Divine Providence and Population


The distinguished demographer Nathan Keyfitz, who is affiliated with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria, reports that contemporary academic economists, differing from those of the nineteenth century, now believe that "although population growth and density can have bad effects on development, these will only be severe with wrong economic policies. Technical advance and substitution in free markets avoid major difficulties, for example, shortage of materials. But ecologists see the poor cutting trees for firewood, the rich pouring carbon into the atmosphere, and doubt the capacity of the environment to absorb the effects of dense and growing population and their present technologies...Should this central population issue not be on our research agenda? ("Population Development within the Ecosphere: One View of the Literature" in POPULATION INDEX, Vol. 57, Spring 1991 pp. 5-22). Is it true that population growth pollutes and threatens to bring disaster into our living environment?

Rank industrial competition unregulated by regulations to protect the environment is a wild bull threshing around in a chinashop. A major concern of conscientious industrial producers is that pollution control adds to costs; competitors who pollute air and water with abandon can bring products to the market at cheaper prices. Unless governments regulate pollution levels, and unless international standards are set up and followed, the dynamics of cheap production make it pay to pollute, at least until other costs, such as health, exceed the savings reaped by pollutive methods of production.

When I first studied Japanese in 1948, on the banks of the Tokigawa river which flows around our monastery in Tajimi, the waters of the river were clean, transparent, and sparkling as they curled around huge boulders and spread out over the sands. But not for long. Soon upstream industry developed: paper, lumber, ceramics; the water became so foul that wading and swimming were out of question. Ceramics producers of Tajimi explained that they were trying to recover from the war devastation by getting a foothold with their products at competitive prices in the USA. Not only did they have to build up new plants, they also had to ship across the ocean, and be competitive with homemade USA products. Pollution, for the moment, must be tolerated, so they thought.

But today the river is clean again, as it sweeps past the Buddhist monastery first, then curls around our remaining monastery holdings. Sophisticated technologies now in use are already less polluting than the older methods, and producers are following the impose regulations against excessive pollution. Perhaps regulations on both sides of the Pacific Ocean now eliminate the competitive advantage that would come from skimping on expenses to keep the environment clean.

Citizens of Yokkaichi sued oil refineries for damages when polluted air caused asthma. The judge slapped on heavy fines. The companies found it cheaper to raise the smoke stacks higher and to send up less pollution, than to pay the fines. But the contest goes on. When it was discovered that eating fish taken from Minamata harbor waters polluted by factory effluents had caused the painful minamata disease, courts - moving very slowly though -awarded the sufferers heavy damages; refineries paid the fines and agreed to follow new standards.

Air pollution by factories in East Germany and Poland was appalling and atrocious, under the "planned" economies, whose planners neglected the environment. In contrast, Japan, North America, and Western Europe have already done a great deal to restore pure air and water, balancing costs against benefits. Under the Clean Air Standards enacted from time to time by the USA Congress, auto emissions of hydrocarbons were down from a 1957-67 average of 8.7 grams per mile to an interim standard of 1.5 in 1975, when the California statutory standard was lowered to 0.41 (Kahn, 152). Japanese import cars met the new standards even before American made models did. It becomes very expensive to achieve complete purity so long as cars run on gasoline. "We went into that (1991 Clean Air) Act with the tail pipe already 96 percent cleaned up. You come to that last 4 percent, and it gets very expensive" says Robert Stempel, Chairman of GM Motors (NEW DIMENSIONS, October 1991, p. 86). If we look far enough ahead, I think we see electric cars replacing our present internal combustion engines, cars which run quietly and without causing pollution.

The air in cities is not as clean, admittedly, as that over the ocean or in the countryside. If the dominant flow of migration is not out of cities but into them, this is a vote of the people who choose city advantages and tolerate its evils. It is up to the people, then, and their governments, to pay the price of clean air in the cities, by setting up regulating laws and enforcing them, while at the same time paying the price.

My experience of seventy plus years tells me that typical city dwellers have cleaner air today than they did seventy years ago. Smoke from coal heated stoves and from steam engines burning coal formed a brown haze over Chicago when I first spent a few days there in 1937. The sun shone with a pale light during the day, and all but the brightest stars failed to penetrate the haze at night. Soot fell on playgrounds and covered buildings, though Chicago's buildings never became as black from soot as did the older buildings of Paris, London, and even Rome. Today Chicago has cleaner air, as does London, Paris, and Rome. We have come a long way already to keep the air over our cities clean, but need to meet ever new and formidable challenges.

When areas are thinly populated, the need to manage field and forest economically is less insistent than in cities with dense populations, where the actions of citizens affect neighbors and the community. Population growth therefore strongly stimulates communities to improve the management of waste and pollution. But will the people do that? We saw that people of West Germany succeeded better than those of East Germany. It was not population growth or density that brought about this difference. It was government, and the response of the people to their form of government. At any rate, "there is no evidence that the ability of human institutions to act in the best interests of human survival is frustrated by the growth of population" (Kasun, p. 42). We all want clean air and water, but what is the price we want to pay? Do we want clean air with no people to breathe it? Or do we want lots of people who can also breathe clean air?

In the Japan, which I know best, people are made aware of pollution problems by the media, especially by NHK, Japan's superb public radio and television. And at every political campaign, candidates make lavish promises which are later hard to keep. Clean air, water, beautiful natural surroundings for the children, trees, shrubbery and flowers along city streets, improved services - flamboyant promises about these things win elections; and then result in a bit more progress. Pleasant living conditions are commodities that belong to the public and that industries which use them for economic production must pay for them, much as they must pay for raw materials and labor.

The time will come, and is already here, when international standards and agreements must be extended further and further to protect our ecosystem. A United Nations panel proposed for discussion at the 1992 "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, such proposals as the taxing of consumers of finite energy resources, and selling rights to discharge Earth-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, of collecting revenue for use of seabed resources held in common, a "debt for nature" swap agreement, the establishment by private enterprises of a fund to pay the so-called "Earth debt" to protect the environment, whose revenues would be partially diverted to a fund to carry out the terms of a convention on global warming (Kyodo News, Mainichi Daily News, 30 August 1991).


Questions about a supposedly depleting protective ozone layer are now being studied internationally. Certainly, if it does become evident that catastrophe lies ahead unless we make adjustments, we expect reasonable regulations to be made, and that people will comply enough to save themselves and the rest of humankind.

I am much indebted for the information on ozone which follows here to Herman Kahn and Associates, The Next 200 Years, pp. 178-179. The thick atmosphere above us shields life from the sun's deadly ultra-violet rays. Ozone, a gas formed by the interaction of sunlight and oxygen is the chief atmospheric element which provides this protection. Ozone absorbs ultraviolet rays, thereby preventing most of them from reaching the earth's surface.

We learned much about this when studies were being made about supersonic transport and its effects on the atmosphere. The Department of Transportation and the National Academy of Sciences published reports on their evaluation and analysis of upper-atmospheric conditions and reactions relative to use of supersonic transport. Both indicate that the main threat to the ozone layer would come from nitrogen oxides produced by the high temperature reaction of atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen in the turbine engines; water vapor, sulfur dioxide and particulates from the engine may also react with the ozone layer. The studies indicated, however, that it is doubtful that the cumulative effect of daily operation of world supersonic transport would be noticeable. Careful monitoring, however, is indicated.

But while these investigations were in progress and new problem emerged. Scientists at Harvard University suddenly realized that freon, the propellent used widely in aerosol sprays, probably arises slowly but surely from the earth's surface into the stratosphere. There is can be split by sunlight and so release free chlorine. Chlorine, in turn, can react with ozone, leading to some depletion of the protective layer of gas. Studies show that the amount of freon already released in past years will contribute to a depletion of the ozone concentration during the next several decades. It is not know when the decreased ozone will allow sufficient ultraviolet light to reach the earth to be of some threat to plant, animal, and human life. Sunlight can cause skin cancer in certain circumstances. The question is complicated by the finding that more than normal amounts of freon have been found in Antarctica's snows; this suggests that some of the freon is frozen out of the atmosphere when it is brought to Antarctica by atmospheric circulation. (So far Kahn and alii.)

What follows is taken from Encyclopedia Britannica, 1973 ed. "Ozone." Ozone is a bluish gas with a distinctive penetrating odor, whose chemical symbol is 0/3. Ozone is a powerful oxidizer, used widely as an antiseptic and a bleaching agent. In the atmosphere it absorbs solar ultraviolet radiation, thus protecting life on the surface of the earth.

ATMOSPHERIC OZONE: In the upper atmosphere ozone is formed by the photochemical action of solar ultraviolet radiation. Mixing processes bring some of it down to the earth's surface. If ozone were separated from the air in which it is mixed, its space in a vertical column of the atmosphere at normal temperature and pressure would be only a few millimeters high. The atmosphere would reach 8 km. under the same conditions. However, even this minute amount is enough to absorb all the solar energy in the ultraviolet between 2,100 and 2,900 A, thus protecting life on earth from a lethal excess of short-wave radiation. The energy so absorbed serves to heat the upper atmosphere near 50 km high to almost that of the earth's surface.

The vertical column of ozone (in a vertical column above the earth), shows a marked latitudinal variation in the northern hemisphere; the minimum occurs near the equator. Except near the equator where there is little annual variation, the maximum amount occurs in the spring, and the minimum amount in the autumn. In addition, except near the equator, there is a marked variation depending upon meterological conditions. Ozone excesses usually occur a bit west of the centers of cyclones, and deficits occur in the west of anticyclones. [Centrifugal forces of the heavier ozone, swinging it out further than the rest of the atmosphere?]

Ozone is constantly created and destroyed by photochemical processes in the atmosphere. The rates of creation and destruction depend on: 1) air density, 2) air temperature, 3) absorbed solar energy, and ozone density.[!] For specified values of the first three, one may calculate a value of ozone density for which these rates exactly balance one another. This is called the photochemical equilibrium amount of ozone, which then varies with the altitude, latitude, and the season.

My own reasoning tells me that if the existing density of Ozone is a factor which functions in the equation of the rate of the creation of ozone, then the rate of its formation is at least partially self-regulatory. If the density falls below the level which air density, air temperature, and absorbed solar energy indicate as the threshold level, then the rate of ozone formation should increase, until the threshold and balancing level is restored. Thus, even if growing populations, more use of chlorofluorocarbons, increased destruction of ozone by high altitude transport, would deplete the protective layer of ozone, the restoration would be automatic through faster formation of ozone until the balance is restored.


Alarmists once proclaimed fear that the percentage of oxygen, which has held steady for a billion years at about 21 percent of the air by volume, is being depleted now, or will be depleted, because forests are being cut down and cities are replacing green meadows. Oxygen is released into the atmosphere by the process of photosynthesis, when solar energy is captured by chlorophyll to synthesize a carborhdrate from carbon dioxide and water; the carbon of carbon dioxide is bonded with the hydrogen of the water, freeing the oxygen for release into the atmosphere. Oxygen is consumed by oxidation, especially by breathing of air by humans and animals, and exhaling carbon dioxide. Today little is said about any so-called danger of depleting the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere.


More is said about a so-called greening effect, when the percentage of carbon dioxide of the atmosphere is increased. It's percentage of the air is only 0.034 percent by volume. Car engine and other combustion releases chiefly carbon dioxide and water vapor into the air. The increased combustion of fossil and other carbon is said to increase the intromission of extra carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon dioxide traps long-wave infrared radiation (heat) radiating from the surface of the earth into space, and thus warms the atmosphere. The observed increase in average global temperature of about one degree Celsius between 1850 and 1940 has been attributed to the increased combustion of petroleum, natural gas and coal, resulting in an increased concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, during 1940 and 1975 the temperature decreased by about half a degree Celsius, perhaps due to soot in the atmosphere from industrial emissions. Herman Kahn and Associates wrote in 1976:

It is very likely that the CO/2 concentration of the atmosphere will increase about 15 percent by the year 2000. This might cause an increase in the average global temperature of 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit. It has been calculated that a doubling of the CO/2 content would lead to an increase in average temperature of 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit, but it seems unlikely now that the carbon dioxide content will ever double unless mankind wants it to happen...In any event, a carbon dioxide catastrophe does not appear to be imminent (Kahn, p. 176).

It should be added, however, that, as in the case of ozone density, so also in the case of carbon dioxide a self-regulatory mechanism comes into action. When the concentration of CO/2 increases in the atmosphere, "plants grow faster if supplied with more carbon dioxide than they can now find in nature" (EB, "Photosynthesis"). When they grow faster, they also consume more CO/2 and release more HO/2 into the atmosphere.

One of the subjects to be discussed at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio Janeiro in June 1992 is reduction of carbon dioxide emission by 60 to 80 percent. It will be interesting to observe the data which scientists will offer to support the case, and whether this will convince governments to take action, if action is indicated.

Should the ice around the North Pole melt, it would not cause a major rise in ocean levels since the ice is floating. Should the Greenland and Antarctica ice melt, they would raise the levels of the ocean, but so slowly that humans have adequate times to adjust. A recent report, however, stated that the Greenland ice is not melting, but increasing. It is our duty to monitor the earth, of course, and to take action when this indicated, but changes are so slow and on so wide a scale that there is no cause of panic. We know that the earth was far warmer than it is now when the Miocene Age began about 25 million years ago. A broad belt of tropical rain forest surrounded the globe, until about five million years ago, when the climate cooled, and savannah began to replace much of the rain forest. In the meantime glaciers have come and gone marking temporary cooler and then warmer periods. We should not complain to the Creator, if our earth is a bit too warm, or a bit too cool, for our optimum comfort.


"How can WE create enough jobs for THEM?" is the question often asked by volunteer social engineers seeking to cut down birth rates. Creating employment positions for the flood of young people who enter the labor force is impossible; the result is shanty town, crime, drugs, people moving into what is called the "informal" sector where the government cannot keep track of their activities nor collect taxes. Some of the Japanese reasoned in this manner immediately after World War II, and shoved Japan to stumble into its birth control (read "abortion") trap; a trap from which Japan has been unable to free herself forty five years later when the nation faces a severe shortage of young laborers.

"The government faces the difficult task of providing some 3/4 million new jobs per year for the next five or more years to accommodate the new entrants into the labor force, the heritage of the early post-war spurt in the birth rate." So thought Dr. Yoshio Koya, Director of the Institute of Public Health, who conducted pilot projects to reduce birth rates (see Dorothy Nortman, Research Associate of The Population Council, in a forward to a report by Dr. Yoshio Koya, "Pioneering in Family Planning," New York, The Population Council, 1963). Dr. Koya, it should be noted, was disappointed that Japan's chief method of birth control was initially abortion, and this continued to remain a major problem. t should also be noted, however, that Dr. Koya adamantly and probably effectively closed Japan's doors against importing the birth control pill from the USA. To help the cause, Dr. Herbert Ratner fed me with data and reasons against the pill, and I dutifully brought these to the attention of Dr. Koya. There is talk now of legalizing the pill in Japan, but during the past thirty years its sale for contraceptive purposes has remained illegal in Japan.

Several things should be said about the so-called difficulty of WE having to create jobs for THEM, that is, for the increased number of people. First of all, babies born create their own jobs: mothers remain home to take care of the baby, and so do not enter the industrial labor market during that time, leaving room for others to enter those jobs. Birth controlling mothers who enter the labor force can do this immediately, whereas if they remain at home and raise children, there is a gap of twenty years before their offspring enter the labor market. Thus birth control hits the nation with a double whammy: mothers compete with men on the labor market, tending to lower wages and to increase the rate of unemployment of the male breadwinners, because the supply of labor is super-abundant. Secondly, the home is impoverished - including the husband - when two breadwinners leave the home to work outside.

Second, the gap between birth and entering the labor force is about 20 years; in the meantime these children have "created" many jobs along the way: school teaching positions, food markets, health workers, transportation, housing. The growing children are a market which stimulates the economy to develop to full their needs.

Third, the future entrants into the labor force could be calculated easily in Japan, enabling industry to plan for compensating expansion. Thus there was never a real problem of excess labor in Japan; rather the new labor so enabled the economy to expand that a labor shortage eventually resulted from the rapid expansion of the economy; now, plagued by decreasing numbers entering the labor market. Japan's well heeled and educated laborers seek the better paying, more challenging, and prestigious jobs, leaving the construction industry with a lack of sufficient unskilled labor, and the service industries without sufficient maids and cleaners and performers of more menial tasks.

At the time of this writing the Justice Ministry, which until now has been opposed to accepting unskilled foreign labor, is considering plans to open Japan's doors to unskilled labor by introducing an internship system; foreign laborers will be able to work at designated companies for a certain period of time as interns, and then continue to work there for one or two years earning full wages (see Mainichi Daily News, July 30, 1991). Opposition against the foreign labor immigration into Japan is exceedingly strong, though the real reason is not articulated clearly in the media. Japan's culture and bloodlines are very homogenous, excluding foreign elements almost as the human body reacts to reject organ transplantation. The last thing a mother in law wants is to have a foreign daughter-in-law and grandchildren. This helps to explain why recruiters now scour Brazil and Peru for children of emigrated Japanese nationals. We now see a remarkable "U turn" of migration: Japanese nationals who once emigrated from the "overpopulated country of Japan" to underpopulated Brazil and Peru, now return to Japan to seek a higher level of living here, attracted by the superior wages and conditions in Japan.

Actually, bearing children and rearing them as future laborers is an economic investment, meaning that one tightens the belt temporarily to receive rewards later. A healthy and well disciplined crop of youths who can learn in school the skills needed for economic take off and development become a nation's prime assets, the force which can drive the national economy to emerge from the inherited subsistence economy and propel it along the road to full technological production; from the subsistence state characterized by predominant agriculture with hoe and stick as tools, and buffalo or oxen as cultivating power, where one laborer could support four people; to a modern economy where one farm laborer supports fifty others, freeing ninety eight percent of the labor force to perform other tasks and services. Common sense indicates that the investment needed to propel a nation into a modern economy is a healthy and capable labor force; birth control only crowds an existing overly supplied labor force with more unskilled labor when should-be-mothers leave the home to work outside; and suppresses the investment of a newer generation of the labor force which should be more efficient then the old.

Japan, then, is an example which clearly and factually refutes the cut and dried pseudo-dogma that growing populations necessarily have problems of a shortage of jobs. The results are evident, clear for everyone to see. It is sad that other nations prefer to be as stupid today as Japan was in 1950. China, India, Indonesia -other developing countries still do not see that children are the prime investment for their economic development, not an imagined problem which asks: "How can WE create so many jobs for THEM?"


Anti-population promoters tell us that educating children costs money which should better be diverted to other gainful purposes. School education is interpreted as being a burden on the national economy. For example, the cost of rearing a child from birth all the way through college in Japan is said to be twenty four million yen ($170,000; "Editorial" MAINICHI DAILY NEWS, 5 September 1991). With only 1.53 children born per average woman, parents spend more on fewer numbers.

But is the spending of $170,000 per child in Japan a loss to the economy? This money is not being paid to some foreign land, but to the home teachers and to all concerned with the education of these children. Sure, the money is paid by the community, but it is also received back into the same community. In terms of money, the income is exactly equal to the cost. School teachers were paid, and bus drivers, and those who built and maintained the schools; also the doctors, nurses, store keepers, road constructors, police. What the community spends, it also keeps. And in the end the community has better schools and roads, and a new labor force to pay off generously what the community invested.

The failure of a community, however, to invest equitably today in the labor force of tomorrow creates a debt which will burden the community tomorrow. Children not conceived today, or aborted after being conceived, will not be in the labor force tomorrow, and will therefore not pay income taxes. The amount can be calculated based on standard rates for 1989 in the USA. On this standard:

An income of $30,850, less $11,200 for deductions, yields a taxable income of #29,650, which is taxed at fifteen percent. This amount yields a tax liability of $2,948 per year, per worker. When multiplied by the average 29 years of labor, a tax liability of $85,492 is accrued. Consequently, when multiplied by 55 million workers who could have been in the labor force, a lost of over $4.7 trillion would be projected.

This projected loss of income-tax revenue of nearly $5 trillion over twenty-nine years, or $162 billion per year, indicates that the possible monetary ramifications of abortion will greatly impact the U.S. to the amount of well over $12 trillion in lost Social Security and income tax revenue over twenty-nine years...Simply stated, it's a lot of money, and its loss could devastate America.

America need not continue to eliminate its future taxpayers. First of all, immigration could be increased to allow the labor pool to grow and allowing working-age individuals to enter the work force and pay taxes. Second, the government could promote incentives conducive to increasing the nation's population..." (John S. Payne, "Factoring out Abortion" in Human Life Review, Vol.XVII, No. 2, Spring 1991).

Finally we should say that when parents in Japan "save" $170,000 by not educating a child through school, they probably save nothing. The family either spends that money on other things instead and so pays wages to people other than educators; or the family deposits the savings on the bank, which promptly lends it out to pay for other things; and families expect to draw upon these funds in future upon retirement.

They may be surprised. If an entire nation piles up money instead of children, what good is the money if there are no workers? The irony of the situation is that money itself cannot be converted into food and services except through laborers who provide the same. Thus, the doubletalk of anti-population propagandists about savings by not educating children is really a very dangerous and damaging solicitation to the present generation to not provide sufficiently for its future.


A Professor of Demography at one of the major universities in Tokyo asked me why it is that Christians tend to have more children than non-Christians, but before I could respond he gave this assessment: Christians have hope for a life in the next world; for them life changes, and does not pass away. Therefore, looking to the next world, they have hope and joy and wish to pass this heritage on to their children.

We do not expect to hear from anti-population propagandists a message of hope about the next life. The scope of their calculations end abruptly at the horizon of this life only. But there may be a tinge of pessimism in the anti-population movement in general which is anti-this life as well. If people are pollution according to the thinking of anti-populists, this may reflect a low self image as source of the thought. Anti-populism reeks of black pessimism which hates life as an imposed burden.

Philip Mainlaender Book Philosophy of Redemption which appeared in Berlin in 1876, and Edward von Hartmann's Phenomenology of The Moral Consciousness, Berlin, 1879, had one message in common; it is the message that proclaims a so-called duty of effecting what they call "the salvation of the world" - that is, of redeeming the universe from the burden of its miserable existence (see Francis Bowen, "Malthusianism, Darwinism, and Pessimism in CHILD AND FAMILY, Vol. 19, No. 3, p. 233. Bowen continues:

There is a wide difference of opinion among the doctors of pessimism in respect to the course of action to be pursued and the conduct which is to be enjoined upon their disciples. While they are all agreed as to the end in view, as to the expediency and the duty of bringing the world to an end as soon as possible, they differ in respect to the means to be employed...(ibid p.234).

Pessimist Schopenhaur favored suicide by starvation, but Hartmann objected, saying that after the pessimists would be gone, their departure would merely induce those who as yet had not converted to pessimism to increase their numbers all the more to fill the open spaces thus created. The race would be deteriorated permanently because the better people had foolishly abandoned the earth too soon, leaving it to the indolent, the reckless and the base. Do we not hear echoes of today's anti-population propagandists in this bitter passage which Mainlaender quotes from the posthumous memoirs of Alaxander von Humboldt?

...I was not born in order to be the father of a family. Moreover, I regard marriage as a sin, and the propagation of children as a crime. It is my conviction also that he is a fool, and still more a sinner, who takes upon himself the yoke of marriage...I despise humanity in all its strata; I foresee that our posterity will be far more unhappy than we are; and should not I be a sinner...if I should take care to leave a posterity of unhappy beings behind me? The whole of life is the greatest insanity. And if for eighty years one strives and inquires, still one is obliged finally to confess that he has striven for nothing and found out nothing. Did we at least only know why we are in this world! But to the thinker, everything is and remains a riddle; and the greatest good luck is that of being born a flathead (quoted ibid. p. 234).

Hartmann, like Leibnitz, believed that this present universe is the best one that is possible. But the best is bad enough; it is so bad that it would be far better if it did not exist at all. In every aspect, non-being is preferable to being; that is obvious because non-being cannot suffer, whereas suffering is inseparable from the very nature of existence. Our duty, then, is by this way or that, to bring about the day when humans will be reconciled to sink back into the comparatively blissful repose of nothingness (see Bowen ibid. p. 236).

We Christians, on the contrary, have learned in the catechism that God created us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, and thereby to merit the joys of heaven. If we can bring the anti-population pessimists to share out hope, so much the better; if not, we allow them to go their way, while we continue to go on our way, doing as the Catholic Church teaches us to do. If we do that, Darwin's law of the survival of the fittest, applied now to the morally fittest, will, in the course of time, leave the anti-population people in the grave of history while we continue to populate the earth which the Lord has given to us.


"The Catholic Church, " wrote Fr. Mark O'Keefe in the August 1991 issue of April 6, 2000 magazine, "while agreeing in principle to the need to limit population growth ..." But does the Church agree? Certainly, its official documents do not agree that there is a need to limit population growth. One document mentions that there is a widespread opinion that population expansion should be checked by all means (GS 87) but does not state that the Church agrees. She also advises responsible parenthood, including responsibility toward society (e.g. Humanae Vitae 10); and she sees that special difficulties can arise out of rapid increases of population (GS 87); but she does not teach that there is no other way to solve related problems except communal birth control. We have difficulties with traffic problems too, but we solve them by building roads, not by putting a quota on the manufacture of cars.

Church documents, past, present, and presumably in future, do not teach parents to use reduce births in order to limit national or world population growth. The Church does not speak with a forked tongue; she does not first praise parents who "courageously undertake the proper bringing up of a large number of children" (GS 50), only to blame them elsewhere; e.g. by programs "which seek to overcome the cultural biases which contribute to large family sizes" (Fr. O'Keefe, p. 41). Were the Church to teach that parents should have fewer children, not for the good of their own family, but to decelerate population growth, she would play brinkmanship with her basic socio-moral teachings in reference to family rights vs. rights of a collectivity. The Church consistently teaches that families are the basic unit of society, and that governments are supposed to serve them, not vice versa:

The state and politics have, in fact, precisely the office of securing for the families of every social class those conditions which are necessary for them to evolve as economic, juridical, and moral units (Pius XII, Address to Christian Societies of Italy, October 21, 1945).

Why all the discordant opinions and policies about population policies? Keyfitz says it well: the think tanks are housed in separate quarters and do not communicate with each other to solve their differences. Governments, however, must choose their advisors, and find that any choice they make will have supporters:

In the modern academy, knowledge comes packaged in disciplines . Within any discipline the machinery for establishing what is right (refereed processional journals, etc.) works moderately well most of the time; most differences are resolved. But for resolving differences between disciplines the machinery is inadequate. Many questions do not overlap... But population does spread over economics, biology, sociology, and other disciplines. Separated by different perspectives, each using a language not readily comprehensible to outsiders, each with a body of knowledge too extensive for most of those not brought up to it to master, and offering little premium to the academic who attempts to do so, disciplines do not take irreconcilable conclusions seriously, let alone resolve them.

This throws a problem too difficult for science as now organized to administrators who must make decisions about population and environment...Whatever they do, they have backing from scientists, choosing economists or biologists according to the advice they wish to receive (op. cit. 6).

Economists see it one way, biologists another way, sociologists in still another way, and the triune do not meet. It is not surprising, then, that Catholics, including high-placed clergy, sometimes unwittingly swallow undigested half-truths of the anti-child propaganda. "When a nation is overpopulated," read one sentence in a book I was editing in 1980, "couples have a duty to bear fewer children; when a nation is underpopulated, couples have a duty to increase births." Gobbledegook, I said to myself. The contributor of that sentence, who is now an Archbishop, withdrew it immediately when asked to reflect on what it all implies. The book was distributed to the members of the 1980 Synod of Bishops. Had that sentence been in it, that would be the one and only statement even remotely connected with Magisterial documents which would make birth control for the purpose of deceleration of demographic growth a proper form of human behavior.

The statement of Father O'Keefe which reads: "The limitation of population growth and the implementation of moral means to attain it remain essential to addressing the present and urgent problem of poverty" (loc. cit.) is his opinion, not Church doctrine. Admittedly, "doing good for humanity" is a facile excuse for birth control; for the practice of contraception which half of the world's families have adopted by this time. Over 400 million of the estimated 850 to 880 million couples of reproductive age are said to be practicing contraception (Studies in Family Planning, Nov/Dec 1988, p. 341). People like to hear excuses for what they do unlawfully. "Our intentions are good, so why scruple about the means?" This super-heresy dominates world thinking today. Fr. O'Keefe speaks with a very weak voice when he correctly opposes contraception, but incorrectly obliges parents to avoid births by licit means to affect national or world demographic trends.

Couples cannot be persuaded, I think, to make the sacrifice of periodic abstinence to help decelerate national demographic growth. But tell them that Pills are necessary for national welfare, and millions agree. Fourteen million couples currently use the Pill in the USA, compared to 1.2 million who use NFP. The phoniness of the "birth control for national welfare" heresy is unmasked when couples have to make real sacrifices for what their intelligence cannot accept.

The March/April issue of Studies in Family Planning, notes that "Catholics who attend church more regularly are less likely to use contraceptive methods, have lower levels of pill and diaphragm use, and are more likely to use condoms and rhythm and be sterilized if male" (p. 111). Which makes me wonder whether Mass attendance and parish collections will look up again if pastors speak out more resolutely about the evil of three bad bugs of family life: abortion, contraception, and sterilization (and often consequent divorce); and if pastors engage more meaningfully in the apostolate of natural family planning.

Opinions about population limitation policies change with seasons and governments, but teachings of the Catholic Magisterium are as consistent as the Rock on which she stands. If we cannot master all the opinions of demographers, economists, biologists, sociologists, and others, about merits or demerits of population growth, we can still make our own the wisdom of the Church, and pass this on to our people; that wisdom of the Church which enlightens us to see that parents, not governments, have the right to make the decision about children:

Because in virtue of man's inalienable right to marriage and the procreation of children, the decision regarding the number of children depends on the judgment of parents and is in no way to be left to the decrees of public authority (Vatican II in Gaudium et Spes, No. 87)

In none of the Magisterial documents is there a statement which contests this. The responsible parenthood proposed in Magisterial documents is connected with duties to God, to the spouse, to the children; obligations to space or avoid births may arise for reasons of family welfare, because of severe genetic defects, because of an inability to cope or to educate. I have seen no document of the Magisterium obliging parents to reduce births for the mis-conceived purpose of cooperating toward the achievement of demographic targets set up by those in power whose ambitions are not matched by an equal amount of knowledge.

If ever in the very distant future the world's families would recognize convincingly that, for their own welfare, they must cooperate in birth quota's to prevent absolute overpopulation, to preserve the ecosystem, to close the ozone hole, to mitigate the greenhouse effect; and if there is really no other way to keep the world comfortably habitable than to put a quota on births; then, at that time, the Church may urge families to cooperate. That time is not now, and my presumption is that it will never be. As of now, and in the foreseeable future, we serenely make our own the wisdom of Pope Pius XII, great theologian of our century, who spoke approvingly of large and healthy families to the Association of Large Families on January 20, 1959. The Fathers of Vatican II referred to this address in a footnote of GS 50.

You are and represent large families, those most blessed by God and specially loved and prized by the Church as its most precious treasures. For those families offer particularly clear testimony to three things that serve to assure the world of the truth of the Church's doctrine and the soundness of its practice, and that redound, through good example, to the great benefit of all other families and of civil society itself.

Wherever you find large families in great numbers, they point to: the physical and moral health of a Christian people; a living faith in God and trust in His Providence; the fruitful and joyful holiness of Catholic marriage...

Surely, one of the most harmful aberrations that has appeared in modern society with its pagan tendencies is the opinion of those who are eager to classify fruitfulness in marriage as a "social malady," and who maintain that any nation that finds itself thus afflicted must exert every effort and use every means to cure the disease. This is the basis for the propaganda that goes under the name of "planned parenthood"...

Far from being a "social malady," large families are a guarantee of the moral and physical health of a nation. Virtues flourish spontaneously in homes where a baby's cries always echo from the crib, and vice is put to flight, as if it has been chased away by the childhood that is renewed there like the fresh and invigorating breath of spring.

So let the weak and selfish take their example from you; let the nation continue to be loving and grateful toward you for all the sacrifices you have taken upon yourselves to raise and educate its citizens; just as the Church is pleased with you for enabling her to offer along with you, ever healthier and larger groups of souls to the sanctifying activity of the divine Spirit.

We priests must get that thinking out of our system which is hostile to large families, which makes birth control a virtue imposed by population problems. Natural family planning to space children properly, to enable parents to follow cherished goals helpful to society, yes; but natural family planning for decreasing national and world population is something which neither the Church nor couples with common sense can believe in.


St. Paul urged Timothy "keep away from" people who mislead weak believers by false doctrine (see 2 Tim 3:5ff). We cannot always keep away from anti-population people, they are so insistent. We let them talk, but don't listen to them. We reject contraception, abortion, sterilization completely; we do not need their lectures, and don't need their money. Especially when the World Bank and USAID and UNFPA threaten to impoverish nations unless they contracept, abort, and sterilize citizens, must we do as Timothy says: "Keep away from them." If we do as they say, the sin is ours, not only theirs. Eve excused her sin, saying the serpent had deceived her. Adam blamed his wife. But both confessed to God that they had disobeyed, and God forgave them. USAID, The World Bank, UNFPA are the serpent in our garden of Eden today. Keep away from anti-people serpents. We want to remain in our new Paradise, the Catholic Church. To Catholics today we offer the advice which the Prophet Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish people in exile:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses to dwell in; plant gardens, and eat their fruits. take wives and beget sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. There you must increase in number, not decrease. Promote welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the Lord, for upon its welfare depends your own.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let yourselves be deceived by the prophets and diviners who are among you; do not listen to those among you who dream dreams. For they prophesy lies to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord (Jer 29: 4-9).

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