Pope Francis on Wednesday (Jan. 21) praised big families for “welcoming children as a true gift of God,” just days after igniting a controversy by saying Catholic parents need not reproduce “like rabbits.”
The Roman Catholic Church considers abortion and most modern methods of birth control as sinful. Large families have historically been considered a positive among the church’s faithful. Last week Francis made global news by citing a moral responsibility to limit the number of their children.
“I have heard it said that families with many children and the birth of many children are among the causes of poverty. I think that is a simplistic opinion,” he said, adding that an unjust global economic system and a “throwaway culture” are the root of poverty.
“Healthy families are essential to society,” Francis said. “It provides us with consolation and hope to see so many large families who welcome children as a gift from God. They know that every child is a blessing.”
On Monday, Francis stated his strongest defense yet of the church’s 1968 document enshrining the church’s opposition to artificial birth control. He warned against “insidious attacks” on the family. But he also said it’s not true that good Catholics must have large families. Instead, he said, “responsible parenthood” requires that couples regulate the births of their children, as church teaching allows.
Francis said there are plenty of church-approved ways to regulate births. He also said no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called “ideological colonization” of the developing world.