Filipino bishop: Pope's 'rabbit' remark misunderstood
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2015 - 4:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — The head of Philippine bishops on Wednesday issued a clarification of Pope Francis' call for responsible parenting, slamming reports that he compared Catholics to rabbits.

"The Pope NEVER made the rather unseemly remark that Catholics breed like rabbits," Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement.

"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," Villegas, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, added.

Villegas encouraged readers to refer to the transcript of the interview of Pope Francis aboard the Philippine Airlines plane en route to Rome on Monday.

He explained that the Catholic Church, albeit against artificial contraceptives and abortion, has always taught parents and families about responsible parenthood.

"Births should be planned rationally by both parents who must always remain open to new life, but who must also take into consideration their physical, financial and emotional capacity to raise children," Villegas said.

In commenting on the issue, the Roman Pontiff only corrected attitudes of some Catholics who say, "Come what may!', the bishop said.

He also urged the faithful to review Pope Francis' words in his meeting with families at the Mall of Asia arena last week where he staunchly defended Catholic teaching on marriage and parenthood.

In that meeting, Pope Francis called Pope Paul VI a prophet in penning the controversial Humanae Vitae, where he asserted that nations which assume an anti-birth stance will find themselves impoverished.

"The experience of aging nations with only a handful of youngsters to take on the jobs necessary for a country’s survival and growth has proved Blessed Paul VI right," Villegas said.


Transcript of Pope Francis' answer to a question on population issues and child bearing

Below is a verbatim translation of the pope's in-flight interview aboard the papal plane traveling from Manila to Rome on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015.

Journalist Christoph Schmidt:

Holy Father, first of all I would like to say: Thank you very much for all the impressive moments of this week. It is the first time I accompany you, and I would like to say thank you very much. My question: you have talked about the many children in the Philippines, about your joy because there are so many children, but according to some polls the majority of Filipinos think that the huge growth of Filipino population is one of the most important reasons for the enormous poverty in the country. A Filipino woman gives birth to an average of three children in her life, and the Catholic position concerning contraception seem to be one of the few question on which a big number of people in the Philippines do not agree with the Church. What do you think about that?

Pope Francis:

I think the number of three children per family that you mentioned – it makes me suffer- I think it is the number experts say is important to keep the population going. Three per couple. When this decreases, the other extreme happens, like what is happening in Italy. I have heard, I do not know if it is true, that in 2024 there will be no money to pay pensioners because of the fall in population. Therefore, the key word, to give you an answer, and the one the Church uses all the time, and I do too, is responsible parenthood. How do we do this? With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do carry out a responsible parenthood.

That example I mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is a an irresponsibility That woman might say 'no, I trust in God.’ But, look, God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that -- excuse the language -- that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this. You did well to ask me this.

Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say 'God knows how to help me' and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.

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