13 June 2013
(Letters Extra is an online section of The Tablet in which letters not interesting enough to go into the print edition are published.)
An enormous, world changing, demographic drama is unfolding in Africa and the Middle East to Pakistan, where the population of 300 million in 1950 has already doubled twice and is expected to double a third time to 2,400 million before 2050.
This “population explosion” will be a major cause of extreme poverty, hunger, water shortage, civil unrest, conflict, the migration of huge populations of desperate people, and serious environmental damage. Even after only two doublings, we can read about its effects in our newspapers every day. Unless it is controlled, all our efforts to feed the hungry will bring temporary relief only. (‘Catholics call for action on hunger’. In brief. 8 June)
In 1953, the future Pope Paul VI wrote to the Twenty Sixth Italian Catholic Social Week about population. Two of the points he made were that population problems were of extreme importance, and that they have a vital bearing on world peace. And, in 1967, in his encyclical Populorum Progressio (paragraph 37) he urged us to do something about it.
I wonder why it is that over the last thirty five years or so the hierarchy and its advisers, and organizations such as Justice and Peace, Vocation for Justice, Progressio (CIIR), Pax Christi, and others involved with world affairs have been dismissive of this huge population increase, at least until very recently. Why have we taken such a different view to that taken by Pope Paul in the 1950’s and 1960’s? Pope Paul’s approach seems to me to be by far the most beneficial for the Church, as well as for the the poor and the environment. Can we go back to it?