MALICE-inclined radio-TV talking heads and some print media journalists have, we’re sure deliberately, reported that Pope Francis used the words “breed like rabbits” about Catholics who don’t contracept. They reported that this was at the press conference aboard the PAL flight taking the Holy Father back to Rome.
The following is the transcript of Christoph Schmidt’s actual question and the Holy Father’s answer.
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Christoph Schmidt: Holy Father, first of all I would like to say: Thank you very much for all the impressive moments of this week. It is the first time I accompany you, and I would like to say thank you very much. My question: you have talked about the many children in the Philippines, about your joy because there are so many children, but according to some polls the majority of Filipinos think that the huge growth of Filipino population is one of the most important reasons for the enormous poverty in the country. A Filipino woman gives birth to an average of three children in her life, and the Catholic position concerning contraception seem to be one of the few question on which a big number of people in the Philippines do not agree with the Church. What do you think about that?
Pope Francis: I think the number of three children per family that you mentioned – it makes me suffer–I think it is the number experts say is important to keep the population going. Three per couple. When this decreases, the other extreme happens, like what is happening in Italy. I have heard, I do not know if it is true, that in 2024 there will be no money to pay pensioners because of the fall in population.
Therefore, the key word, to give you an answer, and the one the Church uses all the time, and I do too, is responsible parenthood. How do we do this? With dialogue.
Each person with his pastor seeks how to do carry out a responsible parenthood.
That example I mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is an irresponsibility That woman might say ‘No, I trust in God.’ But, look, God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this. You did well to ask me this.
Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say ‘God knows how to help me’ and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.
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The Pope said “be like rabbits” –more polite words than “breed like rabbits” and he even asked for pardon for using the phrase.
In his Malacañang speech and homilies in the Philippines, and in his statements and homilies as bishop in Argentina, and now, since he became the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, his position on contraception and abortion has absolutely been the Church’s consistent doctrine.
The CBCP’s President and Archbishop of Lingayan-Dagupan Socrates B. Villegas yesterday wrote a statement titled “It is responsible parenthood! Not about rabbits!” that begins with the sentence “The Pope NEVER made the rather unseemly remark that Catholics breed like rabbits.”