produced irresponsibly great famine and death.
De Times stated as an objective fact that this is a “crisis” for the great nation that could “undermine its economy and even its political stability.” Labor shortages threaten, but the broader problem is the lack of enough younger workers and family members to support an aging population. An American expert says the impending dislocation “is beyond the imagination of the Chinese authorities and the international community.” An important factor is the disastrous demand of the communist dictatorship between 1980 and 2015 that couples have only one child.
Last May, the Times explored the world, not just China, under the heading “Long Slide Looms for World Population, with Sweeping Ramifications.” It cited a study by De Lancet 183 of the 195 nations and regions of the world are on course to fall below the 2.1 births per family needed for a stable population. The Pope’s US and Italy, among others, are already well below that mark. The Guy analyzed religious implications of this in this GetReligion post.
Francis’ comment on pets and humans brought a quick response to CNN from Alistair Currie, and the British Population Matters organization. He linked “the Catholic Church’s position on family size and control perception” with “environmental collapse.” Having few or no children, he said, “helps everyone,” and the “moral status and character of a person is not defined by parenthood.” Also far from selfish, love for pets “shows our humanity.”
Sabrina Maddeaux, a columnist with Canadians National Post, informed the pope that “we can not expect young people to want or bear children while at the same time refusing to make it so that they can do so without significant difficulties,” Moreover, couples who decide whether to reproduce should realize their offspring face “climate disasters, all kinds of crime, hatred as political ideology, and addiction.”
Well, then, do pets harm the environment and are they worth the effort? More confused than offended, Peal Reporter and dog lover Tyler Dawson asked, “Does the pope have any idea how much work goes into raising a pet? Or how much of ourselves do we put into caring for these creatures?” After spelling out the charges in graphic detail, he concluded: “Pets are an almost unallocated asset.”
Most parents of human children will say the same thing. The pope’s perspective emerges from the centuries – old human tradition of nurturing children as a gift, as an example in Jewish and Christian civilization. In the Bible, God’s first commandment to newly created humans was, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). One Presbyterian humorist said that this verse does not exclude multiplication by zero or one.
Since Currie and others focus on Catholic teachings about procreation, The Guy should make it clear that the church does not oppose intentional “family planning” as a couple decides to limit the number of their children, nor does it condemn this as selfish. Pope Paul VI’s epochal 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae on birth control recognized that “physical, economic, psychological and social circumstances” are involved in parenting, so it may be responsible “not to have extra children” or “for serious reasons.”
But then, the church also teaches, every marriage certificate must remain open for reproduction without the use of artificial contraceptive methods. Faithful Catholics should only use the so-called “rhythm method” which limits sex to infertile times in the woman’s monthly cycle.
To make it not seem eccentric, Catholics note that a meeting of all Anglican bishops in the world in 1920 “warned against using unnatural means to prevent conception.” At their next conference in 1930, the bishops opened themselves up to other methods, but condemned “motives of selfishness, luxury, or just convenience” to prevent children.
READ MORE: “Is having children a moral duty for married couples?”, By Richard Ostling.
FIRST Image: Uncredited illustration with “6 reasons why having a puppy is not the same as having a baby,” a feature on FamilyEducation.com.