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Britain should follow Russia’s lead and urge its citizens to have more children

You don’t need to ask the experts for a solution to population decline. It stares one in the face: more babies

By on Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (Photo: PA)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (Photo: PA)

The recent annual speech to the nation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has caught my eye. In it he urges Russians to have more children. He declares: “In the next 15 years we will feel the demographic effects of the 1990s when the birth rate was low. This is a serious threat. It is a challenge to our whole nation. According to the experts, a good way to get over the demographic crisis is to radically increase the number of families with three or more children.”

You don’t need to ask experts the answer to this problem. It stares one in the face: more babies. Of the European countries, Russia, Italy, the Ukraine, Spain and Germany are the worst affected by the fall in the birth rate – but it is happening here too. Improved healthcare means an increase of the elderly population; the routine use of oral contraceptives since the 1960s and the routine acceptance of abortion when contraception fails account for the lack of population replacement at the base.

I have some sympathy for President Medvedev’s plea. He is a child of the former Soviet Union, that gigantic failed experiment in Communism, when both men and women worked punitive hours, families lived in tiny, cramped apartments shared with other families and the number of abortions exceeded the number of live births. Russia was not a happy place in which to raise “three or more children”. Now, with a steadily shrinking population and with its demographically swollen neighbour, China, gazing hungrily at Russia’s empty eastern provinces, the president can be forgiven for feeling scared.

But we in Britain, without having experienced anything like the social sufferings of Russia, also have a declining population – only checked at present by immigration. The Government talks grimly of pushing back the age of retirement and cutting back on state pensions; as well as this there is a growing lobby to “ease” the elderly and frail into the afterlife because they are becoming too expensive to keep going.

Instead of managing this demographic decline, why doesn’t the Government offer incentives to married women to stay at home and have larger families? By the same token, why don’t our bishops, instead of simply managing the decline of parishes, tell parish priests to urge parishioners to chuck away their pills and potions (“clanking to bed” as Victoria Gillick, a mother of 10, once described it) and fill the pews with new faces? This would not only be in line with Church teaching (remember Humanae Vitae?), it would also reinvigorate society at large – and as a spin-off, might even produce more priests.

Once, when visiting a French colony, General de Gaulle surveyed the barren landscape, then ordered palm trees to be planted. “But it takes 100 years for a palm tree to reach its full height!” he was told. “All the more important to plant them immediately,” the general replied. It takes 30 years to renew the younger generation of the active population, according to demographic expert Gerard-Francois Dumont, who works for Human Life International. All the more important to plan for it now. Otherwise, as Dumont states in a fearsome image, we might in years to come be “celebrating” the “Feast of Kronos” – that figure from mythology who rejected the future by devouring his own children.

  • Bob171

    which is funny because Christ seems to fail to feed starving Catholics in Africa…..

  • TreenonPoet

    Science progresses in spite of Christianity, not because of it. It is not logical to conclude, just because scientific progress was made when Christianity was dominant, that it was the result of Christianity. When characters such as Giordano Bruno were burned at the steak for thought crimes, just how do you think that the Catholic Church was conducive to the free thinking required in science? Even today, there is a battle going on between creationists and evolutionary biologists. This is no academic matter; there is zero evidence to support the former, and an overwhelming amount of evidence to support the latter. Science is largely based on evidence; religion is not. (If it was, it would not be religion.) One of the most effective ways that religious organisations impede science is to indoctrinate children at an influential age with irrational ideas. This has a tendency to suppress the rational thought required in science.

    Hypotheses do not constitute contradictory information. You cannot refute an argument just by saying that it is not true or by making something up. Myths do not inform.

  • paulsays

    Your arrogance amazes me, in that you speak with such authority, and yet you know so little. At least make the effort to do a little research of the facts before you post. The Chinese had paper money around 650AD and had the most successful trading and economy in the world. Scientifically speaking their society developed much before the Western World and it took over half a millennium until we started to catch up.

    Just because you might want something to be true does not make it the case.

  • paulsays

    If you want to look to a community that truly supported science just look to the Muslim world. Algebra and the origins of chemistry are part of their contribution, and such discoveries were funded by the religious leaders of the time in that they believed it was of religious importance to search for the truth.
    I wouldn't expect you would want to admit to that would you?

  • paulsays

    The point of secularism are that there are no doctrines. People are allowed their individual opinions on issues and decisions are mostly made on the back of proven research. America is secular and right-wing, Norway is secular and left wing; but both countries follow very different ideas and standards.

  • paulsays

    propaganda? You think there is a global conspiracy of scientists wanting to reduce population? For what motive?

    'Christ told us we are not to worry about what we are to eat or what we are to wear because our heavenly Father knows that we need these things and since we can't add a single second to our lives by worrying about these material things'

    What verses in the Bible are you referring to? because as always you can find contradictory passages, for example in Numbers 35:33-34:

    '”You shall not pollute the land in which you live… you shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell.”

  • paulsays

    To choose when to have a baby and how many children to have is not baby hating. Nobody is suggesting mass abortions here, we are suggesting either condom use or abstinence – (which the Church sees as virtuous behavior). Answer me this, do you have an issue with abstinence now?

    It would be naive to say that there is a one-size-fits-all solution, some areas such as Scotland, which you mention and Italy many need to increase their younger populations. Areas in which land is at a premium such as Japan, or were poverty and productivity of land are and issue as in African states then population control should be thought as being encouraged (not forced).

  • paulsays

    They say we are currently living as if we have a planet 5.5 times the size of Earth

  • paulsays

    I always get my sources from places I think are the most neutral possible. Even though I agree with the majority of what the Guardian says in principle I wouldn't touch it with a barge-poll as far as neutral evidence. 'Are you saying that scientists who are Christians are not to be trusted?' NO, that's not the case I just don't trust groups that have an obvious and specific agenda before they go and collect evidence.
    The head of the Human Genome project is a Christian and i would respect the work of that project, as it does not have a Christian agenda from the off.

    Neither would I trust a report on fetal pain during abortion from the Humanist Society, and neither would you i would expect.

    You state China as an example, however why don't you look instead at a moderate Democracy such as Norway or the Netherlands that provide good sex education and access to birth control. These are tyrannical states, these are wealthy and productive capitalist countries.

  • TreenonPoet

    Yes I would admit to that. It is a tragedy that in some countries it has since become so much more difficult to announce any new scientific discoveries that so much as hint that the abrogated Qur'an might not be 100% correct. It is a lesson to those who think that scientific enlightenment must surely displace myth. It is also true to say that certain actions by Christian churches have assisted science. In neither case does this make religion compatible with science.

  • EditorCT

    I won't enter into the political debate, if you don't mind, apart sharing with you the fact that I have wondered, frequently in recent weeks, on the quality of intelligence of students who actually believed the Liberal Democrats (or any politicians) on their promise about tuition fees. They really do need to wake up and smell the lies. That's what politicians of all parties DO – routinely. They lie and anyone who actually believes anything they say, is what we in Glasgow term “a poor wee soul.” Or, put another way, an idiot.

    Now, paulsays, we are living in a time of crisis in the Church, which is why you have been given terribly bad example. In addition to being surrounded by ignorant Catholics who do not seem to realise that it is not possible to be a Catholic and dissent from even ONE doctrine, not even one, you are (not) being served by a very bad priest.

    Elsewhere, I note you describe yourself as a “liberal” Catholic. As the newly elevated American Cardinal Raymond Burke said a few days ago in an address to students and staff at St Thomas Aquinas College in the USA, “Catholic” needs no qualifier. In other words, you are either a Catholic, or you are not.

    Nowhere in the Scriptures or in Tradition, will you find any of these political labels.The Chosen People, in both the Old Testament (the Hebrews/Jews) and the New Testament (the New Israel – the Church) is described only as being either “faithful” or “unfaithful” to God and His laws.

    So, not one of these contracepting, pro-homosexual, pro-women priests folk is a real Catholic. If we dissent, from even one doctrine, then we place ourselves outside the Church. Tell that to your parish priest with the warning that if he continues to lead souls away from the truth that is, from Christ, as He revealed Himself to His Church, Christ, who told His first apostles, and their successors, “he that hears you, hears Me,” then he risks his own soul.

  • EditorCT

    I didn't say anything at all about “a global conspiracy” but now that you mention it, I remember hearing something about that – check out these links.

    You ask about the verses where Christ teaches us not to worry about temporal things – at one time, this would have been the Gospel used at weddings and we were all familiar with it. Interesting that you do not appear to know these crucially important verses. Anyway, here they are, from Matthew 6:25-34:

    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a one cubit to his height?

    28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

    33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)

    Now, the verses you cite – Numbers 33-34 – do not contradict Christ's exhortation to us not to worry about temporal things, at all. These verses reveal God’s abhorrence of murder, We are not to pollute the land with the blood of an innocent person, if my memory serves me correctly. What has this got to do with the topic?

  • EditorCT

    It is very naive to think that the huge environmental lobby do not have an agenda and do not set out to prove their beliefs. That is what ALL scientists DO. They begin with an hypothesis and then test it – or in the case of the latest fads like climate change, evolution, environmentalism which – in the very nature of things – CAN'T be tested, checked and re-tested over and over again, they just keep saying this is “true” (not a scientific term when I was at school in science lessons) and the hoi polloi, dazzled by their whiter than white coats, believe them.

    That scientists who hold to a different view, also go out to gather evidence to support their contrary views, should not be a matter of any concern. As I said before, a fact is soon proven or disproven to be a fact. If anyone had a single fact – a single photograph, say, of an ape changing into a man, or even a woman, I'd surrender my position in a heartbeat.

    paulsays, I am astonished that you claim to be a Catholic and continue to push the birth control argument. Incredible. I believe in the Netherlands, a child or teenager who becomes pregnant, gets no state benefits but has to rely on the Bank of Mum & Dad. I imagine that is a very effective form of sex education. Not many parents want to be saddled with a teenage mum and her offspring, so I rather think that “NO” – one of THE most reliable contraceptives of all time – is working wonders in Holland.

    Are you aware of the fact that the younger a girl has sexual intercourse, the more likely she is to contract cervical cancer in her forties? This was brought home to me in a very personal way when one of my very first schoolfriends died at 42. Having been on the pill since she was 17, the doctor had to admit (very reluctantly) that there was a very likely co-relation between her years of contracepting and her impending early death.

    God knows what He is doing, paulsay. Ignore your daft, heretical priest and listen to the Traditional Church. Seek out an SSPX priest in your area and arrange for a long chat. You truly will not regret it. Google SSPX Great Britain, USA or wherever you are. You will only hear, from his lips. authentic (real) Catholic doctrine.

    You know it makes sense…

  • EditorCT

    Thanks for the warning!!

    I've already said above, that it is not possible to be a Catholic if you (or I, or any of us) deny even a single doctrine. You either believe that God is real, that He cannot lie and therefore that The Church is His chosen way of leading us to heaven. If we reject it, we head for Hell. It really is that simple.

  • EditorCT

    Wrong. There's a “but” in there, you see (or in your case, you didn't see…) Christ teaches not to worry about these temporal things, adding: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

    Now, anyone who is seeking Christ first in their lives, will tell you, Bob171, that they have experienced precisely the kind of loving care and providence that is described in Matthew 6, sometimes in the most dramatic and amazing of unexpected circumstances. I know personally of someone suddenly brought low from having a top salary to being on income support, through no fault of their own, who was, thereafter, in awe at the way everything worked out. God is never outdone in generosity, so it is worth trusting Him – trust me, if you get my drift…

    The starving people in Africa? Who knows. God sees the big picture. We don't. Who can explain, for example, why every single Chilean miner was saved in the recent collapsed mine, after having a statue of Our Lady brought to the site and having prayed their rosaries every day, while not a single miner was saved in the New Zealand disaster, where God was not given a mention. Who knows?

    Certainly worth thinking about – huh?

  • paulsays

    I believe the essence of Christianity is a fairer, most equal and more liberal society. I only call myself liberal so that people can see I have a different point of view from people like you. In the same way you think your ideas on Christianity are correct, so do I for my own beliefs.
    The bible can be interpreted in many different ways and we have had more and less liberal popes over the centuries.

  • Amerye97

    This advice is so wrong on so many different levels that I don't even know where to start! The U.K. does have a 'declining population' and also the concomitant rise in female education at all levels Next thing you'll be telling us to forego education to fill Catholic cradles!

    From an American reader

  • EditorCT

    Euthanasia is a very grave sin. You really can't possibly be a Catholic with the views you are giving here. No Catholic could possibly advocate murdering anyone, let alone whole sections of the population, based on some daft nonsense about overpopulation. Are you being serious?

    I'd love to know your age because if you are as young as you sound, you ought to sue the Catholic Education System and your diocese under the misuse of the Trades Description Act. You'd rake in the cash.

    I mean this literally, paulsays, not to be misunderstood as rudeness or abuse, but you are about as Catholic as Ian Paisley's granny.

  • EditorCT

    I'm more convinced by the minute, that you are on here to have a laugh. You haven't a clue about Catholicism.

  • EditorCT

    Name ONE “liberal pope” prior to 1962. Quote ONE “liberal” remark from his writings.

  • CatholicByBirthOnly

    This article isn't about a declining population: Britain does not have a declining population. It is about the decline in the *indigenous* population. It's motivation is clearly to increase bums on pews and to provide a future source of new priests!

  • Drl

    The suggestion that we should adjust demographic balance by more prolific breeding is absurd. Whatever problems may face us now, they will be vastly exacerbated by a larger total world population. We are already threatened by shortages of clean water, food and energy.

  • paulsays

    If you think I'm going to read something on the new world order with a straight face…

  • paulsays

    Euthanasia is a posh title for mercy killing. It is not mass genocide as you make out. It would also be voluntary, and where it is in fact legal such as the state of Oregon take up is very low.

    It refers to the practice of ending a life in a manner which relieves pain and suffering. According to the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics, the precise definition of euthanasia is “a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering.”

    'No Catholic could possibly advocate murdering anyone, let alone whole sections of the population, based on some daft nonsense about overpopulation'
    If I was suggesting this then you would be right to think of me as moronic and morally bankrupt. Euthanasia should have NOTHING to do with population control. It should be used for end of life pain relief, and control over your own death.

  • paulsays

    Tax revenue per capita is all that matters. Look how rich Luxembourg or Norway are, but their tax takes will be significantly less than the UK overall, because of smaller populations then us.

  • paulsays

    I use Catholic morals to inform by decisions, I do not stick by doctrine I see as false or idiotic. God gave us natural law so we know personally what is right by instinct.

    i'm more convinced by the minute, that you are intelligent, you know how the world works, but you ignore this side of you entirely just to stick to the exact words of the Church

  • paulsays

    destroy means to kill or remove. We are talking about creating less or not creating.
    There should be nothing destructive about population control

  • paulsays

    The point I have been making!
    The Church CAN support population control if it is for the benefit of society, by promoting abstinence.

    I have to just say though this 'contradicts the principles of natural law' issue over natural vs artificial contraception is a complete fallacy. The difference in intention between using a condom and coitus interuptus is none, this is simply a load of bs from the Church so they don't get asked tricky questions.

  • paulsays

    The French have had a secular government since 1799 and they are one of the most successful countries in terms of GDP and other development indicators in Europe.

  • louella

    Population growth is the only source of economic and scientific development there is. Without it……you are condeming a society to stagnation and death. We have the technology to develop new water food and energy sources to meet demand….but only if the demand is there.

    And the fecund will inherit the earth…..not the semi-sterile who are fast disappearing.

  • louella

    Wrong….modern science developed within Christendom ONLY…..because Christians have shown a remarkable aptitude for science. It makes sense……as both Christianity and science have the same source…..God Himself.

    Christian aptitude for science does seem to bother a lot of people!

  • louella

    Well let secularists live in their secular soon to be Islamic states ……and let Catholics live in their Catholic states! And let's see who does best?! This is one divorce I believe in.

  • louella

    Population growth is a source of wealth, vitality and economic success of a nation. The Catholic Church was right……as the developed world now heading for demographic and economic meltdown shows. There just is no future without children……and only the deluded or those blinded by contraceptives like to believe!

  • louella

    We are not developing science quick enough…..because there isn't enough demographic incentive to. In fact…..I think we are entering a period of scientific hiatus thanks to population decline (in the developed world), atheists and their misunderstanding of the world.

    Population growth which fans economic and scientific development provides the means for reducing suffering, pain and death. If you don't understand that… don't understand how the world works. It figures I guess!

  • louella

    I would say the scientific community starts to listen to the Church again! Atheist physicists really are stuck….aren't they.

  • louella

    The French too were living off the illustrious Catholic past…..not the lies of the secular atheists. These can only destroy….that is their mission. Now the French have a 10% Muslim population …….and this percentage is much higher for the under 5's! Naturally!

    Will France be the first Western nation with a Muslim majority?. Seems the quickest route to an Islamic theocracy……is a secular democracy. That will be the lesson of the 21st century!

  • TreenonPoet

    There is a some truth in your 2nd paragraph. The idea that people should be free to believe whatever, as long as it does not harm others, is rather academic. In practice, it is difficult to implement because a person tends to behave according to that person's belief, and even if that behaviour is only manifested in the way that person votes in general elections, it may still result in consequent harm to others. One could argue that in a secular democracy, even if a candidate was elected as a result of voters being aware that the candidate was of a particular religion, the candidate should then go on to take actions that were independent of that religion. Again, in practice, that is a big ask. So, in a system that was nominally a secular democracy, a political religion such as Islam could progress, even if immigration was limited.

    A stronger secular society would reduce the strength of religion by outlawing religious indoctrination in institutions because the propagation of religion would be contrary to the principle of keeping it to oneself. If you favour religious indoctrination, then you have less grounds for complaint where it occurs in other religions, and so you open the door to religions that have strong self-reinforcing tenets (such as that apostates must be killed or tortured).

  • TreenonPoet

    You'll be telling me next that Albert Einstein was a Christian.

  • louella

    Secular nations undermine themselves cos they believe what they like rather than what is true! They make it up as they go along in other words…….and this is not a satisfactory response to the demands of reality and survival.

    As secular democracies the world over fold and collapse……out of the ashes will come the 2 main religious contenders that have shown their endurance and earned their stripes……Catholicisim and Islam. I back the restoration of the Catholic state!

  • paulsays

    secularism is a view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs, in order that one religious group does not have the power to enforce beliefs or behavior that others don't believe in. It is a form of protection for those of all different religions and those of no religion. It also cannot stop the

    Atheism is the belief that there is no evidence to believe in anything supernatural. It is not something that should be pushed into political debate, or taught in schools.

    Secularity instead is religious neutrality, by not allowing any religious group to impose their set of rules. It is indifference to hostility or hate. It is the freedom to worship without state interference.

    Many Christians promote a secular state in order so that they know that no other religion will take precedent. The religious blasphemy laws that led to a Christian woman being stoned to death by Muslims in Pakistan as covered in this paper, is such an example of when a secular society would have offered protection.

    When promoting a Christian government yourself you must also think what you would think if people were promoting another form of religious theocracy if you were in a minority religion yourself your country.

  • paulsays

    find me some evidence from outside of your own thoughts, or else why should I be convinced. There is no precedent for this.

  • paulsays

    secularism is not the same as atheism.
    Secularism is a government that does not infringe on the rights of religious groups to practice, and is entirely indifferent of their beliefs in order to remain neutral and not to allow the power of one religion to dominate through government. It is a system of protection for believers and non-believers against religious laws they would not want.

  • paulsays

    As Catholics we believe that God has the power to interfere in the world of men, however it is not often he does, as it robs us of our free will, our decisions on whether or not to act morally. Were exactly was God's guiding hand in this economic crisis, that will put thousands of people out of work and thousands of families into poverty. Regardless of wealth this recession and these government cuts are not good for everyone.

    Based therefore on this precedent, what should give me the confidence that God will just 'sort this one out'? Surely it is a test of our own free will and willingness to respect his creation, that we could make efforts to reduce fertility rate in countries in which it is too high to sustain.

  • paulsays

    I have not and do not dispute doctrine. I do dispute Church policy which is made by infallible man, and therefore it can be wrong. Using natural-law given to us by the almighty we have an innate moral compass within ourselves with which to judge wrong and right.

  • EditorCT

    There is no such thing as “Church policy” on the matters we've discussed.

    I notice that you have failed to supply a single Pope from before 1962, to substantiate your claim that we have had “liberal” popes throughout history. There have, of course, been NO “liberal” popes prior to Vatican II hence your loud silence on the matter.

    Now you need to go in search of one document or papal pronouncement that names any Catholic doctrine as mere “Church policy”

    I'll have the same lengthy wait, so I won't be holding my breath.

  • Anonymous

    ‘There is no such thing as “Church policy” on the matters we’ve discussed’

    the pope speaks his minds as do many clergy of the Church. The Catechism also discusses attitudes towards issues such as gay rights, so their certainly is an official voice… that should think before it speaks in my opinion.