Have you ever heard the anti-Catholic myth about birth control and Church membership? It tends to go something like this: the Church opposes contraception because it wants to out-populate other groups and dominate the world!
Is there any reason to think this is true? It’s easy to speculate about people you don’t like and attribute bad motives to them based on nothing but your own conjecture, but it’s another to provide evidence to back up your claims.
So where are the leaked Vatican documents that reveal the demographic takeover plans? Where are the secret recordings of officials from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith discussing it? Where are the memos between cardinals? Where are the population projections and feasibility studies showing how soon the takeover can be accomplished?
If there were some Church-wide or even hierarchy-wide conspiracy, there should be evidence of it somewhere. But there isn’t. The truth is, none of these sorts of things exists.
Also, it’s not as if we don’t know the reasoning behind the Church’s teaching. In the 1960s, after the birth control pill had been developed, there was a question as to whether it would run afoul of the Church’s traditional understanding of contraception. Pope John XXIII thus convened the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control to investigate the question, and it was subsequently expanded by Pope Paul VI.
The commissioners debated the question and submitted their reports to Paul VI. Subsequently, these were leaked to the press, and nowhere in the leaked documents is there any indication that the commissioners who supported the Church’s traditional teaching on contraception did so in order to aid a Catholic demographic takeover.
Let’s also ask what kind of policy the Church would have announced if it had such a goal. In that case, the popes should have announced a policy that sought not only to maximize the number of births among Catholics, but also to minimize the number of births among non-Catholics. The Church would have announced something like, “It is a sin for Catholics to use contraception and abortion, but this is a specifically religious duty, so it doesn’t apply to non-Catholics. They are perfectly free to use contraception and abortion.”
But that’s not what the Church teaches. Instead, it teaches that both contraception and abortion are matters of natural law and are binding on all people, regardless of their faith. Married couples of any sort should not use contraception, and no child at all can be killed by abortion!
In fact, when Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s traditional teaching on contraception and abortion in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, he addressed the document not just to Catholics, but also “to all men of good will”—indicating that its message was for the whole world and not just for Catholics.
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If there were a demographic takeover plot, you might expect to see other Church teachings in support of it. It would be in the Church’s interest, for instance, to change its teaching on marriage to allow infertile couples to take new partners in hopes of bearing children, yet the Church continues to teach—as Jesus did—that marriage is for life (Mark 10:11-12). You might expect the Church to allow men to have multiple wives as some other religions do, yet the Church insists that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Further, if the Church did have such a motive, it would not permit parents to regulate childbirth by means of natural family planning. Yet it does. In fact, in Humanae Vitae itself, Paul VI stated, “With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time” (10).
The question, therefore, is not whether there can be situations where it is reasonable to limit the number of children a couple has. The Church acknowledges that there can be. Instead, the question is about which means are moral to use when this is the case. And as it has always done, it promotes moral means and opposes immoral ones—irrespective of the impact on its membership numbers.
This article is excerpted from Jimmy Akin’s new 20 Answers Booklet, Anti-Catholic Myths, now available at the Catholic Answers Shop.