A World Without Siblings

A World Without Siblings

By John Mallon

The following article appeared under the title "Too Many People?" in the June, 2006, English International Edition of the Messenger of St. Anthony (Padua, Italy), http://www.saintanthonyofpadua.net. It is reprinted here with their kind permission.

One of first Commandments God gave to man was “Go forth and multiply,” yet many ‘experts’ in the world today seem to think that happy charge must be reversed on account of ‘too many’ people in the world. But those who have sought to limit population by artificial and unnatural means have proven to have taken the wrong course.

Unheeded Warnings

In his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI warned what would happen if artificial contraception became widespread, and all of his warnings have come true. 

For example, Paul VI warned of a “general lowering of morality” especially concerning marital fidelity and sexual license in general. Who can possibly say this has not happened in the 38 years since that encyclical was published? In the same vein he predicted a lowering of respect for women and that attitudes towards them as mere objects of pleasure would increase. 

Paul VI also said, “Consider also the dangerous weapon that would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who have no concern for the requirements of morality. ... Who will stop rulers from favoring and from even imposing upon their peoples, if they should consider it necessary, the method of contraception that they judge to be most efficacious?” (Humanae Vitae, No. 17)

This has taken place in the form of the barbaric Chinese ‘one child policy’ where women who become pregnant with a second child without ‘permission’ from the state undergo forced aborted and have un-payable fines and other sanctions leveled against them. The effects of this are tragic and overwhelming. Since in the Chinese culture boys have been traditionally valued over girls and a problem of sex selection abortion has set in, with only one of the tragic results being that a new generation has now come of age in a society where men outnumber women to an alarming degree. The effects of such a destabilization are hard to predict, but prostitution and the trafficking in women and children for sexual purposes are on the rise.

Death’s Wages

An article by Joseph D’Agostino in the September/October issue of the PRI Review published by the Population Research Institute, (www.pop.org), entitled Death’s Wages: Population Projections Continue to Drop, cites President George W. Bush at a press conference on April 28, 2005, “There's a lot of us getting ready to retire who will be living longer and receiving greater benefits than the previous generation. And to compound the problem, there are fewer people paying into the system.In 1950, there were 16 workers for every beneficiary; today there are 3.3 workers for every beneficiary; soon there will be two workers for every beneficiary. These changes have put Social Security on the path to bankruptcy."

Things are even worse outside of the United States. Italy, for example, has long led the world in a population that is below replacement rates, and, along with other European countries, has launched financial incentives programs to encourage couples to have children. As D’Agostino bluntly says, “It's very simple to state: People aren't having enough children to sustain the long-term economic prosperity of the world or most of its individual countries. In many cases, particularly in Western Europe and Japan, they aren't having enough children to ensure the survival of their national cultures-perhaps not even their nations-into the next century. Pension and health care systems will just be the first things to break down.”

In this climate, no one should be surprised if euthanasia of the elderly is presented as a solution to this breakdown. 

A Muslim Europe?

If present trends continue of large migrations of Muslims into Europe, whose religion—like Catholicism—forbids them to use contraceptives, it is easy to see, in the not-too-distant future, that Catholic Europe will become predominantly Muslim. In this, Muslims put Catholics to shame when it comes to following the teachings of their faith. 

These are only a few of the effects of the rejection of God’s laws as they came to us from Pope Paul VI. But how does this affect us in the West in our own homes and our everyday lives and those of our children?

Some years ago I was taking a class with the Scripture scholar, Professor Scott Hahn. He told a very striking story about an exchange he had on an airplane. The couple seated behind him had a fussy crying baby. Like most parents they were somewhat embarrassed by the noise the baby was making. Professor Hahn looked back and smiled, saying, “Is that your first?” The father looked back and said, “Yes, and the last, but he is going to have everything!” Professor Hahn gently replied, “Except brothers and sisters, you mean.”

This story illustrates a tragic attitude held by many people today towards children but Professor Hahn’s reply contains an insight into the depth of this tragedy. It is very unfortunate that anyone would put such a high value on material things that they would appear more valuable than having more children, as though things, even very good things, could in any way match the value to a child of having siblings. People are the most valuable and irreplaceable resource on earth.

Home is a Person

The ‘contraceptive mentality’ is decried by the Catholic Church for very good reason, while the Church is often ridiculed for her teachings by those who can’t see past the convenience of the current moment. As I delve further into the adventure which is middle age, I grow more and more grateful for my siblings. We weren’t terribly close when I was younger, but that is improving. With the death of my mother 15 years ago I am very grateful to still have family. 

To give a mundane example, I may be gifted in theological and philosophical questions but I am clueless about everyday things like insurance, and could easily be taken advantage of by an unscrupulous agent. But my brother spent years in the insurance business, and I can ask him to look over a policy and tell me if it is a good deal or not. 

There are other times when one can feel so alone in the world, feeling weak and vulnerable, not knowing who to trust. But your brothers and sisters, even if your relationship is not especially close, will generally look out for you. It is a great relief, just knowing they are there.

Another thing the child without siblings will lack when his parents are gone is the security of the family bond and the support it offers. Even though I was an adult when my mother died, the world became for me, overnight, a colder, less secure, more dangerous seeming place. I was without a home. Home is a person. In God’s plan, your spouse becomes your home, and for the celibate, the Church or a religious order. But now in society marriage is often put off to a later age leaving more and more people alone while the struggle to make a living all too often crowds out appropriate time to meet a potential mate. 

Someone to Trust

Traditionally, one of the best places to find a mate was among your sibling’s friends. But without that safe circle it is a lonelier world and loneliness can expose one to many temptations and outright dangers. I hear single Catholics say all the time, “Where can you meet someone these days? Someone trustworthy?” One is able to observe a sibling’s friends for desirable qualities from a safe distance without the pressure of a ‘relationship.’

Today’s world without siblings is tomorrow’s world without the friendship of brothers and sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, and for them, without uncles, aunts and cousins—without family. 

The child who has ‘everything’ may well have everything except love, home, security and people who care for him unconditionally. He may find himself feeling like an outsider in the world. 

The ‘contraceptive mentality,’ like every element of the Culture of Death, is as self-defeating as it is selfish. By deliberately assuring that a child has ‘everything’ in terms of material ‘stuff’ at the expense of a family when parents are dead and gone is to bequeath that child very little indeed.


John Mallon is Contributing Editor of Inside the Vatican magazine.