Cli­mate change, poverty, con­tra­cep­tion

Church’s stand on these is­sues can be con­tro­ver­sial

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - Dolores Camp­bell Dolores Camp­bell lives in Syd­ney and is a life­long Catholic who worked as a parish sec­re­tary at two Syd­ney parishes for al­most 30 years.

As a church leader who fears for hu­man­ity’s fu­ture, Pope Fran­cis, con­trary to what some observers have said about his re­cent en­cycli­cal, “Laudato Si,” on the en­vi­ron­ment, has more than a right, he has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to speak out on such an im­por­tant topic.

The pope is ab­so­lutely on the mark when he says that cli­mate change af­fects the poor dis­pro­por­tion­ately, es­pe­cially those who live in ar­eas sub­ject to tor­na­does, floods, tsunamis, and so forth.

The pope’s con­cern for the poor loses some of its im­pact how­ever, when one con­sid­ers the church’s stand on con­tra­cep­tion, a stand he whole­heart­edly en­dorses.

“I am a son of the church,” he has said when ques­tioned about con­tra­cep­tion and other so­cial teach­ings of the church.

His visit to the Philip­pines in Jan­uary could have been an eye­opener for him had he ven­tured into the streets of the poor ar­eas where chil­dren who looked as young as seven or eight lived and begged in or­der to sur­vive.

BBC Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur spent time in Manilla and dis­cov­ered lo­cal health work­ers go­ing door to door on be­half of the gov­ern­ment of­fer­ing pam­phlets to women in­form­ing them of var­i­ous meth­ods of con­tra­cep­tion, in­clud­ing the pill and tubal lig­a­tion. The women had no prob­lem declar­ing their Catholi­cism or re­veal­ing the form of con­tra­cep­tion they used. Smil­ing widely, they waved their hands in the air and shouted “Lig­a­tion, lig­a­tion.”

One 30-year-old woman was ex­pect­ing her eleventh child and when asked how many chil­dren she would have pre­ferred to have, she an­swered “three.”

Arch­bishop Luis An­to­nio-Ta­gle of Manilla, spoke to Sackur in March, 2015, and ex­pressed the fear that gov­ern­ment would be­gin lim­it­ing the num­ber of chil­dren a cou­ple could have which would, in his view, be wrong. He seemed to have no prob­lem with the fact that two mil­lion ba­bies are born in his coun­try ev­ery year, mostly one as­sumes, to the 85 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion who are Catholic.

Sadly, many par­ents leave their homes to work abroad and send money back to rel­a­tives who are look­ing af­ter their chil­dren. The num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing on the streets might in­di­cate that when a fam­ily has more chil­dren than it can care for, los­ing a cou­ple to the streets would seem al­most in­evitable.

Mean­while, Pope Fran­cis’ crude re­sponse to a ques­tion about birth con­trol, “Catholics don’t have to breed like rab­bits,” while in­sist­ing that nat­u­ral plan­ning is the only method whereby Catholic cou­ples can limit the size of their fam­i­lies, makes a mock­ery of his lament about world poverty when he re­fuses to rec­og­nize how church teach­ing con­trib­utes to that poverty.

When “the pill” was in­tro­duced in the early 1960s, Pope John XXIII es­tab­lished a com­mis­sion “to study ques­tions of birth con­trol and pop­u­la­tion.” Fol­low­ing Vat­i­can II, Pope Paul VI ex­panded the com­mis­sion to 72 mem­bers who brought in a re­port in 1966 stat­ing that ar­ti­fi­cial con­tra­cep­tion was not “in­trin­si­cally evil” and “cou­ples should be al­lowed to de­cide for them­selves what meth­ods of birth con­trol should be em­ployed.” A mi­nor­ity re­port, how­ever, dis­agreed with those find­ings, and in his 1968 en­cycli­cal “Hu­manae Vi­tae,” Pope Paul went with the mi­nor­ity, en­trench­ing the church’s view on con­tra­cep­tion.

The key fac­tor in all this is that Pope Paul VI had the fi­nal word, just as Pope Fran­cis could do, thereby em­pow­er­ing cou­ples to make their own de­ci­sions on birth con­trol, some­thing mil­lions of Catholics are do­ing any­way. His clar­ion call on cli­mate change and the des­per­ate con­di­tions it cre­ates for the poor would ring more true if he ac­knowl­edged that his own in­sti­tu­tion, by its un­rea­son­able and long-out­moded stand on con­tra­cep­tion, con­trib­utes greatly to the prob­lem.

A for­mer Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter said that gov­ern­ment has “no place in the bed­rooms of the na­tion.”

Per­haps that should ap­ply to the church as well.

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