Population and the Pope

Last month, media worldwide were buzzing about Pope Francis's statement that Catholics should practice “responsible parenthood," rather than breeding “like rabbits." But fewer reported another, more problematic comment he made on the subject: no outside institution should impose its views about regulating family size on the developing world.

MELBOURNE – As Pope Francis was returning to Rome from the Philippines last month, he told journalists about a woman who had had seven children by caesarean section and was now pregnant again. This was, he said, “tempting God." He asked her if she wanted to leave seven orphans. Catholics have approved ways of regulating births, he continued, and should practice “responsible parenthood" rather than breeding “like rabbits."

Francis's “rabbit" comment was widely covered in the media, but fewer reported that he had also said that no outside institution should impose its views about regulating family size on the developing world. “Every people," he insisted, should be able to maintain its identity without being “ideologically colonized."

The irony of this remark is that in the Philippines, a country of more than 100 million people, of whom four out of five are Roman Catholic, it is precisely the Church that has been the ideological colonizer. It is the Church, after all, that has vigorously sought to impose its opposition to contraception on the population, opposing even the provision of contraceptives by the government to the rural poor.

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