Bishop Paprocki began his sermon with by citing population trends predicted by demographers that say the U.S. population will increase to about 400 million people – or roughly 100 million more – by the middle of the 21st century. At the same time, the U.S. population is expected to grow increasingly older, with 20 percent of the population being 65 years of older by 2050.
“The prospect of an additional 100 million Americans by 2050 worries some environmentalists, who criticize families with a large number of children as detrimental to society,” the bishop said. “They seem to think that there won’t be enough room or natural resources for so many people.”
“The reality, however, is that even with 100 million more people, the United States will be only one-sixth as crowded as Germany is today,” the bishop said.
“Such criticism also fails to take into account that a dwindling population and a lack of young people may pose a greater threat to the nation’s well-being than population growth,” he said. “A rapidly declining population could create a society that doesn’t have the work force to support the elderly and, overall, is less concerned with the nation’s long-term future.”
He also cited one demographer, writing in Smithsonian Magazine, who went so far as to say that the big news in demographic circles is “not catastrophic population growth. It's catastrophic population shrinkage. Yes, shrinkage. True, the total global population has not yet finished increasing. But nearly half the world’s population lives in countries where the native-born are not reproducing fast enough to replace themselves.”
To counter these alarming trends, Catholics must move beyond the wisdom of the world and embrace the wisdom that is a gift from God and which allows us to see all things in the light of God’s plan, he said.
“But wisdom is not just about ideas and head knowledge. Wisdom, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, involves a knowing that is ‘tasted,’ something that is experienced. . . .Therefore, in order to see the true beauty of the wisdom of God, we need to allow ourselves to experience it by allowing our lives to be conformed to His will and His plan for us. We have to go beyond what we think or feel about a certain teaching and follow it in faith, trusting that what God calls us to is better than anything we can think of on our own. There are many examples of this in the teachings of Christ in the Scriptures, where the Lord invites us to something challenging, but which actually leads to something remarkable.”
While acknowledging that the teachings of Humanae Vitae pose challenges to today’s Catholics, this can be said about all of the teachings of Christ and His Church.
“They are challenging because they invite us to step out of ourselves where we are most comfortable.”
With God’s grace, we must rise to the challenges of our time and always remember the words of Pope Benedict XVI who said so beautifully: “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”
But this greatness is not one of personal accomplishments, the bishop added, “but of spending oneself for others and for God, which is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian . . . .”
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