Damian Thompson reports on the latest Franciscan plane episode. Seems to me it was all going so well...

'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."'

I think that Damian Thompson is right to suggest we have here another in-flight 'Who am I to judge?' moment. These comments can, I think, be easily reconciled with Catholic teaching but to my eyes it is problematic. So, let's break down the message.

Through neo-Malthusianism contraception is used to manage populations by the elite. (Message: Contraception = bad.)
This does not mean that Catholics must have lots of children - 'children in series.' (Message: Lots of children = bad)
There are examples when another child could be risk for a woman. (Message: Lots of children = bad)
This is to tempt God, (Message: It can even be a sin to have lots of children. Lots of children  = bad)
Priests can help you to be more responsible parents. (Message: Priests can help. Lots of children = bad)
Some think that -- excuse the word -- that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. (Message: Lots of children = bad)
I know so many, many licit ways that have helped this. (Message: There are many 'licit' ways not to have children. Lots of children = bad).

As far as I understand it, the Church's "licit ways" in order to avoid pregnancy are, in fact, singular. There are not 'many' at all. There are 'many' methods of artificial contraception. The only Church approved method is sexual continence or reserved abstinence during fertile known as 'Natural Family Planning' during these fertile periods if there is a just reason for deliberately avoiding conception.

Both these 'ways' point to the same method or 'way' which is sexual abstinence. So how there are 'many ways' I cannot fathom. After having recently met some 'heroic' 'large families' I find this from His Holiness quite bizarre.  Having just upheld Humanae Vitae in its prophetic opposition to neo-Malthusianism, His Holiness gives the message that lots of children is a bad thing, in circumstances, and the media, as we know, take away from these interviews what they want to take away. There's no way that anyone can take away from that interview that lots of children = good. Nor is there any comment regarding the life to come.

I am sure His Holiness did not mean this but there is a particularly clumsy sentence here...

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?"

If she is pregnant with an eighth child, what is she meant to do in order to avoid any risk to her life? Abort the child? She cannot turn back time and not be pregnant or practise abstinence retrospectively. So why use that example?

Nevertheless, today's headline is this...

Pope Francis insists Catholics do not need to breed 'like rabbits' and criticises woman for 'tempting God' with eighth pregnancy


gracem said…
Oh gosh, he is a never ending source of amazement and amusement. I cannot keep up.
Please make him stop!
Anonymous said…
He's a never ending source of evil and corruption. Procreation of persons by their mother and father has no relationship to "rabbits" and he ought not have made such a despicable reference. Husband and wife are to welcome the children that God gifts them. There may be exceptional circumstances where intercourse is avoided for a period because of likely serious danger arising with pregnancy. But always place in the hands of Our Lord.
Long-Skirts said…
The Pope said:

"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?'"

Then send her some freakin money so she can hire maids, nurses & dietitians Holy "misogynist" Father!!!
When he spoke of a number of "licit ways" to space children, I assume he was referring to the different methods of NFP such as Creighton, Billings, Sympto-thermal etc. At least I hope he was.

But I couldn't agree more that the whole semantic of "responsible parenthood" gives the subliminal prompt that children = bad. Which, in the light of his praise of large families a couple of days ago, just illustrates his amazing capacity to contradict himself in short periods of time. He has a very disorderly mouth, which may, or may not, be due to a very disorderly mind.

God help us and save us from this mess.
Long-Skirts said…


“I can see four
But five or six?
I say find other ways
To get your kicks.

Two boys, two girls
Don’t you need to have fun?
Actually, why ever
Have more than just one?

I love God
And so do you
Do you think that God
Wants more than just two?

Do you feel God wants
You burdened with more?
Do you really believe
You need more than four?

Do you? Do you?
Do you? Why?!
I stopped at four
Why not like I?

Why not like me?
Walk in shoes I’ve shod
And then have more time
To spend it with God.”

“With every baby
Comes a loaf of bread –
Not cake with frosting
But bread.” I said.

“For babies with bread
You’d spill all that blood?”
She got up and left
Slammed the door with a thud.

“Yes.” I replied,
To myself all alone
Thinking of Him hanging
Chilled to the bone.

“It’s the least for my Master
Whose Flesh is Bread, Whole -
At the Mass He bleeds wine
For each baby’s new soul.”
Anonymous said…
Bones, can you add this to the book of his insults... I think he lost his mind!
He himself is a rabbit, because he came from family of five children!
Anonymous said…
This is an insult to the catholic family and the numerous saints from large families. Not to mention the temptation this will additionally burden those who are struggling with facing the world, family, and now the church. What obstacles are placed in being generous by having a large family versus putting off children for the comforts of this world. Praise be to God! By the grace of God I pray large families will endure in the face of the hypocrisy of this world.
Anonymous said…
Someone must stop him and tell 'Shut up'! The other jewel of that conversation on the plane, was dedicated to corrupt people, for them, not a punch, but a kick where the sun doesn't shine.....if this is a pope, I'll be next Dalai Lama.....missing my german shepherd more and more.....God bless +
Jacobi said…
One thing is now clear. The Western preoccupation with persoanl indulgence and self gratification,particularly the use of sex as a pleasurable pastime without any responsibilty is producing a decay and indeed, disintegration in our societies.

Paul VI, in this aspect was right. His message was quite clear, unlike the present Holy Father!

In the part of the UK I live in it is not so much that young immigrant worker are everywhere, I dealt with three yesterday, but rather young UK workers (alright those of ancient UK ethnic origin, is that PC enough?, are simply not there. They have been contracepted or whatever, out of existence. This is also true of parts of Europe I know.

Now this has grave implications for us all, including the Holy Father (and our polititians), as and when he gets round to thinking about it!

But that is another discussion!
Theresa said…
We all have to accept that we have before us a very crass man. Does anyone think Our Lady of Fatima was trying to tell us something?????
Long-Skirts said…

The Bishop of Rome
He lives not at home
I’m sorry
I have to say

He’s here and he’s there
He’s up in the air
Flying this
And that way

He gets on the phone
Waits for dial tone
To comfort a man
In his sins

But mothers of seven
Who put faith in Heaven
“Don’t breed like a rabbit”
He grins

And how the boys chuckle
And how the girls laugh
And gender-benders
Can trust this man’s staff

But only the mothers,
The big family breed,
Deserve condescension…
From this Bishop’s clich├ęd creed.
Unknown said…
Wonder if the poor pregnant woman he held up as an example will loose her faith. He kind of cursed her pregnancy. What does he expect her to do----abort? And as a nurse and a woman who had a C-section---it's not that big of a deal anymore. In fact I would prefer one if I were ever preggers again. At least you can sit comfortably afterward.

Maybe this will wake up all the rabbit families at my conservative N.O. parish who are still defending the SOB (sorry old bishop).

The few Catholic comments he made will sustain the Pollyannas for now. Call it orthodoxy if you like. When anything truly Catholic comes out of his mouth, I call it orthoFoxy.

Seattle Kim
Unknown said…
And Theresa, speaking of Fatima:

"In the 3rd secret of Fatima, it is foretold that the great apostasy in the Church will begin at the top."
Cardinal Ciappi, pontifical theologian of Pope John Paul II

Seattle kim
c matt said…
I am beginning to think more and more that HV was an ever so light crack in the dam. By placing the unitive and procreative aspect on par, the encroachment of the unitive over the procreative was inevitable.
JB said…

Have to say that Rorate called this one right from the beginning:

"Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is."
Mummymayhem said…
This Mother of 7 is offended. Pray that I persevere in faith.They have taken away the Mass.They have taken away my children's education.I am already a joke.A pariah.This too.But God is still God.The truth is still the truth even if I am the only person who believes it.I love my children.I beg the Lord every day that they will be Saints.I will die.I may die in childbirth.I may live to 104 and die in my bed.I may be shot by terrorists.
Patricius said…
Pope Francis seems to have expressed in his colloquial fashion precisely the same idea as Blessed Paul VI in Humanae Vitae. The term "responsible parenthood" is in that Encyclical for anyone who takes the trouble to read it. In fact I believe he is throwing down the gauntlet to anyone- and there are many- disposed to accuse the Catholic Church of insisting people "breed like rabbits". He may come across as somewhat artless but he has been saying a lot of very down-the-line orthodox stuff lately. I may not be enamoured of his liturgical style but he deserves credit where it is due.
Jacobi said…
@ Long skirts,

Unknown said…
3 kids. We're only supposed to have THREE and no more. Maybe he'll put it in a doctrine. Evangelium Pediatricum. Question : do we get to have 3 per subsequent marriage after divorce?

direct translation from the Vatican Insider:

I believe that three children per family, from what the experts say, is the key number for sustaining the population. The key word here is responsible parenthood and each person works out how to exercise this with the help of their pastor. … Sorry, some people think that in order to be good Catholics we have to breed like rabbits, right? Responsible parenthood: This is why there are marriage support groups in the Church with people who are experts on such issues; and there are pastors and I know that there are many acceptable solutions that have helped with this. And another thing: For poor people, children are a treasure, prudence is needed here too, it is true. Responsible parenthood but also recognizing the generosity of that father or mother who see their child as a treasure.

Seattle Kim
Anonymous said…
Yes, there is no escaping ridicule and persecution if you stay true to the One Holy Faith, as Our Lord told us.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Yes, it is very bad advice, tempting people to dis value the good and succumb to sin. A parent who spoke this way to his adult children would be guilty of worldliness and leading his children away from the path to holiness. Lord, have mercy.
Kristin LA said…
Both Humane Vitae and Theology of the Body put unitive and procreative on equal footing.

I think you have to go back to Casti Connubii (Pius XI) see hear the Church's traditional teaching on marriage:

(11) Thus among the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place. An indeed the Creator of the human race himself, Who in his goodness wishes to use men as his helpers in the propagation of life, taught this when, instituting marriage in Paradise, he said to our first parents, and through them to all future spouses, "Increase and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen 1:28). As St. Augustine admirably deduces from the words of the holy Apostle St. Paul to Timothy (1 Tim 5:14) when he says: "The Apostle himself is therefore a witness that marriage is for the sake of generation" 'I wish,' he says, 'young girls to marry.' And, as if someone said to him, 'Why?' he immediately adds: 'To bear children, to be mothers of families.'"

In paragraph 13 he goes on to say that not only are Christian parents given the blessing of children but they are also obligated to raise them to be "members of the Church of Christ, to raise up fellow citizens of the saints, and members of God's household (Eph 2:19), that the worshippers of God and Our Savior may daily increase."

We are to create children and populate heaven with them! How beautiful! Thank you Pope Pius XI!
Jacobi said…
@ Unknown

Re Vatican Insider translation that is incorrect. The figure of 2.1 has long been accepted as that for a stable population and that allows for a higher death rate amongst males. This should now be of course lower, say 2.05, or even more so allowing for lower death rate amongst young men and ever increasing longevity.

However the current EU figure of 1.5 (and that includes the very much higher figure for the immigrant Muslim population) means the EU population is heading for the floor and becoming increasingly Muslimised.

But we ought to get facts right. I mean that idiot who said Birmingham was fully Muslim was wrong. It is only 27%. Mark you when I was there in 1960, it was I believe, 0.1%!
Anonymous said…
His comment about 'tempting God' for a higher risk pregnancy is appalling. What kind of God does he think God is? His vision of God is not mine. I am going to try to stay away from his controversies because they really steal my peace. Thank you to all for showing what needs to be shown to the faithful. I will be praying for you, for all the faithful, for the Church and clergy. God bless you in His Holy Name
Anonymous said…
Thank you for your defense of the Vicar of Christ! I am the mother of 14 and am not offended by the Pope's off the cuff comments. Please, all you faithful out there, forgive him his folksy style and focus on all that he says/does to teach the truths of our faith. How easy we turn on him, just hours after he has been a unifying source for six million Catholics! Google search his address to the the Italian Association of Large Families on Feast of the Holy Family December 2014.
Raider Fan said…
R.F. misses the old days when it was our enemies who used to mock us.
Lepanto said…
The old Chas and Dave song called 'Rabbit' coincidentally contains words that seem to fit this Pope:
"But how was I to know you'd bend my earholes too with you're incessant talking
You're becoming a pest"

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