Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 65(2) May 2015

Rabbits and Natural Family Planning

Pope Francis on a plane

Speaking in the plane on his return from the Philippines, Pope Francis said that we should not think that "in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits". Needless to say, international headlines followed and many chimed in to defend the dignity of rabbits as well women who might feel demeaned by that description.

But in fact, as well as affirming Humanae Vitae and Natural Family Planning the Holy Father said several very important things.

We know, as does the Holy Father, that Natural Family Planning is reliable and helps to form and build family life. In this issue of the CMQ we try to set some of that data out afresh. The data on efficacy of NFP is strong and repeatedly better than most or all methods of artificial contraception. [1,2,3]

Ideological colonisation

Pope Francis on plane from ManillaOn the plane, Pope Francis discussed what he sees as ideological colonization. In essence he sees coercive secularism imposing its values upon everyone it can, regardless of their values and background.

“I'll give just one example that I saw myself. Twenty years ago, in 1995, a minister of education asked for a large loan to build schools for the poor. They gave it to her on the condition that in the schools there would be a book for the children of a certain level, no? It was a school book, a book prepared well, didactically, in which gender theory was taught.
This woman needed the money but that was the condition. Clever woman, she said yes and did it again and again and it went ahead like this and that's how it was achieved. This is ideological colonization.”
“They introduce to the people an idea that has nothing to do with the nation. Yes, with groups of people, but not with the nation. And they colonize the people with an idea which changes, or wants to change, a mentality or a structure. During the synod, the African bishops complained about this. Which was the same story, certain loans in exchange for certain conditions -- I say only these things that I have seen.
But it is not new, this. The same was done by the dictatorships of the last century. They entered with their own doctrine -- think of the Balilla (Mussolini’s fascist youth organization -- editor’s note), think of the Hitler Youth."
“They colonized the people, but they wanted to do it. But how much suffering -- peoples must not lose their freedom. Each people has its own culture, its own history. Every people has its own culture.But when conditions come imposed by imperial colonizers, they seek to make these peoples lose their own identity and make a uniformity... ”

They introduce to the people an idea that has nothing to do with the nation. And they colonize the people with an idea which changes, or wants to change, a mentality or a structure

On Humanae Vitae

Pope Francis then discussed Paul VI he said

“What I want to say about Paul VI is that it is true that openness to life is the condition of the sacrament of matrimony. A man cannot give the sacrament to the woman, and the woman give it to him, if they are not in agreement on this point to be open to life. To the point that it can be proven that this or the other did not get married with this intention of being open to life, the matrimony is null. It's a cause of the annulment of the marriage, no? Openness to life, no.
Paul VI studied this, with the commission, how to help the many cases, many problems. They are important problems, that are even about love in the family, right? The everyday problems -- so many of them.
But there was something more. The refusal of Paul VI was not only to the personal problems, for which he will tell the confessors to be merciful and understand the situation and pardon. Being understanding and merciful, no? But he was watching the universal Neo-Malthusianism that was in progress. And, how do you call this NeoMalthusianism?There is less than one percent of birth rate growth in Italy. The same in Spain. That NeoMalthusianism that sought to control humanity on the part of the powers. [see references 4 and 5 for more on Malthusianism]"
But, what I wanted to say was that Paul VI was not more antiquated, closed minded. No, he was a prophet who with this said to watch out for the Neo-Malthusianism that is coming. This is what I wanted to say.

On Contraception

Finally, asked specifically about contraception, Pope Francis again reminded us that that there is a population collapse and crisis in southern Europe. He said of 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.” And “There is less than one percent of birth rate growth in Italy. The same in Spain.”

Europe’s problem is an aging population with low birth rates. And then, in a firm affirmation of NFP, he stated that “I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this”. And he talked of the need for responsible parenthood.

The abuse of rabbits

As ever, Pope Francis has drawn good attention to the issues of family life. And yet those of us who have spent a lifetime grappling with the bigotry and discrimination against Catholics in medicine and who have seen the promotion of Natural Family Planning ignored, decried as ineffective may have been worried at the Holy Father’s use of the “R” word. Discussing rabbits risks reawakening of old wounds and outdated derision. That said, there is much to do.

Rebuilding the civilisation of love

Pope Francis clearly sees and decries the global colonization of the contraceptive lobby or alongside the silencing of facts truth about NFP and marriage. With the collapse of populations and marriage, we must do all we can to promote knowledge about NFP and marriage. Rebuilding the civilisation of love.


  1. Kerr C (2015) The symptomthermal method on Natural Family Planning. Catholic Medical Quarterly: 65 (2) page 9-10
  2. Smith A, Smith J. National fertility conference in austrialia reveals new directions for Natural Family Planning Catholic Medical Quarterly: 65 (2) page 11-13
  3. Duddy O. 2015. The ideology and Development of Natural Family Planning Catholic Medical Quarterly. 2015: 65(2) page 14-19
  4. Thevathasan P, 2013. The new imperialists. Catholic Medical Quarterly 2013: 63(3) August.
  5. Pollard A. 2013 The crisis of declining human fertility. Andrew Pollard Catholic Medical Quarterly 2013: 63(1) February.