VATICAN CITY, JULY 25, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The latest worldwide demographic reports contradict the catastrophic forecasts of Pope Paul VI’s critics and those of his encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” published exactly 35 years ago today (July 25, 1968).
The purpose of the Pope’s Letter “on the regulation of birth,” as the document itself clarified, was to “defend the dignity of spouses” (n. 18).
In those years, Malthusian theories had gained ground (Thomas Malthus, 1766-1834), which spoke about a “demographic time-bomb” threatening the world, which had to be de-activated with campaigns for population control.
These campaigns, promoted by governments and international organizations, sought and seek to dictate to couples the number of children they should have by using artificial methods of birth control, especially in Third World countries.
The Population Division of the United Nations issued its report “World Population Prospects: The 2002 Revision,” published last February, which estimates that in the year 2050 there will be 8.9 billion people in the world. With this figure, the United Nations has reduced by almost one billion the number of people foreseen in 1994 to be in existence in 2002 (the forecast was for 9.8 billion).
In fact, the medium variant projection forecasts that by mid-century, three out of every four countries in the less developed regions will be at below-replacement fertility. This phenomenon might have serious consequences for economic development, as some developed countries are already experiencing.
Taking a long view, in number 12 of his encyclical Pope Paul VI advocated, instead, respect for the unitive and procreative act of love between a man and a woman.
In his encyclical “Populorum Progressio” (March 26, 1967), Paul VI wrote a year earlier: “Finally, it is for parents to take a thorough look at the matter and decide upon the number of their children. This is an obligation they take upon themselves, before their children already born, and before the community to which they belong, following the dictates of their own consciences informed by God’s law authentically interpreted, and bolstered by their trust in Him” (n. 37).
On November 9, 1974, in an address to participants in the World Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the same Pope said: “It is not admissible that those who hold control of goods and resources of humanity try to resolve the problem of hunger by prohibiting the poor from being born or letting those children die of hunger whose parents do not form part of a theoretical plan, based on hypotheses on the future of humanity.”
“On other occasions, in a past which, hopefully, has been overcome for good, certain nations went to war to seize the riches of their neighbors. Is it not, perhaps, a new form of war that imposes a restrictive demographic policy on certain nations so that they will not claim their rightful share of the earth’s goods?”, he added.
In the Apostolic Letter “Octogesima Adveniens” (May 14, 1971), Pope Giovanni Battista Montini, claimed that the family, without which no society can subsist, has the right to assistance that will ensure conditions for its healthy development.”
On October 4, 1965, when addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Paul VI challenged his audience: “You must make it possible to have enough bread for humanity’s table; and not favor the artificial control of births — something irrational — to decrease the number of guests at the banquet of life.”
The United Nations’s forecasts today give Pope Paul VI the right of reason.