On March 3, many Catholics were shocked to read that Vatican conference speaker, Peter Raven remarked, "Pope Francis has urged us to have fewer children to make the world more sustainable." The notion that the Pope would say such a thing strained credulity. However, the clarification published three days later does not put the mind at rest regarding current Vatican thinking on life issues.
LifeSiteNews now reports that Peter Raven, the botanist/environmentalist who addressed the Vatican conference, said the following: "We need at some point to have a limited number of people which is why Pope Francis and his three most recent predecessors have always argued that you should not have more children than you can bring up properly."
This comment makes two assertions I find very troubling, as do, I am sure, many other Catholics. Just what is meant by "you should not have more children than you can bring up." Am I assuming incorrectly that that this refers to, among other things, an appraisal of financial resources? If so, and I believe I am correct, good Catholics should consult their bank accounts and their earning ability before bringing a new life into the world.
I want to ask Pope Francis these questions, "What is the financial formula for making such an appraisal? Just what, in your opinion, does a child cost to 'bring up properly'"?
While I am not denying the commonsense of the matter, I am questioning the wisdom of attributing to the Holy Father an assertion containing the words "should not" regarding the conceiving of children, especially when the determinative factor is financial. To say "should" implies those addressed should feel a duty, an obligation, to regard children in this way. Such a duty makes conception first an act of "deciding’ rather than freely given love between a husband and wife.
How is this different from the logic of the population-control crowd who are always espousing abortion and contraception in order to "save the earth"? How is this different from the assumptions of the 1968 book, "The Population Bomb," written by Paul Ehrlich who was also recently hosted at the Vatican conference?
I began looking randomly at the family backgrounds of famed Catholic prelates and quickly found that "Dagger John Hughes," the Archbishop of New York City, was the third of seven children to an Irish tenant farmer and his wife. The family was so poor that John was taken out of school and put to work, first on the farm then as an apprentice gardener. As Archbishop between 1842 and 1864, "Dagger John" fought off anti-Catholicism, founded the first independent Catholic school system, and laid the cornerstone for St. Patricks Cathedral.
Such examples would be easy to multiply by the thousands if one were to trace the lives of children, not only Catholic, from large, impoverished families. And this is not to imply that large families are justified by the accomplishments of their children, but rather to illustrate how the admonition of Genesis 1.28 — "be fruitful and multiply" — contains a superior internal logic to that of considering the cost of raising a child "properly."
The second troubling implication of Raven’s comment is his claim that the three previous popes — Benedict XVI, St. John Paul II, and John Paul I — similarly argued that parents should determine the cost of raising a child before "deciding" to bring one into the world. In "Familiaris Consortio," St. John Paul II wrote, husband and wife "…..become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person. Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother" (FC 14).
Benedict XVI encouraged large families on a trip to Valencia in 2006, eschewing the kind of calculation described by Raven and seconded by Pope Francis. At one parish he was presented with several families — "one family was virtually a 'parish,' it had so many children! The presence and witness of these families really was far stronger than any words. They presented first of all the riches of their family experience: how such a large family truly becomes a cultural treasure, an opportunity for the education of one and all, a possibility for making the various cultural expressions of today coexist, the gift of self, mutual help also in suffering" (August 31, 2006).
During his short papacy, John Paul I delivered only one formal address on marriage and the family during an "ad limina" visits of bishops. It contains nary a mention of calculating the cost and deciding on the conceiving of children: "Let us never grow tired of proclaiming the family as a community of love: conjugal love unites the couple and is procreative of new life; it mirrors the divine love, is communicated, and, in the words of Gaudium et Spes, is actually a sharing in the covenant of love of Christ and his Church (par. 48). We were all given the great grace of being born into such a community of love; it will be easy for us to uphold its value" (Emphasis added).
Peter Raven, thus, is dead wrong to claim that the three popes before Pope Francis agree with him on the "need at some point to have a limited number of people" so they can be raised "properly."
Such thinking coming out of the Vatican presently, from Pope Francis and his closest advisors to those being feted at Vatican conferences, bears an ideological stamp rather than that of Church teaching. It appears to me that the Vatican is channeling the spirit of George Soros rather than any other.
Dr. Deal W. Hudson took over Crisis Magazine in 1995, leaving in 2010 to become president of Catholic Advocate. While at Crisis, Hudson led the Catholic voter outreach for President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and later advised the campaigns of both John McCain and Donald Trump on Catholic outreach. In 2014, he began his weekly two-hour radio show, “Church and Culture,” on the Ave Maria Radio Network, and launched www.thechristianreview.com in 2015. His books include "Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction" and "Onward Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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