The Liberal Baby Bust
Phillip Longman restates the obvious, along with some statistical gusseting: the future belongs to the fertile, and that's sobering news for the Left.
It's a pattern found throughout the world, and it augurs a far more conservative future -- one in which patriarchy and other traditional values make a comeback, if only by default. Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists. As a consequence, an increasing share of all children born into the world are descended from a share of the population whose conservative values have led them to raise large families.
Today, fertility correlates strongly with a wide range of political, cultural and religious attitudes. In the USA, for example, 47% of people who attend church weekly say their ideal family size is three or more children. By contrast, 27% of those who seldom attend church want that many kids.
Note that Longman persists in using the term "progressive" of doctrinaire Leftists, ignoring the irony that these progressives, by curtailing childbirth, have eliminated a future toward which to make progress. In this connection, readers of Evelyn Waugh's 1932 novel Black Mischief may remember Azania's Pageant of Birth Control and the banners carried triumphantly in parade: THROUGH STERILITY TO CULTURE and WOMEN OF TOMORROW DEMAND AN EMPTY CRADLE. Suicide, however popular, cannot remain a growth industry.
Take our domestic infestation of progressivist ideology, Liberal Catholicism. Don't be shocked, but its vaunted passion for "primacy of conscience" isn't concerned with perichoresis. Fan away the vapors of centering prayer, and you find at its core a Programmatic Onanism. The Liberal Catholic is anti-natalist by temperament, and a glance at Commonweal or America or the NCR shows that his deepest moral enthusiasms are oriented toward sterility in one guise or another: contraception, feminist apartheid, gay lib, euthanasia, gender-bending, population control, conscientious masturbation, abortion, same-sex marriage. And this anti-natal impulse has a reflexive impact: the more progressive the vision -- think of the Brokeback Lent preached by the Society of Jesus -- the smaller the resulting generation of progressivists. "In the long run we'll all be dead," declared the patron saint of sterility, John Maynard Keynes. "There speaks a childless homosexual," countered Mark Steyn. And in time historians will write DSP (decessit sine prole, died without issue) after Liberal Catholicism just as his genealogists have done after the name of Keynes. To return to Longman:
This correlation between secularism, individualism and low fertility portends a vast change in modern societies. In the USA, for example, nearly 20% of women born in the late 1950s are reaching the end of their reproductive lives without having children. The greatly expanded childless segment of contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and '70s, will leave no genetic legacy. Nor will their emotional or psychological influence on the next generation compare with that of people who did raise children.
Here Longman asserts the notion -- which common-sense supports -- that by raising their offspring in an offspring-friendly environment begetters tend to beget begetters. What he doesn't touch on is the possibility of converse causality: that married couples who raise more than two children in these times, whatever their inherited ideology, will encounter hardships and animosities of a sort that tend to push them away from the progressivist mindset -- which is notoriously offspring-averse (and which makes common cause with certain pro-abortion Republicans who believe poverty should be eliminated surgically rather than socially). Lefties view children as consumers of goods rather than creators of them, and families with five or six kids are accustomed to getting that glower of outrage that marks them down as vermin or parasites. Combine this with progressivist attitudes toward recreational drugs, pop culture, youth fashion, etc., and the struggle that large families face in navigating such hazards, and it's hardly surprising if they migrate onto more congenial ideological turf.
On balance the demographic data mean good news for Catholics, but we're not anywhere near a position to gloat. Ironically, one of the places in which pro- and anti-child ideology is neutralized (numerically) is in the celibate Catholic clergy. This is not simply to say that Robert Vasa has no more children than Reggie Cawcutt. The point is that the Cawcutts, where they hold the key gatekeeping positions, can recruit other Cawcutts as replacements and can exclude the Catholics -- regardless of their respective numbers in the applicant pool -- and, where they continue to keep the priesthood Cawcutt-friendly, they will continue to find recruits. That explains why your pastor has never preached to you on Humanae vitae, why your pro-abort congressman is a Catholic in good standing, and why your bishop pleaded with Rome not to issue the Doomsday Doc -- even as the demography under their feet shifted in the contrary direction.
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Posted by: Convert1994 -
Mar. 20, 2006 3:20 PM ET USA
SPBNS: I am a single faithful Catholic male! If you know any of those faithful Catholic young maidens you wrote about personally, then please let them know I would do all I can to see that one of them would not become a spinster! CWNews has my email address on file...
Posted by: -
Mar. 17, 2006 1:25 PM ET USA
The late, great Pope John Paul II espoused the attitude that Rabbi Gameliel spoke of in the first century: "...If it is not of God it will not last..." The Catholic Church _has indeed_ survived, despite severe persecution from within and without. God will not forsake us or abandon us! Keep praying and yes indeed support, in any way possible, those who live the life Jesus laid out before us.
Posted by: sparch -
Mar. 16, 2006 5:28 PM ET USA
The ultimate wages of sin by those who embrace the our culture of death is that in time, their way will fall by the wayside as did many other wayward ideas that fly in the face of common sense, nature and religious faith. Time wages it's own war on those who are bent on destruction.
Posted by: Clorox -
Mar. 16, 2006 10:10 AM ET USA
But many faithful Catholic young maidens will become spinsters because of the real shortage of faithful Catholic males. Because of the shortage of manliness in the clergy, the Church in America has managed to lose 1) her young men and 2) the working class.
Posted by: parochus -
Mar. 16, 2006 3:06 AM ET USA
From Roe until the end of 1976, there were approx. 3,567,800 abortions in the USA. Had these children survived to voting age, there would have been 3,567,800 more voters in the 2004 elections. Statistically speaking, children tend to vote with their parents. With an average of 1.4 MM abortions a year since 1973, the trend for future elections is obvious. Liberal baby boomers should be screaming loudly because, in the absence of progeny, their ideology will become as barren as their wombs.
Posted by: -
Mar. 15, 2006 7:23 PM ET USA
I once read that every cult that ever existed always became anti life and anti procreation. And that destroys them. God's ways are neat and to the point. Of course the parallel in religious life holds true too.... He just dries up the vocations to unfaithful religious communities.
Posted by: -
Mar. 15, 2006 4:12 PM ET USA
God is the source of fertility, in all that word encompasses. Fertile bodies, fertile minds, fertile cultures etc... These priests that are promoting "progressive" ideas, are not producing fertile faiths and fertile minds, but sterile bodies, sterile minds and a sterile culture. Most progressives don't really want children anyways, at least not past the "pet child" mentallity so prevelant among the "birth them, pet them for two years and put them in day care so I can be free again" crowd.
Posted by: Tominellay -
Mar. 15, 2006 11:41 AM ET USA
This article, along with the comments, are encouraging!!
Posted by: www.inquisition.ca -
Mar. 15, 2006 10:07 AM ET USA
Amen to "john" for his comment: "Thank you Diogenes! This is [...] a devastatingly accurate reading of the times" I especially laughed at: "Suicide, however popular, cannot remain a growth industry." :-)
Posted by: Convert1994 -
Mar. 15, 2006 9:56 AM ET USA
What we can do as invidual Catholics is to be ultra-supportive of these big families. When you see a family with lots of children, smile at the parents. If the woman is pregnant, smile even bigger. When you're at work or at a conference and small talk turns to family, react with praise when someone tells you they have five children or so. In our parish we have some families with nine to twelve children and they are held up as examples for us all. My own father was one of FIFTEEN!
Posted by: -
Mar. 15, 2006 8:33 AM ET USA
Thank you Diogenese! This is such a devastatingly accurate reading of the times that it deserves to be made into a longer article illustrating in more detail every point in this analysis.
Posted by: Joseph Paul -
Mar. 15, 2006 7:03 AM ET USA
But Uncle Di, the Cawcutts will also die out and be progressively replaced by younger priests who will increasingly come from the larger orthodox families which are the ones producing vocations. Liberals produce few children and those that they do produce tend not to pursue a priestly vocation if they even bother to remain Catholics. The pattern is becoming clear.