By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 04, 2006

Since the French riots by Muslim youth last fall, several articles have been published that point to the problem of European demographics--a problem that will not be long in waiting in the United States too. In theory, the issue is uncomplicated: western societies as a group are becoming de-populated, and Muslim immigrants, who have been brought in to close the economic gap created by declining European numbers, have high birthrates.

Joseph Capizzi, at the Culture of Life Foundation, observes:

A 2004 RAND report, "Low Fertility and Population Ageing: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options," commissioned for the European Commission, highlights how unstable are societies with declining populations. Demographic trends notoriously resist prediction; but the RAND report warns of damaging consequences for countries unable to replace themselves by birth. Among such consequences are declining productivity, overburdened social systems, and, diminished social cohesion (sound familiar?).

The cultural momentum points to an ugly scenario not far down the road, and the choices are between bad, and worse, as Mark Steyn has been noting for some time now.

If you can't bear to pull open the curtains, chances are you're going to lose. When it's a bet between reality and delusion, bet on reality. What does the European political class really know of today's challenges? We mock the Islamists for wanting to turn the clock back to the eighth century. But, if it's a choice between eighth-century reality or 21st-century fantasy, it's not such an easy call.

Steyn is on the march again in today's Wall Street Journal:

Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There'll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands--probably--just as in Istanbul there's still a building called St. Sophia's Cathedral. But it's not a cathedral; it's merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West.

One obstacle to doing that is that, in the typical election campaign in your advanced industrial democracy, the political platforms of at least one party in the United States and pretty much all parties in the rest of the West are largely about what one would call the secondary impulses of society--government health care, government day care (which Canada's thinking of introducing), government paternity leave (which Britain's just introduced). We've prioritized the secondary impulse over the primary ones: national defense, family, faith and, most basic of all, reproductive activity--"Go forth and multiply," because if you don't you won't be able to afford all those secondary-impulse issues, like cradle-to-grave welfare.

The distinction between the primary and secondary impulse was laid out in another form by Paul VI nearly 40 years ago, long before the current demographic picture took form. Our current predicament was foreseen by the Church, not in the particular Islamist form, but in the strong cautions against the temptations of the secondary impulse:

For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the population problem—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded.

Educating the people in the manner proposed by Paul VI has not been the bishops' strong point of late. They have collectively on many occasions pointed to the evil of abortion, but as a group, they have been struck with elective mutism on the question of fertility and faithfulness to the moral law. The USCCB has been almost entirely taken up with the issues of the secondary impulse, such as cradle-to-grave welfare.

In an era of prosperity, where the secondary impulses easily overwhelm the mundane exercise of the moral law, a public and consistent stand by Catholics against the Pill would have taken real courage, to face down the humiliations by the secular culture. Now that the consequences of sexual vice are becoming demographically evident in Europe, and seem just around the corner in the United States, it's still not clear that an American bishop will face up to the fear of humiliation by his own fellow bishops, and be the first to encourage his brother prelates to pull back the curtain and concede that the most widely prescribed behavior modifying drug of our time, and used by over half of married Catholics, also doubles as a weapon of mass destruction.


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  • Posted by: - Jan. 04, 2006 10:08 PM ET USA

    The Church was once strong in North Africa. What was left after God sent the Vandals and Muslims? There is no reason to believe that Europe and North America have some special immunity to a similar fate. But who cares about Europe and North America anyway? A thousand years from now, they won't matter. But souls matter. Souls live forever - either in heaven or in hell. When the Church starts bringing that message home again, we may see some change in behavior and our apparent temporal fate.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 04, 2006 10:19 AM ET USA

    Perhaps if most of the bishops would start acting as shepherds in the first line of defense against the madness of the world instead of ex officio chaplains of the Democratic Party, the Catholic Church would stand as a bulwark against the prevailing insanity. There is a remnant of faithful bishops who do excatly what they were commanded by Our Lord. And that remnant is the yeast which will leaven the rest eventually.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 04, 2006 8:43 AM ET USA

    Charles Martel repulsed the moslem horde at Tours in the 8th century. The Habsburgs beat off the Turk from the gates of Vienna in the 17th century. Who will rise up to defend Christendom in the 21st? Will rot from within and a plummeting birthrate cause its bloodless collapse in the 21st century? Will some hero rise up to stanch the bleeding before it is too late? The Savior is our only hope. Constant prayer, the Rosary, a new evangelism our only weapons.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 04, 2006 8:16 AM ET USA

    What a surprise, God is right! Nature is right! All of nature is in the business of breeding to insure survival, except humans who now think in the modern world that they are above nature. Birth control is not new, Roman women used various methods, but we've sold our souls in the West to the prevention of pregnancy for a little bit more wealth. P. Buchanan's Suicide of the West paints the picture well for our future following the current trends of birth control.