Rhein on Energy and Climate

It is 50 years since Pope Paul VI proclaimed the famous Encyclica of human life asking the 1.2 billion Catholics living today on earth to regulate births exclusively by “natural means”, i.e. abstaining from sexual intercourse during the periods of ovulation.

This appeal has failed. The Church has vastly over-estimated the intelligence and discipline of the believers to regulate births in a way, which contradicts Nature calling for sexual activity during the fertile days of the cycle.

The Catholic Church therefore has to acknowledge its responsibility for the ultra-rapid global demographic growth, with more than doubling of the population from 3.4 to 7.3 billion people during the last 50 years.

Countries with Catholic populations have seen their population grow faster than non-Catholic countries. In South-East Asia, Catholic Philippines continues to be the country with the highest fertility, three children per woman, though fertility more than halved since the mid-1960s.

Thanks to legislation introduced since 2012 against the frantic opposition from the Catholic Church the Philippine government has been enabled to offer all women free access to the public family planning service, which gives a fair chance to the country to reduce fertility rates to the replacement level of two within less than two decades.

But this is not good enough for Humanity. The Church wields big influence in many sub-Sahara African countries where fertility rates continue to be excessively high.

If it were to preach its African disciples that 2-3 children are enough and encourage governments and international donors to introduce education for all girls and the beginnings of old -age pension systems, it would help global population stabilise below the 10 billion that are being projected by the UN for the middle of the 21st century.

This would help reduce misery and poverty in Africa, Latin America and Asia and make a big numbers of human beings healthier and happier.

Pope Francis would have the power to introduce such a reform. He has openly declared that Catholics should “not breed like rabbits”; he knows more about the misery in slums than any of his predecessors. Hopefully, he might realise during his forthcoming visit to Africa that the message of “Human Life” is too demanding for the masses of uneducated women and therefore cannot work.

In one or two years the time might be ripe for revising the “Encyclica of Human Life” which however brilliantly written has put some dust on since 1968!

Brussels 20.01.2015 Eberhard Rhein


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  1. Catholic populations grow faster and faster in New Zealand, for instance. In the Religion college essay which was submitted last month to the college writing site, we can find 38% of all catholic listed populations.

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