In what can be interpreted as a slight departure from the Vatican’s stance against contraception, the Pope has said that good Roman Catholics do not need to breed like “rabbits”, but should practice “responsible” parenting instead.
According to a BBC report, the Pope spoke as he returned from the Philippines, where he met former street children abandoned by parents unable to afford to care for them.
Standing firm against artificial birth control, he said new life was “part of the sacrament of marriage”.
He added that population experts advised three children per family.
Speaking to journalists while heading back to Rome from the Philippines on Monday, Pope Francis was asked what he would say to families who had more children than they could afford because the Church forbids artificial contraception.
He replied with an unexpected turn of phrase: “Some people think that – excuse my expression here – that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits.”
“No. Parenthood is about being responsible. This is clear.”
The Pope said he knew many ways allowed by the Catholic Church that could ensure families only had as many children as they wished.
He cited the case of one woman he had met who had had seven children by Caesarean section and was expecting her eighth – a pregnancy he said was irresponsible.
“She said, ‘I trust in God.’ But God gave us the means to be responsible,” the Pope said.
He added, however, that for the poorest, a child was a treasure for its mother and father.