Catholic way respects dignity of all life

  • November 9, 2011

The arrival of a newborn baby usually brings cheers, not a doomsday prediction for the world.

But that’s how Philippine-born Danica May Camacho, symbolically called the world’s seven billionth baby, was introduced by international media on Oct. 31. Her birth was used in news stories to indicate the UN’s concerns about global overpopulation.

Overpopulation theorists charge that there are not enough resources to feed and care for seven billion people. They advocate for “population control” like contraception and abortion especially for Third World countries.

Catholic experts counter that a Catholic response to development issues embraces the “human dignity” of each child, no matter what part of the world they come from.

“The Catholic approach is much more true to human dignity,” said Moira McQueen, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute.

“It goes against human dignity to forcibly insist that people restrict the size of (their) family.”

In his encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (The Concern of the Church for the Social Good), the late Pope John Paul II argued for a “true development” that respects the freedom and dignity of those living in poorer countries. He criticized the tying of foreign aid to “systematic campaigns against birth” that are contrary to the cultural and religious identity of the countries. This reflects an “absolute lack of respect for the freedom of choice” and could lead to economic discrimination, according to the encyclical.

“It is the poorest populations which suffer such mistreatment, and this sometimes leads to a tendency towards a form of racism, or the promotion of certain equally racist forms of eugenics,” said Pope John Paul II.

“This fact too, which deserves the most forceful condemnation, is a sign of an erroneous and perverse idea of true human development.”

This concern for the rights of the poor reflects a longstanding Church teaching that highlights a “preferential option for the poor.”

Campaign Life Coalition national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas points out that the overpopulation concern is skewed because the West is facing the opposite challenge.

Low birth rates and immigration patterns mean Western nations are unable to replace aging populations.

She said the issue puts the spotlight on tackling abortion. (In Canada, there are an estimated 100,000 abortions per year.) Abortions have meant our population “can’t replace ourselves,” Douglas said.

Also, she suggested that merely advocating birth control and abortion as solutions could excuse governments from tackling key development issues like job creation and clean water. Douglas referred to a news story some years ago when people in Africa were in need of clean water.

“They were sent a box of condoms and people said, ‘What are we supposed to do with this? Walk to the ocean and get      water?’ ” she recalled.

So what’s the Catholic response to development? Imparting knowledge about Church teaching on natural family planning (NFP), said Fr. Joseph Hattie, who will be teaching a course on NFP at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ont.

Natural family planning, which rejects artificial birth control, talks about the “human body as an expression of the dignity of the person,” he said.

According to U.S.-based population expert Richard Sassone, one of the “best kept secrets” about global population is that while there are seven billion people, fewer babies have been born in recent years. Sassone said more than 137 million babies were born annually worldwide from 1985 to 1990. But every year since then, the birth rate has fallen, while the number of middle aged and older people has increased.

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