Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Italian birth rate continues to sink and drag down Italian “life satisfaction”

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, October 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The latest birth rate record, released last week by the Italian government’s statistical agency, Istat, has shown that in the first four months of 2013, 8,000 fewer children were born in Italy than in the same period of the previous year. With a total fertility rate standing at about 1.41 children born per woman, Italy’s birth rate is ranked 203rd out of 224 countries of the world.

As of this year too, Italian deaths have outstripped births, with 10.01 deaths per 1,000 population and 8.94 births per 1,000. And the gap is widening. The numbers for 2012 showed about 12,000 fewer births than the previous year and about 19,000 more deaths than in 2011.

Moreover, Italians are increasingly reporting that, despite their nation’s reputation for natural beauty, good food and an easy-going lifestyle, they are not happy. According to a survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD Better Life Index, asked to rate their satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Italians placed their own happiness at about 5.8, lower than the OECD average of 6.6.

While some secular pundits are pointing the finger at the economic crisis, Christian observers have warned that the collapse in the birth rate, and its accompanying social and psychological malaise, have nothing to do with either the post-war economic booms or the current recession. Indeed, the drop in fertility has been a feature of Italian life for four decades, following a post-war population and economic boom. The country legalised contraception, divorce and abortion in rapid succession in the 1970s.

Riccardo Cascioli commented on the statistics, writing in the Christian opinion website La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, that the loss of children is a consequence of Italy’s loss of its religious identity.

“Actually you stop bringing children into the world not for lack of money but out of a lack of confidence in the future, and it is no coincidence that the collapse of births in Italy have accompanied the rapid process of secularization, which from a social point of view and from the legislature, resulted in the spread of contraception, the introduction of divorce and abortion with all that this implies.”

While the country is still identified strongly with Catholicism, with about 80 per cent of the population being at least nominally Christian, weekly attendance at Mass has never been lower. An on-the-ground survey in the archdiocese of Milan in 2007 showed that the commonly quoted statistic of 30 per cent was wildly over-optimistic. On the spot surveys showed that only about 15 per cent said they had been to Mass on all of the previous four Sundays.

After a trend of growth in both population and the economy following World War II, the Italian population leveled out and remained essentially unchanged between 1981 and 2001. With increasing immigration, the population again started showing an increase in the beginning of the 2000s.

As of January 2011, Italy’s total population was 60,626,442 inhabitants. The population has grown in the last year, at a rate of about 0.5 per cent. As with most developed nations, however, the only demographic factor keeping Italy’s population from actually shrinking, is immigration. According to 2012 statistics, about 4.3 million or about 7.4 percent of the population are foreign born, up from 6.8 the previous year.

Also with the slow birth rate has come an increase in the average age, with people over 65 now accounting for one fifth of the population. Italian demographer Giancarlo Baliga said last year that by 2041 “The age group most represented in the structure of the Italians will become the 70s.”

With the fertility rate standing at one of the lowest in the world, can be paired the median female age of 45.3 years, a combination from which, demographers say, its is all but impossible to recover. This can be compared with a country of similar population size, the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a median female age of 17.9 years and a total fertility rate of 4.95 children born per woman.

Italy’s population decline is not being slowed even by its immensely superior medical care and consequently longer life expectancy. With only 3.33 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, Italy has one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in the world, compared with the Congo’s 74.87 deaths per 1,000 live births. The Italian average overall life expectancy is 81.95 years compared with the Congo’s 56.14 years.

Commenting on the latest Istat figures and the loss of social confidence, Ernesto Galli della Loggia wrote in Corriere della Sera, “This is the Italy of today. A country whose so-called civil society is immersed in modernity, with 161 phones for every hundred inhabitants, but a population who do not read books… and who hold the European record for hours spent each day in front of the television (just under 4 hours each, according to statistics).”

“All these things together are our crisis. And all these things feed discouragement that gains more ground, the feeling of mistrust that resonates today in countless conversations, in the most minute daily commentaries and between different stakeholders. The idea grows increasingly insistent that for Italy, there is no more hope. Increasingly a singular notion is spreading: that we have arrived at the end of a race that began a long time ago between a thousand hopes, but which now is ending in nothing.”

Galli della Loggia blamed political corruption and the economic crisis, saying that the low fertility rate is a consequence of people having less money and less job security. But Riccardo Cascioli countered that while this may seem like “common sense,” its “reasoning is contradicted by reality”.

The trend to lower birth rates, Cascioli said, has been a feature of Italian life for four decades, “when the fertility rate of Italian women fell well below the European average, which is currently around 1.5 children per woman”.

“In other words, the collapse of births is prior to the economic crisis and, in fact, is a cause of the latter, indeed the root cause.”

“We must recognize,” Cascioli wrote, “that this is a crisis of identity for all Italian people, who have long stopped believing in the future and in life, and who therefore are condemned to a slow extinction unless a new factor intervenes.”

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Lisa Bourne

‘You can’t have’ marriage equality ‘without polygamy’

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By Lisa Bourne

July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Motivated by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage,” a Montana polygamist has filed for a second marriage license, so he can be legally wed to two women at once.

"It's about marriage equality," said Nathan Collier, using homosexual advocates’ term to support marriage redefinition. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier, who has has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives with his legal wife Victoria, and his second wife Christine, said he was inspired by the dissent in the Supreme Court decision.

The minority Supreme Court justices said in Friday’s ruling it would open the door to both polygamy and religious persecution.

“It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Collier and his wives applied for a second marriage license earlier this week at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, a report from the Salt Lake Tribune said.

Collier, who was excommunicated from the Mormon Church for polygamy, married Victoria in 2000 and had a religious wedding ceremony with Christine in 2007. The three have seven children between them and from previous relationships.

"My second wife Christine, who I'm not legally married to, she's put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy," Collier said.

Yellowstone County officials initially denied the application before saying they would consult with the County Attorney and get him a final answer.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

Bigamy, the holding of multiple marriage licenses, is illegal all 50 states, but Collier plans to sue if his application is denied. Officials expect to have an answer for him next week.

While homosexual “marriage” supporters have long insisted legalization of same-sex unions would not lead to polygamy, pro-life and family advocates have warned all along it would be inevitable with the redefinition of marriage.

“The next court cases coming will push for polygamy, as Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in his dissent,” said Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, after the Supreme Court ruling. “The chief justice said “the argument for polygamy is actually stronger than that for ‘gay marriage.’ It’s only a matter of time.”

In a piece from the Washington Times, LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief and the co-founder of Voice of the Family John-Henry Westen stated the move toward legal polygamy is “just the next step in unraveling how Americans view marriage.”

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Chris Christie: Clerks must perform same-sex ‘marriages’ regardless of their religious beliefs

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By Ben Johnson

TRENTON, NJ, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Chris Christie is not known for nuance. This time, he has turned his fiery personality loose on county clerks and other officials who have religious objections to performing same-sex “marriages.”

In a tone usually reserved for busting teachers' unions, Christie told clerks who hold traditional values, “You took the job, and you took the oath.” He would offer no exemption for an individual whose conscience would not allow him to participate in a union the vast majority of the world's religions deem sinful.

“When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it,” he said.

He told a reporter that there “might” be “individual circumstances” that “merit some examination, but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” the pugnacious governor said.

Since the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to legalize homosexual “marriage” last Friday, elected officials have grappled with how to safeguard the rights of those who have deeply held religious beliefs that would not allow them to participate in such a ceremony.

Christie's response differs markedly from other GOP hopefuls' responses to the Supreme Court ruling. Mike Huckabee, for instance, has specifically said that clerks should have conscience rights. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order granting such rights and ordered clerks to wait until a pending court case was fully adjudicated before any clerk issues a marriage license to a homosexual couple.

Christie gave up a legal appeal after a superior court judge struck down his state's voter-approved constitutional marriage protection amendment. New Jersey is the only state where such a low court overturned the will of the voters.

The decision to ignore conscience rights adds to the growing number of Christie's positions that give conservatives pause.

The natural locus of support for a Christie 2016 presidential run is the Republican's socially liberal donor class, for personal as well as political reasons. His wife works on Wall Street, and some of the GOP's high-dollar donors – including Paul Singer – have courted Christie for years.

However, this year Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser degree Scott Walker have eclipsed Christie as the preferred candidates of the boardroom donors – who sometimes prefer Democrats to Republicans.

Christie also used language during a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition last year, which concerned some major GOP donors.

Christie is reportedly spending this weekend with Mitt Romney and his family at Romney's New Hampshire home. Romney declined to enter the 2016 race himself and may be able to open his donor list to Christie's struggling campaign.

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After having a girl with Down syndrome, this couple adopted two more

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By Ben Johnson

LINO LAKE, MN, July 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – For most people, having five biological children would have been enough. In fact, for many Americans, large families are treated as a scandal or a burden.

But one family made the decision, not just to have a large family, but to give a home to some of the most vulnerable children in the world: Girls born overseas with Down syndrome.

Lee and Karen Shervheim love all seven of their children, biological or otherwise. Undeterred by having twin boys – Daniel and Andrew, 18 – they had Sam four years later.

They now have three daughters who are all 11 years old. All three have Down syndrome.

And two of them are adopted.

About the time their eight-year-old son, David, was born, Lee and Karen decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome to be a companion to their daughter, Annie.

They made the further unexpected choice to adopt a child from Eastern Europe with the help of Reece's Rainbow, which helps parents adopt children with Down syndrome.

“Between my wife and I, we couldn’t get it out of our heads,” Lee told the Quad City Press. “So many children need families and we knew we could potentially do something about it.”

After originally deciding to adopt Katie, they spent six weeks in Kiev, visiting an orphanage in nearby Kharkov. While there, they decided they may have room in their heart, and their home, for another child.

When they saw a picture of Emie striking the same pose as their biological daughter in one of their photographs, they knew they would come home with two children.

Both girls were the same age as their Annie. She would not lack for companionship, as they worried.

Lee said after the Ukrainian government – finally – completed the paperwork, they returned to the United States, when the real challenges began.

“The unvarnished truth,” Lee told the Press, is that adopting the Russian-speaking special needs children “was really disruptive to our family. They came with so many issues that we had not anticipated.”

After teaching them sign language and appropriate behavior, they moved to Lino Lake, Minnesota and found a new support group in Eagle Brook Church. There they found personal assistance and spiritual solace.

Every year in the past seven years has been better and better, they say.

“I think my girls can do almost anything they want to do,” he said, “and that’s what I want to help them become.”

The family's devotion is fueled by their faith, and it informs the sense of humor Lee showed in a tweet during the 2014 midterm elections:

It takes a special person to believe in the potential of the “mentally retarded,” as they were once labeled. Today, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb will be aborted. The percentage is higher in some countries. Some have even spoken of "a world without people with Down syndrome."

Their God, and their experience, tell them that every child has infinite worth and potential, Lee told local media, and he would encourage anyone to follow his footsteps and adopt a Down syndrome child – or two.

“The message is that it really doesn’t matter where you started or where you came from,” Lee said. “There are endless opportunities for everyone, whether they have disabilities or not. They deserve a shot.”

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