In many Catholic colleges of yesterday, students had to take 24 course hours of philosophy as a condition of graduation. At the core of the philosophy curriculum was Natural Law, and at the heart of Natural Law was the idea that men, through reason, could come to know how to lead a moral life.
Not only could one reason to the existence of God, one could discern His laws for men. And those laws, once discovered, would be found consistent with Catholic teaching and moral doctrine.
In Saturday's Washington Post is an illustration of the truth. For in the tragic story of Katya Esipova, and of millions of young Russian women like her, one can see that rejection of the Natural Law leads to unhappiness and even to the death of nations.
Katya, a Russian woman of 30, had an abortion at 19. She thought little of it, though she was alarmed by the sustained bleeding. At 23, she and her husband tried to have a child, and failed. She did become pregnant at 27, but the fetus lodged in one of her blocked fallopian tubes. Doctors aborted it. Childless and infertile at 30, she will never know the joy of motherhood.
Katya Esipova is a metaphor for Mother Russia.
In Russia, until recently, women of child-bearing age averaged three abortions. Katya's story is thus replicated millions of times. And because of abortion, Russia has one of the lowest birth rates on earth, about one child per woman -- only half the birth rate needed to maintain Russia's population.
Two years ago, in researching "Death of the West," I found that Russia's population of 147 million in 2000 was projected to fall to 114 million by 2050. Yet, since the book was written, the Russian future appears even more grim.
Writes the Post: "U.N. population experts predict that in 50 years Russia will be the world's 17th most populous country; it is now the sixth. Projections show Russia will lose more than a quarter of its population, dropping from 143 million people to 104 million by 2050."
Thus, the United Nations today projects that Russia will lose 10 million more people by 2050 than it had projected just a few years ago.
By 2015, Russia's population will have already fallen to 133 million. Russians are literally disappearing from the face of the earth at a rate of about 1 million a year. Mother Russia is dying. And if her birth rate is not doubled or even trebled soon -- of which there are no signs whatsoever -- the largest nation on earth will cease to be in a few generations.
When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, and 14 new nations broke free of Moscow, Russia was still twice the size of the United States. But though most of Russia's population lives west of the Ural Mountains in Europe, most of Russia's territory is in Asia.
Between the Urals and the Pacific, by one estimate, there are about as many Russians as there are Czechs in the Czech Republic, 10 million. It is these Russians who are dying out fastest. By mid-century, Russians in Asia could be outnumbered by Chinese 200-to-1. Is there any doubt as to which nation will control Siberia, that last, vast, untapped storehouse of natural resources on earth?
Yet, send not to know for whom the bell tolls. For the birth rates in the Baltic republics, Italy and Spain are as low as Russia's. And the average in all of Europe, 1.4 births per woman, is only two-thirds of what is needed to keep Europe alive. Already, in 17 of the nations of Europe, there are more burials than births
During the Cold War, a great question was: Whose side is time on? In the struggle between the West and the Soviet Empire, which side would outlast the other? The West won the Cold War because of the superiority of its system and the appeal of its values.
But in the coming contest with Islam, the question becomes more problematic. While the Islamic world cannot match the West in science, technology, weaponry or wealth, all the Western nations have populations that are aging and starting to shrink, while all the Islamic nations have expanding or exploding populations.
God is on the side of the big battalions, said Napoleon. In 1950, peoples of European ancestry comprised 30 percent of the world's population. They were the big battalions. By 2050, European Man will amount to a tenth of the world's population, and the oldest tenth at that, and be facing near extinction by century's end.
La Dolce Vita is apparently not healthy for a people interested in longevity. Someone else is going to inherit the earth.