(Heading by Leicester Mercury)
16 March 2012
“It is generally recognised that overpopulation is one of the causes of poverty and suffering in Third World countries and that the Roman Catholic Church is opposed to artificial contraception,” writes Mrs Elizabeth Allison. (Mailbox, March 7). How true! Unfortunately, over the last 40 years fear of criticism by the politically correct has prevented aid agencies and religious and political leaders – non-Catholic as well as Catholic – from emphasising the need for population control if extreme poverty is to be avoided. It was not always so:
In 1967, Pope Paul VI in his important encyclical Populorum Progressio, paragraph 37, wrote of the need for population control. As I am a Catholic, who does not believe that the use of artificial contraception is a sin – I wish it could be reclassified as a virtue – perhaps I may quote some of that 1967 encyclical with the theological provisos omitted:
“There is no denying that the accelerated rate of population growth brings many added difficulties to the problems of development…There is no doubt public authorities can intervene in this matter… They can instruct citizens on this subject and adopt appropriate measures…it is for parents to take a thorough look at the matter and decide upon the number of their children. This is an obligation they take upon themselves, before their children already born, and before the community to which they belong ”
It could hardly be put better. If African governments and Catholics and non-Catholic aid agencies had taken Pope Paul’s advice 45 years ago African children would no longer be hungry.
So far so very good, but in 1968, Pope Paul, persuaded that abstinence and natural family planning could control population, confirmed the ban on the use of artificial contraception. This has been a tragedy for the poor, because the Church provides much of the education and much of the medical and health care in very poor countries.