A couple of local broadsheets have upset many readers by quoting Pope Francis on their front pages as saying, “Don’t breed like rabbits.” This wasn’t a simple case of a “sound bite biting back,” as a colleague on this page has suggested; it was a case of the conscript media manipulating the quote to make it appear as though the Pope were reproaching Filipinos for being excessively procreative. They aren’t, and he wasn’t; he never did.
The quote was taken from the Pope’s airborne press conference on his flight back to Rome at the end of his four-day apostolic and state visit to the Philippines. The transcript of that interview, translated unofficially from the Italian into English by one of the traveling journalists, has been published online, and shows the context of how the “rabbits,” as it were, came out of the forest.
How did the talk about rabbits begin? In trying to explain the Church’s position on responsible parenthood, the Pope cited the case of one woman he had met some months ago in some parish somewhere (certainly not in the Philippines), who had undergone seven caesareans already, and was pregnant again with her eighth child.
The Pope said he had rebuked her, saying, “Do you want to leave seven orphans?” He lamented the fact that some people seemed to think that in order to be good Catholics, “we have to be like rabbits.” He did not use the verb “breed” though—the press freely supplied the idiom. Nor was the Philippines alluded to in the Pope’s statement. For me, “breeding like rabbits” is not pejorative per se; it becomes so not because it suggests too many baby rabbits arriving all at once, but because it suggests Mother Rabbit and Father Rabbit leaving their baby rabbits to fend for themselves as soon as they are born.
Not the population, but the policies and structures
Apparently the papal quote threatened quickly to acquire a life of its own. So in his regular Wednesday audience at St. Peter’s in Rome, where he was most effusive about his visit to the Philippines, the Pope also spoke of the relationship between poverty and population. He said large families (which no longer exist in most countries) do not cause poverty, but wrong economic policies and structures do.
It was the propaganda broadsheets, which have long been pushing for what Francis has called “ideological colonization” of Philippine society that put their own slant on the ‘rabbits quote’ to make it appear that the Pope was admonishing the Filipinos, for whom he had nothing but the highest praise. This is the exact text:
“Christoph Schmidt (CIC): How does the Church respond to the criticisms about its position on birth control given that the world population is growing so much. And to the criticism that poverty in the Philippines is due to the fact that Filipino women have an average of three (3) children each?”
This question proceeds from a defective premise—-“that the world population is growing so much.” This expresses an ideological position rather than a cold scientific fact. Although Africa, China and India continue to grow, Singapore, Japan and the whole of Europe have fallen into a demographic recession, and the hardest- hit countries are going through a cruel “demographic winter,” without any apparent hope of Spring.
Depopulation the real problem
Now, because of advances in medical science, people have stopped dropping off like flies. Yet despite declining birth rates, the world’s actual population continues to grow, no matter how marginal. This allows population controllers to turn a blind eye on the advancing specter of “depopulation,” which is this century’s real problem, and to continue chanting the mantra about “overpopulation.”
UN statistics show the following population growth rates for some countries: Japan, -0.02%; UK, – 0.48; France, -0.49; Switzerland, -0.38; Spain,-0.77; Portugal, -0.37; Germany, 1.07; Belgium, -0.05; Austria, -0.01; Italy, -1.13; Denmark, 0.36; Russia, -0.51, etc.
Philippine population growth rate declining
With respect to the Philippines, the birth rate, according to the UN, is down to 1.72 %, and falling. The total fertility rate, as the journalist above points out, is 3 children per woman of childbearing age, just a notch above the replacement level of 2.1. The Pope understands this better than many journalists and politicians, thus his answer:
“Pope Francis: I think the number of 3 (children) per family that you mentioned, it is the one experts say is important to keep the population going—-three per couple. When it goes below this, 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, to give you an answer, the key word is the one the Church always uses all the time and even I use it: it is responsible parenthood. How do we do this? With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do that 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, but I trust in God.’ But God gives you methods to be responsible. Some think that, excuse me if I use that word, 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 seek and know many, many ways out that are licit and that have helped this. You did well to ask me this.
“Another 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. But let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.”
Corruption is now the system
One point which the Pope failed to reiterate as part of his answer was something he already said to his Filipino audience, and which he said in answer to a separate question in his airborne news conference. Namely, “the effect of corruption.”
“Corruption is the order of the day in today’s world, and the corrupt attitude easily and immediately finds a nest in the institutions,” the Pope emphasized. This is absolutely true under Aquino where “corruption has become the system,” according to the National Transformation Council.
Aquino has tried to blame corruption solely on past administrations, but it has grown exponentially under his watch since 2010. From the pork barrel system alone, which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional, and where it has directed the prosecution of all those involved in its manipulation and misuse with dispatch, the unpunished plunder by top government officials in the last couple of years has reached hundreds of billions of pesos.
False claims about ‘responsible parenthood’
The danger is real that just because the Pope has started talking about “responsible parenthood” to the media, Aquino will now claim he is on the same page as the Pope on this question. After all, he had no inhibition in calling the Pope his “kindred spirit” during his courtesy call at Malacanang. Secondly, he had the temerity to call the Reproductive Health Law, which puts the rights of married couples and parents in the hands of the State, a “Responsible Parenthood” Act, and to bribe the members of Congress in order to ram it through despite the wide and vigorous opposition to it across the length and breadth of the islands. Thirdly, Aquino’s understanding of “responsible parenthood” has nothing in common with the Church teaching on the same subject.
For Aquino “responsible parenthood” allows the State to dictate on married couples how they are to live their conjugal lives, how many children they will have and when they are to have them, how they are to educate their children on the most important moral and religious aspects of their being. This is authoritarian control, which has no basis in the moral law or in the Constitution.
Erroneous ruling on population control
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court erred when it called the RH Law a population control measure but in the next breath forgot that the fathers of the Constitution at the outset had rejected the idea of population control, and the finished document itself contains nothing allowing it. This judicial amnesia was obviously induced by the “ideological colonization.”
Correctly understood, “responsible parenthood” is practiced when a married couple (of one man and one woman) decides to avoid a new birth for a short while or even indeterminately for serious reasons, and in respect of the moral law. Alternatively, a married couple practices responsible parenthood when despite all their difficulties they decide to raise a large family out of their love and generosity—-in “full recognition of their duties towards God, towards themselves, towards the family and towards society in a proper hierarchy of values.”
What will Aquino do about Garin?
But it is one of the least understood ideas by the administration. Just how severely Aquino misunderstands it we shall soon see when he finally deals with the proposal to have former Congresswoman Janet Garin of Iloilo named as Secretary of Health, directly in charge of the implementation of the RH Law against the fundamental human rights and constitutional liberties of the Filipino people.
Garin is a population control fanatic in the service of the global population control lobby who was at the forefront of the effort to ram through the said law. One of her more scandalous acts of late was to assure her former colleagues in the House, in the company of another pro-RH fanatic, CHED’s Patricia Licuanan, that the congressmen who were earlier told they would lose their pork barrel of P70 million a year after the Supreme Court had declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional, would instead receive P108 million in 2015, through some other special arrangements.
She is no friend of the Filipino people.