Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

We Can’t Afford Children, Can We?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 24, 2013

The immigration debate I’ve stirred up has been heated and difficult. I would like to wrap it up here, for the moment, because the time has clearly come for prayer and reflection. I have just two quick points, which touch on some broader implications:

  •  Several people have argued that we must accept and protect those in severe danger, but have no obligation toward those who are simply trying to better their lives. Actually, this is not what the Church teaches, and it conflates two different categories of obligation. Emergencies do make special demands on us. But the Church teaches that migration is a right which governments must respect insofar as they are able. We might call this the supernatural fact with which the discussion must begin.
  • Several others have argued that we simply cannot afford a very generous policy toward immigrants because they place such a burden on our support infrastructures. This is a real problem, which is why I bracketed the question of benefits in my original essay. But it is not a problem of principle. It is a pragmatic issue concerning our own “nanny state” policies, which are constantly backing us into a corner on one moral issue after another. Why, for example, should we permit the government to be in control of education at all?

With few changes, in fact, both of these arguments can be and are used with respect to our own children. Certainly the second: It simply costs too much in our society to raise children. There is a constant drumbeat of propaganda about this. The result is that people are very reluctant to have children. They even think that some sort of necessarily high cost is a justification for their decision. They also don’t want to be seen as one of “them” (breeders). And they refuse to think outside the box about it.

The first argument is a little more of a stretch, but I think you’ll see a familiar pattern. If an existing child has physical, mental or emotional problems, or is growing up in an abusive situation, it can cost a great deal to provide the proper care and support. But surely we can minimize such social costs in the future? If we can only redefine at-risk children as non-persons in law, then we won’t have to worry about them. And so we do.

Abortion is rampant. Infanticide is not uncommon and in a “medical” setting often not prosecuted. Moreover, the elderly are already being killed There is pressure for euthanasia for the handicapped. Our culture believes it can strip selected human persons of their rights simply by changing the law. Presto! The moral problem conveniently disappears.

Now even if we see through this in one area, it may well affect us in others we don’t yet recognize. Illegals? We don’t even need to think about them! They exist only as a problem to be removed.

But Our Lord too was declared illegal. He came to His own, and His own received Him not (Jn 1:11). Granted, the question of what we can afford to do is complex. But if Christ’s disciples cannot think outside the cultural box, who can? Or perhaps the question is simply this: Who will?

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Jun. 24, 2013 5:18 PM ET USA

    I am so glad and supportive of all your comments on this issue. You have been striking just the right tone. You emphasize the attitude we should take to determining how generous our immigration policy can be. Population aging (with white Americans 41 on average and aging) is the biggest prudential problem on the horizon. If that is not addressed by some combination of increased babies and increased immigrants, this whole economy is going to go up in a cloud of smoke.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jun. 24, 2013 12:09 PM ET USA

    The comments of the Holy See clearly defend the right of the state to regulate immigration within its borders. Most of us really have no problem with immigration, no matter who is immigrating. What we have a problem with is the lack of order and the clear exploitation of the illicit immigration by various constituencies, like employers wanting to pay slave wages, and politicians cementing their positions of power. Bishops in the US have supported the latter to the advantage of the former.