Page 14, 2nd July 1937

2nd July 1937
Page 14
Page 14, 2nd July 1937 — Population Problems

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Organisations: Farm Street Church
Locations: Washington, London


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Population Problems

Fr. Francis Woodlock n

A Menace To The Empire

" Children Are The Best Old-Age

Pension "

Lecturing at Farm Street Church on " Parenthood, Birth-control and Population," Fr. Woodlock, S,J., dealt with the de population trend in the British Empire.


The future historian will doubtless point to the present age as one in which a fundamental sociological change took place in Europe and America in that a new view of the nature and purpose of marriage began to be widely, almost generally adopted. Tt was an age in which the idea that marriage existed primarily for pleasure. not parenthood—for recreative rather than creative ends. Women began to take it for granted that in becoming wives they were not necessarily undertaking to become mothers in due course, at least among the educated and professional classes a family of two or three children was no longer the normal sequel to marriage.

Only a few years ago there Were over a million married couples in England with no children and over 2-1 with only one child. Ile had not the figures for today but had no reason to think they were more satisfactory.

The Ethical Side Father Woodlock said that the ethical and moral question was today ignored. " The child is the biological explanation of the whole complex, natural phenomenon of love between the sexes, and from the thought of the child the true nature of marriage is learned. It is from the needs and nature of childhood that the fundamental laws governing the marriage relationship are known even apart from supernatural revelation. And natural laws have a divine sanction : it is by the will of the Creator. the Author of nature, that marriage exists for motherhood. The child is not a mere by-product, still less an undesirable waste-product of the creative partnership of man and woman which was instituted by God for the continued existence of mankind on earth."

The lecturer believed that the modern rejection of parenthood was the greatest threat to the survival of Christian civilisation which it had hitherto encountered. not excepting the destructive power of war.

Depopulation of the Empire The British Empire was being doomed by that racial suicide which had carried the decay and death of Greece and the Roman and Byzantine Empires. They died by voluntary sterilization and the British Empire, was moving steadily, and, he believed, inevitably, to the same goal.

There was no escape from the verdict reached by expert students of the problem: the fertility of the British people which had fallen by 60 per cent, in sixty years, had already entered upon its final period of slow but sure suicide through birth control. Unless some notable change of custom and the rejection of the new marriage ideology takes place, the population of England a hundred years hence will be only about half the present population of London, and the decline in the white population of the Dominions will have proceeded at a similar rate.

Today the white population of Australia and New Zealand is failing to reproduce

itself for the next generation. Whereas as twenty years ago both countries annually added 22 per thousand to their numbers apart from immigration. If Canada has still a " reproduction rate " of 1.32 and is still increasing its population. this is due entirely to the high fertility of the French Canadians. Whereas Quebec, with a French population of 80 per cent, has a birthrate of about 25 per Lona. British Columbia. with its 98 per cent. British stock, has only a birthrate of 13.5—lower even than that of the Mother Country. 11 would seem probable that a hundred years hence the language of Canada would he French.

The Psychological Causes Looking to the psychological causes of this depopulation tendency, Fr. Woodlock was tempted to despair of any effective remedy being found even to secure any substantial salvage from the wreck.

The almost universal and deliberate avoidance of families large enough to replace the British stock in the generations to come was, he thought, due to what a French sociologist called "social capillarity," an attraction which caused a determination in most people today to climb in the social scale. to get on and to grasp an increasing share in the good things of life.

What were luxuries enjoyed only by the rich were becoming in some measure regarded as necessaries by the average man as the standards of living rose steadily and pecesle decided they could not afford to have both a family and a good time. Economic encouragement in the form of a bonus offered to parents would have to be on a very large scale to be even partially effective. Continental nations had so far failed in their efforts to bribe people to have large families and if babies cannot be had for love it seems they will not be had for money. Nor can we. said Fr. Woodlock, expect politicians to venture on expensive budget schemes to solve the problem of national survival, which is at present

only by students and depends on mathematical calculations puzzling to the plain man, who is not, in any case, interested in posterity.

Nor will the comparatively secure and prosperous ranks of the population, among whom the decline is most marked, he induced to have familiies or to increase then for patriotic reasons which bring no im

mediate advantages to themselves. Few people today realise that children are the best " pension " they can procure for their old age.

Some Fruitful Families

In the course of his lecture, Fr. Woodlock gave some illustrations of human greatness among the children of large fam ilies. "The world," he said, " would be very much the poorer had birth control been general in past centuries and had Catholics been disloyal to God's law. St. Catharine of Siena was a twenty-fifth child. St. Ignatius Loyola was the youngest of thirteen children. St. Francis Xavier of seven, St. Vincent de Paul of six, St. Teresa of Avila had eleven brothers and sisters, St. Teresa of Lisieux, the " Little Flower " was the youngest of nine. Mother Janet Stuart, like St. Ignatius, the youngest of thirteen, There is no need to give in detail the list of the Vaughan family of twelve children. Of non-Catholics, John Wesley Was the fifteenth child, and his brother Charles, the eighteenth. Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin and Van Dyck were each the seventh child, while Rembrandt, Walpole, Nelson, Oliver Cromwell and George Washington were all filth sons. None of these great men and women would have existed had modern marriage ideals been in control at the time of their birth, The list could be very largely increased."

When the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops in 1930 voted by 193 to 67 that in certain circumstances contraceptive birth control was lawful, the Sunday Express, in an editorial, made the following scathing comment: " One thing is certain. This limited acceptance of birth control by the Church will lead to the unlimited practice of it by millions outside the Church. The effect on the race as a whole will be disastrous. Lambeth has delivered a fatal blow to marriage, to motherhood, to the family and to morality. It has paved the way to race suicide."

Marriage without motherhood, when this was deliberately secured, was in itself, Fr. Woodlock said, a state of greater moral evil in the eyes of God than many a case of motherhood without marriage, though the world kept its stone of censure to cast at the unmarried mother, while it approved the sin of the childless wife. "This is a hard saying,' no doubt, but it is true. And the nations that practise the vice of birth control inevitably die of sterility by race suicide. It is the natural result of violating the laws of Nature, and is thus God's punishment on a nation's sin."

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