Cardinal Pell has been worrying that more babies are needed because otherwise Western countries may not be reproducing enough to replace themselves.
This may not seem a very spiritual concern when the rest of the world is making sure we will number nine billion people by 2050, seeking more food, water and quality of life that our present six billion mostly do not have.
It would be a great thing for leaders of the Church to take up a great concern of the laity - which is, what happens to all the babies?
The New Testament discouraged pronatalism in cataclysmic times, and there is strong gospel condemnation of anyone who makes little children suffer.
Billions of children throughout the world are having a terrible time. The churches are prominent in helping, and protesting, for children hungry and homeless, killed and mutilated by bombs and landmines, in slave labour and as child soldiers, dying at birth or in their first five years.
Churches are also prominent in ambulance work when children in our own country are abused, rejected, disabled and in need.
The big gap is in trying to prevent so much child suffering in the first place. There is some evidence that many people are getting worse in their care of their children, rather than more loving and competent. No child should be born headed for state care or in danger of developing a personality disorder.
What should cardinals and priests really be preaching about babies?
Let’s have more sermons and clerical campaigns about ensuring that every child’s life can be lived more abundantly. Cut the sermons that seem to regard babies as numbers and products. If that means objecting to baby bonuses and extra child-welfare payments where they encourage people to have children they are not going to care for properly, well, see that as a good.
Promote “sex education” and premarital education that always include at least a page on how to love a baby, and another page debunking myths about babies as desirable possessions for teenagers.
Ensure that everyone at around the age of eight has some experience of a baby and younger children. This is a good age for handling littlies without anxieties - so that the first baby anyone holds is not their own.
While theologians are concerned about the spiritual status of embryos, many other people are asking, “When does a baby become human, doctor?” Teach Catholics - and others - a better understanding of “sin” so that infants are not smacked for being “naughty” because they are irritable or don’t sleep.
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