Pope Francis called on parents to practice “responsible parenthood” when asked about the Church’s stand on birth control and the growing world population during a press conference on board his flight to Rome.
During his 5-day pastoral visit to the Philippines from January 15 to 19, Pope Francis kept highlighting the importance of children, and the need to protect the family. This was consistent with his reply to journalist Christoph Schmidt’s question, “How does the Church respond to … the criticism that the poverty in the Philippines is due to the fact that Filipino women have an average of 3 children each?”
“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,” said Pope Francis.
He relayed how he once “rebuked” a woman parishioner “who was pregnant eight times, with seven C-sections (Caesarean section),” by telling her, “But do you want to leave seven orphans? That is to tempt God!”
“That example I mentioned … about that woman who was expecting her eighth (child) and already had seven who were born [via] Caesarean -- 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 the word -- that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood!”
Pope Francis’ statement quickly received reactions from members of the Catholic faith. In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Senator Tito Sotto, who strongly opposes the Reproductive Health Bill, was quoted as saying that he could not believe that the Pope would liken Catholics to rabbits. “I can believe that the Pope would talk about responsible parenthood but for the Pope to say we should stop breeding like rabbits, that’s an invention because that statement I heard already during the RH (reproductive health) debate,” he said.
The full transcript of the Pope’s press conference during the flight back to Rome on January 19th can be read here.