Where did all the large families go?

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“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

“The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it” (Margaret Sanger). [i]

Teachers, especially philosophy teachers, often try to shake up the pre-conceived ideas of their students so that they learn how to look at things from a different perspective. As a Catholic teacher this ought to be done with Pope St. John Paul II’s book Sign of Contradiction in mind, [ii] because, now, more than ever, we Catholics need to be counter-cultural in the most revolutionary way possible—we need to be lovers of life.

In my senior high school courses, whether it is Philosophy or Religion, I try to focus as much as possible on the topic of marriage and family. Sometime I do this directly, but also indirectly, by using examples of marriage to illustrate concepts that often do not seem to pertain to marriage at all. For example, in discussions about the nature and definition of freedom, I will ask the question “who is more ‘free’, the single man or the married man?” in order to show the ways in which married men are more “free” than single men. This expands on their understanding of the term “freedom,” which they often confuse with “liberty” or “license.”

I do this for several reasons. The first is that I am probably going to be the last Catholic influence many of them will have before they end up either (sadly) cohabiting with someone or, in fewer and fewer cases, actually getting married, often with no clue about what Sacramental Matrimony really is. The second reason is that their future happiness ultimately depends on their having their priorities straight—Faith, Family and Friends—before Wealth, Power and Fame. The third reason, the future of Western Civilization depends on the success of a revolution begun by Pope St. John Paul II, a revolution centered on the value of life.

One of the strategies that I use to shake up the pre-conceived ideas of my students is to present them with real life revolutionaries, namely, friends of mine that have large families. My wife came from a family of seven children, while I only have one brother who is ten years my junior. I often compare the differences, especially when her family all gets together! Unfortunately, we could only have two children though we desired more, however, we have surrounded ourselves with friends who have families that range from four to fourteen children, many of them homeschooled. When I talk about these families in class (not mentioning any names), most of my multi-generation Canadian students are shocked. My more recently immigrated students (who tend towards large families) all nod knowingly and happily share their own experiences. More than one student over the years has admitted to me that they’ve re-evaluated their priorities as a result of these in-class experiences.

In the end, I have to wonder what kind of world we live in when one of the greatest acts of rebellion in our society is to, willingly and deliberately, have large families.

Ideas Have Consequences

There are many reasons why the Western world has bought into the idea of small families. From Malthusian fears of mass starvation to the desire for personal individual freedom, or providing the maximum number of (costly) experiences for children, many have accepted as gospel truth the notion that having only two children is best for all involved.

Yet of all the influences, perhaps the most vile and arrogant proponent of birth control and fewer children has to be Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. A prolific writer between the two World Wars her racist and eugenic views were slightly repackaged after World War II due to the negative reaction to the more strident and murderous eugenic views of Adolph Hitler. Nevertheless, her push for birth control never abated, ending only with her death in 1966, but by then the damage had been done.

That she was a racist is not in doubt.

“We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities.  The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” [iii]

Nor is the fact that her racism fueled her disdain for large families.

“[We should] apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.” [iv]

While it is possible to present many more examples that show the contempt that Sanger had for those she described in the most unflattering of terms, the real purpose here is to present the consequence of said ideas.

Most people, in reading Sanger’s work, would undoubtedly recoil in horror and disgust at her blatant racism and intolerance. However, while that might in fact be the case, in reality they put into practice the exact values she espoused surrounded with much more “compassionate” terminology. A good example of this would be the pre-natal testing for Down’s Syndrome which invariably leads to an abortion in 90% of cases. Doctors who advocate for abortion, and the parents who agree, do not describe the child as “retarded” or a “moron” or even “undesirable.” No, the entire discussion is cushioned with terms such as “quality of life,” “unnecessary suffering” or “what’s best for the child.” Heck, even the Dalai Lama claims that it is “understandable!” Different spin, same reality. [v]

Planned Parenthood, the darling of the Left, continues to target minorities. “2010 Census results reveal that Planned Parenthood is targeting minority neighborhoods. Seventy-nine percent of its surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods.” [vi] Of course, it is wrapped up in the same “compassionate” language about “quality of life” and concerns for the socio-economic struggles that the child will face. However, it cannot be denied that underlying the compassionate language is the hard underbelly of eugenics. Some writers and abortionists are even claiming that abortion is a great contribution to society because it reduces crime! [vii]

Finally (at least for this article), there is the consequence of demographic suicide that is occurring in the West (and China). If you want to make sense of what is happening in Europe and the United States with vast numbers of migrants entering into various countries, at first with open arms, but lately with increasing concern and fear, then all you have to do is look at the birth rate of said countries. Both Europe and North America are facing an aging population crisis. This crisis is more pronounced in Europe, and for this reason the need for immigration to prop up the demographic numbers begins to make sense. The welfare state that is the EU cannot continue to provide cradle-to-grave benefits without an influx of new blood, all because Europeans were not having children of their own.

The researchers find that seventeen European nations have more people dying in them than are being born (natural decrease), including three of Europe’s more populous nations: Russia, Germany and Italy. In contrast, in the United States, births exceed deaths by a substantial margin. (Due in large part to larger Hispanic families – DB)

“Natural decrease is much more common in Europe than in the US because its population is older, fertility rates are lower and there are fewer women of child-bearing age,” Texas A&M demographer Dudley Poston and his colleagues explain. “Natural decrease is a major policy concern because it drains the demographic resilience from a region diminishing its economic viability and competitiveness.” [viii]

Europe is dying, again. The contraceptive and abortion mentality that infuses the West today is not new as our current situation is in many ways reflective of the crisis faced by the Ancient Roman Empire. [ix] What is unique, however, is the scale of ideological justification for the mindset and practices in place today. The fact of the matter is that today “good is called evil and evil, good.” Parents with large families are looked upon with contempt and even as enemies of humanity, while others advocate mandatory two-child limits to fight global warming! [x] Really! You can’t make this stuff up!!!

So, what do we do about this? Western society will eventually correct its current decline due to both necessity and Grace. Necessity because once the welfare state collapses people will again have to rely on family. Grace because God desires “the little children” and His Will cannot be frustrated for long without His intervention. In the meantime, we can do our part. In no particular order, we need to:

  • Change our attitude about large families, encourage the young to have larger families and back that encouragement up with support – both financial and personal!
  • Priests and Deacons need to preach on generosity of spirit, our responsibility to cooperate with God’s desire to share His love with humanity, the tragedy of contraception and the life giving nature of marriage.
  • If you are young and can have children, be open to more. Rethink your ideas of what a family should be like and what activities children really need. Find parents with large families and learn from them!
  • When you see parents with large families, thank them for their generosity and courage, and if they are accosted by the small-minded, come to their defense. I once did this when a woman made disparaging comments to a mother of four children in a grocery store check-out line! (I have a drill sergeant’s volume when I crank it up so I think even the meat packers in the back heard me!)
  • Work in pro-life causes, especially when it comes to children diagnosed pre-natally with different concerns.
  • Pray for the conversion of hearts.

We need to be Signs of Contradiction to a world that is far gone in the wrong direction. So go ahead, be a rebel!

Footnotes

[i] Sanger, Margaret; Woman and the New Race; http://www.bartleby.com/1013/5.html

[ii] http://www.amazon.com/Sign-contradiction-Karol-Wojtyla/dp/081640433X

[iii] Sanger, Margaret; Woman, Morality, and Birth Control; New York, New York Publishing Co., 1922, p.12

[iv] Sanger, Margaret; Woman and the New Race; Kessinger Publishing LLC,  2004, Chapter 6.

[v] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/04/opinion/does-down-syndrome-justify-abortion.html

[vi] http://www.protectingblacklife.org/pp_targets/

[vii] http://www.lifenews.com/2011/06/02/freakonomics-claim-abortion-drops-crime-rates-refuted-again/ AND “Abortion was especially useful, Morgentaler claimed, for reducing violent crime” http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/jackson-doughart-morgentaler-was-guided-by-ideology-not-genuine-concern-for-the-plight-of-women

[viii] http://www.mercatornet.com/demography/view/is-europe-dying/17458, AND http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/shrinking-china-demographic-crisis

[ix] Emmet Scott: The Role of Abortion and Infanticide in Pagan Rome’s Decline http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/123665/sec_id/123665

[x] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2454215/Limit-families-to-two-children-to-combat-climate-change.html


Note: Dennis Buonafede’s Ideas Have Consequences is a regular feature of Integrated Catholic Life™ and usually appears every other Wednesday.

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About the Author

As of February, 2015, Dennis Buonafede has been teaching High School Religion and Philosophy in Ontario, Canada for the past 14 years. Dennis grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia before moving to Ontario where he completed his B.A. in Philosophy at St. Peter’s Seminary at the University of Western Ontario, his M.Div. as a lay student at St. Augustine’s Seminary at the University of Toronto and his Bachelor of Education degree at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Prior to transferring to St. Augustine's, he studied at Holy Apostles Seminary in Connecticut from 1990-1992.

Dennis has been married to Teresa for 20 years and they have two children aged 16 and 18. Dennis is an active member of his parish and has been a member of the Knights of Columbus since 1995. He was a Charter Member of Council 11708 and PGK of Council 8851. He co-developed a leadership program for the KofC sponsored Ontario Catholic Youth Leadership Camp and was the camp director for 3 years. Dennis is currently a Civilian Instructor with Air Cadet 242 Squadron where his son is a Warrant Officer 2nd Class. Dennis is a voracious reader, likes to ride motorcycles and enjoys fishing. He follows hockey (Toronto Maple Leafs) and football (Chicago Bears).

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