2006-06-25 Pope Benedict XVI recently

June 25, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI recently told the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences that falling birthrates are the result of the "eclipse of love" and "materialistic visions of the universe, of life, and human fulfillment." The Pope was addressing the demographic crisis now threatening moral and economic stability throughout the world.

The Russian government is lamely trying to solve its annual loss of 700,000 people by offering financial bonuses for births and salary benefits for mothers. The European Union continues to ignore the crisis. But economist Robert Samuelson has said that "Europe as we know it is going out of business." Since the 1970s fertility rates worldwide have shriveled by half, and 59 nations with 44 percent of the world's population have birthrates below replacement levels. At the current rate of decline, by 2050 almost one-third of Europe's population will be 65 and older.

Don Feder, author of A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America, traces the crisis to the utopianism of recent decades: "Selfishness was celebrated. Marriage and children were downgraded to lifestyle options. Women who stayed at home to raise and nurture a family were derided. The importance of fathers was downplayed. Abortion was enshrined as a 'human right.' And contraception was ubiquitous."

Catholic parishes like ours are oases of life in an arid place. Never has our parish had so many babies and baptisms. Across Manhattan, those sects that have propagated nothing but propaganda against natural law are either disappearing or breathing on the life-support of financial endowments. It is a macabre kind of moral embalming.

In 1968 Paul Ehrlich's bestselling book, The Population Bomb, predicted the deaths of hundreds of millions by starvation due to irrevocable over-population. The hysteria of that totally erroneous book was hailed as prophetic. In the same year Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae which was almost universally derided for its warnings. The Ehrlich book is now an embarrassment, gathering dust as a curiosity on used bookshelves. Humane Vitae has been proved completely right. It is as clear as can be, but, as T. S. Eliot said, "Humankind cannot bear very much reality."

The Catholic Church continues her prophetic office, speaking of life rather than mere existence, and of heaven rather than utopia. In the practical sphere, the Church is encouraging the World Congress of Families, which will convene in Warsaw in May, 2007, to consider these issues. Archbishop Kazimierz Majdanski, who was a prisoner of the Nazis and well-acquainted with their eugenics experiments, is among those bishops encouraging this endeavor. Ironically, the congress will be held in the Palace of Culture and Science which was built by Stalin, that world-class foe of human dignity. It will be a sign of contradiction to the conceits of our age, just as the Church has been a sign of contradiction to the conceits of every age.

Fr. George W. Rutler

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