"When I die, there will be no one left to sing for me." A reflection on A Washington Post Article on the Vanishing of Europe

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We have discussed on this blog numerous times before the coming demographic implosion, especially among Europeans as a result of declining birthrates. It is a matter of some debate how serious the problem is, even among those living in Europe. And not being a denizen of Europe I am not able to play the prophet.

But one thing is clear, the birth rates are so low among traditional inhabitants of Europe, English, French, German, and Italian among others that it would seem the Europe as we have known it is aborting and contracepting itself out of existence. These ethnicities, races, and national identities are largely being replaced by Muslim immigrants. This much seems quite clear.

What is unclear, however, is the degree to which the Muslim immigrants will adopt European ways, to include smaller family sizes, European ways of thinking and living. It is largely assumed here in America the Muslims who Emigrate to Europe bring with them an unassailable attachment to Muslim culture, understood in its most radical and anti-western demeanor.

This assumption is not necessarily yet demonstrated by good, solid sociological or demographic data. Some argue that Muslim immigrants are largely adopting European ways, others argue that the opposite is true.

Further, some argue that the French are beginning to turn the birthrate problem around and are now above replacement level. This too, remains to be seen, particularly as to whether it will be maintained going forward.

In many ways, the jury is still out regarding Europe and its future.

An article appeared in the Washington Post today, on the very front page, which sets forth the demographic issue in Portugal. And there, according to the article, seems to exist a kind of worst-case scenario. The article describes the increasing results of what can only be described as a cultural suicide of the Portuguese through abortion and contraception leading to very low birthrates. But there also seems to be little economic incentive for people to immigrate and prop up the numbers. It seems very few are interested in taking the places of the diminishing and dying Portuguese.

The result, according to the article, is economic implosion as well as a sociological nightmare wherein few younger people exist to care for the older ones and in many parts of Portugal it seems that no one will be left to bury the dead.

Yes, it is the worst of both worlds: declining birthrates along with no immigrants to fill the gap.

Ronald Regan once received some heat from conservative Americans during the immigration debates of his administration. Inclined to grant amnesty to those here illegally, he observed that if our population is not increasing in America, neither will our economy grow. He was right, but certainly went against the prevailing orthodoxy which tends to see the economic pie as a fixed set of resources that must be divided among ever larger numbers at the table.

But this does not seem to be absolutely the case. It would seem that increasing populations also bring with them some of their own assets. Economies are generated by demand, and the supply, which we have in some abundance, grows to meet it. Growing populations, at least in the more affluent West, do tend to grow the economy as well.

I am no economist and will admit there are matters to debate here, but my own experience shows an increasing population in this country has, in fact, generated a growing economy for the most part.

But, as the example of Portugal shows, it would seem that a declining population, does not leave more with a fewer at the table, but results in less for everyone. Lowering of the economic tide eventually grounds all boats.

Consider some excerpts from the Washington Post article on Portugal today:

For an enterprise in the business of welcoming life, the birthing ward in Portugal’s largest maternity hospital is eerily quiet….Elsewhere in the hospital, signs of Europe’s crisis within a crisis are everywhere. Serving a country that was battling a low birthrate even before the region’s economy fell off a cliff, Alfredo da Costa Maternity Hospital delivered about 7,000 babies a year until recently. But…the number of births crashed last year to 4,500, leading the hospital to mothball an entire wing and slash 20 percent of the staff.

The recent decline in births across Portugal — a 14 percent drop since 2008 — has been so acute that in an increasingly childless country, 239 schools are shutting down this year and sales of products such as baby diapers and children’s shampoos are plummeting….At the same time, in the fast-graying interior, gas stations and motels are being converted into nursing homes.

Portugal is at the forefront of Europe’s latest baby bust, one that is shortening the fuse on a time bomb of social costs in some of the world’s most rapidly aging societies….

Europe has faced a gradual decline in birthrates since the 1960s…a modest rebound during the 2000s….has now gone into reverse.

The baby shortage, economists say, is set to pile on the woe for a swath of the continent that may already be facing a decade or more of economic fallout from the debt crisis that started in 2009.

A reckoning accelerates. By 2030, the retired population in Portugal, for instance, is expected to surge by 27.4 percent, with those older than 65 predicted to make up nearly one in every four residents. With fewer future workers and taxpayers being born, however, the Portuguese are confronting what could be an accelerated fiscal reckoning to provide for their aging population.

[Some] experts predict that the population loss ahead could be beyond even the worst-case predictions….That has many here bemoaning the “disappearance” of a nation and asking: Who will be left to support a dying country of old men and women?

Seniors living at the home, such as Maria Jesus Rodrigues, 87, relish the contact with children. “We used to have children everywhere when I was young. We never thought about the economic side; we just had them,”

Rodrigues…burst into a local folk song. “I have to sing now,” she crooned, “because when I die, there will be no one left to sing for me.”

These are excerpts, the full story is here: Crisis in the Cradle

Hence it would seem that Portugal is in very serious shape, inheriting the worst of both worlds. Low birthrates and no immigrants. There was a time, when Catholic Portugal teamed with large families.

In a way, there is a judgment of God upon the whole West, In effect God seems to be saying, “If you don’t love life you don’t have to have it.”

Large sections of Portugal may simply go into an unpopulated an abandoned status (until some economic incentive returns for others to move and live there).

Other large sections of Europe, once Christian, seemed destined to become Muslim Caliphates. That of course presumes that the Muslim immigrants retain their identity and their love for large families, and do not adopt decadent Western ways.

All that remains to be seen, but it does seem clear that the Europe we have known is passing from our sight. Pope Benedict spoke of the lights going out all over Europe. He certainly had the faith in mind, but as an article like this shows, it is not only the Christian faith which is diminishing in Europe, but even European as we’ve known them maybe endangered and simply disappearing.

The Church has always been right about contraception and abortion. These paraded in as devilish lives which promised “reproductive freedom” and prosperity. But in fact, they only ushered in what they’re really all about: death.

Here is a video from heady and arrogant times. I like Star Trek, but this clip is very emblematic of an era and the thinking that has led us down some very tragic paths. Captain Kirk speaks right out of the mentality of the mid 1960s.

24 Replies to “"When I die, there will be no one left to sing for me." A reflection on A Washington Post Article on the Vanishing of Europe”

  1. Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics has written that a vigorous birth-rate is essential of a growing economy.

  2. Interesting that Malcolm X weighed in on birthrates and contraception in his almost daily instructions to members of his NY mosque. His teaching in conjunction with appropriate relationships that lead to marriage – contraception and associated low birth rates equals genocide. Why would any people engage in such practices?

    1. Why? — because people are afraid of the crosses that come with parenthood. Sex without children is like Christ without the cross: it may sound good and suit our immediate human desires, but ultimately it has no life-giving power and so it ends with death.

      1. Christianity invalidating and extinguishing The Word of God through ritualisation is the CAUSE of it all. FIRST THE WORD OF GOD, then the SACRAMENTS and we will have LIFE in GOD.

  3. Very interesting video. I thought the media had just recently become involved in playing a big part of forming the new “morality” by encouraging promiscuity and more recently same sex relationships, but apparently, this has been going on for a while. When I was a child I was a big fan of a comedy family show called Three’s Company. I thought the slapstick comedy was hilarious. The other day as I was passing by a TV set and I stayed a while to see a rerun of this show and was just so surprised to see the main character, Jack, explaining to his best friend that male vasectomies were perfectly normal and acceptable, etc. What in the world was a comment like that doing in a family comedy sitcom??? Who knows how many comments like these and the one in the video have been inserted in the last 40 years of TV programming that have contributed to shaping our way of thinking about morality and the false “good” of a contacepting culture. Thanks for the info on Portugal, so sad that many of us have not yet opened our eyes to this reality. Maybe we need a sitcom showing this side of the story!

  4. It’s a classic ‘tragedy of the commons’. Each couple that decides not to have a family thinks only of themselves; and not of the cumulative effect of thousands or millions of couples making the same decision. It really does take generations for the unintended impact of social policies and people’s choices to become clear. I wonder what unintended impact we’ll see in thirty or forty years time from our generation’s embrace of “gay rights” and “marriage equality”?

  5. The post makes me think that the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control should be, at this time, Her number one teaching, if only because it is so easy for people to lose heart and give into that stuff. Excellent and well-written post, Monsignor.

  6. Oh yes, I also wanted to shared this positive news from the Muslim world, that heard in a podcast of the EWTN show, Joan’s Rome: Muslims are Commanded by Muhammad to Protect Christians and Their Churches Until the End of Dayshttp://www.ptwf.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=209:muslims-are-commanded-by-muhammad-to-protect-christians-and-their-churches-until-the-end-of-days&catid=86&Itemid=526

    1. JESUS THE LORD protecting and promoting us all, including Muslims is BEST.
      We need to belong to Christ the LORD for this through the KEEPING of his WORD.

  7. God knew what he was doing when He simply said “Be fruitful and multiply.” As so often history proves there is more wisdom and truth in the Bible than among the university dons, media talking heads, and political power brokers who write and talk as if they are the seat of all knowledge.

  8. God knew what he was doing when He simply said “Be fruitful and multiply.” As so often history proves there is more wisdom and truth in the Bible than among the university dons, media talking heads, and political power brokers who write and talk as if they are the seat of all knowledge.

  9. It is interesting that France, Italy, and Portugal are mainly Catholic. How could their possibly be no growth in their population if it is a mortal sin to use contraception? Thanks to the constant and important sermons of our priests letting Catholics know the dire consequences of using contraceptives as a Catholic, no Catholic use contraception. Right?

    Ok, I think I am wrong on ever assumption here. Our priests and bishops are either afraid to tell Catholics of the dire consequences of using contraception, or they don’t believe what the Church teaches. Either way, our priests that stay quiet are like the man who notice a highway bridge was out but didn’t warn anyone, resulting in the deaths of those unsuspecting. When Christ judges these, how will he judge them?

    Some may think I am being severe here, but this is all Church teaching. We all seem to have bought into the sin of Adam and Eve, that of deciding what is good and bad rather than relying on God and his Church for truth. We make our own truth, write our own Bible, we are like someone making their own map while lost in the wilderness starving to death.

    May God give our priests and bishops the love and stamina to tell us the truth, teach us, and hold our feet to the fire.

    1. Would you like to add parents and grandparents to the list.It is always easy to blame the clergy, and we do have responsibilities but so do parents grandparents and lay leaders. By the way, for the record, a priest wrote this article.

      1. Msgr. Charles Pope,
        What a great name you have! I also agree that parents, grandparents, etc. need to teach the dire consequences of contraception (although I have to say, that I have prayed and thought long and hard about this teaching and the longer I am married, the more I disagree with every single time a couple contracepts it’s a mortal sin **as long as it’s not an abortificient type of birth control** Pro-longed weeks and months of abstinence is EXTREMELY hurtful to a marriage and this is the only way for many couples to stay faithful to Church teaching because their cycles and NFP are so difficult to discern. Maybe I wouldn’t feel this way if my parents and grandparents and clergy while I was growing up defended Church teaching on this matter and I would have chosen a spouse more in line with my beliefs, but that’s a whole other story!) But, the clergy is our leadership and we look to them. I am a frequent mass attender and only once in the last 5 years of sermons has a priest mentioned that contraception is a sin. I have asked a few priests why they don’t talk about it and they say it’s not a discussion for the children in the audience..but hey, neither is the crucifixion because it’s so gory! Looking at our Lord with nails in his hands and feet with blood down his hands and feet SHOULD be scary to children, but it’s not because it is the TRUTH. I am not saying that a priest should get into the details of sexual intercourse during his sermon, but a mention of Humane Vitae once and awhile would be a good thing. Where is the backbone in our clergy? How are PARENTS supposed to pass down this Teaching if our LEADERS don’t defend it? This is a not a personal critique of you Monsignor Pope, as you have written this blog article; however, this is my perception and experience with the vast majority (close to 100%) of clergy (both sisters and priests and seminarians) that I know in my neck of the woods. God Bless you for bringing this article to our attention.

        1. Kate, in today’s age it is easier than ever to follow the teachings of the Church. Along with STM, Creighton and Billings, there are opk’s, ova-cues, and various computer helps. Of course, none of those help with the spousal aspect. Prayers for you! I do agree that we should sometimes hear the teachings from the pulpit and it would be lovely if priests at least understood the concepts of nfp. As a young married person 20 years ago I found no support from within our diocese for living a Catholic married life – even within the Marriage Encounter community we encountered negativity – and that was when expecting our 3rd child! It was my own stubborness and total committment to nfp from a science background that kept me grounded and determined to find validation in Church documents. What a treasure trove of teachings I found along the way. We should all be willing to do research and make informed decisions; that shouldn’t be an uphill battle in our own parishes.
          God bless you Msgr. Pope – may the Holy Spirit continue to shower you with the gifts of courage and charity.

      2. Father,
        I very very much appreciate your article. I should have mentioned that first. You are the kind of priest that we need. The fact is that I have heard contraception exactly once as a Catholic. My step-mother used contraception after being told it was okay by a priest. There are many Church teachings that just aren’t being emphasized. I personally know a priest that takes this very seriously and most of the families have lots of kids.

        I do understand the issues for married Catholics with having kids until you drop but it is Church teaching and those families that strictly follow that teaching seem to thrive. We all need more trust in God. We live in a secular society and even eye sometimes look at everything from the view that being Catholic is only a small part of life. But it isn’t. It is everyone,s life, Catholic or not. God made the rules, Catholics try to obey God, everyone else doesn’t. When I was contracepting, it wasn’t because I or my wife was going to die or we were going to starve. It was because we wanted to be able to afford the nicer things in life, more time for vacation, etc. Very selfish reasons. Usually this is the case. Sometimes it isn’t but that is a different discussion.

  10. “Other large sections of Europe, once Christian, seemed destined to become Muslim Caliphates. That of course presumes that the Muslim immigrants retain their identity and their love for large families, and do not adopt decadent Western ways.”

    It increasingly appears that it will be the latter – adoption of Western decadence and low fertility. Here’s an article that appeared in the Washington Post in February which comments on the rapid decline of fertility in the Muslim world:


    Declining Muslim fertility is also discussed in this excellent essay by the remarkable Jewish American philosopher/financier/social commentator David Goldman, who writes under the pseudonym Spengler:


    Goldman blames declining fertility around the world on loss of Faith. This is certainly true of Europe. As Hilaire Belloc said “Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe”. Now that Europe has lost its Faith, Europe itself is in the process of unraveling.

    All we can do is hope and pray that there will be a faithful Christian remnant in Europe to carry on – much as the Christian remnant that was left after the collapse of the Roman Empire carried on and built the Europe of the Middle Ages.

    I should mention that there is one advantage to population decline in Europe. I have often thought to myself while visiting the ancient churches of Rome how much more pleasant it would be to have made such a pilgrimage in the Middle Ages with no heavy automobile traffic all over the place. A declining population may make the experience of Christian pilgrimage a more pleasant one, bringing it closer to its Medieval routes.

  11. There is an article of which there was ridiculing on Fr. Frank Pavone by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi about Fr. Pavone’s open letter to Ms. Pelosi to renounce her Catholicity because she claims she is a practicing and respectful Catholic and yet supports late term abortion. We better support Fr. Pavone in this fight because she claims Fr. Pavone is hysterical. Please check out Priestforlife.org. May GOD have mercy on this Congresswoman.

  12. You know, this might be a little cynical, but my thought is, if some of these societies die out (such as Portugal), it will open the door to a new nation for people from all over the world to go to establish a new society as they run away from the “enlightened” oppressors that are ruining the lives of so many people, elsewhere around the world. I often joke, about how it would be nice if we had a place to go, like many of our ancestors did, where they could have a hope of belonging to a society that was more like minded, and once upon a time even had a tolerance and respect for religious freedoms.

  13. When you tamper with nature, nature cannot forgive you! Actually you destroy your very self.
    Simply know that anything contrary to nature more specifically to our very nature of existence is self destruction.
    Great article to open our eyes and change for better. Thank you.

  14. Eve in her old age said ” I have brought a man into the world by the help of the Lord” Present day world rejected the Lord our God. So we may have to suffer all consequences of rejection, disobedience and craze for pleasures.

  15. A timely reminder, Msgr. Pope.
    Every time a one of my Catholic friends welcomes a new baby into this world, I would tell the parents, ” One more soul for the Lord to love” or, “The kingdom of heaven is expanding.” A baby is surely one of the greatest gifts one can receive. To be married and childless (to me) is a very sad thing. And yet more and more young couples these days are choosing to go down this path. Europe isn’t Europe anymore: the whole complexion of parts of it has changed dramatically. What will it take for things to turn around? I fear it might be something cataclysmic: as in things have to hit rock-bottom before they get any better.

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