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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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We need more children, not less, to solve problems attributed to overpopulation

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overpopulation is a myth - The Catholic weekly
Pope Francis greets a child in St Peter’s Square while riding the popemobile during his general audience at the Vatican 22 May, 2024. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

Do you have any children? If you do, then I’d like to thank you, because I don’t have any. 

This normally doesn’t bother me, and I’m too old to fix it now, short of a Biblical-style miracle. But I’m also very aware of the falling birthrate in many Western countries.  

When couples have three or four children, the society around them grows slowly and organically with their children. Children usually live with their parents for at least 18 years, so new shops, schools, housing estates, and jobs come online slowly over a longer period.  

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But when you try to stuff the child gap with mass migration, you find yourself with thousands of adults appearing literally overnight. They need houses, schools, jobs, and shops right now. They can’t wait 18 years for them.  

It’s pretty telling that the ABC is now starting to run articles expressing concerns about our low birth rate. It’s also enlightening to read the comments under those articles to see how rigid most readers’ mindset is.  

When people complain about Australia being overpopulated because on a recent country drive in their SUV, the driver passed 10 or 15 other vehicles and felt stressed by this, you can safely assume that we’re in real trouble.  

In Australia we don’t have a lot of data on the Catholic birth rate. Given than 90 per cent of nominal Australian Catholics tend to behave like other Australians, it’s likely to be around the 1.7 mark, which is below replacement rate.  

But what you might not know is that Catholics in Australia were already having smaller families well before Humanae Vitae. I found a population study from the 1960s that looked at the Australian census results of 1954. 

The study found that Australian Catholic women born in the late 19th century tended to have quite a lot of children (five or more). But for Australian Catholic women born in the 20th century, their birth rate had almost halved to 2.5 children. 

The author of the study said, “Whatever the reasons for doing so, and whatever the means they use (whether the ‘rhythm’ method sanctioned by their church, or some other), Catholic Australians are, as a group, practicing some form of birth control. And they are doing so effectively enough to have produced quite rapidly a substantial reduction in their fertility.”  

overpopulation is a myth - The Catholic weekly
Pope Francis greets a little girl during a meeting on Italy’s declining birthrate at an auditorium in Rome 10 May, 2024.  (Foto CNS/Vatican Media)

This might help to explain why Catholics in Australia mostly ignored Humanae Vitae in 1968. It should also shake up anyone who still thinks Catholic Australia in the 1950s was a golden age of faith.  

My Catholics in Australia survey found that 62 per cent of all participants had children—mostly between one and three of them. It was also nice to see that one-fifth of them had a “large” family of four or more children.  

It was also no surprise to find it was mostly the weekly Massgoers who had the bigger families, compared to Catholics who only went to Mass sometimes or never.  

Each generation takes a risk when it decides to push out into the deep and have a family. I’m so happy and proud to know many Catholic families with lots of children and grandchildren.  

It turns out that Pope Francis is also concerned about the low birth rate in Western countries. He just recently spoke at a conference on this and gave everyone a serve which quite warmed my heart.  

(I always love it when the real Pope Francis turns out to be different from the cuddly sock puppet version. It must be so disconcerting for his liberal fan club). 

Pope Francis thinks that overpopulation is a myth, and that people are the solution rather than the problem. Children, he said, are a gift to us and a sign that God believes in us, even if we don’t always believe in him.  

Yes, there are terrible things like famine and pollution—but they’re not caused by overpopulation. They’re caused by selfishness and over-production driven by junk consumerism.  

He described Europe as an ageing continent that was running out of hope for the future. But this is what happens to a society that fills itself with stuff instead of children.  

What does he want? For governments to make it much easier for people to have more children. But he also wants us to look more critically at our wasteful and selfish lifestyles.  

And for all those young people who can have children, the pope has a special message: the future is something we build together. He also told them to have children—lots of them.  

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