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Vatican Representative Endorses Catholic Birth Control

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Even faithful Catholics have observed that Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae was a flawed document because its infallible condemnation of contraception is undermined by its acceptance that there should be an "honest regulation of births" because "there is the rapid increase in population which has made many fear that world population is going to grow faster than available resources … This can easily induce public authorities to be tempted to take even harsher measures to avert this danger."

What danger? The "overpopulation" of the world has proven to be nothing but a myth, with even the U.N. now conceding that the real danger is underpopulation in many countries, especially throughout Europe. Of course, Popes have no special competence to render opinions on such matters as population growth, and here Pope Paul VI was quite mistaken.

But now, only 32 years later, we find that the Vatican itself is promoting the notion that "unlimited" population growth is wrong, and that Catholics ought to regulate the size of their families through "natural family planning." For example, Zenit reported on July 12, 2002 that "the Holy See favors neither unlimited growth in world population nor the imposition of policies that attack the right of parents to freely decide how many children they will have." This view was expressed by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the United Nations in Geneva. Archbishop Martin’s exact words were: "Naturally, the Holy See is not in favor of an unlimited growth of the world’s population, nor in favor of governmental or international programs that impose limits."

So, the "Holy See" is not "in favor" of "unlimited" population growth? Well, then, how much population growth does Archbishop Martin think there should be? What about God’s commandment to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth? Is God not in favor of unlimited population growth, seeing that every new member of the population is another immortal soul?

Archbishop Martin added that "For many years, the Holy See has repeated what Vatican Council II confirmed on the right of parents to freely choose the number of children, to establish the temporal distance between births and the economic means to achieve these objectives."

What? For 1,962 years before Vatican II the Church taught that Catholics should trust in Providence and be ready to accept large families, in keeping with God’s commandment to be fruitful and multiply. Since when do Catholics have a "right" to "choose" the number of children they will have? For "many years," according to Archbishop Martin - that is, since Vatican II, as he would have us believe.

But while the Church allows spouses to make use of infertile periods to space births for a grave reason (illness of the mother, for example), the Church has never taught that Catholics have a positive right to tell God how many children they will bring into the world. Here we see how Vatican II’s ambiguous endorsement of the notion that births should be regulated (voluntarily and "naturally’) because of "overpopulation" has, like the similar opinion in Humane Vitae, opened the way to the notion that even without a grave reason, Catholics have the "right" to determine the number of children they will have - in short, Catholic birth control, albeit by "natural" methods.

One recalls the prophetic objection by Cardinal Ottaviani concerning Vatican II’s introduction of the notion of Catholic "regulation" of births (as recounted by Father Wiltgen in The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber):

" has this been heard of in the Church." He [Ottaviani] was the eleventh son in a family of twelve children, he said. "My father was a laborer, and the fear of having many children never entered my parents’ minds, because they trusted in Providence…. Does this not mean that the inerrancy of the Church will be called into question? Or was not the Holy Spirit with His Church in past centuries to illumine minds on this point of doctrine?"NeverI am not pleased with the statement in the text that married couples may determine the number of children they are to have.

Sister Lucy has spoken of a "diabolical disorientation" among Church leaders since Vatican II. Archbishop Martin’s claim that birth regulation to achieve "population control" is a policy of "the Holy See," and the right of Catholics is surely a sign of this disorientation. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.