Populorum Progressio 37: Population Growth

Let’s talk about overpopulation. Perhaps some would prefer a return to the time of Jesus, just a few hundred million human beings. Standing room only with social distancing puts us past 30 trillion. Everybody would pretty much drop a problem point in between those two. Let’s read what Pope Paul VI said in 1967:

37. There is no denying that the accelerated rate of population growth brings many added difficulties to the problems of development where the size of the population grows more rapidly than the quantity of available resources to such a degree that things seem to have reached an impasse. In such circumstances people are inclined to apply drastic remedies to reduce the birth rate.

Fifty years later, mostly white people are concerned about falling birth rates. We’ve seen somewhat drastic remedies in China, but we also see social and economic considerations overwhelming political movements these days.

There is no doubt that public authorities can intervene in this matter, within the bounds of their competence. They can instruct citizens on this subject and adopt appropriate measures, so long as these are in conformity with the dictates of the moral law and the rightful freedom of married couples is preserved completely intact. When the inalienable right of marriage and of procreation is taken away, so is human dignity.

I would agree with this being an issue of human dignity, but it doesn’t stop at marriage and procreation. Parents have a discernment to make. That judgment doesn’t end with their personal desires, but includes factors within their own families and communities. This makes sense:

Finally, it is for parents to take a thorough look at the matter and decide upon the number of their children. This is an obligation they take upon themselves, before their children already born, and before the community to which they belong—following the dictates of their own consciences informed by God’s law authentically interpreted, and bolstered by their trust in Him. (Gaudium et Spes 50-51; also 87)

The state of the question one year before Humanae Vitae. What do you think? How are things different today?

This encyclical letter is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana, and can be found in its entirety at this link.

CC BY 2.5, Link The image is of Lady Justice at the Central Criminal Court of London.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Populorum Progressio, social justice. Bookmark the permalink.

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