Steven Mosher

Demographics as the Grim Reaper: The death knell of low birth rates

Steven Mosher
By Steven Mosher
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August 29, 2012 (pop.org) - More and more countries are hearing the death knell of low birth rates.

We live in an age unique in human history. Per capita incomes have never been higher, lifespans have never been longer, and people are better fed and educated than ever before. At the same time, birth rates have fallen to historically low levels. In fact, they have fallen to levels so low that they will extinguish whole populations unless something is done.

The developed countries are suffering a severe birth dearth and, as a result, an enormous shift in global power will soon be upon us. Europe will recede demographically, while America will be hard-pressed to hold its own against younger and more populous countries. More and more countries are undertaking programs to raise their birth rates, although none of these policies has as yet made much of a difference.

Let’s take a quick tour around the world, thanks to the research of our own Elizabeth Crnkovich:

Asia

In Japan, the headlines are increasingly strident: “The Asian Tiger - Japan - is in Danger of Extinction,” “Number of Children in Japan Falls for 31st Consecutive Year,” “Japan’s Population Marks Sharpest Drop Since 1950,” and “Japan Underpopulation So Bad Families Resort to “Rental Relatives.” Even The Economist, normally staid, has noted that “Japan is ageing faster than any country in history.”

The bare facts are shocking enough: Japan’s fertility rate, at 1.1 children per woman, has never been lower, and it is still falling from year to year. Japan already has the oldest population in the world and, with virtually no immigration, there appears to be no way out of the looming democide. The elderly will die, and there will be fewer people and far fewer workers in the Home Islands in the years to come. The solution is obvious, but the Japanese people have to want more children for there to be more children.

China’s lower birth rates have a different cause. The Chinese people want more children, but the government for the past three decades has said no. The one-child policy has decimated China’s younger generations, and created a society where the young are not replacing the old.

While China currently has the world’s second largest economy, all bets are off if the birth rate remains depressed for another generation. The economy will follow the falling numbers of young workers downward.

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Taiwan’s birthrate is “dropping like a stone…” says an editorial in the Taipei Times. The majority of people realize there is a demographic problem. It could hardly be otherwise, since the total fertility rate—the number of children per woman—is an anemic 0.9. Few are motivated to do anything about it, however. Taiwan is now heavily urbanized, and city folk tend to have very small families. When asked, younger Taiwanese say that they are not interested in having children because they cost too much money, or take too much time. Women are more motivated to get a college degree and seek professional employment than to marry and have children. In this highly secularized society, children are not seen not as a blessing, but as a burden tying down the women who bear them. Goodbye, Taiwan.

Singapore, whose fertility rate stands at an anemic 1.1, is a dying city-state. The average Singaporean is now 39 years of age and climbing. While the city’s economy appears to be doing quite well, and the city itself is replete with new buildings, offers top-notch health care, and enjoys low crime rates, its population is aging fast. In order to keep everything running smoothly, Singapore must rely on immigration, the last resort of a once-reproductive population.

Hong Kong has a birth-rate of 1.09, slightly lower than that of Singapore. As a result, its government has reversed its policy on family planning. Instead of promoting smaller families, as it once did, the government now urges its citizens to have more children to help offset population aging.

It may be a matter of “too little, too late,” however. People already have ingrained in their heads that small families are better, or they just don’t think they have the means to support bigger families. Governments telling people to have more children is not going to change an anti-child mentality at this point. One might call this a voluntary one-child policy.

To illustrate this point, consider that the South Korean government beginning in 2010 has spent billions of dollars in an attempt to raise the country’s birth rate. The jury is still out on this effort, but the latest total fertility rate of 1.15 is still way below the replacement level. Seoul is spending money that it hopes will make it easier for young couples to make ends meet, and to support pregnant women. We at PRI are not sanguine that this belated effort will make much of a difference, since the birth rate was so low to begin with. The economy of this “Asian tiger” is hurting for lack of “cubs.”

Europe

The situation in Europe is no better. In Italy the dawn of the sexual revolution has meant the death of the family. Young people are now not as eager to start families, and the TFR is hovering at 1.4. Young people are happy living the single life and only marry, if at all, after they have reached their thirties and forties. Adult children see no shame in living in their parents’ homes well into middle age.

Venice, famous as a destination for honeymooners, is a dying city. It is losing inhabitants and becoming more and more just a tourist attraction. The city even held a mock funeral for itself when its population dropped below 60,000. Will holding a mock funeral boost the birth rate? It seems unlikely.

Another Catholic country with an anemic birth rate is Spain, whose TFR is 1.48. The Spanish parliament reacted to the problem by promoting births and instituting pro-natal policies. But the relatively small bonuses and benefits offered seem insufficient to resurrect population growth. The problem is exacerbated by that fact that many Spaniards, unable to find employment at home, seek it abroad in countries such as Germany. When the young flee, this hardly helps Spain’s declining birth rate and decreasing population.

We’ve told you before about Russia, whose women average 1.2 children. The nation is hemorrhaging people, a bleeding wound which a huge baby bonus has failed to staunch. The countryside is full of ghost villages as the remaining Russians move to a few large cities.

Germany’s fix for falling fertility, now standing at 1.4 children per woman, is to rely on immigrants, immigrants drawn in by the strong German economy. Spaniards and other Europeans help to bolster the German economy, to be sure, but that is not going to help their native countries.

Other countries with very, very low birth rates include, but are not limited to, England, Greece, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, and France. As the Telegraph put it: “We are not so much living in an age of crisis as facing a crisis of age.”

Where is the population bomb when you need it?

This article was originally published as the August 28 Population Research Institute Weekly Briefing.

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President Obama speaks at Planned Parenthood's national conference in 2013.
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Obama remakes the nation’s courts in his image

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By Dustin Siggins
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It has often been said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is President Obama's greatest achievement as president. However, that claim may soon take second place to his judicial nominees, and especially their effect on marriage in the United States.

In a new graphic, The Daily Signal notes that while President George W. Bush was able to get 50 nominees approved by this time in his second term, Obama has gotten more than 100 approved. According to The Houston Chronicle, "Democratic appointees who hear cases full time now hold a majority of seats on nine of the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals. When Obama took office, only one of those courts had more full-time judges nominated by a Democrat."

Three of the five judges who struck down state marriage laws between February 2014 and the Supreme Court's Windsor decision in 2013 were Obama appointees, according to a CBS affiliate in the Washington, D.C. area. Likewise, the Windsor majority that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act included two Obama appointees, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Obama has nominated 11 homosexual judges, the most of any president by far, says the National Law Journal.

Only one federal judge has opposed same-sex "marriage" since the Supreme Court's Windsor decision. He was appointed under the Reagan administration.

This accomplishment, aided by the elimination of Senate filibusters on judicial nominees, could affect how laws and regulations are interpreted by various courts, especially as marriage heads to a probable Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of state laws.

Democrats eliminated the filibuster for all judicial nominees except for Supreme Court candidates last year, saying Republicans were blocking qualified candidates for the bench. However, the filibuster was part of the reason Democrats were able to keep the number of approved Bush appointees so low.

The Supreme Court may hear multiple marriage questions in its 2015 cycle. 

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Lisa Bourne

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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