Why We Should be Concerned about French President Emmanuel Macron

Throughout his papacy Pope Francis has repeatedly denounced “ideological colonization.” In brief, ideological colonization can be defined as the arrogant imposition of foreign values and practices by wealthy countries on less developed nations. This is often accomplished through financial coercion, by offering monetary aid on the condition that the recipient country agrees to adopt new laws or policies that embody so-called “liberal” Western values.

In 2017, the pope described this kind of ideological colonization as a “blasphemy against God.” Earlier this year, in his address to the diplomatic corps of the Holy See, the pope again denounced ideological colonization, expressing his concern about so-called “new rights” that often conflict with one another and which “are at odds with the culture of many countries.”

“Somewhat paradoxically,” he added, “there is a risk that, in the very name of human rights, we will see the rise of modern forms of ideological colonization by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable.” In the very next paragraph the pope highlighted contemporary attacks on human rights, especially abortion. “I think primarily of innocent children discarded even before they are born,” he said, “unwanted at times simply because they are ill or malformed, or as a result of the selfishness of adults.”

On another occasion the pope was asked to provide an example of ideological colonization. In response, he described a case where a minister in charge of education was told she could have funding to build schools if those schools taught “gender theory.” “This is ideological colonization,” he said. “They enter with an idea that has nothing to do with the people; but with groups of people yes, but not with the people. It colonizes the people with an idea that wants to change a mentality or a structure.”

These same concerns were echoed by the world’s Catholic bishops in the final document of the 2014 Synod on the Family. It is “totally unacceptable,” said the bishops, that “some pastors of the Church suffer pressure from international bodies who make financial aid to poor countries conditional upon the acceptance of ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex.”

French President’s Offensive Remarks

President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron

Ideological colonization is endemic within Western governmental and charitable aid programs: money and supplies often come with “small print” that requires or pressures poorer countries to promote contraception, or liberalize their abortion laws, or promote hedonistic sexual values. Sadly, however, most Westerners are completely oblivious to the ways their governments are strong-arming developing countries into accepting practices or beliefs that completely contradict their cultural values.

Recent remarks by Emmanuel Macron, the French President, however, are waking some people up to the paternalistic, condescending elitism that characterizes the attitude of many Western leaders, in particular towards African nations.

Speaking in late September at an event hosted by the Gates Foundation, created by Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, Macron denounced the high fertility rate amongst African women. Macron suggested that African women’s fertility is not “chosen fertility.” “I always say,” he added, “present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children.” Bizarrely, in the next sentence the president denounced child marriage, seemingly suggesting a moral equivalency between a woman having a large family, and a 12-year-old forced to marry.

Macron’s suggestion that educated women would never choose to have seven or more children hit a nerve. Many mothers of large families responded en masse, taking to Twitter where they launched a new hashtag – #postcardsforMacron. Using this hashtag, they posted photos of their families and details about their educational achievements.

The woman who kick-started the online campaign is Catherine Pakulak an assistant professor at The Busch School of Business and Economics and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America. Paukulak obtained both her Master’s degree and PhD from Harvard University. She also has eight children. “This is about … debunking the notion that high-fertility is a consequence of ignorance,” she tweeted.

Another woman, “Ophelia,” posted a photo of her eight kids, pointing out that mom and dad are both MDs. MCSabol posted a photo of her own family, saying: “Educated mother of 10. President Macron, you fail to see gift.” Ellen, a mother of nine children with a degree in Communication Arts, wrote, “M. Macron, big family = big love. Love never fails.”

Others have posted photos of women such as Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals who was on the shortlist for the Supreme Court (Barrett has seven children), and British philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, widely considered one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century (she also had seven children).

If you are on Twitter I encourage you to search #postcardsforMacron and browse the beautiful photos and many inspiring stories.

 The War on African Fertility

 Some critics have responded to this online Twitter campaign, saying that the stories of American educated women are irrelevant, since Macron’s remarks were specifically aimed at African women – who are more likely to be poor and (claim the critics) lack access to contraception.

However, this argument simply doesn’t hold up. Macron’s incredulity that any woman would choose to have a large family demonstrates his incapacity to understand a crucial truth about African culture – namely, that many African women, educated or otherwise, actually want to have many children. African culture is, by and large, far more pro-family, and pro-fertility than that of wealthy Western countries like France – which is dying for lack of children.

african baby

One of the most eloquent African voices making precisely this point is pro-life activist Obianuju (Uju for short) Ekeocha. In her book, Target Africa: Ideological Neo-Colonialism in the Twenty-First Century, Uju traced how so much of Western aid comes with strings attached – most of it aimed at curbing African reproduction.

“These solutions,” she writes, “rely heavily on a single-minded strategy that entails removing or drastically reducing the source of the population growth in Africa—female fertility. Thus, Western nations, organizations, and foundations wage war against the bodies of African women.”

“How does practically sterilizing the poorest women in the world give them control over famine, draught, disease, and poverty?” Uju adds. “This expensive contraception project will only make them sterile at the cheapest rate possible. This is certainly not what we African women have asked for. It is not the help that our hearts crave amidst the trials and difficulties of Africa. But in a world of shocking cultural imperialism, it is what our betters have chosen for us.”

Pope Francis also made the same point about the short-sightedness and shallowness of efforts to reduce poverty by reducing fertility in 2015. After remarking that it was a “consolation” to see so many large families during trips to the Philippines and Sri Lanka, he noted: “I have heard it said that families with many children and the birth of many children are among the causes of poverty. It seems to me a simplistic opinion. I would say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the center and has placed the god of money, an economic system that always excludes.”

Contraception – and abortion-pushing NGOs and governments often tout statistics showing an enormous “unmet need” for contraception in Africa – thereby justifying the billions of dollars they spend on flooding these countries with contraceptives.

But as pro-life activists like Uju have pointed out, these statistics are wildly misleading: in many cases women classified as having an “unmet need” actually do have access to contraception but have consciously rejected using it. In fact, as the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute admitted several years ago, only 4-8% of women in developing countries who aren’t using contraception attribute their non-use to a lack of access to contraception.

Does this sound like a vast “unmet need”? Only if – as many Western NGOs and foundations do – you stubbornly assume that contraception is simply, and without qualification, a good thing. If you take this as your fundamental axiom, then you can confidently state that any woman that isn’t using contraception – even if she doesn’t want to use it – must have an “unmet need” …she just doesn’t know it yet.

This is ideological colonization of the worst kind. It’s breath-takingly patronizing. It’s narrow-minded. It’s wrong. Indeed, it’s astonishing that Western elites such as Macron who bewail the history of physical colonialism can so completely fail to see that their own cultural colonialism is in many respects even more insidious – for it actively seeks to destroy those aspects of African culture that are their greatest asset: their love of children and family, their respect for life, and their traditional morality.

The West’s Spiritual Emptiness

lifeMacron’s narrow-minded remarks have only served to draw attention to the spiritual vacuity of the contemporary West, and the bewildering lack of imagination that infects the Western ruling class, who simply cannot conceive that anyone might value something other than what they value.

In the same speech I quoted at the beginning of this article, Pope Francis lamented that in the West the family is now considered an “obsolete institution.” “Today,” he said, “fleeting relationships are preferred to the stability of a definitive life project. But a house built on the sand of frail and fickle relationships cannot stand. What is needed instead is a rock on which to build solid foundations. And this rock is precisely that faithful and indissoluble communion of love that joins man and woman, a communion that has an austere and simple beauty, a sacred and inviolable character and a natural role in the social order.”

As the Pope observed, the disregard for the family has led to another “dramatic effect” – “namely, a decline in the birth rate. We are experiencing a true demographic winter! This is a sign of societies that struggle to face the challenges of the present, and thus become ever more fearful of the future, with the result that they close in on themselves.”

Africa is not dying, as Europe is. And this is precisely because Africans value life and the family. As Uju writes: “The most precious gift that Africans can give to the world right now is our inherent culture of life. Most Africans understand, by faith and tradition, the inestimable value of human life, the beauty of womanhood, the grace of motherhood, the blessing of married life, and the gift of children.”

Rather than trying to educate Africans on how to have fewer children, perhaps this is an area where we should be letting Africans educate us.

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing hli@hli.org.


  1. David on October 29, 2018 at 12:35 PM

    A Wonderful article.

  2. Susan Y Okamoto on October 29, 2018 at 12:39 PM

    : I agree with you, Fr. Boquet, but just let me play devil’s advocate: those of the “liberal” ideology accuse organizations such as yours of imposing their values. I understood from some of the articles you have written, that you are up against some cultures where the virtue of sexual chastity is not valued, where it is acceptable to use women for pleasure. You are trying to change these cultural mores. I know this is somewhat of a different situation, as you are not offering economic aid contingent on these values changing, but you are still trying to change values.

    • Maurice on October 29, 2018 at 6:54 PM

      The difference between the two situations has not so much to do with the means (economic aid or not) that are used, but with the end that is pursued: according to objective natural morality, the use of women for pleasure is not a value, but a disvalue, which must therefore be fought. The two situations can (wrongly) be equated only from a perspective of moral relativism, which does not acknowledge any objective moral truth.

  3. Tee Bohnar on October 29, 2018 at 12:59 PM

    With first hand experience, I will verify that kids cost.
    From dental braces to baseball bats, gymnastic equipment, ballet slippers and hockey skate, kids drive the economy and innovation: frequently on the cutting edge of what is needed AWA desired.
    Given more than a minutes thought one will determine that kids are beneficial to an economy.
    And, they are not THAT exorbantly expensive to raise. Ever heard of “hand me downs?”
    We had a girl’s winter dress coat complete with hat and a muff that was worn by nine different girls before it was given to professional charity.
    And what is wrong with part time work while obtaining higher education degrees?
    Would less time be spent in just mindlesssly hanging out with ones’s friends, but rather learning to develop a judicious use of time?
    Give the above some thought then try it. There are also lots of laughs along the line AWA great memories.

  4. WILLIAM JOLLIFFE on October 29, 2018 at 1:55 PM

    This is an excellent article about the failings of the rich Western world’s policies towards the 3rd world. I hope all will consider how important it is to respond positively and forgive all those who promote abortion, contraception, the destruction of the family, etc. Slavery led to the American civil war. How many civil and national wars are in the making today, because of the culture of death as described in this article ? LET US FORGIVE.

  5. Victress I Jenkins on October 29, 2018 at 5:27 PM

    these women chose to have large families, knowing the financial cost but they responded “unselfishly” to accepting new members of the human race = children. I myself am the 6th in a family of 7. the older siblings helped our mother take care of us and since there were no TV’s, tablets, computers, etc. they could help.
    those organizations and individuals who try to coerce countries into accepting their “largesse” are the poor ones

  6. Milagres on October 29, 2018 at 8:45 PM

    I guess the world has not yet woken up to the fact that Europe is dying and Japan is struggling with more older people than the young. Having more children is not a liabilty but an asset. China is learning that.
    Thank God there are no trees and plants that call themselves Bill and Melinda or else the natural world that feeds us would have contracepted itself under coercion. Let’s learn from nature.

  7. Gerard Pinkas on November 6, 2018 at 4:45 PM

    My mother had 10 children. A very intelligent woman. Once we had become old enough, she rode an ambulance eventually as an EMT-4. She handled the office of treasurer in several firemens’ associations with great grace. If our government handled finances as my Mom did for her family and community, we would have enough surplus to cover the government debts multiple times. She was abused by the eugenicists of Planned Parenthood and stood firm against their vile tactics.
    Another friend who was a Catholic convert had 11 children the last time I spoke with her and was the president of a very important pro-life organization.
    Amazing how disgustingly ignorant people have weaseled their way into positions of power everywhere. St. Michael the Archanbgel, Pray for Us!!!

  8. Gerard Pinkas on November 6, 2018 at 4:49 PM

    P.S. I once visited a large Benedictine Abbey. All of the monks were of very large families. Smaller families, less charity. Less charity, empty religious orders. The values of generosity and love and authentic tolerance learned in the large family overflows into society and is its major stabilizing force. For this reason, abortion and birth control (which were born of the eugenics/genocide movement) are the parents of dead and dying societies.

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