In a news conference on the papal plane, Pope Francis said Catholic families should not see the Church’s ban on contraception as requiring they breed “like rabbits.” Rather, a good Catholic family is one that practices “responsible parenting.”
The pontiff was flying to Rome after a week-long trip to Manila in the Philippines.
“I believe that three children per family, from what the experts say, is the key number for sustaining the population,” he said.
“The key word here is responsible parenthood and each person works out how to exercise this with the help of their pastor. Some people think that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits,” he said, shaking his head.
“Responsible parenthood: this is why there are marriage support groups in the Church with people who are experts on such issues; and there are pastors and I know that there are many acceptable solutions that have helped with this.”
The pope said there are many “licit” forms of birth control that are approved by the church, referencing the Natural Family Planning method of avoiding intercourse while a woman is ovulating.
“God gives you methods to be responsible,” he said.
He recalled a woman he had met who was pregnant with her eighth child after having seven C-sections, saying that was “an irresponsibility” because she put her life at risk.
The pope also spoke about “ideological colonization,” referring to aid groups in Africa that condition their assistance on a country’s compliance with their own ideals. Examples include distributing condoms, or withdrawing help if legislation discriminating against homosexuality is passed.
“When imposed conditions come from imperial colonizers, they search to make people lose their own identity and make a sameness,” he said. “This is ideological colonization.”
He compared these international organizations that “try to influence lifestyles and morals of young people in poorer nations” to Nazi and Fascist propagandists.
"They colonize people with ideas that try to change mentalities or structures," he said.
"But this is not new. This was done by the dictatorships of the last century," he said, citing the Hitler Youth and Balilla, its Italian equivalent under dictator Benito Mussolini.
The conference covered a wide range of topics including global poverty, Church corruption, China, freedom of expression and the role of women in the Church.
Pope Francis’s straightforward colloquialisms continued as he told a story about two Argentinian government bureaucrats in 1994 who’d tried to involve him in a kickback scheme – he said: “At that moment I thought: do I insult them and kick them where the sun don’t shine or do I act dumb?” He continued to say that corruption is a global problem, and that the greatest victims are the poor.
He then drew attention to poverty in Asia and the rest of the world, and called on the clergy to “reject worldliness.”
“In my diocese, the diocese of Buenos Aires there was a new area called Portomadero and not far from there were the villas miserias. In the first part there were 36 luxury restaurants, in the other part there was hunger. Both were right next to each other. We apparently tend to get used to this,” he said.
“This is what poverty is and the Church needs to increasingly lead the way in rejecting all kinds of worldliness. For us, the consecrated – bishops, priests, nuns and lay people – worldliness is the gravest sin. It is an ugly thing to see a consecrated person, a person of the Church, a nun adopt a worldly attitude. This is not the way of Jesus, of Jesus’ Church. That is an NGO calling itself a Church.”
The pope also announced his upcoming travels to the Central African Republic and Uganda toward the end of the year, America in September (with stops in Washington DC and New York), and Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.