Breeding Like Rabbits

Does Fr. Lombardi look nervous to you?

Just when we thought it was all over...

...we forgot about the plane journey home!

The BBC news at 10 was classic, as Huw Edwards asked the Religion Correspondent, Caroline Wyatt "Has the Pope changed Catholic teaching on contraception?". The question which has been asked time and time and time again. The answer is always the same "no". Wyatt actually rather impressed me with her grasp of the Holy Father's personality. She commented that the language used was unprecedented, but although we are not used to hearing this sort of language from the Vatican, nothing has changed.

Pope Francis speaks colloquially, he is understood by normal people. He is having a chat - not authoring a theological tract. If he read something in Vaticanese or Theologicalese who would understand? Perhaps only those of us who have spent years studying and following such things. The reality of this style is that Pope Francis is getting through to people in an important way. He is recounting Church teaching, but doing so in such a way that people who have never taken the time to wade through Humanae Vitae can grasp!

Here he is stressing a really important point noted in Humanae Vitae 10 and Gaudium et spes 50, for those of us who prefer Theologicalese. HV 10 states:
With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.
Similarly, GS 50 states:
Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society, and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God. But in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel.
Pope Francis certainly said it more clearly, and in the context of a situation where a mother became pregnant an eighth time after giving birth to seven children via cesarean section.
“Does she want to leave seven orphans?” he said. “This is tempting God.” “Some people think – excuse me for saying this – that to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits,” Pope Francis said, yet Church teaching provides for “many licit ways” to limit reproduction.

The Pope has, very effectively I think, demonstrated that Catholic teaching on this issue is not unreasonable, but stresses the importance of recognising that we are cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love. (cf GS 50).

Pope Francis also wisely recommended that couples should seek guidance of the Church if they have any doubts about family size. Certainly it is through the Church that I have personally discovered a wonderful support network of experts, marriage groups, and lay people who have really thought and engaged with Church teaching on fertility and live it every day.

I think we live under a contraceptive mentality which has conditioned us to see children as something to be coped with and childlessness as freedom, as opposed to the great blessing parenthood is in reality. When I look at my daughter, born 21/2 years ago now, I cannot imagine how I would be able to cope with life without her. What an incredible blessing she is to me!

I kind of feel an awareness/ acceptance of natural fertility is almost a litmus test for discipleship. Catholics who are prepared to surrender control in this deeply personal area seem to have really made the mental leap of faith. What do you think?


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