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Going, gone ...

By Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J. (articles ) | Apr 15, 2003

George Will has some grim observations on the future of Europe:

The populations of 14 European nations are declining, and the declines are driven by powerful social values and trends that would be difficult for governments to reverse, were they inclined to try, which they do not seem to be. The growth rates of the populations of the other European nations are at or near zero. ... In developed countries, a birthrate of 2.1 children per woman is a replacement rate, producing population stability. Only Albania has that rate. Catholic Ireland's rate is 2.0, but the rates of the Catholic nations of Southern Europe are among Europe's lowest -- 1.2. The estimated European average is 1.34. Stein Ringen, an Oxford sociologist, writes that "without emigration or immigration and with a stable birthrate of 1.5, a population would be reduced to about half in 100 years, and with a birthrate of 1.2 to about 25 percent." On those assumptions, Germany's population would shrink from 82 million to fewer than 40 million by the end of the century, and Italy's 57 million to fewer than 20 million.

Will's euphemism "social values and trends" is interesting in that the terms for which it is a polite evasion (e.g., birth control, family planning) were themselves euphemisms when they were introduced into the public vocabulary early in the last century. Plain talk is rarely welcome in this conversation. As for the whimpering decline of North Atlantic civilization, G.K. Chesterton prophesied the same in a hymn to the Virgin Mary:

That Christ from this creative purity
Came forth your sterile appetites to scorn.
Lo: in her house life without lust was born,
So in your house lust without life shall die.

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