Within any society, people encounter certain difficulties in carrying out their activities, for differences of criteria naturally demand a mutual benevolence toward others, so that obstacles may be overcome and a common objective be achieved. As such, marriage also requires significant renunciations in the interests of a greater good. However, since it was elevated by Christ as a Sacrament, the difficulties encountered in the attainment of its high objectives, which include mutual support in fidelity and the Christian education of the children, are clearly overcome with the help of divine grace. Nonetheless, Catholic families are in need of real support in order not to succumb to discouragement in a world that seems to conspire against all that God and the Holy Church ask of them! Even more so in our days widely dominated by materialism and hedonism, having a large family has become a true form of heroism. How then would couples that have been blessed by God with many children, having sacrificed themselves entirely for love of them, feel when the one to whom they owe religious obedience employs an inopportune expression, implying that to be good Catholics it is not necessary to have children like rabbits? Or who claims that it is irresponsible to have so many children because ‘God gives the means’ for the contrary? Does the ‘responsible parenthood’ of which the Church speaks, refer to the limitation of offspring? At all times?
Let us recall some points of the Church’s teachings regarding this topic…
[Francis]: I believe that the number of three per family, which you mentioned, is important, according to the experts, for maintaining the population. Three per couple. When it is below this level, you have the other extreme, as for example in Italy, where I have heard — I don’t know if it is true — that in 2024 there will be no money left to pay pensioners. Population decrease. That is why the key phrase for responding is one which the Church constantly uses, as I do: it is ‘responsible parenthood’. How does this work? With dialogue. Each person with his or her pastor has to try to exercise this responsible parenthood. The example I mentioned just now, about the woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven caesarean births: this is a form of irresponsibility. [Some might say:] ‘No, I trust in God’. ‘But, look, God gives you the means, be responsible’. Some people believe that — pardon my language — in order to be good Catholics, we should be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and it is the reason why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this area, there are pastors, and people are trying. And I know of any number of solutions which are licit and have helped for this. You did well to ask me this. (In-flight press conference from the Philippines to Rome, January 19, 2015)
Enter the various parts of our study
I – Children, a Blessing of the Sacrament of Marriage
II – The Vocation of the Family is to Beget Children for Earth and for Heaven
III – The Benefits and Importance of Large Families
IV – Particulars about ‘Birth Control’ and ‘Responsible Parenthood’