Pope: Don’t Breed Like Rabbits. Or Use Birth Control.
Pope Francis continues his world tour and has issued a paradox from his private jet.
Pope Francis continues his world tour by issuing a paradox from his private jet.
USA Today (“Pope: Catholics need not breed ‘like rabbits’“):
Pope Francis, after a visit to the largest Catholic nation in Asia, says Catholics may have a moral responsibility to limit the number of their children and need not reproduce “like rabbits.”
But the pope also reaffirmed the church’s ban on artificial means of birth control and said Catholics should practice “responsible parenting.”
His comments on the subject of birth control, made aboard the papal jet returning to Rome from the Philippines, were described as apparently unprecedented by the National Catholic Reporter, an independent news organization that follows the Vatican.
Francis said there are plenty of church-approved ways to regulate births. He also said no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called “ideological colonization” of the developing world.
The NCR report (“Francis lambasts international aid, suggests Catholics should limit children“) puts the remarks in their somewhat bizarre context:
Francis said Pope Paul VI, whose 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae outlined the contraceptive ban, was warning against a “Neo-Malthusianism, ” a reference to a theories that suggested in the 1960s and ’70s that exponential global population growth would lead to an irreversible world food crisis.
Citing the low rates of birth specifically in Italy and Spain, Francis said such Neo-Malthusianism “seeks to control humanity.”
At the same time, however, Francis made a statement that seems without precedent for a pope, suggesting that parents may have a responsibility to limit the number of their children, saying: “This does not signify that the Christian must make children in series.”
Telling the story of a woman he met in a parish in Rome several months ago who had given birth to seven children via Cesarean section and was pregnant with an eighth, Francis asked: “Does she want to leave the seven orphans?”
“This is to tempt God,” he said, adding later: “That is an irresponsibility.” Catholics, the pope said, should speak of “responsible parenthood.”
“How do we do this?” Francis asked. “With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do that responsible parenthood.”
“God gives you methods to be responsible,” he continued. “Some think that — excuse the word — that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No.”
“This is clear and that is why in the church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors,” Francis said. Using the term for a practice that follows church law, he continued: “I know so many, many licit ways that have helped this.”
Francis was speaking about birth control in response to a question from a Filipino journalist. Use of contraception in the Philippines is a contentious issue, as the Philippine government only recently approved contraceptive access against forceful opposition from Catholic bishops.
The pope’s responses regarding birth control and ideological colonization were part of a wide-ranging conference that touched on a number of other subjects, including: Corruption in church structures, the place of women in church leadership, and global mistreatment of the poor that the pontiff said could be likened to a new form of “state-sponsored terrorism.”
Francis is in the uncomfortable position of being a celibate bachelor offering sexual guidance to married couples. Moreover, he seems to be counseling them to seek out their local celibate bachelor, who may be a kid out of divinity school.
Beyond the vagaries of Catholic teachings here, though, I’m befuddled by his rationale on limiting childbirth. Women shouldn’t have large numbers of children, lest they tempt God to make them orphans?! That’s just bizarre.