The Papal Explainer: Breeding Like Rabbits

Lots of headlines are trumpeting Pope Francis’ recent declaration that Catholics need not breed like rabbits. However, Catholics are still not allowed to use artificial birth control. There are “licit” ways of preventing pregnancy, said the Pope.

Human breeding in a manner unlike rabbits must be done by means of natural family planning (which is not the rhythm method), a system of monitoring a woman’s temperature, secretions and so forth. This data is plotted to determine a woman’s fertile period; intercourse is off the menu during this time. If NFP is adhered to, it is said to be effective, and bonus: no chemicals! Plus, both partners are responsible! Nonetheless, a lot of women on this planet don’t have access to basal thermometers. Husbands might object or not participate in such a plan.The Pill (or other illicit methods) would certainly save a lot of women and children in a case where women can’t openly control their fertility.

The Pope also noted that other countries’ cultures mustn’t be overruled, referring to some African bishops who strenuously object to foreign imposition of birth control and gay rights.

“’When imposed conditions come from imperial colonisers, they search to make people lose their own identity and make a sameness. This is ideological colonisation.’”

One might suggest that the Roman Catholic Church has a long, global history of ideological colonization. See: objections to Fr. Junipero Serra’s impending sainthood.

The Pope gave an example of a mother who has had seven caesarian sections and who is pregnant with her eighth as being irresponsible. If I were that lady, I would be upset for being singled out. She was only doing what she was told was right as a faithful Catholic woman, bearing as many children as the Lord sent her way, no matter what the cost to her. Now she’s irresponsible? Criticizing a pregnant woman for being pregnant is uncalled for, anyway.

In the strictest sense, even natural family planning might be seen as an affront to God because it is still overruling God’s will with a human judgment, so why not the Pill? It was invented by a Catholic doctor, after all, who thought he was doing humanity a favor.

The Pope has also been speaking out against global emissions and consumerism. One sure way to reduce both of those things is stopping population growth. This “don’t breed like rabbits” nonsense, when we have pretty good ways of not doing that which are forbidden, is a classic double bind. You are wrong for choosing “illicit” contraception; you are wrong for conceiving children as you may; you are wrong if using “licit” methods and failing if you exceed the “rabbit” number, which is unclear. If you plan your family using “licit” methods, what number should you be aiming for, anyway? Two? Three? Four?

Even rabbit breeders are calling the Pope on this one.



Au contraire, mon père


Mary Valle lives in Baltimore and is the author of Cancer Doesn't Give a Shit About Your Stupid Attitude: Reflections on Cancer and Catholicism. She blogs on KtB as The Communicant. For more Mary, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.