Pope on big families: Not main cause of poverty

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Hailing big families in the Philippines, Pope Francis blames poverty on an economic system that 'has replaced man with the god of money'
MODEL FAMILIES. Pope Francis interacts through sign language with a Filipino person with disabilities during his meeting with families in the Philippines. File photo by Francis Malasig/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis hailed big families in the Philippines on Wednesday, January 21, after he pushed for responsible parenthood and said Catholics don’t need to breed “like rabbits.”

During his weekly general audience in Vatican City, Francis said that in the Philippines, it was “a reason for consolation and hope to see so many numerous families who welcome each child as a gift of God.”

“They know that every child is a blessing,” Francis said during his weekly General Audience in Vatican City.

The Pope also sought to debunk arguments that directly blame poverty on numerous families.

“We can all say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that, at its center, has replaced man with the god of money,” he said.

“An economic system that excludes children, the elderly and young people…creates the throwaway culture that we live in today,” the Pope added. “We have become used to seeing people who have been discarded. This is the main reason for poverty, and not numerous families.”

Francis also pointed out that in the Philippines, he “asked families to cherish and protect the family in its fundamental role in society and in God’s plan.” (READ: Pope Francis warns vs ‘destruction’ of family

The Pope’s statement on Wednesday came after his remarks about responsible parenthood in an in-flight news conference on Monday, January 19, on his way back to Rome from Manila.

Law on contraceptives

During his flight, Francis said: “Some believe that – excuse the expression – to be good Catholics we must be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear, and for this reason in the Church here are matrimonial groups, experts in this. I know of many, many legitimate ways to achieve this.”

Days earlier, in a meeting with families in the Philippines, the pontiff denounced forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family.

He said threats to the family include growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life” – interpreted by observers as a criticism of gay marriage and contraceptives.

The Pope’s statements revived the debate on the Church-opposed reproductive health (RH) law, recently the most contentious issue between the Philippine government and the Catholic Church in the Philippines.

The RH law, among other things, funds the distribution of contraceptives, which the Church opposes in favor of natural family planning.

On Wednesday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) denied that Francis “made the rather unseemly remark that Catholics breed like rabbits.” 

“What the Pope did say was that some Catholics mistakenly believe that to be Catholic, we ought to breed like rabbits – and prior to using that simile, he knew that it was harsh and so said ‘excuse the expression’ – but it was apt and it brought home the point,” CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement titled, “It Is Responsible Parenthood! Not about Rabbits!”

Villegas said, “Let us leave the rabbits in peace.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com