Overpopulation Misconception #9

  • The Catholic Church has always recognized the existence of a “population problem” and the government's intervention in the decision-making of spouses as to the number of children they beget.

Clarification

In recognizing that it is legitimate for the state “to intervene to orient the demography of the population,” it immediately adds that, “this can be done by means of objective and respectful information, but certainly not by authoritarian, coercive measures. The state may not legitimately usurp the initiative of spouses who have the primary responsibility for the procreation and education of their children. In this area, it is not authorized to employ means contrary to the moral law” (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2372).

Humanae Vitae describes some changes taking place in 1968. “In the first place there is the rapid increase in population which has made many fear that world population is going to grow faster than available resources, with the consequence that many families and developing countries would be faced with greater hardships.”

Note that while Humanae Vitae in this point observes that there is the rapid increase in world population, it merely expresses the fear of many, without owning that fear, that world population is going to grow faster than available resources. Today, forty years later, we can see for a fact that while population has grown, food production has grown even more.

“Since 1965 to 1994, the population of the world has nearly doubled, but food production has kept well ahead... United Nations figures show there has been a rise of over 30% in the period 1951-92 in food production per capita, that is to say the amount of food which would be available to each person in the world if it were divided equally. This has occurred in spite of the fact that Western farmers are paid millions of dollars a year to keep land out of production. If these European and American farmers were to produce to their capacity, food prices would collapse as a result of the glut.” (Population Facts and Myths by the National Association of Catholic Families in the UK).

The problem then is not food production but proper distribution. Hence the solution should not be to reduce the number of consumers, but social justice.

In recent years, Church documents have focused greatly on the fall of fertility, which, “very significant in almost all parts of the world, is irrefutable and evident from the facts published by specialized organizations. It is, nonetheless, frequently disregarded.” (Pontifical Council for the Family, The Ethical and Pastoral Dimensions of Population Trends, March 25, 1944)

Such fall in fertility is the real “population problem” today.

Excerpt from Misconceptions and Clarifications on Issues Related to Humanae Vitae and the Reproductive Health Law in Philippine Congress by Rev. Fr. Gregory D. Gaston, SThD

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