Less than a month after saying Catholics don’t have to multiply “like rabbits,” Pope Francis on Wednesday (Feb. 11) once again praised big families, telling a gathering in St. Peter’s Square that having more children is not “an irresponsible choice.”
He also said that opting not to have children at all is “a selfish choice.”
A society that “views children above all as a worry, a burden, a risk, is a depressed society,” Francis said.
Citing European countries where the fertility rate is especially low, the pope said “they are depressed societies because they don’t want children. They don’t have children. The birth rate doesn’t even reach 1 percent.”
He once again praised the 1968 encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, that reiterated the ban against artificial contraception while enjoining Catholics to practice “responsible parenthood” by spacing out births as necessary.
Francis added, however, that having more children “cannot automatically become an irresponsible choice.”
“Not to have children is a selfish choice,” he said. “Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished!”
During an in-flight news conference on his return to Rome from the Philippines last month, Francis was asked about his strong defense of traditional families during his visit and he answered by again urging parents to have children and not to heed those who say that overpopulation is the source of the world’s problems.
But the pope also said that Christians should not be “irresponsible” by making children “in series.” He added that it’s a myth “that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits.”
His words immediately prompted a furious debate over whether Francis was revising the church’s teaching on birth control — he wasn’t — while many conservative Catholics fretted that his penchant for making impromptu remarks had once again clouded an issue that should be crystal clear.
At his general audience in the Vatican two days later, Francis tried to recalibrate his remarks, praising big families for “welcoming children as a true gift of God,” words that seemed aimed at clarifying his views.
Francis has frequently used his public audience in St. Peter’s Square as a venue to focus on the importance of the family.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service