If you want peace, DEFEND LIFE!

There are rumors floating around about a restructuring of the Roman Curia, and a document which would replace Pastor bonus (will it be called”Mercenarius malus“?).

Something in an article in CNA (HERE) that caught, and disturbed, my eye.

The draft is under discussion, and – according to a source who works in the Pontifical Council for the Family – the Academy for Life is now to be included in the Congregation for Laity and Family, and not in the Congregation of Justice and Peace.

Under Family? I object. I strenuously object and so should everyone else.

Life is, first and foremost, an issue of human rights… of justice.

What pops into my mind is Caritas in veritate 28

28. One of the most striking aspects of development in the present day is the important question of respect for life, which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples. […]

Not only does the situation of poverty still provoke high rates of infant mortality in many regions, but some parts of the world still experience practices of demographic control, on the part of governments that often promote contraception and even go so far as to impose abortion. […]

Some non-governmental Organizations work actively to spread abortion, at times promoting the practice of sterilization in poor countries, in some cases not even informing the women concerned. Moreover, there is reason to suspect that development aid is sometimes linked to specific health-care policies which de facto involve the imposition of strong birth control measures. […]

Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. […]

Benedict XVI stressed the link between the development of peoples and respect for life.

NGOs impose abortion and contraception as a sine qua non for aid to developing countries.

Francis has mentioned this, perhaps channeling his inner Benedict.

Benedict’s encyclical established an essential linkage in Catholic social thought between work for justice and peace with the struggle against abortion, sterilization, contraception and euthanasia. Benedict thereby linked Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum progressio with his encyclical Humane vitae so that, henceforth, the bifurcation that had previously existed in Catholic social thought between social justice issues and respect for life, or pro-life activities, would be forever corrected.

Is Mercenarius (my fictitious name for the replacement for Pastor bonus) going to undermine Benedict’s inspired advance in Catholic Social Teaching?

In the future, will curial efforts in “social justice” and “world peace” be compromised be a lack of attention to respect for life?

Why is abortion treated like a sex issue or a woman’s issue? It is a justice issue.

In bureaucracies, if you locate an issue in one department rather than another, people in that department will work on that issue through a particular lens and they won’t make the proper linkage.  Look at the bureaucratic map of most church organizations.  I’ll bet that nine times out of ten you will find an office for Justice and Peace and you will find a different office for Pro-Life issues.

Separate offices: Justice and Peace … Pro-Life.  That perpetuates a problem.

We need to correct the bifurcation of pro-life cultures and social justice cultures in the Church.

If we want peace, work for and defend life.

This isn’t exactly a new idea.  Look at what John Allen wrote at Fishwrap in 2012 HERE:

[Benedict XVI offered  … a memorable phrase to express the idea that being pro-peace and pro-life is one organic whole: “If we want peace,” he said, “let’s defend life!” […] (For the record, the phrase is not exactly new. Pope Paul VI’s message for the World Day of Peace in 1977 was titled, “If you want peace, defend life.” John Paul II used a slightly more complicated version of the same idea during a 1999 speech in St. Louis: “If you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, defend life. It you want life, embrace the truth, the truth revealed by God.”)



UPDATE: Moderation queue is ON (travel day).

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I seriously doubt that birth control will be permitted. What’s more likely is that bad shepherds will continue to turn a blind eye to the wolves. They will also keep telling the sheep how very pastoral their shepherds are, and how lucky the sheep are to have them.

  2. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    I completely agree about the necessity of defending life in order to establish justice. But, as a practical màtter, at least in these United States, the justice and peace offices seem to be inhabited by “seamless garment” types. They would just smother the pro-life mission. Maybe putting J&P under Pro-life would work better, although even then I suspect that the serpents would soon outwit the doves.

  3. Bosco says:

    Apropos matters of life and rabbits, I just read a startling quote in The Irish Times attributed to the Bishop of Rome:

    “Speaking on the plane on the way back to Rome from Manila in the Philippines after a week-long visit, the pope said: ‘I believe that three children per family, from what the experts say, is the key number for sustaining the population’.”


    This sounds like Planned Parenthood propaganda. What is going on?

  4. StnyPtGuy says:

    One example: In the Archdiocese of NY, it’s the Family Life/Respect Life office, which was instituted under Cardinal O’Connor (if I recall correctly).

  5. Traductora says:

    I’m sorry, but I’m very disturbed about this, not only because I see some evil hands behind it, but because I think the two sides of the Pope’s brain are not in communication with each other. Somebody else is obviously writing his formal homilies (because those in the Philippines were basically good, except for some confusing things that were obviously his interjections) but his informal remarks – and he never shuts up – have been extremely unpleasant.

    I was very distressed by his off the cuff remarks to the press that “three children is the right number, based on what the scientific experts say” (translated paraphrase) and his criticism, even personal criticism in one case, of people who had large families, which was phrased in such a way that it was obviously meant to make the press snicker and feel he was on their side. That was very cruel. Yet the day before, reading from a prepared speech, he had said something entirely different.

    What are we to do?

  6. Gus Barbarigo says:

    Will someone start a petition to keep the Academy for Life where it is?

  7. The most horrendous and unjust war that has ever been waged is the war in the womb. As a Catholic Christian I approach my civic duty informed by a hierarchy of values and recognize that the right to life is first on that hierarchy.

    We all must come to recognize the human person in everyone who is victimized, rejected, abandoned, and defenseless in the worldwide community. This cannot be accomplished if we do not firstly recognize and protect the most defenseless among us, the unborn. Not until we have done all in our power to end the abomination of abortion (and embryo destruction) worldwide by peaceful measures, can we hope to see a measure of peace in the world.

    I do not believe we will ever see an end to war in this world until we end the war in the womb. Perhaps our loving and merciful God will help us end poverty and war if we help Him end the war in the womb.

    “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.” Mother Teresa – National Prayer Breakfast

    “America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones. The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! … Every human person – no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society – is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.” Pope John Paul II USA departure ceremony on 9/19/87

  8. Gregg the Obscure says:

    I would speculate that in some (most?) cases that Pro-Life activities are separated from “Justice and Peace” activities because so many of the most outspoken advocates of “Justice and Peace” tend to (at best) shy away from Pro-Life activities. While it would probably make some donors squeamish, I suggest subordinating “Justice and Peace” to Pro-Life. FWIW, “Life, Justice and Peace” is a potent rejoinder to “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”.

  9. jameeka says:

    Good eye, Fr Z

  10. Bea says:

    A good Catholic Life should be nurtured in the Family setting, so I can see why Academy for Life could be structured there: That the family must be open to Life and lead their children’s life, well.

    But Life itself nowadays, unfortunately, is not within a Man/Woman Family. Here the Right to Life, itself, should come under Justice for all conceived humans have a Right to Life, otherwise they are extinguished, murdered in the womb.

    Who knows what is on the minds of those who (supposedly) lead us.

  11. JonPatrick says:

    When the Holy Father was talking about 3 children per family he was not doing it in the context of it being a maximum, he was remarking on the fact that the birth rate is now below 2 in many countries and it needs to be 3 to be at the replacement rate (actually 2.1 is replacement). So he was actually encouraging families to have more children.

  12. MrsMacD says:

    I breed like rabbit according to Pope Francis. I’m insulted. What a rude, ignorant, little man! I do this for God (and for me but when it’s really hard I do it for God), to hear His representative insult my family is jarring. I promise I don’t breed anything like a rabbit. It’s entirely like a human, like God intended it to be. “Increase and multiply and fill the earth.”

    As a mother, I’m an expert. My advice; Have children! Be generous! They will give you more joy than anything else in this dreary life! You spend such a small part of your life raising your children and the payback in love, devotion and affection is huge! They’re so worth it! All the sleepless nights, the ups and downs, the joys and the sorrows (!). Is there any sorrow like loosing a child? Why? Because you pour out your life for them, you become attached to them, you love them. Is there any remedy for selfishness, the disease of our age, like having children? Is there anything that makes the adult, like caring for the child? No. Children will save the Mothers, and if Fathers step up, they will save the Fathers too. If you want devoted caring parishioners, then encourage them to be devoted caring parents! When the children get older they will continue the good habits they formed as parents by helping you, and the parish, and their children will follow suit. Love begets love.

    That isn’t to say there aren’t families who are only meant to have one or two or who lose baby after baby (what sorrow!). It helps to remember that this life isn’t it, we live for the next life.

    End of rant

  13. Rich says:

    “In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, “As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).

    “Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.” (Gaudium et Spes 27)

  14. Bosco says:


    You said:

    “So he was actually encouraging families to have more children.”

    I lived in Pennsylvania Dutch Country for decades. They twist-up a mean pretzel there too.

  15. Lori Pieper says:

    People, please! Stop reading the cherry-picked and distorted quotes by the secular media and thinking you know what he said. In this case, his answer is completely explained by the question he was asked:

    “You have spoken about the many children in the Philippines, about your joy that there are so many children. But according to polls, the majority of Filippinos think that the enormous growth in the population of the Philippines is one of the most important reasons for the enormous poverty of the country, and on average, a woman in the Philippines gives birth to more than three children in her lifetime, and the Catholic position seems to be one of the few questions on which a great number of people in the Philippines are not in agreement with the Church. What do you think about this?”

    To which the Pope replied:

    “I think that three is the number of children per family that the experts say is correct to maintain the population, three per couple. When there are fewer than this, there is the other extreme, which we see in Italy where I have heard – I do not know if it is true – that from 2024 there will not be the money to pay pensioners.

    “The key phrase to answer this question is the one that the Church has always used: responsible parenthood. How does one do this? Through dialogue. Every person, accompanied by their pastor, must find out how to achieve responsible parenthood.” etc.

    So the whole thing about the three children was a correction of the misconception of a German journalist who thought having three children is too many. The Pope pointed out that this was the minimum needed to prevent population decline. This was just a preliminary to his real answer.

    The Vatican news site has a full transcription of the Pope’s answer, but you have to go to the Holy See Press Bulletin for the question –but there’s no English version. The above translation is mine.


    I do realize the press and the Vatican are not exactly making it easy for us to get a complete picture of the Pope’s words, but this is all the more reason not to fire off premature criticism of the Pope based on incomplete texts

  16. Franklinwasright says:


    The three children per family remark was in response to a question about how many children the Pope thought was a responsible amount. The fact that he deferred to the “experts” is a bad enough precedent, since many population control advocated are also so called “experts.” But he was implying that 3 is an ideal number. Whether this implication was intentional or not is not a concen for me, what concerns me is that his remarks will now be use as a club to batter large families like mine. Just google carbon footprint and large families and you’ll see what environmentalists have to say on the subject. Large Catholic families need to be defended against these secular forces by the Pope, not thrown under the bus.

    I found the Pope’s remark about the woman about to have her 8th child be c-section particularly disturbing. I am expecting my 8th child by c-section, I know how much judgement that woman is facing from society and even fellow Catholics. It can be daunting, and she was probably grateful for the opportunity to gain comfort from the Holy Father. Instead, he judged her as irresponsible in front of the entire world. My heart aches for that poor woman, and for all the other large families who should be able to seek refuge from the storm inside the church, but are all too often thrown to the waves by careless churchmen.

  17. Bosco says:

    By the way, every time I hear a priest say something like “I once spoke with a man who shoved his wife around when he’d had a bit too much and was confused about whether he’d committed one, two, or three sins against the fifth Commandment…(further with anecdote, etc.)
    When your sitting in the pew your first thought is who is he describing? Do I know him? Was it in confession he learned this?, etc.
    This kind of ‘personal experience’ related from a priest is at best creepy, and at worst makes you wonder whether the seal of confession has been violated.
    I was horrified to have the Bishop of Rome all but identify (I’m sure the media and her acquaintances will eventually) this heroic woman with 8 children and my first thought was this disclosed to Francis in the context of a confession or other ‘pastoral’ ministration?
    Houston we have a problem…a very big problem.

  18. CrimsonCatholic says:

    Thank you Lori Pieper, but they won’t do read it. It is easier to go to NYT, Washington Post, AP, etc. to read about it instead of going to the source, and it fits their agenda to complain about everything he says.

    He never said nor implied that three was the ideal number. JonPatrick is correct, the Pope was mentioning the total fertility rate (TFR), which needs to be above 2.1 in developed countries and as high as 3.4 in the third world in order to sustain the current population. At least half of the world is below their TFR. The Pope mention that is is said that Italy will not be able to pay the Pension(or care for the elderly) by 2024. He was stating that lack of a population leads to poverty. Which he repeated a day or two after the interview.

  19. Heather F says:

    The question was not “how many children is the ideal” or “how many is responsible.” The context makes it perfectly clear that the response of “three is correct to maintain the population” was in response to a journalist implying that three children is TOO MANY. In other words, it’s not too many, it’s what you need to prevent a decline. Not what everyone ought to have, no more and no less.

    The rabbits remark is also perfectly clear in context. Contrary to what some people outside the Church think, the Church does not teach that we are all required to have as many babies as possible, regardless of our health and means. The remark about the woman on her 8th c-section was imprudent, granted. He should have just said that the Church does not teach that conceiving against grave medical counter-indications is a great idea, it recognizes that it can be downright irresponsible, which I assume is the point he was trying to make.

  20. Franklinwasright says:

    Heather F.-

    Thank you for the clarification, I should know by now to read the transcript myself instead of relying on media reports.

    Having now read the transcript, I am even more disturbed by his comments about the pregnant woman. He actually mentions her twice, and mentions that he personally rebuked her. This is more than imprudent, it is insulting and cruel to the woman involved. He can make a point about responsible parenthood without lambasting a woman who came to him for comfort, that is not pastoral.

    “This does not mean that the Christian must make children in series. I rebuked a woman some months ago in a parish who was pregnant eight times, with seven C-sections (cesareans). “But do you want to leave seven orphans? That is to tempt God! (Paul VI) speaks of responsible parenthood. What I wanted to say was that Paul VI was not antiquated, close minded. No,(he was) a prophet again who with this (encyclical) told us to watch out for the Neo-Malthusianism that is coming. This is what I wanted to say.”

    “That example i mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth (child) and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is an irresponsibility (That woman might say) ‘no but I trust in god’ But God gives you methods to be responsible. Some think that, excuse me if i use that word, that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood! This is clear and that is why in the church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can seek and i know so many, many ways out that are licit and that have helped this. You did well to ask me this.”

    What I get from this, aside that he should have used a hypothetical example for the sake of the poor woman, is that it is irresponsible to have eight c-sections and relying solely on God to take care of you and your child is foolish. I understand what he is actually trying to say here, and that is is more nuanced as that, but it comes across as very judgmental and dismissive.

    Child birth is always a risk, whether you have one or twelve children. You can try to make sure that everything is done as “responsibly” as possible and strive to take no unnecessary risks, but at the end of the day it is out of your hands. Women who are facing unplanned and high risk pregnancies should put their faith in God, it is a good thing, and being rebuked by their pastor is not going to help them in any way.

    I think what upsets me the most is the ammunition the Pope has given to the very “neo-Malthuisans” he is trying to discredit.

  21. Bosco says:

    Louie Verricchio, whose blog is “Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II”, has a clarification from the Director of CNA’s, Alejandro Bermúdez, in respect of Francis’ comment on the woman who had 8 children by C-section.

    The clarification is here http://www.harvestingthefruit.com/giving-credit/

    Originally the (mistranslated) text of Francis’ remark read:

    “I met a woman some months ago in a parish who was pregnant with her eighth child, who had had seven C-sections…”

    The CNA corrected translation now reads:

    “I reproached a woman some months ago in a parish because she was pregnant with her eighth child, after having had seven C-sections…”

    Much more pastoral.

  22. MrsMacD says:

    I appologize whole heartedly for my initial comment. I must keep reminding myself that everything this Pope says is blown way out of context by one extreme or the other. I hadn’t been back to this page since my last comment but my husband stumbled on this; http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-surprised-by-misunderstanding-of-his-words-on-family-87111/
    And I felt the need to apologise, though who will see God knows.

    Still, the immpression left is truly scandalous. My husband has had comments from his boss, now that his boss thinks the Pope is on his boss’ side, it’s a little more difficult to explain why we have children that we can’t put through college but we must carry this cross as well as any others.

    I love how he said he was sorry. It’s such a good example. So beautiful. God bless him!

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    I am sorry that i did not make any comments on this post when it came out, but I would like to clarify something that has been bugging me since Saturday. What, “experts,” are saying that we need 2.1 children to replace the population? I have wondered this for a long time, so I, finally, investigated the matter. I had expected a long series of integrals and differential equations, or at least some invocation of the Central Limit Theorem (since you require, exactly, those things to prove that no planet can survive unless 216 inhabitants remain after a cataclysm – read a paper on this a while back), but, no. The explanation is so much simpler and shoots through the idea that it required, “experts to come up with this number.” Heck, a seven year old could have derived the number.

    Let me explain:

    You’ve got a mommy and a daddy. That’s 2 people and, someday, they are going to die. That means 2 more people have to take their place to keep the population exactly equal. Where does the .1 come from? Ha! Actually, the population replacement number (technically, the Replacement Fertility Rate : RFR) is a little bit higher than 2 to allow for child mortality. Obviously, in developed countries, where the infant mortality is lower, the decimal point is closer to 0, but in certain places in Africa, the number can rise to 1.44, or needing 3.44 children as the RFR. In reality, the number for countries, worldwide, is 2.33 (1/3 of a child), but that can be pushed down a bit. So, you get the idea where the 2.1 children comes from.

    Man, I feel so stupid. You guys, probably, already knew this, but I was way over-thinking the problem. It took, “experts,” to figure this out? This number is so idiotic as to be an insult to science. It assumes all sorts of stability criteria. Things like volcanoes, meteors, wars, climate changes, etc., can wildly influence this number.

    One thing, in terms of Catholicism, is clear and very ominous. If you examine a chart of total fertility rates throughout the world, you find one very sad fact. The chart is here:


    In the United States, the lowest fertility rates are in the New England States, while the highest are in the midwest and the south. The highest fertility rates are in Africa (the reddish colored areas on the map. Green is 2.1 RFR). There is a direct correlation between how rich a country is and how low its fertility rate is and where Catholicism is most orthodox, the fertility rate is highest. In fact, becoming a developing country is the best form of contraception, as some politician snidely put it. Becoming a, “rich,” country almost dooms it, both in terms of fertility and the Faith. Jesus said that it was harder for a camel to pass through the eye of needle than a rich man getting into heaven. If you notice, it is the poor in spirit who have the kingdom of God and the meek, not the rich and haughty, who shall inherit the earth. Maybe that’s because they will be the only ones having children?

    The Chicken

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