ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is denouncing the collapse of birthrates across the West.
Speaking at the Vatican Tuesday, the pontiff drew sharp contrasts between chosen childlessness and openness to new life.
In his homily during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, Francis recalled that God's very first commandment to man was "Fill the earth, be fruitful!"
"Where there is God, there is fruitfulness," he declared, adding, "Fruitfulness is always a blessing of God."
The pope underscored that every person is called to be generative. Whether material or spiritual, all people are entrusted with giving life in some way.
"We too, priests and religious men and women, do not get married, but woe to us if we are not fruitful with good works, if we do not bring fruitfulness to the people of God," he exhorted. "Fruitfulness is a sign of God."
Pointing to the Old Testament, Francis noted children were considered a blessing and childlessness a curse.
"Infertility was a disgrace; not being able to bear children, not being able to have descendants," he noted.
But today, the pontiff observed, a corrosive mindset has taken hold of societies across the world: the notion that barrenness is a benefit — even virtuous.
Many couples are choosing childlessness to maintain their own "economic well-being."
The endpoint of this self-absorption, the pope conveyed is "countries empty of children." Having "chosen the path of sterility," they "suffer from that grave disease ... a demographic winter."
Francis' warning comes at a time of imploding fertility rates across the world.
A stable population — neither increasing nor decreasing — requires an average of 2.1 children per woman (the "replacement level").
Of the European Union's 28 member states, not a single one has a birthrate at the replacement level. Generally, the countries with the lowest fertility rates are predominately Catholic: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Iran and Russia are all at a sub-replacement level, while the world's lowest fertility rates are found in the developed areas of East and Southeast Asia: Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan.
The United States, too, is at sub-replacement level. With the onset of the Great Recession in 2007, the U.S. fertility rate crumbled. In the decade since, despite economic resurgence, it hasn't recovered.
In 2016, the United States registered the lowest rate of population growth since the Great Depression. A recent Demographic Intelligence report reveals that in 2017, the U.S. birthrate is expected to hit a 30-year low of 1.77 children per woman.
Last week, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Catholic, forecast trouble ahead for the United States if the country does not raise its birth rate:
This is going to be the new economic challenge for America: people. Baby boomers are retiring — I did my part, but we need to have higher birth rates in this country. Baby boomers are retiring, and we have fewer people following them in the workforce. We have something like a 90 percent increase in the retirement population of America but only a 19 percent increase in the working population in America. So what do we have to do? Be smarter, more efficient, more technology ... [we're] still gonna need more people.
Ryan's statement left Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards seething.
"If more members of Congress could get pregnant, maybe they wouldn't tell the rest of us when and why to get pregnant," she tweeted Friday.
The United States' largest abortion network, Planned Parenthood, is responsible for roughly 330,000 abortions each year — one-third of the nation's total.
On Tuesday, Pope Francis warned that "He who lives for himself produces selfishness, pride, vanity, greasing the soul without living for others."
Collapsing birth rates, he said, are a deliberate design of Satan.
"The devil wants infertility," the pontiff declared. "He does not want us to give life, be it physical or spiritual, to others."
"The devil is the one who grows the weeds of egoism and stops us from being fruitful," he added.