The Pope hits all the right notes—except one

I want to like the Pope—I really do. And I do like him as a man: he’s not arrogant, is concerned for the poor, and lives abstemiously, dedicated to his mission as head of the Catholic Church. But it’s his mission that I’m concerned about, because, compassionate though he is, Francis conspicuously neglects one issue directly related to what he’s preached to Congress and the United Nations. And we know what that is.

In his talk to Congress on Thursday, Frances took a liberal stance, decrying poverty, exhorting people to accept immigrants into their country, touting freedom of religion, and criticizing capitalism, the death penalty, the international arms trade—even religious fundamentalism. These are all Enlightenment values. And, instead of going to a scheduled lunch with politicians, he did this:

[Pope Francis] waded into a crowd of mostly homeless men and women, including felons, mentally ill people, victims of domestic violence and substance abusers. He stopped to lay his hand on the heads of children who had kept quiet for hours of waiting with special pope coloring books.

That’s lovely: the act of a man of compassion and empathy.

But his compassion has limits, circumscribed by his Church’s dogma on reproduction. As we know, the Church frowns on birth control, whether by pills, IUDs, or vasectomy and tubal ligation. Its prohibition of abortion is absolute, save for the year’s grace Francis gave women to obtain forgiveness for abortions in ways not previously allowed.

The Pope’s views on reproduction were condensed into one sentence of his address to Congress: “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.” But he then went on to discuss the death penalty, knowing that if he said more than that already-clear sentence, he’d wade into a huge controversy.

Yes, the Pope’s Big Failure is that an obvious solution to both global warming and poverty—not the only solution, but an important one—is something he cannot sanction: allowing women to control their own reproduction. And so, in his recent encyclical on climate change, the Pope blamed global warming on capitalism and explicitly argued that we shouldn’t blame overpopulation (my emphasis):

50. Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development”. To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.

The part in bold is sheer cant—a justification of the Church’s desire for more Catholics. In fact, in his Encyclical, Francis viewed abortion itself as inimical to concern for global warming!:

120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”.[97]

Overpopulation is a big contributor not just to global warming, but to poverty as well. Who can deny that allowing women to practice the kind of birth control prohibited by the Church would help lift them and their societies out of poverty? Remember what Christopher Hitchens said (and remember, too, the accusations of his misogyny that are belied by his words):

“The cure for poverty has a name, in fact: it’s called the empowerment of women. If you give women some control over the rate at which they reproduce, if you give them some say, take them off the animal cycle of reproduction to which nature and some doctrine—religious doctrine condemns them, and then if you’ll throw in a handful of seeds perhaps and some credit, the floor of everything in that village, not just poverty, but education, health, and optimism will increase. It doesn’t matter; try it in Bangladesh, try it in Bolivia, it works—works all the time. Name me one religion that stands for that, or ever has. Wherever you look in the world and you try to remove the shackles of ignorance and disease stupidity from women, it is invariably the clericy that stands in the way, or in the case of—now, furthermore, if you are going to grant this to Catholic charities, say, which I would hope are doing a lot of work in Africa, if I was a member of a church that had preached that AIDS was not as bad as condoms, I’d be putting some conscience money into Africa too, I must say.”

And so Katha Pollitt’s new piece in The Nation has an appropriate title: “If Pope Francis really wanted to fight climate change, he’d be a feminist.”  Politt’s message is similar to that of Hitchens: if the Pope really cared about poverty—or at least cared more about poverty than breeding more Catholics and enforcing antiquated dogma—he’d free women from their reproductive shackles. For half of the poor about whom Francis is so concerned happen to have two X chromosomes, and aren’t allowed ways to escape their status as breeders.

Pollitt’s opening sentence is brilliant:

If the world consisted only of straight men, Pope Francis would be the world’s greatest voice for everything progressives believe in.

She goes on to discuss how, blinkered by his faith, the Pope simply can’t approve of a simple solution to poverty and global warming. For, in truth, it’s far easier to give women contraception and abortions than to overthrow capitalism and greed:

I know I risk being the feminist killjoy at the vegan love feast, but the world, unlike Vatican City, is half women. It will never be healed of its economic, social, and ecological ills as long as women cannot control their fertility or the timing of their children; are married off in childhood or early adolescence; are barred from education and decent jobs; have very little socioeconomic or political power or human rights; and are basically under the control—often the violent control­­—of men.

. . .  Pope Francis places the blame for the sorry state of the planet only on excess consumption by the privileged and says that international campaigns for “reproductive health” (scare quotes his) are really all about population control and the imposition of foreign values on the developing world—as if the church itself was not a foreign power using its might to restrict reproductive rights in those same places. But why is it an either/or question? Why not: There are billions of people who want a modern standard of living, which makes a lot of sense compared to the alternative—backbreaking farm labor in a poor village with no electricity or running water—and those desires can only be satisfied if people have fewer children, which happens to be what they want anyway.

It’s a medium-long piece that you should read in its entirety, but I’ll finish with Pollitt’s final paragraph, as brilliant as her opening:

Never mind the 47,000 women who die every year in illegal abortions, and the even greater number who are injured: Abortion causes glaciers to melt and species to vanish. From Eden to ecology, it’s always women’s fault.


  1. Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    While I agree that the Pope’s positions are incomplete, I also know his is a political office and an astute politician must move at more than a glacial pace, but be careful to not introduce a step function which renders him ineffective.

    That so many RCC women practice birth control without papal admonitions may be a clue.

    • Historian
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      The Roman Catholic Church is far more than a religious institution. It is also a political institution and a business. As Gordon Hill rightly notes, leaders of such institutions can only move slowly out of fear of backlash from anti-reformers. When a leader moves too quickly or is despised by elements within the organization, he/she can be ousted or compelled to resign. John Boehner’s pending resignation as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is a classic example of this. So, even if the pope is inclined to favor changing the Church’s position on issues such as contraception (which is most unlikely), he would probably ruin his ability to lead the Church due to fierce opposition from the conservative wing of the Church, which is very strong in the hierarchy if not its membership as a whole. In the real world, I doubt that we can presently or in the near term expect this pope or any other to go beyond the progressive values that Francis has already expressed. I would love to be proven wrong.

      • daniel bertini
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        I would argue a capitalist institution built on greed!! And what about the children?!! Who is taking care of those who are abused, lied to and terrorized!! I have seen videos that would shock even the slightest of thinkers. And yet it is business as usual.

      • Gordon Hill
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        From what I have seen locally, priestly heresy is where it begins. Public examples abound… Meister Eckhart (thirteenth century)… more recently, Bishop Romero, Hans Kung, Matthew Fox… and more.

        I was shocked when a young local priest invited me, a Methodist at the time, to deliver the message at his parish Wednesday night Bible service, then delighted when the several hundred attendees were complementary. The message was based on Sirach’s message that what how we behave is more important than what we say.

      • Posted September 30, 2015 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        The Pope is a religious despot. He is the infallible authority who speaks for GOD on earth. Therefore he COULD – if he wanted – declare that all contraception is OK. There is nothing that anyone could do about his making such a pronouncement without toppling the whole authority structure of the RCC. So let’s not have any of this “he can’t move too fast” nonsense. He could correct these problems if he wanted to.

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 1, 2015 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          I’m not sure I would trust the Cardinals to not plan some sort of treachery should Francis veer off course like that.

          • Posted October 2, 2015 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

            That’s a fight I’d love to see. Whoever loses, we win!


    • rickflick
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      I would worry that these rebellious women are limited to first world countries.

      • Gordon Hill
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        I don’t know, but am doubtful that is absolute, nuns being who they are. Maybe the Pope can help second world countries move up.

        • Diane G.
          Posted September 26, 2015 at 12:39 am | Permalink

          Third world women may do what they can to control their reproduction but I’m sure in many places it’s impossible. Effective contraception can be expensive, and it’s doubtful it would be available anyway in much of these countries. And what are women to do when their religion or at least their culture demands them to be at their husband’s beck & call?

          • Posted September 26, 2015 at 1:04 am | Permalink

            I have to believe that, in this day and age, it should be possible to mass manufacture cheap-as-dirt IUDs that could be given out like candy. Ship massive supplies to all the medical and other aid facilities — and, of course, to all hospital and physicians’s offices in the developed world, as well. The same time physicians and nurses and assistants and whomever else learn how to take a pap smear, they should learn how to install one. And asking women and girls if they have one and whether or not they’d like one should be as universal as depression screening has become in the States.

            It’d save more lives and prevent more misery than any anti-malaria campaign the Gates foundation could ever mount….


            • Diane G.
              Posted September 26, 2015 at 3:00 am | Permalink

              Make it so, Ben, make it so.

          • Gordon Hill
            Posted September 26, 2015 at 7:30 am | Permalink

            Population growth in third world countries is a problem for many reasons. The RCC has some 1.2 billion members, not all of whom are strict followers. Population growth in the third world is occurring for many reasons. Ignorance and availability are likely key players.

        • Diane G.
          Posted September 26, 2015 at 12:40 am | Permalink

          Plus, I can’t quite see the nuns adding condoms and BC pills to their requisitions to the home office. 😀

          • Gordon Hill
            Posted September 26, 2015 at 7:25 am | Permalink

            Maybe not directly, but they do support free clinics which benefit from pro bono medical professionals. I would not be surprised if some engaged in an ignorance of convenience.

            Catholic history includes many — priests and nuns — who refused to march in mindless lockstep with the edicts.

    • eric
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      No, not really. If you want to stay in office then yes it’s often politically advisable to move slowly, but nothing says you have to. Just look at the rapid acceptance of gay marriage in the US. From basically no politician supporting it before Biden’s inadvertent remark in 2012, to half of them and 60% of the population supporting it in 2015.

      I don’t know how much of the Pope’s beliefs match up with RCC doctrine vs. whether he’d be more liberal if he could give them anonymously. I have to believe that one probably doesn’t rise to be a Cardinal and then the Pope without some sincere alignment with the Church’s stance on women’s rights and such. However, if we say for sake of argument that he’s a secret liberal on things like gay rights and contraception etc., then in that case no, it is not true he would have to move at a glacial pace: the only thing preventing him from doing so would be fear of the loss of his job. But he could certainly do it.

      • Gordon Hill
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        My comment was “more than a glacial pace” which I believe he is doing, yet not so fast he jeopardizes his influence. The historic independence of many RCC priests and nuns is evidence of how the Pope has less than an iron grip on the “faithful”. That someone with his views moved up to this position is telling.

        • eric
          Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

          Right, but again with with Biden example: look at what sort of institutional changes you accomplish if you don’t care a fig about ‘jeopardizing your influence.’ Biden’s example contains another important lesson, too, which is that conservative estimates on how much influence you may lose by going out on a liberal limb can be overinflated. Given that something like 95% of first world Catholics basically ignore the RCC’s advice on contraception, I think the loss of influence the Pope would suffer if he came out pro-condom would be minimal. Half or more of the worldwide Catholic laity would probably just shrug and say “about time.”

          • Posted September 25, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

            I agree with your view and deign to advise the Pope. Mine was never a politically appropriate response in sensitive situation. I think he is on a cultural high wire and trust him to navigate it better than I would suggest. What he has acieved so far seems to be more than most expected or hoped.

            Considering the loss of direct influence religion seems to be experiencing, being replaced by indirect effects it seems, I see a general movement toward a more inclusive society.

            Our little UU church, which we call a religion, although I would not object to it being called a social community, is seeing increased interest, especially among youhg families.

            While I agree that traditional religion is problematic, there is a need for many t belong to a community of caring.

  2. Merilee
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:27 am | Permalink


  3. Robert Bray
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    A health and welfare charity in Haiti–one that I support annually–is not Catholic but run by Catholics. They do effective work in the impoverished rural areas around Jeremie: building habitation, providing livestock to start herds, improving medical care and supporting schools and schoolchildren.

    Yet the only form of birth control they will support is a variation on the discredited ‘rhythm method.’ Women are given a string of beads with which to determine their fertile days. ‘Telling their beads,’ as if on a rosary.

    It’s not enough, not even much more than a sort of social placebo. While I continue to admire this charity, I can clearly see that it is their administrators’ Catholicism which impedes achieving their stated mission: increasing the well-being of Haitians.

    Multiply this by the thousands of Catholic charities around the world and one has a tally of huge pain and failure, not one of well-being.

    • Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      There is also doubt as to the RCC servility of certain groups of Nuns… 😉

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 26, 2015 at 12:43 am | Permalink

      –pain, failure, and death!

      Gordon, just how are the nuns going to obtain contraceptives?

  4. Alan Clark
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    The Pope cannot possibly be described as liberal – he is against sexual equality, democracy and the right to choose who you marry.

    I don’t understand why anyone takes him seriously. He wears a dress and claims to be god’s representative on Earth. Anyone else who did that would be a candidate for the lunatic asylum.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Yes. There is that.

    • John Harshman
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      But he’s got a tall, pointy hat. You have to respect that.

      • Merilee
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        And whatcha got against a man wearing a dress and ruby-red slippers?? Huh? That and the pointy hat and he be stylin’

        • rickflick
          Posted September 25, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          I thought he dumped the ruby-red slippers, no? Anyway, he wants to be seen as one of us. Sort of.

  5. ascanius
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    In his address Francis also showed deep contempt for LGBT families and marriage equality.

    Because he was in the US he could not state his true feelings, as he did in the Philippines in January of this year, when he said that same-sex marriage was a threat to civilization itself.

    Instead, coward that he is, yesterday he resorted to using anti-gay dog whistles:

    “Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.”

    Francis is a truly vile anti-gay bigot–a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who perpetuates the lie that homosexual sex is intrinsically disordered and a grave sin and that LGBTs are called to a life of chastity/celibacy.

    He adds to the poisonous atmosphere of homophobia that still prevails, driving young LGBTs into depression, risky sexual behaviors, and suicide.

    And he claims to wear a mantle of moral authority!

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      Good point.

  6. Sastra
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    If the world consisted only of straight men, Pope Francis would be the world’s greatest voice for everything progressives believe in.

    Sure, except for all that crap about faith, and Original Sin, and the past being perfect, and mystical knowledge, and separating the damned from the saved, and the value of suffering, and material wellbeing doesn’t matter, and the purpose of life being eternal submission and slavish adoration of Authority and the world well lost in order to have that — why, yes indeed, it’s everything progressives believe in.

  7. Scote
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Every environmental issue, including the climate change the Pope is so concerned about, is multiplied by population growth. You can’t reasonably address one without addressing the other.

    • barn owl
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      +1. I’ve long found it an interesting phenomenon: which Bible verses and dictates most Christians (Catholics included) choose to follow and focus on. Because it’s always about self-interest. Most Christians really like the Dominion verses, even though there aren’t a lot of them: going forth and multiplying, subduing the Earth, dominion over all living things, etc. The Dominion mentality has the most devastating consequences for the environment. Not as popular, by a wide margin, are the verses about camels and eyes of needles, or about not harping on the mote in they neighbor’s eye, or about caring for the poor and needy.

      • Tom Snow
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        That and, the ones who do care about the poor and needy tend to gloss over or explain away the bits of the Bible that deal with gender roles or slavery.

        • Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          The problem is, in so doing, they still perpetuate the myth that the Bible is not only a good book, but The Good Book™. Which, of course, also gives the stamp of approval to all those endorsing what’s actually the overwhelming majority of stuff in the Bible — all the brutality and naked evil and anti-humanism.


    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      +1. And yet population size is almost a taboo subject. You have only to say that we should make efforts to reduce the size of our population to resolve poverty, pollution and scarcity of resources and people will assert that you are proposing a Final Solution, Killing The Poor, etc.

      • Cindy
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 4:54 pm | Permalink


        Let’s save all of the embryos now, so that the children, once born, can die of famine and genocide!

        A win win, really.

  8. Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    The true credit goes to the Church’s PR team for how effectively they’ve marketed themselves as liberal reformers, as opposed to the conservative stalwarts they actually are.

    Meet the new Pope, same as the old Pope. I bet most would be hard pressed to tell a difference between Benedict and John XXIII.


    • DrBrydon
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      And to a sympathetic press. How much have we heard about the Pope’s views on transgender? Very little, because they are as liberal as his views on abortion.

      • Sastra
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        I think the press would be pretty safe asking this pope about his feelings on transgender because he knows how to play to the gallery by saying just enough and no more.

        So Francis would probably come out with a lot of mush about love and acceptance and the crowd would go wild with excitement over how liberal it all is, forgetting that the Catholic Church has always waxed eloquent about God’s rejoicing over repentant sinners who want to return to the fold and submit. Same old, same old. The same sort of love and acceptance would also be extended to murderers, rapists, atheists, and vicious criminals of every kind — all on the same terms. If you wisely stop before that becomes too obvious, it looks like some kind of modern change of heart.

        Bullshit. The Onion once ran a headline: “Pope Reaches Out to the Damned.”

        • Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink


          As Exhibit A, I would offer their recent ad campaign along the lines of, “Act now! Limited time offer! Free membership renewal for every abortionist who confesses! Offer ends soon, so hurry in today to your local dealer before our unlimited supplies run out! Terms and conditions apply; offer doesn’t actually ever end and is no different from the regular state of affairs for the past couple millennia; read the catechism for full details; offer null and void if not accompanied by regular contributions in the offering plate.”


          • Diane G.
            Posted September 26, 2015 at 12:52 am | Permalink

            Yeah, I just could not believe he was trotting out this one-time-only offer! How bizarre can you get?

    • daniel bertini
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Could not agree more!! They are all the same!!

    • Posted September 28, 2015 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      I read somewhere something like: the Pope is *not* liberal, he’s just a slightly saner variety of conservative than the US federal political establishment. (Which seems about right to me.)

  9. Curt Nelson
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    On yesterday’s Rachel Maddow show she talked about Raymond Burke, a Cardinal who argued that John Kerry shouldn’t be allowed to take communion and that Ted Kennedy shouldn’t be allowed a Catholic funeral, and was then given more power by Ratzinger when he became pope. When Francis became pope he took Burke’s power away and put him in a desk job.

    Yesterday when Francis was making his way to the podium to address Congress “blockers” effectively kept everyone from touching him but the pope wanted to shake a hand, John Kerry’s. Nice, huh?

    • Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Of course he would. The Pope is all about increasing Catholic membership, so how could he not make a big deal about welcoming a sinner back into the fold?


      • Curt Nelson
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        I just see it as one being a conservative a-hole (Ratzingner) and the new one is actually liberal, which is a good thing.

        It’s interesting to me that there is no position on earth with a stringent enough filtering system to keep out a-holes. They happen.

        • Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

          I can’t think of any way that Bergoglio can reasonably be considered “liberal,” save in the way that a Representative with “only” an 80% rating from a conservative think tank could be considered “liberal.”

          Bergoglio is the world’s biggest opponent of access to basic reproductive health care. He heads the most openly and unabashedly misogynistic institution in the West, one in which literally no woman holds a position of authority. He continues to shelter and provide aid and comfort to known serial child rapists. He preaches concern for the poor from the balcony of the most lavish castle ever built in all of human history.

          Need I continue?


          • Curt Nelson
            Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            I think he can be considered relatively liberal. He’s much better than his predecessor, is my point.

            • DiscoveredJoys
              Posted September 25, 2015 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

              It’s a trap! He talks like a liberal but leaves unsaid all the reactionary dogma he still believes in. You’ve heard of Whirling Dervishes? Well Bergoglio is a Spinning Pope.

        • eric
          Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          Agree with Ben. He’s certainly more liberal than his predecessor, but he fails on some pretty key liberal issues, such as women’s rights and gay rights.

          Now I don’t necessarily think you have to be in lock-step with every liberal position to be called a liberal, but let’s face it, being conservative on the rights of 50% of the world’s population to control their own reproduction is a pretty big difference. I would also point out that even if we can accept him as ‘liberal’ while thinking gay sex is a sin, no liberal worthy of the name could IMO have his position and fail to speak out against the criminalization and legalized, organized murder violence being perpetrated against gays in some African countries. The fact that he doesn’t say boo against RCC dioceses that are supporting human rights abuses is not liberal.

          • Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Permalink


            And let’s not forget, either, that, theologically, the Catholic Church is second only to the Young Earth Creationists in terms of its conservatism. It still holds that all humans are descended from Adam and Eve, that Jesus actually manifests in crackers and wine, that salvation only comes from adherence to Catholic doctrine, and on and on and on.


          • rickflick
            Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

            Probably the most favorable way to view this Pope is to guess that he’s even more liberal than his utterances would imply, but that he has to work in tiny steps to steer the gigantic bureaucracy in a new direction. I’m not sure there is actually much evidence for that view, but there is always the possibility. Then again at the rate of change we are witnessing, it will be a coon’s age…

        • Diane G.
          Posted September 26, 2015 at 12:58 am | Permalink

          “…and the new one is actually liberal, which is a good thing. ”

          Even if that were true, and I agree with the points Ben, Eric, et al, have made, that might not be a good thing. Improving the public approval level of the RCC sounds counterproductive to me. Let’s do our best to keep the heat on them, force them to air their dirty laundry.

      • Historian
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        The Pope is CEO of Vatican, Inc. His main concern is an eroding customer base, particularly in the developed world. Unlike most other businesses, he cannot change the core product it sells: salvation. He is faced with the dilemma that more and more customers reject the product, at least as sold by the Catholic Church, and are taking their business elsewhere. So, what can the Pope do to stem and reverse this disturbing trend? He is, in effect, running a sale on the purchase of the product. By taking such actions as forgiving women who have had an abortion, he is offering the equivalent of a 10% off sale. But, it is questionable whether offering a sale will work to get people to buy a product that is being viewed more and more by potential customers as the equivalent of Best Buy still trying to sell VCRs.

    • Curt Nelson
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      I can’t believe I was actually defending Catholicism, even thinking of converting (from atheism). Thank you all for setting me straight.

  10. Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I am all for universal availability of effective contraception, delaying childbirth, and women’s education. And I’m certainly no defender of any pope.

    But Francis has a point about consumption. Reducing poverty and lowering birthrates do not necessarily lead to lower total carbon emissions. They could increase them.

    A world of 10 billion Indonesians would have a smaller carbon footprint than a world of 4 billion Europeans, or 2 billion Canadians.

    Population and economic development measures will mean very little without an intensive effort to change the mix of energy that everyone uses.

    • Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Reducing poverty and lowering birthrates do not necessarily lead to lower total carbon emissions. They could increase them.

      Actually, you couldn’t be more wornger.

      The single act that does orders of magnitude more to raise carbon emissions specifically and global pollution and resource exhaustion generally is not buying a car; not driving the car hundreds of thousands of miles; not buying an home nor cranking the thermostat; not air travel nor eating meat nor any form of conspicuous consumerism.

      It’s the act of conception.

      For the simple fact is that any child you have will do all that you yourself do, and continue doing so for a generation after you’re dead and gone. Just having a child ensures at least a doubling of your own lifetime pollution and resource use. And your child will very likely have more children who will keep on doing so, meaning your act of conception could result in an order of magnitude more pollution and resource pressure than you yourself would otherwise have.

      We wouldn’t have the problems we have were the global population at least an order of magnitude less than what it is today — under a billion, rather than pushing ten billion. Ideal is probably two orders of magnitude less, in the tens of millions, total, globally.

      And the only way to get there in a timely and humane fashion is to make birth control the normal, default position. All girls should get IUDs before menarche, and boys should get silicone injection vasectomies at the same age — and, ideally, with the same sort of “you can’t enter school without them” regulations as vaccines deserve. Confirming that they remain effective should be part of annual physical examinations. They should be illegal to reverse until adulthood, and we should have social stigmas against pregnancy for anybody other than the independently wealthy who can devote full attention to child-rearing.

      Do that globally, and the population will, in just a few generations, stabilize at its own ideal level.



      • Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        sounds a lot like mandated social engineering. Brave new world. You dont see anything wrong or creepy about this?

        • Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          Only if you find, as I gave in my example, mandated vaccination wrong or creepy.


      • Nell Whiteside
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Good on yer! Something needs to be done!

        But, reproduction is a thoughtless, innate process. Procreation is probably the sole aim for most people. Politicians refuse to tackle the population problem, so how would it possible to implement your suggestions?

        • Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          I’m not at all optimistic about living long enough to see a world with universal automatic access to birth control. The most that I can offer at this time is to argue for it, and hope to persuade others that that’s a world they want to live in, too.


      • Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        Actually, Ben, wow.

        While I share your vision of a much lower long-term world population (though not some of your methods), my point was that fighting poverty in the short- to mid-term will likely not reduce total carbon emissions. The better we do to create a global middle class, the more we should expect the opposite, unless we also modify the energy mix.

        Also, drastically reducing overall fertility to levels below replacement can create population pyramid inversion problems (economic stagnation) that need to be accounted for.

        Cheers, indeed.

        • Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

          While I share your vision of a much lower long-term world population (though not some of your methods), my point was that fighting poverty in the short- to mid-term will likely not reduce total carbon emissions. The better we do to create a global middle class, the more we should expect the opposite, unless we also modify the energy mix.

          There aren’t enough economically recoverable fossil fuels left in the ground to sustain current levels of activity for more than a few more decades at most — let alone maintain the historical 2% – 3% growth rates that most economic theory depends upon. The tar sands are literally the bottom of the barrel; everything past them requires more money and / or energy to extract than the resources themselves provide. So the relationship between reducing poverty and the energy mix is a red herring; both need to be addressed, and the one only has tangential bearing on the other.

          Also, drastically reducing overall fertility to levels below replacement can create population pyramid inversion problems (economic stagnation) that need to be accounted for.

          Aside from the looming energy crisis, the biggest economic problem we face today is the massive unemployment created by automation — and that’s about to get significantly worse as the transportation sector will also soon be automated. We already have far more people than there’s useful work for them to do…so, again, we’re going to have to address that problem long before we worry about not having enough kids to do what little work will need to be done.


          • rickflick
            Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

            The future is a fascinating topic. Any book recommendations Ben? Especially if you know of anything about sustainable(no growth) economics.
            I remember the classic on this, Limits to Growth. Has there been a serious update?

            • Posted September 25, 2015 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

              He’s dramatically reduced his activity of late, but Tom Murphy has a blog that addresses the limits to growth rather well. The interesting stuff is in the archives:


              Basically, he examines what upper limits physics puts on various things. For example: wave a magic wand and assume a continued 2% annual growth rate in energy consumption. How long until the oceans boil from the waste heat, never mind any sort of greenhouse effect? What kind of growth is possible without increasing energy consumption? What sources, if any, are capable of meeting energy demands, with or without growth?



              • rickflick
                Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

                Thanks, I’ll check it out.

      • Mark R.
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Agree…I’ve been in a few arguments with vegans/vegetarians about diet and how a meatless lifestyle can save the planet. My wife and I made the conscious choice not to have children, and though ‘saving the planet’ wasn’t the main reason, it was one reason. I always put into my argument that me eating meat everyday for every meal and having no kids is far better for the now and future world than you never eating meat and having one child. (One person I was arguing with had 2 kids.) Believe me, it doesn’t go over well. But as you stated, it is the perpetuation of conception that keeps any vegan’s best intentions just that- best intentions.

        • Somer Rose
          Posted September 26, 2015 at 12:09 am | Permalink

          Im vegetarian because I don’t like the idea of killing animals although to be consistent i should be a vegan – but veganism is too hard in terms of elaborate shopping and cooking and cravings. I don’t really buy the line that worldwide vegetarianism or veganism would be great for the planet as impractical and actually untrue. As humans unfortunately our large brains, large size and constant activity requires a wide range of nutrients and high energy quality nutrients. Only a tiny range of plants are actually suitable for cultivation and normally this requires very good quality soil and just the right climatic conditions. Only a small portion of the world is suitable for agriculture. Many parts of the world are not suited to this yet most domesticated animals thrive in areas that are simply not suitable for agriculture. In poor countries these animals are also given parts of the crop that humans can’t eat, or waste food. Only in industrialised agriculture are animals given crops that are suitable for human consumption or from land that could have been used to directly grow food for humans. Dairy production utilises high quality land, though it is supposed to produce half the CO2 of meat eating. Also many people would starve or have malnutrition if they could not utilise animal food.

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 26, 2015 at 1:03 am | Permalink

            So nice to have a non-holier-than-thou vegetarian speaking out.

            • Mark R.
              Posted September 26, 2015 at 11:13 am | Permalink

              Yes, and I think not eating meat because of the aversion of killing animals is completely logical and humane. I get my beef and pork from people down the street. Organic, live on large acreage, and have ‘good’ lives…or at least lives free of fear and discomfort. They also have ‘pet’ cows that eventually die of old age.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        Actually Ben, you couldn’t be more wornger.

        Okay, I only said that because you did 😉

        Well, in fact you and alangrohe are both partly right.

        Two things have huge adverse effects on the environment – population growth, and increasing the standard of living (as alan implied in his comment re Indonesians vs Canadians). The two things multiply together.

        Currently Chinese economic growth is a big environmental threat (even if their commendable ‘one-child’ policy works) – but how can we condemn a Chinese person for wishing to have a Western standard of living? (For ‘Chinese’ read ‘all the devloping world’ if you like).

        Agreed, the world could support everyone at a reasonable standard IF the population comes down. And people who have achieved a good standard of living seem to be willing to limit their reproductive urges. Unfortunately, doing it that way round – elevating everyone’s standard of living first, then having the birthrate come down – is physically impossible, the world isn’t big enough by several hundred percent.


        • Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          Unfortunately, doing it that way round – elevating everyone’s standard of living first, then having the birthrate come down – is physically impossible, the world isn’t big enough by several hundred percent.

          Again, the answer is free universal birth control. Everywhere.

          Well, to be fair, that’s not the only answer. And there will be an answer, whether we want it or not. But it’s the only humane answer.


          • Diane G.
            Posted September 26, 2015 at 1:07 am | Permalink

            Don’t forget that birth rates decline when women have control of them.

            • Posted September 26, 2015 at 1:15 am | Permalink

              Very true. And, to be fair, also when men have control…but the stakes are so much higher for women that it should come as no surprise that the effect is proportionally more dramatic when women have a veto.

              Best of all, of course, is for both to have the veto….


      • MP
        Posted September 26, 2015 at 4:22 am | Permalink

        Your ideas for population control are terrifying. Forcing people to have invasive procedures as a means to an end will always end badly. Where individual freedoms are taken away society suffers. Education and easy access to a choice of cheap or preferably free contraceptives is, at present, the best proven means for reducing the birth rate – both from a societal point of view and an individual point of view. Stigmatising people is disgusting. I grew up in a society that stigmatised women for falling pregnant outside marriage and nobody benefited from it. Europe’s falling birth rate shows that education and access to a choice of birth control methods can reverse population growth. Yes, it’s not fast enough to be of use to combat climate change but you cannot trade individual freedoms for your vision of utopia.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 26, 2015 at 4:58 am | Permalink

          “Yes, it’s not fast enough to be of use to combat climate change but you cannot trade individual freedoms for your vision of utopia.”

          When we’re all starving and killing each other because the oil’s run out and the crops have died from the heat – how much individual freedom will there be then, pray?


          • MP
            Posted September 26, 2015 at 6:29 am | Permalink

            It’s the die free or live in chains conundrum.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 26, 2015 at 6:41 am | Permalink

              ‘Die free’ is BS. You’re not free, you’re just dead.

              “Freedom” is a matter of opinion, and “live in chains” is just an emotive figure of speech. Someone who is stuck in a low-paying job they can’t afford to leave because they’ve got a mortgage – are they ‘free’ or are they a wage slave? Nobody has absolute freedom, it’s a sliding scale.

              • MP
                Posted September 26, 2015 at 9:38 am | Permalink

                Can you really see a society with reproductive totalitarianism working? Do you think the low-paid mortgage holder will be content to never have children because she is not considered independently wealthy? And if she does have children will she be stigmatised for having a child although she can barely afford it? Will that child be treated like dirt all it’s life? What if, despite all precautions, a second low-paid mortgage slave becomes pregnant because her IUD fails? (She had a holiday fling in a country where the authorities are less militant about enforcing the rules, thus hooking up with a guy who didn’t get his shot). Will she be stigmatised? Will she feel forced to have an abortion, even though she really wants a child? Does this mean that being Pro-choice is important except where it comes up against a more important agenda? Does it mean that only rich people should reproduce thus further increasing the divide between rich and poor?

              • Cindy
                Posted September 26, 2015 at 9:44 am | Permalink

                The one child policy exists in China because Mao forbade the use of family planning, as it was his belief that a strong economy would result.

                And look what happened.

        • Posted September 26, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          Forcing people to have invasive procedures as a means to an end will always end badly.

          We already do for infectious diseases, and overpopulation causes vastly more harm than any infectious disease ever has.

          And you’ll note that I only called for mandatory long-term contraception for school students, the same class for whom vaccination is already mandatory. A couple kids want to get pregnant, they can wait until they’re both 18, visit the doctor’s office, and have a special party planned. In reality, virtually all will wait until they’re well established in their own careers and marriages, and only a very few will consider it worth it at that. And not all humans are fertile, so not even all those who try would succeed.

          The real point I think you’re missing is that what I’m calling for is to give full control over reproduction to the people who would be doing the reproducing. No more accidents, no more worries about reading the calendar or running out of condoms or whatever, no more surprises. Conception becomes a fully intentional act requiring the active consent and participation of both parents.

          It’s your position, the one that’s killing us today, that denies people control. If you actually cared about individual freedoms, you’d be the first to call for universal routine availability of birth control and mandatory birth control for all children.



          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 27, 2015 at 2:27 am | Permalink

            I’m right with you there Ben. All ‘MP’ is producing is straw-man arguments I can’t even bother debating.



  11. Johan Mathiesen
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    The bottom line, of course, is that it is greed and the lust for power, not overpopulation, that is the root of the world’s problems. Overpopulation is a symptom, not a cause. The real problem is distribution, which is controlled by the forces of greed. The Catholic Church’s insistence on no abortions is predicated on a lust for power. While it’s definitely true that empowering women to control their own reproductive rights will improve their lot, but the important part of that factor is not the reduced population but the increased equality and general empowerment. Women will limit their own reproduction voluntarily, given the choice. What’s needed is being given, or taking, their choice.

    The Pope is wrong on a lot of levels about women’s rights, but he’s spot on when it comes to the causes of poverty: it’s all about empowerment.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      I’m having a hard time following your logic. If it’s all about empowerment of women and the Pope is clearly against that, then how is the Pope spot on?
      It seems to me the Pope is correct in pointing to greed as A cause of poverty, but changing human nature from self interest to generosity is not very likely to work. Empowerment of women and specifically their reproductive empowerment, on the other hand, is easy to implement. It is, as a matter of fact, the Pope and his Church specifically who holds the key to the prison for much of the world unempowered women. All he has to to is turn the key and open the door. But he won’t do that. Blaming human nature for something you can fix with a turn of the wrist is just a diversion.

    • peepuk
      Posted September 26, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      Fighting greed is a red herring.

      Apart from some libertarian nut-cases I’ve never met anybody who thinks greed is a good thing.

      And similarly, nobody is against better distribution of food, as long as it will have no negative effects for them.

      Blaming people for trying to get a good life, will not solve any real problem.

      Getting away from fossil fuels seems to me the only humane way of trying to prevent big climate change. Reducing the worlds population would certainly reduce the problem. Promoting population growth seems to me exactly the wrong thing to do.

      Ironically, capitalism has a lot of bad properties but does more in eradicating poverty then the catholic church.

      The pope is wrong on a lot of things, but that is his job.

  12. Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I have been thinking about morals and religious “support” for morals lately. I think that historically religions and other groups form a target morality that they wish to achieve. That target changes very slowly and usually after it has becomes a burden to those belonging to the group and influenced by the group.

  13. Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Condemning capitalism is a value of Enlightenment? It may be a value of the Left who adore centralized and planned economy, but it has nothing to do with enlightenment.

    The Pontifex Maximus forgets that in the last 30 years, millions of people were lifted out of poverty precisely by capitalism, the opening up of free trade and free markets, the loosening of govt chokehold on industries , more competition and innovation, all generated by a capitalist economic system.

    Hitchens was right in that quote about womens reproductive cycles, but you also need an open economy free of govt strangulation of resources and labor to make this work.

    • Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Capitalism is no panacea — quite the contrary. Can you imagine the horrors of a world in which the police, fire, roads, and military are all capitalized?

      There is a place for capitalism. A very limited, carefully regulated place, but an essential place nonetheless. But unfettered capitalism? Such would be the death of us.


      • Diane G.
        Posted September 26, 2015 at 1:10 am | Permalink

        Capitalism is already ruining education.

    • juan
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Well said, russofrevo!

      Also capitalism has a better track record of producing social justice and equality, which are socialism’s proclaimed aims. Yeah, capitalistic countries are far from perfect in these regards – but they’re much better.

      Capitalism is also more compatible with the Enlightenment than its alternatives because it entails individual freedom. Persuasion and voluntary cooperation rule. In socialism it’s coercion: the people in power can’t do good with the citizens’ money unless they fist take it away from them by force.

      The Enlightenment was about individualism, and persuading others instead of relying on the power of authority. Capitalism too.

      • Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Also capitalism has a better track record of producing social justice and equality, which are socialism’s proclaimed aims. Yeah, capitalistic countries are far from perfect in these regards – but they’re much better.

        I’m sorry, but that’s the exact opposite of the truth.

        The countries with the best record on social justice and equality and the like are the European Scandinavian countries, all of which are very socialistic. It’s the more capitalistic countries, like the United States, that have high degrees of social disfunction.

        You may well be confusing Soviet Communism for socialism. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were no more socialist nor republican than the German Democratic Republic was democratic nor republican…or, for that matter, than the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was socialist or pro-worker.



        • Mark R.
          Posted September 25, 2015 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          You may well be confusing Soviet Communism for socialism.

          My thought exactly.

          • juan
            Posted September 25, 2015 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

            No, I’m not confusing them.

            But I think you may be confused, Ben, or at least using the terminology peculiarly.

            Lets take the three Scandinavian countries you mentioned. They rank, on average, in the top 11% of the Index of Economic Freedom (which ranks countries by “…the liberty of individuals to pursue their economic interests” – the essence of capitalism).

            Yet you claim, Ben, that all of the Scandinavian countries are “highly socialistic”. Denmark, really? The Index has it in place 11 out of 178 countries (above the US).

            Either the Index is wrong, or Ben is wrong, or our disagreement is only about semantics.

  14. deadweasel
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Ah, liberals. Always hearing the notes but not the music.

    Why did Francis speak out against capitalist greed? For the same reason the Church has opposed the entire modern world: it’s materialist.

    “Materialism” to the Church is the principle that decisions are considered purely on the basis of material gain; a capitalist thinks only of his or her gain or loss when contemplating a deal. The Church has always, and will always, oppose this idea.

    The reason why is not difficult to discern; materialism assumes human autonomy. Human autonomy is the Church’s deadliest enemy. Allow human beings to think, decide, and act for themselves, and of what use is the Church?

    Far from being liberal, the Pope’s criticism is firmly based in reactionary Church doctrine. The Church does not just oppose capitalism. It opposes the entire modern world of science, economics, and republican politics.

    • Cindy
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      The church has invested heavily in oil.

      Ho hum.

      • Posted September 25, 2015 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        I think what deadweasel us trying to say here is that the Church is singing the same old song. They’ve never been a bastion of free market apologetics, they’ve never been pro-anything that’s free, other than imaginary things like free will, which if you exercise in a truly free way, damns you to eternal torture.

  15. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Overpopulation is a big contributor not just to global warming, but to poverty as well.

    I doubt one can find such a correlation. Poverty has always decreased, even in the face of increased population. The by Bergoglio so derided “consumerism” is directly negatively correlated with the decrease of poverty ever since industrialism opened for a market with efficient production (including agrarian):

    “In the past only a small elite lived a life without poverty. Since the onset of industrialization – and as a consequence of this, economic growth1 – the share of people living in poverty started decreasing and has kept on falling ever since.”

    [ ]

    To blame either factor is wrong, especially to blame “consumerism”/capitalism. (Since capitalism seems necessary for efficient industrialism, c.f. non-capitalist communist nations and their ever decreasing productivity.) And for family sizes the correlation is positive only because the cause/effect is the reverse: decreasing poverty has meant decreasing family sizes. [Gapminder statistics.]

    Re Pollitt’s piece, what is “ecological ills” and “disaster”? She doesn’t say. I am not saying that ecologies haven’t changed, especially due to climate change. But have ecologies on land crashed more than the pre-industrial background level? It was food production that destroyed most continent large forests*, was it not?

    * I hear over-fishing has now made a similar ecological ill in the oceans, and _that_ can be put at the front door of industrialized fishing…

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Okay, seems the image format didn’t work. Might be as well, I forgot to put the non-C&P source information with.

      But please follow the link to a nice smooth curve, and a decrease from 95 % poverty 1820 to 50 % sometime 1995, vs 85 % to 25 % extreme poverty.

      After another 20 years, poverty levels are at an all time low (perhaps 15 %: ), and IIRC UN’s new goals they want to eradicate it under the next long term plan.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Ah, now it came up, and I used the wrong image ref!

      So, having checked:

      And the source would be the link and the text “where you find more information”.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        Oh, duh! It is a dynamic generated page. I can’t access the image info easily, I’ll give up.

    • Somer Rose
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

      Hi Torbjorn
      I agree that the human standard of living for ordinary people did not noticeably improve for the ordinary person living in any civilisation with towns or cities in it for thousands of years until the second half of the eighteenth century and has continued to increase since. In the countries benefitting from this, population increased, and in some instances the excess moved and founded nations (US, Canada etc with white majority invaders and settlers), but even in the higher populated source countries the living standards increased. Technology means that there is a huge middle class in countries outside the west – India, China and increasingly a number of South American countries. However there are also billions of people living on under $5 a day and 1.2 billion on under $2 a day – in shocking poverty. Material science and technology has made improvements in life possible as never before.

      Historically babies and infants under 5 have had an extremely high mortality in most era and strata of society. However, after WW2 a powerful UN and bilateral aid were agents of massive population explosion outside the West from late 50s on due to great reduction of Infant under 5 Mortality. This was facilitated through vaccinations, sanitary awareness teaching in schools and social programs, basic medical care, irrigation or clean well projects, (in some places) sewerage works, the green revolution (which did actually increase food productivity for most of S and SE Asia) sometimes also powdered milk (a mixed blessing if promoted in hospitals instead of breastfeeding, or promoted without health information or clean water facilities to illiterate poor people mixing it with dirty water and not enough powder). Global population, then exploded as can be seen in various graphs.

      As someone here has commented – under physics there is a limit to how much energy – food or work or whatever can be got out of resources with exponential population increase. Also our globe is an environment with a hyper complex chemical and physical and biological balance for any life to survive. No amount of technology can solve that problem and nicking off to other planets is neither a practical or moral solution. Which leads us to another technology invented in the 1950s – the contraceptive pill. We DO now have the technological power to CONTROL our rate of population increase (or decrease) within sexual partnerships. We need to acknowledge this need for balance both morally and logically and act on it

      • rickflick
        Posted September 26, 2015 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Agreed. That’s what makes the position of the Church on contraception so reprehensible. The Church is effectively working against the interests of the world. The sooner the Church loses influence the better.

  16. Kevin
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a good man in a hard place. Ceiling Cat willing, he will slowly erode the dogma that surely imprisons his reason.

  17. Posted September 25, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Hey Jerry,

    Let me point to couple of other things you could take issue with.

    1. His reference to the clergy sexual abuse crisis (congratulating the bishops on their handling of the same).

    2. St. Junípero Serra’s canonization:


  18. Cindy
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Permalink


  19. Mark R.
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    The human species is the only known planetary species that can decide not to have offspring. For all other species on this planet, there is no choice in the matter.
    I find it ironic that many religions can’t realize this fact and simply say that G*d created within us the power to use our ‘free-will’ to choose whether or not to have children. It can easily be twisted around to fit their dogma as far as I can see. But alas, it’s all about authority and power, so that won’t do.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 26, 2015 at 1:16 am | Permalink

      I’m sure they realize this, but if they admitted it, where would all the new parishioners come from?

  20. Cindy
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    So, as some of you may know, I spend a fair amount of time commenting on the blog Secular Pro Life Perspectives

    Hilariously, the majority of the writers and the commentariat are either Catholic or evangelical.

    Anyway, the subject of world hunger often comes up. Every time that I point out that the earth cannot supply an infinite number of people – that resources will eventually run out, I am told that “there is enough food to feed everyone, people just need to share”

    Now, SJW liberals make the same arguments. That we really not need worry about genocide and famine from food shortages because hey, people just need to share!

    I always ask them how they are gonna get people to share. Are they gonna ask Daesh (isis) nicely to stop the genocide and spread the wealth? Do you think that boko haram is willing to play nice?

    Heck, your average American would not be willing to give up his or her standard of living so that millions of poor people can share in the wealth.

    And even if you do get everyone to share, someone, somewhere, is gonna want to grab more for his/her people. Lebensraum, anyone?

    This ‘everyone needs to share’ bs just sounds like magical thinking to me, and it is an easy cop-out because you don’t have to put any thought into it.

    But if we empower women, and they are able to lower the birthrate, families can climb out of poverty. Supply will even out re demand, and people won’t feel that they have to kill each other for ‘living space’.

    One of the saddest things in the developing world is that these families, often with 6+ kids, living on less than a dollar a day, will sell their children into sexual slavery just so that they can pay the bills. Oh, but if we ask Daesh to spread the wealth, everything will be ok, right?


    As an addendum, for the ladies here – was being pregnant, and undergoing birth, just like being stuck on a 14 hr flight while being farted on repeatedly? yes, this argument was used on me yesterday, in all seriousness. I showed her a list of the 50+ unhealthy side effects of pregnancy, and she zeroed in on morning sickness. So she came up with this analogy wherein you are stuck on a 14 hr flight and the guy ahead of you keeps farting in your face. You are sick and nauseous. BUT YOU CAN’T KILL HIM. ABORTION IS NO DIFFERENT. It is an overreaction to a minor inconvenience!


    • rickflick
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      That’s one sad looking website.

      • Cindy
        Posted September 25, 2015 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        They banned the majority of pro choice commenters a while ago, as they can’t handle, you know, factual information.

        • rickflick
          Posted September 25, 2015 at 7:52 pm | Permalink


        • Diane G.
          Posted September 26, 2015 at 1:20 am | Permalink

          Thanks for putting up the good fight while you could, Cindy!

          • Cindy
            Posted September 26, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

            I still post there on occasion. They are really dense though. Perhaps PCC could get a lesson on evolution from one commenter:

            Have a look at evolution and tell me who benefits from a sexual appetite?

            Ever wondered why so many women don’t orgasm during sex?

            In ancient times, Females did not benefit from PIV sex. PIV sex often left them pregnant, which made them vulnerable to predators. If they had no mate to protect them, they often died. It was best for their survival if they avoided PIV sex unless they had someone to protect them.

            On the otherhand males could have as much PIV sex as they wanted, they only needed a handful of their dozens of progeny to survive in order for their bloodline to continue.

            then marriage came along, meaning males had to stick around and protect their mates, ensuring both of their bloodlines. This is probably the first feminist act ever created. Probably why its called MATRImony.

            But men still had sexual desires that their biology told them needed to be met.

            What did this mean? Women who give into the sexual desires of men were more likely to have their bloodline survive. And women who liked sex were more likely to give into those desires.

            Fast forward a few thousand years and more women have evolved to like sex just as much as men, even the ones who don’t like it still do it. This is a result of ancient patriarchy.

            And no im not saying its dirty and sinful. Although patriarchy has told us womens natural functions (mensturation and childbirth) are dirty and sinful.

            Women can participate in PIV sex as much as they want, but it has evolved from a male desire, not a female desire.

            • Diane G.
              Posted September 27, 2015 at 3:35 am | Permalink

              I, um…I…I’m speechless!

    • Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      This presents an opportunity to share one of my all time favorite articles.

      It’s a bit of a lengthy read but here’s the quote relevant to your post:

      But exponentials have a drearier side as well. The human population recently passed six billion and is doubling about once every forty years. At this exponential rate, if an average person weighs seventy kilograms, then by the year 3750 the entire Earth will be composed of human flesh. But before you invest in deodorant, realize that the population will stop increasing long before this—either because of famine, epidemic disease, global warming, mass species extinctions, unbreathable air, or, entering the speculative realm, birth control. It’s not hard to fathom why physicist Albert Bartlett asserted “the greatest shortcoming of the human race” to be “our inability to understand the exponential function.” Or why Carl Sagan advised us to “never underestimate an exponential.”

      • Posted September 25, 2015 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for that excellent and new-to-me essay.

        Near the top, he makes passing mention of Al Bartlett. Anybody who has yet to see his seminal lecture on exponential growth needs to drop everything else and watch it right now:



        • Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

          Glad to return the favor. You’ve certainly provided your fair share of interesting links that I’ve enjoyed. I have Al Bartlett’s talk queued in YouTube.

          Anytime I read articles such as these that get into the sheer vastness of the Universe or finite numbers that dwarf any quantity useful to our understanding of the Cosmos, it makes me appreciate even more the absurdity of the infinite deity arguments. I’m not sure that theists even fully grasp what they’re claiming when the start throwing around the infinite label. Surely, an intelligent being with infinite capabilities of any sort should be able to dial 9-1-1 (as you point out), among, ahem, infinite other things it doesn’t seem to do, least of which is simply demonstrating its existence.

  21. keith cook + or -
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    How to look good while wheeling out the same old trollop. The RCC is fighting to keep it’s
    centuries of hegemony in tact and nice guys in town is a tactic and an effective smoke screen. A mens only club for the holy with benefits.
    No bearing whats so ever on this century and what is required. Total dismantlement and the truth.. for once.

  22. Posted September 25, 2015 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    As we know, the Church frowns on birth control, whether by pills, IUDs, or vasectomy and tubal ligation. Its prohibition of abortion is absolute, save for the year’s grace Francis gave women to get forgiveness for abortions in ways not previously allowed.

    I think I raised this point in the piece on this topic, but this is pure PR spin. It has never been Church doctrine to deny forgiveness to those who seek it with a sincere heart. Women who confessed abortions have always been forgiven, as has anyone who confessed any sin. From the Catechism: “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”

    Now, I’m willing to concede of course that forgiveness for sins like these amongst individual priests may have been hard to come by in the past, but for Francis to spin this as something new the Church is doing is simply doing what he’s so good at: equivocating in a way that sends the message that he’s reforming the Church. He spins messages in ways that makes it seem as if the Church is separating from its strict dogma and doctrines of the past, but in reality, he hasn’t changed them one iota.

    I too think this Pope is a step in the right direction, but I think he may just be pulling what’s just another in a series of clever cons to try to draw people back to a Church that has dwindling influence in the post-Enlightenment era.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      My interpretation, tentatively, is that he’s doing the forgiveness thing and he’s made attention getting, feels good, statements to signal that he’d like the Church to move forward into the 21st century with some respectability, some level of plausibility. But, there are conservative forces in the Church who will tolerate no change. So, it’s a go-slow approach.

      • Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        I hope you’re right about the Pope. You are undoubtedly right about the conservative elements in the Church. The skeptic in me still sees this as a sales pitch, outwardly saying the right things but once the faithful get in the pews on Sunday, sending the same old message: you were born sick and commanded to be well.

  23. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    One of my hero’s, Margret Sanger campaigned for birth control from early last century. She saw firsthand what horror’s unrelenting pregnancy could visit upon women especially poor women.

    It in large part through her work that western women enjoy the freedoms they have today. Think what this has enabled, how much better is a society where women have the option to choose the course of their life.

    I think its better anyhow.

    Margaret Sanger is a true hero yet she has been mercilessly vilified by largely catholic right wing organizations. Even though she herself was against abortion, mostly. They have made up a whole slanderous dishonest picture of Sanger that is just not true.

    I thought it was, these days, self evident that the best way to improve conditions was to give women control over their reproductivity.
    That the catholics oppose it, that the results are obvious and deleterious, pretty much negates any of the other waffle.

    I still like that song by Tim Minchin. It still rings true.

    • Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      I listened to Tim Minchin’s Pope song as I departed Penn Station tonight, a mere 100 feet or so beneath where the Pope was saying Mass. It was a deliciously good feeling.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 26, 2015 at 1:23 am | Permalink

        How was your commute, BTW?

        • Posted September 26, 2015 at 9:42 am | Permalink

          I got delayed half an hour by police barricades and a crowd of people about a block deep, but once I found my way into the station, the trains had about 20% the usual amount of passengers going out. The trains coming in on the other hand were overflowing. I can’t for the life of me imagine wanting to see any person badly enough to go through that amount of trouble do it. We can be a strange species sometimes.

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 27, 2015 at 1:25 am | Permalink


            And I concur re strange species.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted September 26, 2015 at 9:33 am | Permalink


  24. Somer Rose
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    There is some truth that the Pope has to move slowly, but the institution is inherently autocratic. It believes peoples whole “humanity” and “dignity” is bound up with being envoys of God, unlike the animals, and required to maintain romanticised dichotomous and unequal gender roles as the basis of the family in all circumstances. Hence the obsession with no contraception, emphasising male female gender roles, large families, male priesthood, anti gays etc. This is always presented as non negotiable. Everything else, including concern for the poor, is secondary through Catholic history and this needs to change. Pope Francis has dropped none of that language. In several pronouncements in Rome he has emphasised traditional gender roles in the traditional family where women are valued as bearers of large families, and castigated selfish childless old woman Europe (in THOSE words). Too be fair he recommended impoverished Philippinos should have smaller families (3 children) but he is still for global population GROWTH. He comes from a country (Argentina) with a shocking culture of machismo and violence against women, and he has nothing to say critical of that, in fact he is always lauding traditional anti-woman values in cultures outside the west.

    Secondly the Church’s authoritarian structure itself its insistence on having state status but refusing its priests in one area to submit to laws of other states. One way to deal with the child abuse scandals is to hand abusing priests over to police investigation after removing the recently publicised Papal edict of 1922 obliging Bishops and Cardinals to keep details of child abusing priests within the church and not pass onto the Secular authorities as this would undermine the power of church versus state. Another less significant is to remove the confessional box. However even these steps would not remove the problem. There needs to be a stream of non celibate, married clergy – with no shame at moving out of the celibate stream for those who feel they can’t handle it because the urges and/or the extreme isolation of the priest on a pedestal above the congregation but totally devoted to the divinity and congregation is lonely and may drive some to completely inappropriate conduct. However this very separateness of the clergy – and the lack of any communication with or loyalty to a family outside the church – is part of its power structure, as is the absence of female priests.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 26, 2015 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      Interesting summary. To summarize your summary, the Church is an archaic bureaucracy which is inimical to mental and social health.

%d bloggers like this: