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Pope Pius XII on Large Catholic Families


Below is an excerpt from an address given by Pope Pius XII to the Directors of the Associations for Large Families of Rome and Italy in January 20, 1958, the nineteenth (and final) year of his papacy. Throughout the address the Holy Father eloquently speaks of the joy, sacrifice and generosity so prevalent amongst those families who God has abundantly blessed with the gift of children.

“Large families are the most splendid flower-beds in the garden of the Church; happiness flowers in them and sanctity ripens in favorable soil. Every family group, even the smallest, was meant by God to be an oasis of spiritual peace. But there is a tremendous difference: where the number of children is not much more than one, that serene intimacy that gives value to life has a touch of melancholy or of pallor about it; it does not last as long, it may be more uncertain, it is often clouded by secret fears and remorse.”

Happiness in a large family

“It is very different from the serenity of spirit to be found in parents who are surrounded by a rich abundance of young lives. The joy that comes from the plentiful blessings of God breaks out in a thousand different ways and there is no fear that it will end. The brows of these fathers and mothers may be burdened with cares, but there is never a trace of that inner shadow that betrays anxiety of conscience or fear of an irreparable return to loneliness, Their youth never seems to fade away, as long as the sweet fragrance of a crib remains in the home, as long as the walls of the house echo to the silvery voices of children and grandchildren.

“Their heavy labors multiplied many times over, their redoubled sacrifices and their renunciation of costly amusements are generously rewarded even here below by the inexhaustible treasury of affection and tender hopes that dwell in their hearts without ever tiring them or bothering them.

“And the hopes soon become a reality when the eldest daughter begins to help her mother to take care of the baby and on the day the oldest son comes home with his face beaming with the first salary he has earned himself. That day will be a particularly happy one for parents, for it will make the spectre of an old age spent in misery disappear, and they will feel assured of a reward for their sacrifices.

“When there are many children, the youngsters are spared the boredom of loneliness and the discomfort of having to live in the midst of adults all the time. It is true that they may sometimes become so lively as to get on your nerves, and their disagreements may seem like small riots; but even their arguments play an effective role in the formation of character, as long as they are brief and superficial. Children in large families learn almost automatically to be careful of what they do and to assume responsibility for it, to have a respect for each other and help each other, to be open-hearted and generous. For them, the family is a little proving ground, before they move into the world outside, which will be harder on them and more demanding.”


“All of these precious benefits will be more solid and permanent, more intense and more fruitful if the large family takes the supernatural spirit of the Gospel, which spiritualizes everything and makes it eternal, as its own particular guiding rule and basis. Experience shows that in these cases, God often goes beyond the ordinary gifts of Providence, such as joy and peace, to bestow on it a special call — a vocation to the priesthood, to the religious life, to the highest sanctity.

“With good reason, it has often been pointed out that large families have been in the forefront as the cradles of saints. We might cite, among others, the family of St. Louis, the King of France, made up of ten children, that of St. Catherine of Siena who came from a family of twenty-five, St. Robert Bellarmine from a family of twelve, and St. Pius X from a family of ten.

“Every vocation is a secret of Providence; but these cases prove that a large number of children does not prevent parents from giving them an outstanding and perfect upbringing; and they show that the number does not work out to the disadvantage of their quality, with regard to either physical or spiritual values.”

47 thoughts on “Pope Pius XII on Large Catholic Families”

  1. THE



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  2. Oddly, not a single mention of rabbits anywhere in the talk.

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that these are deeply personal reflections by Pope Pius.

  3. Thank you for sharing these reflections. I myself do not come from a large nuclear family; however, I have shared in the joys of the large families through friendships and my extended family. They (large families) are, indeed, much as Pope Pius XII speaks here. Sadly, this deeply and thoroughly Catholic view and attitude of the family is not being spoken with clarity by our present pontiff, Francis. Sadly, in my mind, he is watering down Catholicism to become more “relevant” to the masses. The narrow gate is fast becoming a broad road.

    • I came from a family of two children. The reason I wanted a large family was because of my friend who had many siblings. This family made a great impression upon me. I am still waiting for the Pope to speak on natural child spacing. God has a plan which spaces out births. It’s called ecological breastfeeding. World and Church leaders should be promoted this form of natural family planning which requires no abstinence. For more info, go to

  4. Rabbits?
    Suddenly the Sedevacantist position has gone from
    absurd to positivity reasonable.
    As a faithful father of numerous children and a
    husband of a heroic wife who carried them,
    I’m pissed. I have defended the Faith countless
    times and been shunned, ridiculed and called
    “a breeder” by strangers. I could have bought a
    vacation house with the money I have spent on groceries
    and diapers alone. Indeed many of my quasi-catholic
    peers have done just that. There once was
    consolation that; at least The Church understood and
    was pleased. Francis has now placed a dunce cap
    on me and many like me.
    This link: if you dare.

    • How does this put a dunce cap on you?

      “God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the language — 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 search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this. You did well to ask me this.

      Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say ‘God knows how to help me’ and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.”

      • You don’t see it? Read carefully: “Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure.”

        For “them” a child is a treasure? Meaning the very poor? “Some” of “them”–meaning the poor—would say “God knows how to help me?” This reeks of condescension toward the ignorant poor who do not know of “responsible parenthood.”

        A child is a treasure for all who are blessed with one, rich or poor, not just those who “see” the child as such. And God’s providence is not just something “some” people (ignorant poor people) invoke while not being “prudent,” but rather a reality in which all Catholics are obliged to place their trust.

        Furthermore, if every child is a treasure, how can one “tempt God” by accepting all the treasure He bestows? Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the Church, was the 23rd of 25 children born in the midst of the Plague in Rome. Was her mother “like a rabbit” who “tempted God”?

        This Pope’s impromptu blathering is alienating more Catholics by the hour. This pontificate is an unprecedented debacle for the Church.

        • Chris, as a Catholic father of 9, I too was wounded by the Holy Father’s words, as they have been reported by the media. I know the Pope has been taken out of context and misquoted by the media in the past and I hope that is the case again, now. However, even if the Pope said exactly what was reported, you must remember that it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the College of Cardinals to elect this man Pope and therefore he serves as the successor of Peter because it is the will of the Holy Spirit. He has only been Pope for 10 months and I am sure he is learning much about being Pope. Please, for the sake of your own soul, I encourage you to be careful about judging the Holy Father’s performance as Pope — that is the sole prerogative of our Heavenly Father. Instead, please pray for the Holy Father’s guidance and protection. May God bless you and His Church!

          • “[I]t was the Holy Spirit who inspired the College of Cardinals to elect this man Pope and therefore he serves as the successor of Peter because it is the will of the Holy Spirit.”

            No, Clive. I’m afraid this is a common misconception. Then Cardinal Ratzinger was actually asked directly about this in a television interview in 1997. His answer tells us what should be manifestly obvious for students of Catholic history:

            “I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined. … There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!”

          • Thank you so much Clive for saying this! I feel exactly the same way you have stated here, and I have 13 children. We have all suffered more at the hands and cultural norms allowed by our fellow Catholics to this point in history, than by what seem off the cuff, not clearly applicable, or rather insensitive comments by Pope Francis about our splinter-by-splinter form of martyrdom. I agree with you that God chose the man, the whole man, for the vocation and I also think patience is the better form of valor here.

        • Hi Chris,

          Peace be with you.

          You may be interested to read the question that preceded the Pope’s response and explains His Holiness’ non-condescending yet particular reference to the poor.

          The reporter specifically asked a question about the impoverished and the use of artificial contraception; it is no surprise the response focused on “them” (the poor), and that the Pope reaffirmed the Church’s position against contraceptives.

          Please search for Christoph Schmidt’s question within the page. And also the Pope’s full response. (Or of course, the phrase “like rabbits”)

          As to the indignation of everyone in this blog, I think it stems from the fact that all of you are hard-working, loving, generous, and so selfless in having raised however many kids God blessed you with. In fact, you have devoted your lives to that and lived up to the task of rearing God’s children so they can one day too, live their vocations fully, whether it be in blessed singleness, their own family, or religious life. I too, have always wished my mother did not undergo ligation after my second sibling, seeing such joy in even larger families, and room for us to have lived still comfortably even with less.

          You must understand though, that there are some parents here in the Philippines–yes Chris, not just the poor ones–who do not work hard, do not love, and are selfish. They end up with nine children not to rear them into one day living their vocation, but exclusively because of the pleasure involved in sex, ignoring the reality and responsibility of its procreative element. Or, some passively bet that one day at least one of the kids would strike it rich, without having a concrete plan for providing for their kids until then. Sola fide? No. Concrete action on a parent’s part is needed too (or at the very least, a plan!). Some see kids as property they can use for labor; worst are those who have sold their children’s virginity for 250 dollars to some pedophile. Some are simply abandoned on the street. And so on and so forth.

          Passivity. This is part of the irresponsibility Francis seeks to fight. Jesus himself was tempted to passively jump off a temple and tempt God to command His angels to avert disaster (Lk 4;Mt 4; Mk1). Likewise, we should not expect God to do our parenting for us, as some of those who bear children do, expecting Him to command angels to save children a parent wants to abandon in the street. This is what he meant by tempting.

          I have never heard the Pope say have or do not have a small family. Neither have I heard him say have or do not have a large one. I don’t believe he has ever dictated a perfect number or a range; for I agree with all of you! Who is the Pope to say how many kids one can have? (He has praised large families though; ) All he said was don’t randomly have sex without the necessary readiness and morals in place; that is, do not breed like rabbits which have no reason, and no soul, no purpose—or at least, our purpose is more than just propagation of the race. We train a child towards his vocation, “the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), and be models of good works, teaching integrity and showing dignity. (Titus 2:7)

          Finally, in the Philippine context, there are those who argue that the poor have no right to have a child. Pope Francis actually defends that right by encouraging those who want to limit a poor person’s number of children to understand how children are treasure to parents. I believe the true message of this last part simply fell victim to a loss in translation.

          Disclaimer: I write from the point of view of a 30-year-old upper-middle-class Filipino based on the Philippines. I am not a saint, but I’d like to think the Holy Father has our back.

          • I have read the entire transcript minutely and listened to the whole press conference in Italian, which I speak and read.

            The Pope publicly singled out for condemnation before the whole world a mother of eight children, declaring that he had rebuked her because she was irresponsible and was tempting God. He openly dismissed the idea that she should trust in God as opposed to trusting in “methods” that God has provided to avoid pregnancy.

            The comment about being “like rabbits” immediately followed his SECOND denunciation of the mother of eight, declaring her decision to have the eighth child by Caesarian “an irresponsability.” That is, the mother of eight was like a rabbit who was acting irresponsibly. Who is he to judge this woman?

            The Pope’s behavior is bizarre and inexcusable. He owes the woman an apology for his calumny and detraction.

            Further, the Pope said it was a “curious thing” that for “the most poor” (i.e. the poorest) a child is a treasure. What is curious about it? A child is a treasure for anyone who has one, not just “the most poor.” His reference to “them” was to “the most poor” not to Filipino women in general.

            The press conference was a disaster. One of the many that have happened when this Pope speaks off the cuff, that is, when he tells us what he really thinks.

          • Chris, thank you for replying.

            Please permit me to start first with your last concern:

            That kids are treasures is an idea that is not so apparent to policymakers the world over who push condoms down the throats of the poor, and again, yes Chris, not just to Filipinos. Pope Francis highlights this truth for those in our planet who do not understand. Of course it is obvious to you and me. But it is not for many else. When you see people miss a point, when you see them miss a universal truth, no matter how obvious that truth may be, you have to specify to them what that “curious” truth is. He could have just as well used the phrase “important thing,” that “interesting thing” policymakers must focus on, take interest in. This is just his personal educational style, how a teacher would speak to kids missing the bigger picture.

            Also, a positive statement about one group does not imply a negative one about another. When I say “Career success is important to men,” I did not necessarily mean to say “Career success is important ONLY to men,” or that “Career success is NOT important to women.” This whole “them” issue is a fallacy in logic that is exhibited by so many ultra-political correctness advocates in the United States. Of course kids are treasures to all! Not just the poor. For that matter, policymakers are pushing condoms down the throats of even those families better placed socioeconomically. But the Pope rightly focuses his reply on the subject matter of the question: the poor.

            And now on the use of the phrase “like rabbits”:

            I respect your refusal to listen to Pope Francis, but I am hoping you would consider listening to Pope Paul the VI, and even the latter’s paraphrasing of Pope Pius XII. Pope Paul VI tells us in his encyclicals, links to which are at the end, that:

            “Finally, it is for parents to take a thorough look at the matter and decide upon the number of their children. This is an obligation they take upon themselves, before their children already born, and before the community to which they belong—following the dictates of their own consciences informed by God’s law authentically interpreted, and bolstered by their trust in Him.” (Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 37. Population Growth)

            “It is supremely desirable, and this was also the mind of Pius XII, that medical science should by the study of natural rhythms succeed in determining a sufficiently secure basis for the chaste limitation of offspring.” (Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 24. To Scientists)

            Pope Paul VI says further that:

            “[H]usband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, … develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.” (Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 8. God’s Loving Design)

            “It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive… Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children.” (Second Vatican Council as quoted in Humanae Vitae, Section 9. Married Love)

            Merely generating new lives but not rearing is incomplete. So is merely procreating out of instinct or emotion but not educating. In other words, what rabbits do is only half the equation. Pope Paul VI and Pope Francis are completely in agreement that producing babies and stopping at that is insufficient—irresponsible. What Pope Francis really thinks when he “speaks off the cuff” is precisely a concise and easy-to-chew version of very long doctrines promulgated by the Church.


            “Married love therefore, requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood.” (Humanae Vitae, 10. Responsible Parenthood)

            Of the many facets of responsible parenthood (which Pope Francis championed instead of successive directionless births), Pope Paul VI specifies:

            “With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.” (ibid.)

            “The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity [sex] in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God. If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained…. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.” (Humanae Vitae, section 10. Recourse to Infertile Periods)

            Foregoing considered, Pope Francis rightly called out the unemployed impoverished parent who kept producing children without prudence, the parent without regard for the children’s rearing and education, the parent who did not decide upon the number of her children. In Pope Paul VI’s words, both prudence and generosity must be exercised in producing children. I am sure Pope Francis reminded the parent of the need for prudence in a loving, intimate, and non-libelous manner, not to condemn the person, but to lead her and her family to a better understanding, use of her conscience, and ultimately, better action.

            Pope Paul VI asks parents to “implore the help of God with unremitting prayer” (Humanae Vitae, 25. To Christian Couples/Recourse to God) in carrying this burden of self-discipline, abstinence from sex, and sex during infertile periods when necessary, instead of resorting to artificial means when there is need to space births. In this, Pope Paul VI gives some direction towards our attitude towards prayer to God with regards to the number of children: Prudence is exercised fruitfully, and prayer is invoked to sustain that prudence.

            In addition, Pope Francis referred to a Gospel passage about the devil’s challenge to Jesus to jump off a temple in order to tempt God to command His angels to save Jesus from even the smallest scratch. One who wantonly produces babies without serious thought or action for responsibilities of a parent, but only a prayer to God to command his angels to do everything, is tempting God. Here, if the devil were to have his way, prudence is not exercised such that suffering is guaranteed on the child, yet prayer is inappropriately invoked even if the suffering could have been avoided by simply being prudent, in of course, a natural way, as provided for by scripture and the Church in her teachings, including Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.

            Therefore, the woman was not at all slandered. It is common for our prelates to use anonymous yet real-life examples of conversion stories. Archbishop Fulton Sheen comes to mind. That guy told of his encounters with real people all the time, and is today, a venerable Catholic.

            My mother came from a family of eight children. I absolutely cherish that fact, even though her own children are fewer in number today at three. Still, my grandparents, though not bazillionaires, worked hard to provide and raise these eight kids. They were not rabbits, even though they had many kids. They were responsible, like the many who post on this blog. There are, however, parents who merely produce eight kids (and counting) with no direction.

            To end, I don’t know how to say this without demeaning others’ compassion for the poor, but visiting, if not living, in the slums of the developing world will also help us appreciate this Pope’s comments and behavior more fully. You will see a lot of love, prudence, discipline, and generosity in many families, of all sizes. Unfortunately, however, you will see a lack of direction in some families that might be surprising. This lack of direction, luckily or unluckily, just isn’t seen in developed countries so it is a hard concept to grasp.

            Humanae Vitae:

            Populorum Proressio:

          • You write: “The woman was not at all slandered.”

            Really? So, when he called her irresponsible and a tempter of God–a mortal sin—and when he said she deserved a personal rebuke from the Vicar of Christ and that her actions threatened to make her other children orphans—another mortal sin—that was just the truth? In addition to being able to judge her motives, therefore, Francis is also an expert on the medical risk of c-sections?

            Come on.

          • Chris, should I at least be at peace that you were completely silent this time on the “them” issue?

            Let me start again with the easier (though new) item you brought up:

            The means of birth—that is, either caesarian or vaginal birth—is irrelevant to the issue that the journalist and the Pope were tackling: population and poverty. The Pope, in mentioning the method of birth, just added a random narrative detail that was neutral in nature. It wasn’t even tangentially related to his point. Did the Pope espouse vaginal birth over caesarian? No. Again, I fail to see an explicit statement from the Pope which says caesarian birth is inferior to vaginal birth. True enough, caesarian may sometimes be less risky than vaginal birth depending on the situation.

            As an example, in the statement “That person drives his blue car every day to buy condoms at 7-11,” is it the color of the car that is the issue? Is the one making that statement claiming to be an expert in car colors?

            What is relevant, however, is whether the conditions set forth by Pope Paul the VI in Humanae Vitae and Populorum Progresio regarding responsible parenthood were absent from the case of the person that Pope Francis used. If those conditions were absent, birth method used is irrelevant to the issue the journalist and the Pope were tackling. If those conditions were present, birth method used is also irrelevant to the same issue. In short: irrelevant to the discussion.

            Now, for the very serious items you bring forward:

            “He owes the woman an apology for his calumny and detraction.”

            Calumny, is committed by one who “by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2477) In the legal sense, slander and libel are close cousins, since these also deal with untruths.

            Detraction, is committed by one who “without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2477)

            First off, the Pope may only be guilty of one of these, but not both. Why? Detraction applies when the fault mentioned about the subject person is true. Calumny applies when the fault of the subject person is NOT true. A person’s fault is either true or untrue. (Unless one is a fan of relativism.) And yet you have effectively claimed both in your past posts. I am thus a bit lost by the inconsistent accusations you have made against the Pope.

            Nevertheless, to disprove calumny opens the issue then to detraction. Furthermore, either would imply that Pope Francis “destroy[ed] the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor.” (CCC 2479) So I hope to address both. Going further, I wish to comment on preaching to society at large, the charitable response to those with fault, and the use of the words “rebuke” and “tempting God”. I will then end peacefully, and just pray for both you, me, and the Pope, even though I am guaranteed of your rebuttal.

            Calumny then. You ask how the Pope could be able to “judge her [the parent’s] motives.” Is the Pope a mind reader? Certainly not. So to you he has spoken of an untruth, or at the least, hasn’t given enough detail to prove truth. To allow you or me to judge for ourselves the case of the woman, the Pope would have had to publicly disclose things such as perhaps, the specific slum area the woman lives in, her means of livelihood, pictures of their living conditions, proof of employment in a minimum wage job, death certificate of the husband, maybe a camera interview. To do so would have exposed the identity of the woman, truly opening her to ridicule. However, all these and more the Pope had seen. Putting aside the debate on Papal infallibility, Pope Francis has lived with the materially impoverished more than you or I would ever do, (although we should all try to do mre of that) and so he has more wisdom to discern holistically on these matters. Experience is valuable to building wisdom.

            As mentioned, the Church in her magisterium has made it an obligation for parents to decide the number of kids, applying intelligence, and conscience, thus spacing births if necessary. Even if the motive of the woman was pure, (for who doesn’t wish to have as many kids as possible?), if the living conditions of her present children are so dire that inhumane is an insufficient word to describe the situation, then motives must be tempered by conscience. The important truth, then, is not the motive of the woman, but the totality of the situation. Could a couple have 20 children throughout their life? Yes. But not every couple can really do that.

            Besides, since the journalist and Pope were tackling impoverished large families, it is only reasonable that he would have chosen a relevant real-life example that could be used to remind us of responsible parenthood per Church magisterium as it relates specifically to poverty. It is implicit that in his example the woman was too impoverished for eight kids, to highlight the need for responsibility. What would be the use of giving an example of materially sufficient yet humble large families? Such families already joyfully lead responsible parenthood. Lost sheep were the focus. I risk begging the question here, but the conclusion to be proven is not “This specific person was guilty of neglect because she was guilty;” or “Pope Francis knows because he knows;” instead it is “Was the example given by Pope Francis appropriate for the question given?” Yes. On some level we both believe this since a priori you and I both accepted as truth the explicit detail that the woman had seven kids with the eighth on the way. Instead of changing this and other details (explicit or implicit) of the example the Pope gave, such as by saying the woman only had one kid, or actually has an excellent job, we must take the example as it is given for discourse about impoverished large families to continue. To change details of the example would be to refocus the discourse away from the impoverished to the non-impoverished. On a technical point, calumny requires harm to the woman’s reputation. However, if the woman cannot be identified, how can she incur harm to reputation as a result of the Pope’s statements?

            Even then, one could accuse the Pope of detraction. However, he had an objectively valid reason for sharing the woman’s story: explaining the magisterium’s voice and the path to salvation by giving examples. Even Pope Benedict XVI referred to pregnant women as a whole when denouncing abortion. Have all the women who ever committed abortion then been detracted by Pope Benedict XVI? Likewise, Archbishop Fulton Sheen singularly spoke of a drunk female theater star he met on the street one day, who eventually became a nun. Did Sheen detract the woman? No. Largely because identities were still kept secret that reputation and honor was not harmed. I could beat a dead horse here with other examples. Simply put, whether a pastor speaks of people’s stories in the singular or in the plural, there is a way to uphold confidentiality and the honor of those people in the stories that still allows for those who listen to learn.

            Which brings us to charity as a response. When Church doctrine is not followed, any Catholic must lovingly and charitably rebuke/lecture/reprimand/disapprove/educate the one committing the error. One can either hatefully rebuke or lovingly rebuke, as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman with five husbands at Jacob’s well. Any father who sees his son or daughter make spelling errors will lovingly “rebuke” them. This misunderstanding is again a case of putting a negative charge on a word.

            Finally, we all tempt God in small or large ways when we sin, venially or mortally. I am a glutton over Christmas break sometimes even though I know my cholesterol and high blood are high, thereby even if I pray I avoid a heart attack or stroke, well, aren’t I tempting God? A sixth grader who cheats in his exam at the risk of getting caught, but prays he doesn’t get caught cheating, is tempting God. When we sin, we risk losing salvation, no matter what that sin is. Even then, I don’t think Pope Francis even characterized the woman as a mortal sinner, or a venial sinner at that. Regardless, the phrase tempting God applies, if not metaphorically speaking.

            Let’s pray these posts are not (too much) out of pride, but rather out of a spirit of understanding.

            I give you the courtesy of having the final response.

            God bless.

            Catechism of the Catholic Church 2477



            Pope Benedict on abortion

          • I disagree a lot with your attempt at point regarding the pope’s comments about the woman with seven cesareans, and an eighth baby.

            And I also disagree with your interpretation of some of the quotes you mention here, based upon my own life choices and understanding of Scripture and the heart and mind of God on childbearing.

            First of all we don’t really know the context of the Holy Father’s concern and consternation with the woman he mentioned. It sounds like it might have been from some time ago when having that many of that particular form of surgery was thought to be a death knell for a pregnant woman and her unborn child, because of the ongoing damage done to the uterus and the subsequent accumulating risks of that particular surgery. If the mother knew all of this and personally threw caution to the wind or was cavalier about it in some way, and shared that kind of mindset with the Holy Father when he was younger and perhaps privy to the already present suffering ongoing in the family among the children and husband who daily faced the potential loss and hardship of no mother and the death of an unborn sibling- yes, then his comments are very human and very understandable. Those are the only circumstances under which his comments are understandable actually.

            It is not for another living soul part from the Lord God Almighty and the spouses themselves to judge, when spouses express their love for one another in marital intimacy, what is prudent or responsible, because the future outcome of the act according to the blessing of God is not knowable to mortal men in its totality. In that moment, we the participants, can know if our motives are rightly ordered, we can have a reasonably certain idea of the high likelihood of conception under optimal circumstances- but conceiving a baby is not a given, ever. It is a possibility, with a higher likelihood under certain circumstances- and the whole of the totality of the context of a marriage, the welfare and affection of spouses between one another in the moment and overall, the wellbeing of the family in that time in its development and history, these are only known to the people most directly affected by them.

            The rest of us are called to piety toward the whole, first and foremost toward God who is sovereign over all things especially the gift of life, to our brothers and sisters who may or may not make mistakes in any given moment but who need and seek God in the married state, and toward the gift and privilege of welcoming children with charity and and extension of familial generosity.

            I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that people should have a decided number of children in mind when they approach the act of marriage, as if it were some check the block goal to strive for or to avoid going beyond. That is incredibly degrading, and short-sighted, and completely unScriptural.

            God invites us to fecundity in the married state, like He invites those to the supernatural states of the priesthood and consecrated life. It is not a stricture of command with which He constrains us- it is an invitation to the abundance of love accompanied with the intensity of the nearer experience of the cross by myriad means. He is not about trying to force us to receive good gifts or blessings, or their accompanying hardships because of the measure for measure contrariness of sin attempting to counter every act of virtue akin to the heart of God. He is joining us to Himself in as far as we choose to be joined with Him- and the chief means of accomplishing this are through the evangelical counsels for the consecrated and by means of generosity in openness to life in the married state. In each of these the souls following God take upon themselves the un-bridled ‘fiat’ of abandonment to God as Sovereign, King, Lord, Lover of our Souls, the Intimate Indwelling Guest of our hearts- and by the process He ordains those encountering Jesus in this way draw closer to Him, develop in self-knowledge and virtue and are conformed to His likeness in virtue over time. And along with that whole dynamic are ALOT of sufferings and challenges, and those sufferings affect everyone who loves- there are no boundaries on them in Christ- everyone who is a member of the Body suffers with the others.

            When some are weak or reckless the rest of us suffer, when some are careless or selfish, the rest of us suffer. We suffer because we choose Christ and if we choose Christ it is inescapable because it is by His Cross that we are saved. To know Him is to know Him crucified. To be one with Him is to suffer with Him because of sin for the sake of love as its victim.

            No one is getting any of this right all the time- whether it is how and when we have kids or how we are trying to raise and educate them- none of us is in total control even when we have redoubled our efforts to ensure that we are not infringing on the rest of Christendom by our blindness, or imprudence and irresponsibility.

            The truth is, and I know the pope gets this because I have heard him say this too, is that love covers a multitude of sins, and we must love one another fervently from the heart, bearing with one another’s weakness and being patient with one another overlooking one another’s faults for the sake of love and family loyalty. Love changes people, it makes way for grace- Patience is Love’s little daughter.

            We all need to get us some.

      • So the Pope says, “there are marriage groups…” He also mentioned that couples could discuss the issue with their pastor. And yet he still criticizes a woman for having her 8th child. How does he know she hadn’t discussed the issue with her pastor? Sounds like a judgement and yet he tells us, “who are we to judge”

      • Thanks for asking. Like Rabbits: In an effort to fast forward through 50 years of Vatican 2 demonic error let me put it simply. The very nature of an infant is good. There are no bad babies. Babies with crappy timing are also good, know why? Because God sent them. Male rabbits have violent insatiable coitus when ever the opportunity presents itself. Rabbits also reproduce at an alarming rate; a rate that can out pace available food. So to the Catholic father struggling to pay the bills and keep a roof over his family’s head Mr. Bergoglio say’s “what are you a stupid rabbit?” If “responsible parenthood” = fewer babies, it from the Devil. Like rabbits? No made in God’s image you fool.

      • Or ‘hoarder’- I’ve had that one told to me- so how about we just turn this all on end in the world the same way the cross- sign of humiliation ad ultimate degradation- is become the badge of our glory and triumph?

  5. I couldn’t believe Francis said that! After I got over my shock I wondered who is he talking about? Where are Catholics breeding like rabbits? In the Phillipines the average # of children is 2.5… I guess huge compared to European countries(below replacement level) & US (almost below).
    I just heard a reference earlier to our ‘post-Christian pope’. Wow. Rocked me.

  6. MJ misses the old days when it was only are enemies who mocked us.

    Our Pope and Our Cross is crude and vulgar and in speaking about faithful Catholics as breeding like rabbits he revesals what is in his heart – hare brained ideas.

    He owes every single Catholic a public apology but we all know we won’t get one.

    Modern popes issue apologies for the putative sins of long-dead catholics while they are at liberty to denigrate Tradition, the Real Mass, devotions, etc etc

    • Seriously? Only our enemies? When was that? Joan of Arc was fried alive by fellow Catholics, Nazi Germany was a Catholic country and Russia was an Orthodox one- any faithful Catholic is far and away more likely to suffer at the hands of overzealous brothers an sisters in the faith with skewed personal agendas steeped in pride over issues of orthopraxis than any other possible persecution in our time.

      Fr. Joseph Fessio said to me about converting to Catholicism and I quote, “C’mon in, it’s awful!” Wow, was he ever dead on.

      • Welcome aboard, it didn’t take you long to join the attack-the-dead-Catholic brigade, did it?

        O, and the write-back by MJ was specifically about what Pope Francis said but, of course, that is no reason fro you not to exercise your exorcisms of the dead and your wildly wrong claims are not only wildly oblique, they are wickedly wrong.

      • Suffering, yes, such as while reading comments, but I believe that the majority of Catholic martyrs are killed by non-Catholics, even in Catholic countries.

        Glad you accepted Father’s invitation!

        • Leo, maybe technically- the bad guys were excommunicate by their own actions or intentions, but- I have to wonder if it were a reality show what it would look like to a run of the mill non- Catholic, non westerner,- for example.

          We assume the people who do the bad things are so radically different from us, and that we are so justified in our many negative sentiments… and I am no dove, believe me, I am more hawk than anyone I know. I’d rather arrange the immediate real time face to face meeting with our Maker and then see what He has to say about all of it, than wring my hands over righteousness in the moment. At the same time I am now old and tired of the fruitless hairsplitting, infighting over what amounts to banana squeeze in terms of the grand scheme of the welfare of souls- ‘how many angels dance on the heads of pins?’ etc.

          It’s just not freaking applicable when teenagers are now socially programmed to try on homosexuality as a means of discerning who they really are; beastiality is featured on HuffPost web links as a human interest; and people think sex(outside of marriage), drugs(legalized marijuanna) and porn(Victoria’s Secret ads during the SuperBowl) are normal, nay preferable and to be sought after.

          And we Catholics fuss about ….? amongst ourselves. Proof positive that we know exactly how to bring salvation to the world, right?

          Leo this is not directed at you- this is my general lament in the middle of the camp who claim at the top of their lungs to have the pure version of the Truth for the best of the abundant life for mankind now and for eternity. But for some reason we just can’t seem to win converts. What is wrong with this picture?

          God asked us to do something and we have failed to do it, and now we just spend our days blame-shifting instead of getting with His program.

          One saint can change the course of history, yes or no?
          Where is that one saint?

          Not here- unless maybe it is you, Leo. I could believe it is you.

          • I do want to briefly say four things, in order of my declining confidence in their truth:

            1. There are now saints in the world.

            2. No generation (in the West, at any rate) has been so ignorant of itself than the current one. Therefore for no generation more than the current one can Christ say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

            3. Every person, from Catholic to atheist, should read or have read to him Max Picard’s Hitler in Ourselves before writing books, articles, blogs, or comments. (Maybe reading and reflecting on the title will be enough.)

            4. Converts will not be won by arguing but by showing love and showing joy.

            Eleven days before Ash Wednesday! I’m pretty sure of that!

  7. To the author: Brian, this is a great entry you put up. I am hoping you might take the time to read what I wrote to one of your reactors below. I believe this whole rabbit issue is (unfortunately a typical) case of loss in translation. Thanks. Regards, Jed.


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