Pope Francis says Catholics shouldn't breed "like rabbits," but they also shouldn't use modern birth control. Francis gave his strongest defense of the Catholic Church's stance on responsible sex this week after meeting with a mother of seven children during his trip to the Philippines that wrapped up Monday.
Francis said the woman should have been more responsible and the Catholic Church’s ban on modern contraception does not mean everyone should have large families. “Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits,” he said, “but no.”
Church leaders have long said that contraception methods such as condoms and the birth control pill have no place in Catholic homes. So how exactly are devout Catholics supposed to avoid having a pack of children and still comply with the church's policy?
Father Joel Jason, dean of studies at the San Carlos Seminary Graduate School of Theology in Manila, said the church's birth control stance does not mean it has lost touch with its congregation. “The church is very much in touch with reality,” he told the Wall Street Journal amid Francis' visit to the Philippines. “The church has never promoted mindless reproduction,” he said, but opposes artificial contraception on the grounds that “God created the female body perfectly.”
Instead, the church urges women to abstain from sex on the most fertile days of their monthly cycle, among other methods. The 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae outlines the church's opposition to artificial birth control. "With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions," reads the document.
The pope also called for "responsible parenthood" Monday, describing his interaction with a woman who was pregnant with her eighth child, according to the Associated Press. "That is an irresponsibility!" he said, noting that the woman might argue that she should trust in God. "But God gives you methods to be responsible," he said.
Francis said three children per family would sustain the world's population and ensure responsible parenthood. "This is why there are marriage support groups in the church with people who are experts on such issues," he said. "And there are pastors and I know that there are many acceptable solutions that have helped with this."