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Francis’ Laudato Si’ Sparks Debate: Is Birth Control in Our Water Systems Causing Infertility, Gender Issues?

Photograph courtesy of CNA

Tebaldo Vinciguerra

Diane Montagna - published on 06/25/15

The Pope is clear: “To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption” (LS § 50).

So yes, there is something of a paradox that can be found watermarked in various parts of Laudato si’. Rich countries promote birth control in poor countries, precisely in those, as the climate scientist John Schellnhuber explained at the presentation of the encyclical, consume and pollute less; those that have less technical and financial capacity to purify water efficiently and therefore find themselves with water supplies damaged by the use of birth control devices and other contraceptive pills.

The scandalous paradox resides in the fact that, “in different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future” (LS § 52), and this due to a distorted use of advancements in technology. Speaking of biotechnologies, the Pope explains that: “Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely” (LS § 104), especially since contemporary man has not been trained to use power well: the “immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience” (LS § 105).

What can the Church do about this?
The Church is proposing a truly integral and inclusive development, for example, as the United Nations adopts its future sustainable development goals. The Church can also contribute to creating “the culture needed to confront this crisis”. This is precisely what the Holy Father is doing, by stressing a distorted anthropocentrism (LS § 69), consumerism (LS § 50), the technocratic paradigm (LS § 101), relativism (LS § 122), indifference (LS § 52) and the throwaway culture (LS § 22). She can also do so by denouncing abstract analyses and strategies that fail to face the problems effectively or that — especially among some environmental movements — defend nature but do not really commit themselves to defending the human person.

More specifically, as regards endocrine disruptors, obviously research and an “honest debate (…) among experts” (LS § 61) must be encouraged. Then, especially on a high-risk issue like this, governments, legislators and business need to act swiftly and with determination on the basis of scientific findings.

Was Humanae vitae prophetic?
Paul VI wrote Humanae vitae at a time when, to quote him: “many fear that the world population is going to grow faster than available resources” (HV § 2). With keen foresight, he was concerned about the possible adoption of anti-life measures by governments in their “attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country,” and he even foresaw the imposition of the use of contraceptives (HV § 17). Pope Francis is on the same front: with his paragraph on reproductive politics in the newly published encyclical, Laudato si’, and with his now famous statement in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium: “It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life” (EG § 214).

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.

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ContraceptionPope Francis
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