World population right now is over 8 Billion!
For some reason I remember more talk leading up to 7 billion. It seemed like a bigger deal. Was less going on in 2011 than 2022? Is there less concern and fear around population today as we learn about what we can overcome? Or is it something else?
Despite being surrounded by major cities, my hometown in CT felt surprisingly remote. Now that I’ve moved to central KS, it seems even more impossible to imagine running out of space being anyone’s concern.
Obviously the topic of World Population is more complex than physical space. So what’s the issue? The UN expresses that it believes these issues have “urgency and importance“. The Church on the other hand, might have different views.
World Population Day – When and Why?
July 11th, 1987 was about the time that the 5 billionth person on Earth was born. Fueled by increased interest in the subject, the UN decided to continue the conversation by creating World Population Day.
Keeping the date of July 11th, World Population Day has been recognized since 1990, and its sole purpose is to get people thinking about the world population issue.
So how should we as Christians and Catholics be thinking about these things? Let’s start with how we should not think:
Don’t Think Like a Democrat
Alongside the issue of population growth is the issue of population control.
Every Life Matters
As Catholics, we know that all 8 billion plus of these people on Earth are valuable and need to be protected. Every person has dignity because they are loved by God from youngest to oldest. In fact, there should be millions more of us too.
While spacing children and planning a family is acceptable when done prayerfully and naturally (HV, 16), the faith has always taught that children are a blessing and a gift.
Promoting Life isn’t Controlling it
Catholics in America cannot think like Democrats on the issue of life. Contraception, abortion, sterilization, or anything contrary to life is against our social teaching and that will not change.
Sadly, even the UN page about World Population Day is basically a promotion for contraceptives. It gives 9 standards upholding the right to family planning, which does not imply Natural Family Planning at all.
The UN even has a devoted fund to population issues, listed here as the UNFPA.
“UNFPA works to support family planning by: ensuring a steady, reliable supply of quality contraceptives,…”
I’m sure these types of organizations are not all bad, providing maternal care and other good services; however, it’s disheartening to see contraception and/or abortion pushed on people, especially in third world countries. These means of controlling population are contrary to our faith because God knows they hurt society (HV, 17) and are not good for you.
This level of government involvement in such an intimate aspect of family life is scary, and we cannot support it. We need to support what is good for all people on the Earth, including those not yet born and their parents.
There needs to be a hierarchy of our priorities and our rights. Beyond any other right, the right to life comes first – before any “right to family planning”. Without the right to life no other right matters (or exists). You need a chance to be alive in order to discuss anything more.
Don’t Think Republican Either
While the Republican Party generally aligns closer to a Catholic view on abortion, they do not necessarily get the full stamp of approval either.
The right tends to prioritize the market and capitalism in favor of limited government. This can lead to less government assistance to the poor both here and around the world.
For some, World Population Day raises concerns about poverty and hunger. When it comes to serving the poor, we have a duty both personally and politically.
We cannot assume that every individual with more will generously seek out and tend to those with less around the globe. Programs to assist the poor are essential.
Preferential Love for the Poor
Because the poor are people of God, and Jesus made himself poor, we are always called to serve and care for Christ through them.
In loving the poor, the Church also witnesses to man’s dignity. She clearly affirms that man is worth more for what he is than for what he has. She bears witness to the fact that this dignity cannot be destroyed, whatever the situation of poverty, scorn, rejection or powerlessness to which a human being has been reduced.
All stages of life ought to be cared for and provided for.
Love for the Earth
A view of limited government in favor of markets can also lead to a neglect of climate related issues.
As mentioned, human life is categorically more important and more valuable in the heirarchy of God’s creations. However, this does not mean that we can neglect to care for the creation entrusted to us – animals, forests, oceans, and rest of the globe.
We are called to care for the Earth in our daily life and in our businesses (CCC 339, 2432), not just because it makes it a better place for humans (though it will), but also out of respect for something created by God.
So where can we go?
Catholic’s Political View on World Population
Catholic Teaching on Population
On the topic of world population, it seems that Church has been unconcerned from the beginning about the exact number of people on the planet and more concerned with how we care for those people.
Statements from the USCCB explain that population growth affects different countries in different ways, so each should address the issues with their appropriate policies. In fact, many places likely have the opposite concern of declining birth rates leading to not enough support for the older generations.
Many honest Christians I know feel politically homeless in our country, realizing that they cannot fully support either of the two major political parties.
So what can we support?
Distributism as an ideal aims to combat the use of people by corporations (capitalism) or the state (socialism) by meeting in the middle – spreading production out as wide as possible through private ownership. For government programs, the goal is to organize at the appropriate levels depending on the issue. A key principal of this theory is subsidiarity.
Subsidiarity is handling issues at the lowest level reasonable. For example, local trash pickup does not need to be handled by the state or federal government. It could also be challenging for each household in a city to manage. Therefore, it makes sense that the town level would provide a trash program.
This allows for the much needed programs for the poor and for our planet while limiting government involvement in matters that should be handled in the household or within a marriage. We can address food supply and climate, and remain pro-life.
A distributist wants to promote the interests and well-being of people and families, thus society.
American Solidarity Party
By acknowledging the primacy of life but still promoting care for the vulnerable in society and the environment, the American Solidarity Party can be a possible home for many politically lost Christians.
Say what you will about third party candidates, it would be nice if some of our Christian politicians would stop compromising on matters of faith and unite here as a bridge between Democrats and Republicans.
It’s a nice idea, but what is nicer is that our world does not rest in the hands of politics.
Looking to God
In the end, we are all called to community that goes beyond the population of Earth right now. We are members of the Communion of Saints, all 8 billion on Earth now plus the billions who have gone before us!
We should live accordingly, with our end in mind, not letting political wins or losses define us.
I remember telling a friend who was devastated by the results of a past election, “The worst thing that can happen here is your biggest fear comes true. [Insert candidate] ruins the country and maybe the world, starts a world war and the whole thing blows up. Unlikely, but at the end of it all, God has a plan. Our souls (and someday our bodies) will still go where they are going to go for all eternity.”
This is comforting to me and for many who have faith. They can take away your rights, your planet, even your life, but they can’t take away the truth of Heaven and your eternal soul.
If eternity were a 100 ft rope, life wouldn’t even be the little plastic piece on the end of your shoelace.
Live with eternity in mind.
For further reading, here is a USCCB document, Catholic Social Teaching on Population Issues.