The Bishop of San Sebastián wrote Sunday of the problems facing Spain as its birthrate is well below replacement level, and called on society to consider the implications of this situation.
Bishop José Ignacio Munilla Aguirre wrote Sept. 8 in El Diario Vasco, a San Sebastián daily.
He referred to the data published in June by Spain’s National Institute for Statistics, which he said show a “desolate panorama in terms of the birthrate.”
According to the article “fertility stands at 1.25 children, and births have fallen 6% compared to the previous year. We have accumulated a decrease of 30% in the last decade; if we had not benefited from the birthrate of immigrants, this decrease in Spain would have reached 44%.”
And so, in Spain “more people are dying than are being born, and while the over-65 population exceeds 9 million people, those under 15 are not more than 7 million,” data which “is further aggravated if we refer to the Basque Country.”
Munilla explained that “it seems we’re getting used to periodically hearing this kind of data without sufficiently taking into account what it implies.”
He therefore said that the publication of these figures raises the logical concern “for the sustainability of the pension system.”
He also said that there are those who “exhibit a certain fear for the future of our civilization since the migratory flow is accelerating because of the demographic dearth.”
The bishop did note that there are a few voices who bring up the need for “implementing measures to foster the birthrate, such as balancing one’s work and personal life, the fight against speculation in the price of housing, direct incentives, etc.”
The Bishop of San Sebastián also explained that “we’re not facing a new phenomenon in the history of humanity,” since this “crisis in the birthrate has accompanied almost all cultural declines.”
He noted for example the testimony of Polybius, a Greek historian of the second century BC, who wrote: “The peoples of this country have yielded to vanity and attachment to material goods; they have become fond of the easy life and don’t want to get married or, if they do get married, they refuse to keep the newborns with them, or only raise one or two at the most, in order to provide them with the best kind of life and later leave them a considerable fortune.”
Munilla noted that Polybius’ Histories ends with the conquest of “decadent Greece” by the Roman Republic, and that “centuries later the decline of the Roman Empire arrives, again accompanied by a profound crisis in the birthrate.”
Given this situation, the Bishop of San Sebastián said that “it would be very sad if our concern for the demographic crisis were limited to the fear of the weakening our pensions or the fear of the arrival of foreigners.”
He said that “likewise it would be very naive to suppose that government is going to be able to reverse this trend with the mere passage of incentives to give birth, however necessary they may be.”
In fact, he underscored that the “wealthiest social classes” do not have a higher than average fertility rate, while “the immigrants in Spain have a much greater number of children than the natives, even though their economic level is lower and their objective difficulties to balance work and personal life are greater.”
Consequently “our birthrate crisis is one of the most obvious signs of the crisis of values the West is suffering,” the bishop explained.
“In the context of a society in which quality of life is identified with mere well-being, the challenge of motherhood and fatherhood is perceived as too demanding … it’s undeniable that the education of children demands a full and unconditional commitment, I would dare to say heroic, which is not easily compatible with the culture of the weekend, the digital invasion, compulsive consumerism, widespread disordered lives, the existential crisis.”
“Certainly motherhood and fatherhood require ‘giving your life’ in the broadest sense of the term” since “the demographic crisis hides a crisis of hope,” Munilla noted.
“To address the question it’s important for us to understand that the low birthrate not only compromises the future of a culture but affects to a great extent its present,” since “the dearth of children in our families and in our society impoverishes much more than we suppose.”
The bishop emphasized that “on not a few occasions we have found that only the innocence of children is capable of jolting us out of our comfort zone, of our becoming bourgeois, leading us to give the best of ourselves until we reach the height of maturity, which often coincides with self-forgetfulness” and so he stressed that “our culture urgently needs children because there are few things so false as joy without innocence.”
Munilla also recalled that it is important not “to deprive children of the experience of having brothers and sisters” since its deficit “translates in education, in the notable difficulty in socialization, besides the tendency to developt a narcissistic wound.”
“If the filial experience helps us to become conscious of our dignity, that we are unique and irrepeatable, the experience of fraternity teaches us to be one among all; something absolutely necessary,” he reflected.
He explained that “fatherhood and motherhood require ‘giving your life.’ But life is something that is greater than us. It’s a ‘miracle’ that we have received gratis and we are called to transmit it generously” and that is why “we believers do not usually speak of reproduction but of procreation” and that “the parents cooperate with God the creator to give life to the world.”