Pope Francis Defends Catholic Church's Ban on Contraception But Says Christians Don't Have to Procreate 'Like Rabbits'

Pope Francis gestures as he speaks with journalists on his flight back from Manila to Rome, January 19, 2015.
Pope Francis gestures as he speaks with journalists on his flight back from Manila to Rome, January 19, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini)

Pope Francis said at the conclusion of his trip to the Philippines that he firmly stands behind the Roman Catholic Church's ban on contraceptives, but said that those who have too many children are failing to be responsible parents. The Vatican leader also spoke out against forcing the teaching of gender theory at school, comparing it to the way the Nazis indoctrinated children.

Francis backed Blessed Paul VI's stance against contraception on board the papal flight from Manila back to the Vatican, but said that "this does not mean a Christian must make children one after another," Catholic News Service reported.

The pontiff used as an example the case of a woman who became pregnant for an eighth time after having to undergo a cesarean section to give birth to her seven children. He said that such a scenario is "tempting God."

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"Some people think — excuse me for saying this — that to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits," he added.

As for his opposition to the teaching of gender theory, which Catholic leaders often refer to ideas questioning the natural differences between men and women, Francis called it an "ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family."

He revealed that 20 years ago in his native Argentina, a government official was offered a loan to build schools for poor children, but only under the condition that she agrees to assign students textbooks on gender theory.

"Why do I say ideological colonization? Because they use a people's need as an opportunity to come in and impose their will on children. But this is nothing new. The dictatorships of the last century did the same thing; they came in with their doctrine. Think of the Balilla. Think of the Hitler Youth," the pope said.

Francis has urged dialog and discussion within the Catholic Church about how to present teachings on controversial topics, such as gay unions, contraception, and divorce, and hosted the major Synod of the Family conference in October. Francis has stuck to the traditional teachings on all these positions, and urged bishops and senior clerics to use these teachings when reaching out to families.

Francis' five-day trip to the Philippines concluded on Monday, following major media and public attention.

Catholic mass on Sunday in Manila drew a record 6 million people, the largest crowd for such an event in history.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, said that the people of the Philippines, a largely Catholic nation, were "overwhelmed right now with thanksgiving and gratitude to God" due to Francis' visit. He added that the church has been challenged by the pontiff to tackle some of the biggest problems in the county, such as the massive inequality between people.

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