I once stumbled into the Playboy Enterprises’ headquarters while going to meet a girlfriend who worked in the same building, for the Family Institute. (I was lost and it is a big building, honestly.) The receptionists of Playboy had no idea where the Family Institute might be. It was made clear to me that they did not have any connection to it. Being a provocateur, I could not resist making a comment -- on my way out the door -- to the effect that there might be a connection between sex and families.
We live at a time where the celebration of sex and sexual desire is everywhere in the developed world, but oddly it is also a time of falling birth rates. The overpopulation myth is collapsing in the face of a reality that is even being articulated in the pages of the New York Times: “With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle . . .” While there are still voices playing with the idea that a childless world would be a happier and wealthier one, such views reflect more an ideology than any economic reality.
Along the same lines are the annual articles proclaiming that it will cost $475,680 or $250,260 or $222,360 to raise a child. Where do they get these numbers? The different numbers in the headlines are a sign that much of this is just made up. These statistics put a price on everything the child makes use of and claim that as a “cost.” For example, $70,020 per-child for housing. I don’t know about you, but my mortgage doesn’t change when I have a child.
Only five of the thirty-eight most developed nations are reproducing at a rate sufficient to maintain their population. Our own nation’s economic and population growth is essentially tied to immigration. Is there a connection between anti-immigrant attitudes and anti-child ones? Do both perspectives reflect a view that people are a problem and a burden rather than a gift and an economic resource? A Catholic approach to being pro-life and pro-immigrant is rooted in a common principle – the inherent dignity of each human person. Individuals and couples are called to different paths by God. Some are not called to have children either because of their vocation or because of nature; some are called to adopt; some to have two children, and others more. Each of these paths will include in their own way an affirmation of life. However, when whole societies and peoples are at risk of demographic collapse, we should question if something is deeply wrong -- something that makes us as a society unwelcoming to both the migrant and the child.