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William E. May, Ph.D., Senior Fellow


A short time ago my friend Mark Alder, a convert from Judaism to the Catholic Church and manager of the helpful Web site Christendom-awake.org, posted an essay “The Role of the Large Family” (direct link to essay). In his essay, originally written in 1987, revised in 1993 and again in June 2010, he noted that some fifty years ago relatively large families were not uncommon. I can bear witness to this myself; my older sister who was 21 years old when she married in 1947, had seven children, and after I married in 1958 my wife Patricia and I were blessed with seven children between 1958 and 1971. Today a family of 3 or 4 children is regarded as a pretty large family. There are many socioeconomic and cultural reasons for this, of which most of us are well aware. But the truth is that children are a blessing and not a burden; large families are needed for the good, socioeconomic and cultural, of our planet.  I will first debunk the falsehood spread by population controllers and then show the need for and blessings of a large family.

Defusing the “population bomb” and claims that large families endanger our planet

Population controllers insist that reducing births to a minimum is mandatory if we are to save our planet from self-destruction. But facts, as marshaled by authors such as Stephen Mosher of the Population Research Institute and the late Julian Simon of the University of Maryland, show that the continuation of human civilization is threatened not by the arrival of new babies but by the “birth dearth” already well advanced in so-called “developed” nations and daily making headways in the “developing” nations of Asia, South America, and Africa.

Thus Mosher, relying on the latest demographic studies, including those of the United Nations’ Population Division, show that the population of at least 13 European countries, including Russia, Poland, and Hungary in addition to Italy, France, Spain and Scandinavia, has already begun to crash. If it continues, 3 out of 4 Europeans will have disappeared by the end of this century with survivors averaging more than 60 years of age causing terrible strains on social security and health systems (pp. 6-11). Moreover, despite images of teeming populations in Latin America and Islamic countries fostered by population controllers, the truth is that government enforced sterilization programs have dramatically shrunk family size in Latin America. There most countries are rapidly approaching replacement levels if not there already (ibid, p. 12). In addition, the millions of Muslims flooding Europe are not driven there by population pressures in their homelands but rather are drawn in by the vacuum created Europe’s declining population. Although the Koran is pro-natalist, Mideast Muslim clerics, avidly recruited by those who regard new human lives as the gravest threat to our planet’s survival, have had great success in spreading birth control in Egypt, Iran, and elsewhere. By 2006 family size in Iran was 1.79 children and falling (ibid, pp.13-15).

In addition, government sponsored coercive efforts to reduce birth rates in China (the one child per family quota and forced abortion if this limit is exceeded) and India (mass male sterilization campaigns carried out under Indira Ghandi) are well known. Then there are the brutal measures initiated in 1961 by the South Korean government, at the insistence of the United States, to cut its birth rate. By the mid 1990s, when the government began to rethink its policies, the birthrate in South Korea had dropped to 1.7 children per family with an aging population, labor shortage, and abortions of girls in favor of boys (ibid, pp. 16-23). Similar events are now developing at breakneck speed in sub-Sahara Africa, funded in large measure by US and UN population controllers.

The Blessings of and Need for Large Families

Children are a blessing and not a burden

There may be “burdens” in having and raising a good number of children, but the blessings involved pale in comparison to the great blessing and gift of every child and the blessings of a large family. Children are in fact the “crowning gift” of marriage. They come into being when a husband and wife, who have already given themselves irrevocably to one another in marriage, become literally “one flesh” when they give each other to and receive each other lovingly in the marital act, the only bodily act capable of generating new human life. And it is good for them and their parents to be “begotten” in an act marital love. Fornicators and adulterers can of course generate new human life, but the child thus generated, while precious and a singularly unique person, is harmed because fornicators and adulterers cannot give the child the home it needs to take root and learn how to love and serve others, as many studies have shown so thoroughly. But husbands and wives, as Pope Paul II teaches us in Humanae Vitae are, precisely because they are married to each other, “fit” or “worthy” to generate new human life according to laws inscribed into their very being as man and woman (see the Latin text of HV, no.12, where, speaking of the marital act, he writes: “eos idoneos [=worthy or fit] ad novam vitam gignendam, secundum leges in ipsa viri et mulieris naturae inscriptas”).

Each child is unique and irreplaceable. Each too can and does (if given proper example and education by his or her parents) “give” love to others, beginning with his or her family members, his or her brothers and sisters, and then to the wider world about them.  And they begin to learn unforgettable lessons of love, care, and concern in their own families and in their relationships to their brothers and sisters. Children in large families, although they frequently fight among themselves—particularly boys vs. girls—also learn to share things with one another, to help their siblings when they can, to defend them from bullying neighbors, etc. and to stick together and pray together. They forge bonds that last through their whole lives.

Moreover, as they mature they develop skills crucially needed to discover new ways of strengthening the economy, the culture, the well-being of all human persons.

They are especially needed to help their parents and others of the previous generation as they grow older and eventually become dependent on others for their lives and well-being. Today I think that senior citizens, of whom I am one, are the most pampered and well provided for in our society. An organization such as American Association of Retired Persons is a powerful lobbying group that, with the complicity of supine congressmen, make sure that the elderly (and this includes all over 55 years of age) get their social security payments and cost of living increases, while imposing horrible taxes on their children and grandchildren so that they are in truth prevented from having the same quality of life and opportunities that their parents and grandparents enjoyed.

It is time that we recognize that the continued existence of human persons on this planet or anywhere is possible only if there are children being born in sufficient numbers to provide adequately for the well-being of their elders and to develop new and creative ways for producing food, fuel, electricity and all needed for civilization today. As John Paul II so frequently said, “The future of civilization passes through the family,” and this is true of the Church, for the family is the seedbed for vocations to the priestly and religious life.

Copyright © William E May 2010

This version: 30th June 2010


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