Long overdue for a Pope to recognize reality.
by: John Tyrrell
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In 2012, the Philippines courageously passed a birth control law in the face of bitter opposition from the Catholic Church. One of the provisions was that government health centres would be able to distribute free condoms and contraceptive pills. This was seen by the government as necessary given that the country has one of the highest birth rates and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia.
The Catholic Church fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court which rendered a decision upholding the law in April last year.
On his arrival in the Philippines earlier this month, one of the first things Pope Francis did was to pointedly restate his opposition to artificial birth control. He made a point of strongly praising Pope Paul VI's 1968 decision to condemn contraception.
So much for the suggestions he made earlier in his papacy that the Church should be a little more subtle in addressing hot-button issues. Francis went out of his way to press this particular button -- about as hard as he could.
A couple of days later in what was widely identified as an unscripted event, a 12 year old girl asked the Pope why God allowed children to be abandoned, to get into drugs, and prostitution.
The Pope responded by asking the crowd to show real concern for the poor and marginalized. He told them to follow the lead of St. Francis who "died with empty hands, with empty pockets but a very full heart." He also spoke about women's views not being listened to on this issue.
What the stupid old man did not do was actually address the issue of unwanted children - a problem that contributes to young people being abandoned on the street. He did not reverse his flat out opposition to what the government of the Philippines had done to try to reduce the problem in future -- the nationwide provision of free contraception services to the poor who wanted to avail themselves of such services. To my way of thinking, that is real concern for the poor and marginalized.
Later, on his plane trip home he did speak informally to reporters on the issue, saying people should not breed like rabbits, they should control their family sizes responsibly and "naturally." And he praised Paul VI again.
Right - people should use the good old thoroughly fallible rhythm method, first authorized by Pope Pius XI back in 1930.
Go back a few of paragraphs - see how I mentioned how Francis thinks that women's views are not being listened to?
Who authorized the rhythm method? Pope Pius XI - a man - a celibate man, at that.
Who banned artificial birth control? Pope Paul VI - a man - a celibate man, at that.
Who fought the change in the law on birth control in the Philippines every step of the way? Bishops, monsignors, and priests of the Catholic Church - all men - all celibate men, at that.
Who restated the Catholic Church's continued support of all the above? Pope Francis - another man - another celibate man*, at that.
I'm having trouble finding a woman's views there. Or even those of a man who is involved in the potential procreation of children.
I guess I'm just another old man here - and I'd like to see some women's views on this in the comments area, but on this issue, I don't think you can have it both ways.
You can't have a reduction in the birth rate, less unwanted children out on the street in poor countries, and still oppose safe, affordable, and reliable birth control. It is not humanly possible.
You can't cry big crocodile tears on the stage about unwanted street children into drugs and prostitution - then turn around and criticize people for breeding like rabbits - and not provide a viable way for them to control their "breeding."**
I recognize that the Pope can attempt to tell Catholics what to do - and Catholics can choose whether to obey him or not. And where birth control is legally available, about 90% of Catholics tell him where to stuff his stupid rules on this matter.
But what I do object to is that in every country where birth control is still illegal or restricted, the Pope and his predominantly male minions are on the front lines fighting against legalization - and they don't give a damn that they are restricting the rights of non-Catholics, and that they are responsible for the production of further generations of unwanted children.
The Pope and the Catholic Church hierarchy don't live in the real world - they seem incapable of recognizing reality. And they really don't give a damn.
* Yes, I'm generously assuming that all these men lived up to their vows.
** I'd prefer not to use that word with respect to human procreation - but it is necessary to illustrate this Pope's (and his predecessors') mindset on human sexuality.
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