Pope Francis is upholding the Catholic Church’s ban on contraception, but said Catholics do not have to breed “like rabbits” and should instead practise “responsible parenting”.
Speaking to reporters en route home from the Philippines, Francis said there are plenty of Church-approved ways to regulate births.
However, the Pope said no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called the “ideological colonisation” of the developing world.
“Every people deserves to conserve its identity without being ideologically colonised,” Francis said.
His comments, taken with his defence of the Catholic Church’s ban on contraception, signal that he is increasingly showing his more conservative bent, which has largely been ignored by public opinion or obscured by a media narrative that has tended to highlight his populist persona.
On the trip, he gave his strongest defence yet of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which enshrines the Church’s opposition to birth control. He warned against “insidious attacks” against the family — a reference to gay marriage — echoing language often used by conservative US bishops.
At the same time, however, he said it is not true that to be a good Catholic “you have to be like rabbits”.
On the contrary, he said “responsible parenthood” requires that couples regulate the births of their children, as Church teaching allows. He cited the case of a woman he met who was pregnant with her eighth child after seven Caesarean sections.
“That is an irresponsibility,” he said. Although the woman might argue that she trusts in God, “God gives you methods to be responsible,” he said.
The Pope also clarified his ‘punch’ comment, saying he was not justifying violence when he said a friend who cursed his mother could “expect a punch” in return.
Rather, he said he was only expressing a human response to a provocation.
Francis was clarifying comments about the limits of freedom of speech made last week in response to the terror attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
“In theory we can say a violent reaction to an offence or provocation isn’t a good thing,” he said. “But we are human. And there is prudence, which is a virtue of human coexistence.”
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