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Our Messed-Up, Dog-Loving, Childless Culture

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Msgr. Charles Pope - published on 12/03/14

It wasn't long ago that children were considered a blessing as they were throughout the ages

In moral decline, both personal and cultural, the problem is that not only do we desire what is evil, we also stop desiring that which is good and holy. At the heart of desiring what is evil (or what is good, but to excess), are pride, greed, lust, and gluttony. Sloth and envy are more involved in no longer desiring what is good.

Sloth is a kind or sorrow or aversion to the good things God offers to us, involving everything from the life of prayer to virtues such as moderation, chastity, generosity, and forgiveness. Envy is sorrow or anger at the goodness or excellence that others manifest, because I take it to lessen my own standing. Thus the soul or culture that is in moral decline no longer desires what is good and even detests it.

No matter how you look at it, moral decline is an ugly business.Consider the following example of a cultural trend in which what is good (having children) is no longer desired by an increasing number in our culture. There was a column in the New York Post recently entitled More Women Choosing Dogs Over Motherhood. The article begins,
America’s next generation of youngsters should be called “Generation Rex.” If you’re wondering why playgrounds around the city are so quiet and dog runs are packed, a new report has an answer: More and more US women are forgoing motherhood and getting their maternal kicks by owning handbag-size canines … Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that a big drop in the number of babies born to women ages 15 to 29 corresponds with a huge increase in the number of tiny pooches owned by young US women … “I’d rather have a dog over a kid,” declared Sara Foster, 30, a Chelsea equities trader who says her French bulldog, Maddie, brings her more joy than a child. “It’s just less work and, honestly, I have more time to go out. You … don’t have to get a babysitter.” [1]
Well, you get the point. The article goes pretty much downhill from there.

One hopes that when these women get a little older they will think differently. However, even among the married, more (as many as 20%) are choosing the childless route. Last summer there was a Time Magazine cover story about “The Childfree Life” and the web edition of the article was subtitled “The American birthrate is at a record low. What happens when having it all means not having children?” The article begins,

[At] 50, Angela Scott [who is married 24 years and intentionally childless, says she] is more than fine: she’s fulfilled. And she’s not alone. The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history. From 2007 to 2011, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s …[2]

We have discussed here before the demographic harm caused by low birthrates. But if you want to read a thoughtful article from a Catholic demographer, see the CARA Blog Post. Among his observations, author Mark Gray writes,

The effects of fertility decline are not just limited to the state budget and care for seniors. A future of fewer people year-over-year will also be one of perpetual economic stagnation or recession for all. Currently it costs a middle class family $245,340 to raise a single child to the age of 18 in the United States. If a couple has two kids that’s close to half a million dollars they inject into the economy. A skeptic might say they would have just spent that money on something else if they had no children. Perhaps but as most parents know having a child can “encourage” you seek out more income out of necessity (e.g., dads, on average, make more than non-dads and the combined incomes of a mom and dad outpace a couple with no children). As I write Japan is again in a recession. Downturns and anemic growth have become the normal way of life there for decades and will be so for the foreseeable future until they begin to grow demographically again (innovations and exports have been insufficient).

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MotherhoodParentingPope Benedict XVI
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