Rabbitgate: Twelve Questions for Pope Francis

March 2015By C. Jacob Johnson

C. Jacob Johnson is husband to Mrs. Johnson, with whom he has seven children. A California attorney, he serves primarily business clients but also individuals whose civil liberties are being infringed upon by the forces of political correctness.

Pope Francis has a habit of offering up catchy sound bites while flying at 35,000 feet with a corps of reporters at his heel. His spontaneous comments have attracted much media attention. Maybe they are designed to. But due to their inherent ambiguity, the Pope’s comments are often misunderstood, and attempts must be made to explain and clarify them, as people the world over begin to wonder just what Francis actually meant.

Recently, on his return from the Philippines (Jan. 19), a heavily Catholic nation where the average family size is more than twice that of most European families, His Holiness commented on family size and something called “responsible parenthood.” It is sometimes difficult to know where to draw the line between the Pope’s “personal opinions” and his magisterial teachings. As the father of seven children, I have my doubts about Francis’s recent airborne freewheel. I honestly do not know what the Holy Father was trying to say. His derogatory comments about large families raise a number of questions.

The Pope drew attention again to the “concern” regarding the drop in family size in European nations to below replacement level. Francis then said that this “doesn’t mean that the Christians must make children serially.”

Question 1: If the promotion of large families is not the answer to the population implosion, what will reverse the trend?

You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.

Back to March 2015 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
Though I've had my own problems with some of Pope Francis's comments, the comment the author addresses here seems pretty self evident to me. In the past the Pope has praised large families so I don't think he meant to criticize them. What I think he was getting at is to say that parents should consciously decide how many children they can handle and not simply beget children in rapid succession when it may not be prudent to do so. If the author of this piece is able to responsibly support seven children, and I assume he is, I'm sure the Pope would have no problem with this. However there are cases where it would simply be imprudent for a married couple to have another child, and in those cases the couple shouldn't feel as if they are obligated to have another child anyway. The example the Pope mentions of a woman who has had multiple C sections is a good one. If her doctor tells her that an additional pregnancy would be very risky for both her and the future child, it is very reasonable that she might wish to not conceive. This is not the same at all as the situations the author mentions, whereby certain people have died in order to bring a new child into the world. Presumably in those cases they may not have known ahead of time that to do so would be very risky. The author also knocks other strawmen, implying that the Pope was criticising large families in general or that the Pope would've thought that Mary and Joseph shouldn't have allowed Jesus to be born. Indeed, even in Humanae Vitae Pope Paul says that natural methods can be used to postpone conception of a child for serious reasons. This is all I think Pope Francis was getting at. Posted by:
March 12, 2015 12:51 PM EDT
We can ruminate for all eternity on what we "think" the Pope was "getting at" - and never come up with an answer. That's why these questions are so important.

Clearly, the Pope quoted population experts who say that three is a good number of children to have to "sustain the planet." So, we must now follow what these experts say? Did you ever think you would hear a pope say such a thing?

It seems that the only time he hews to Church teaching is in prepared talks or homilies that seem to be written for him. When he goes off the range, his true orientation is revealed.
Posted by: Rosemary6
March 24, 2015 04:40 PM EDT
Never ask for doctrine from a heretic - he might fool you into thinking its substantive and worth pondering over. On so many bases, bergoglo never was pope to begin with. 1) there was a plot by "Team Kasper" to get him elected, which violates UDG 291 and UDG 71. He also violated the canons by agreeing with the plot. If the canons are violated, St John Paul the Great says you have "no pope." Finally, also by heresy, berboblio never was pope, because its canon law that heretics can't even be popes! So as in the case of Liberius and Honorius and the Avignon antipopes, berglio is an antipope and a servere chatisement and warning to the Church to repent of the "heresy of all heresies" (Pius X) Modernism as it says in the Oath against modernism passed by St Pius X. Posted by: shanemattison
May 22, 2015 06:47 PM EDT
Add a comment