Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

The Liberal Baby Bust

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 15, 2006

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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