Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Population Control, Augustine Style!

But I am aware of some that murmur: What, say they, if all men should abstain from all sexual intercourse, whence will the human race exist? Would that all would this, only in "charity out of a pure heart, and good conscience, and faith unfeigned;" much more speedily would the City of God be filled, and the end of the world hastened.
St. Augustine of Hippo, Of the Good of Marriage

via Cornell Society for a Good Time


Certain pro-natalists, like the Population Research Institute, attempt to offset abortionist population-control rhetoric by emphasizing the evils of population decline. For instance, in the Touchstone article The Family Factors Allan Carlson writes:

The global population, it appears, should peak in 2050 at a little over 8 billion souls, and decline thereafter as nation after nation falls into the “age trap” described in Phillip Longman’s recent book, Empty Cradle: too few children to sustain the elderly. (And this is only one of the negative effects of declining, and therefore aging, population.)

In other words, far from being a danger to the planet, human fertility preserves the future.

Augustine's apocalyptic hopes reveal the tension at work in such punditry. One even wonders that the likely eventual success of the pro-natalists could set the stage for future controversies by resurrecting the old liberal industrialists' contempt for contemplatives who do no useful labor and thus deprive the future of their labors' fruits.

Augustine's exaltation of the vowed religious life, which one must mention takes a great deal from St. Paul, should neither overshadow the fact that the married life is also to be ascetic, as the Rev. Paul Mankowski, SJ, discusses in his essay "The Prayer of Lady MacBeth"

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