Pope Francis, who has been delighting some alienated modern Catholics with his plain-spoken ideas and statements relevant to the world of the 21st century, has just made another controversial remark on one of the seemingly fossilized church doctrines on average people’s lives: the family planning. On his flight back from the Philippines on January 19, Pope Francis said to the reporters that Catholics should not feel compelled to breed “like rabbits” and they should instead practice responsible parenthood. He was responding to a journalist who said that many Filipinos believed that their poverty was caused by overpopulation. (Needless to say, most controversy was generated by the pope’s vernacular way of speaking about reproduction, “like rabbits.” However, I consider the gist of his statement remarkably enlightened for a person in his position.)
Like many secular and rational-minded people I thoroughly agree with Pope Francis’ statement on family planning. Children are not the gifts of God or gods. Parents are solely responsible for the existence of their children. At this time in human history when the medical technology can minimize the mortality rate of newborns, humans do not have to reproduce like rabbits, frogs or other creatures of natural kingdoms whose reproductive systems take it consideration that most of their off-springs do not survive in the wild. It often seems that the unbridled advocate for reproduction is one phenomenon of war-prone society; conversely it often seems that unbridled reproduction is the cause of war for limited resources. I believe most of the social problems in both developed and developing nations could be alleviated by limiting the number of children a woman is often compelled or coerced to have due to religious doctrines and/or social expectations. On the one hand, by de-stressing their reproductive social function women can explore their humanity in other areas; on the other hand, by having smaller number of off-springs a family can allocate more available resources (including their time and attention) onto each of existing children. It is true that parental attentiveness and care may not necessarily result in the happiness of each child due to historical, social, and natural variables, such as natural disasters and political insurrections; but, on the whole, it seems that children with full parental love and attention are happier and better-adjusted to reality as individuals than those who have been neglected.
There are only limited resources available to humans on earth. In order to live in a manner more harmonious with nature (because humans depend on it) humans should control the reproduction. Capitalism may require more consumers for its expansion, but even capitalism, in which “All that is solid melts into the air, all that is holy is profaned” according to Karl Marx, has to co-exist with nature. If the earth should get used up, decimating the possibility for sustainability of humankind and other organisms, capitalism itself will die out.