Blog Post

Press Distorts Pope’s Words . . . Again

Large family at an animal parkCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Pope Francis was reportedly surprised to learn that his comments regarding responsible parenthood were so badly misunderstood by the mainstream media who used them as way to further their narrative that we have a progressive Pope who is gunning to rewrite Church teaching on social issues.

CNA/EWTN News is reporting on the media’s response to comments made by Pope Francis during his flight from Manila to Rome on Feb. 19 in which he said: “Some think that -- excuse the language -- that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits,” and went on to stress that it was instead important to exercise “responsible parenthood.”

This statement made quick headlines around the world, intimating that the pope was ridiculing large families.

However, last Thursday, Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, Substitute at the Secretariat of State, told the Italian bishop’s publication, Avvenire, that the Pope was saddened at the misunderstanding.

“The Pope is truly sorry that it created such disorientation. He absolutely did not want to disregard the beauty and the value of large families,” Archbishop Becciu stated.

“Seeing the headlines, the Holy Father, with whom I spoke yesterday, smiled and was a bit surprised that his words were not fully contextualized with regards to a very clear passage of Humanae vitae on responsible parenthood,” Archbishop Becciu stated.

He was referring to a section in Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical in which he used the term “responsible parenthood” when referring to the requiremen”that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.”

But the only part of the pope’s statement that got any attention was the “rabbit” reference which was then used to make it appear as if the pope was bashing large families. Headlines screamed, Pope Francis: Catholics Don’t Have to Breed Like Rabbits and Pope Francis: ‘Stop Breeding Like Rabbits’.

However, as Archbishop Becciu points out, the Pope's statement “must be interpreted in the sense that the procreative act of humans cannot follow the logic of the animal instinct, but it is instead the fruit of a responsible act that is rooted in love and in the mutual gift of the self.”

Distortions were also made about the pope's comments regarding those who say three children per family is too much, insisting that experts say this is the number needed to keep the population going. Many took this to mean that the pope was issuing a proclamation that Christian couples should limit their family size to three children.

“The number three only refers to the minimum number that would assure the stability of population, as indicated by sociologists and demographers. In no way did the Pope want to say that it represented the 'just’'number of children for each married couple,” Archbishop Becciu said.

He then explained that “every Christian couple, in light of grace, is called to discern according to a variety of divine and human parameters the number of children they should have.”

Clarifying these statements might have been a good teaching moment for the world, but the press chose to either bury or ignore all attempts to clarify the pope’s remark. If they hadn’t done so, the world might have had a glimpse of the beauty of Catholic teaching set forth in various papal documents, including the 1930 encyclical, Casti Connubii, by by Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical in which he speaks of the “logic of love” that must be present in every sexual act which refers to the “capacity of each person to open to the mystery of the gift of self in the bonds of marriage.”

What a beautiful world we could have if everyone understand what real love is all about! Leave it to the mainstream media to bury the real story.

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