A critic of Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Global Warming and his Refusal to face the Overpopulation Issue

By Dieter Ehrhardt | 2 August 2015
Church and State

Text of Paragraph 50 of the encyclical Laudato si

50. (1) 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. (2) At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. (3) 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.” (4) To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. (5) 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. (6) Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and “whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor”. (7) Still, attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density, on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations, as a result of the interplay between problems linked to environmental pollution, transport, waste treatment, loss of resources and quality of life.

Comments on the above paragraph 50 of the encyclical Laudato si

To start with, I would like to point out that we should be very grateful to Pope Francis for his admonishing remarks about the unequal distribution of the available resources and the negative effects this has on the sustainable use of the environment; further for castigating the escalating greed in the First World as the primary cause of all evil, along with the power of the financial markets which, motivated by greed, steamroll everything and are about to abolish the regulatory function of the parliaments and the governments of the First World and by so doing strengthen their own destructive power even more.

With regard to the references to population growth and the birth rates in paragraph 50 of the encyclical I would like to make the following remarks:

1. (1st sentence) “Instead of resolving the problems of the poor …” The population of Africa more than quadrupled from 1950 (230 million) to 2010 (1.2 billion) and the same goes for Iraq (1960 – 2010 from 7 to 32 million) and Syria (1960 – 2010 from 5 to 22 million).

During these 50 years the “World” demonstrated beyond any doubt that simply because of these tremendous growth rates it was unwilling, unable or both “to resolve the problems of the poor.” I fail to see the slightest ray of hope that this “World” will turn such unwillingness and/or inability into willingness or ability in the future. What is worse, it is more than questionable whether the “problems of the poor”, who are multiplying all the time can be resolved at all. In 1980, there were two slums on the outskirts of Nairobi; today there are eleven.

Is it really the case that the extreme and selective consumerism in the north has caused e.g. the rural exodus in Kenya to Nairobi to rise so dramatically? Or is it that life in the rural areas has deteriorated so much that it is even worse than suffering from the horrors of living in the slums?

If only the decision-makers in this world would understand this point and then act accordingly.

2. This assessment of the state of the world cannot be contested by anyone in their senses. Therefore, it is incomprehensible that the encyclical asserts that (3rd sentence) “it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.” The past fifty years have demonstrated the contrary.

So here, the encyclical, without any reasons or justification, declares the impossible to be possible, and hence, this assertion is untenable.

3. (4th sentence) “To blame population growth [meaning: for the state of the world today] instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.”

Population growth in the south and ruthless consumerism in the north have nothing to do with each other. The unacceptable, chaotic and inhumane state of affairs in the south is not related at all to the contrary to reason consumer behavior in the north. Or where is the causal connection?

4. If, in view of this reality, one aspires (1st sentence) “to resolve the problems of the poor” the first thing to do is to make sure that the procreation of additional “poor” should be limited by meeting the demand for voluntary contraception. In 1983 Maurice Cardinal Otunga [1923 – 2003], who was responsible for East Africa, told a crowd of villagers in Kenya: “Stop procreating! All you produce are parking boys and parking girls!” A daily in Nairobi published a report on this event with that headline. In my capacity as UNFPA Representative in Kenya I was granted an audience by Cardinal Otunga and asked him about it. He told me, he had not said exactly what had been reported, because the journalist had “telescoped what I had said.”

Much as this conclusion about the reasons for the plight of the poor may be unpleasant for those conservatives in the Church who drafted this part of the encyclical, nevertheless Pope Francis signed this text.

5. (1st sentence) “Some can only (!) propose a reduction in the birth rate.” Whoever drafted this must have been badly informed. Because serious people who “only propose a reduction in the birth rate” do not exist in this world! Such people are an invention of the drafter of this sentence. His words echo the rage which this subject aroused in John Paul II: “His closest friend in the Vatican, Cardinal Deskur, had never seen the pope in such a rage. John Paul II spoke freely: ‘They are causing the shipwreck of humanity’ [meaning: by implementing family planning programmes]. His condemnation referred to both the UN and the Western democracies.” (So reported Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi, his biographers)

This case makes it abundantly clear: involved is not only the theological power of the pope to dictate the ban on contraception to the catholic believer but likewise the event stresses the usurped power to dictate decision making to governments.

It goes without saying that all rational people are convinced that the mere “reduction of the birth rate” is insufficient; however, it is the indispensable basis for all improvements in the quality of life in the developing world. Both have to be tackled in order to hope for success.

An estimated 6,000 people live in Manila's North Cemetery.
An estimated 6,000 people live in Manila’s North Cemetery.

6. (2nd sentence) The assertion “At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of ‘reproductive health’ [meaning: requests for funds for family planning] is both erroneous and preposterous.

First of all, the fact that the words reproductive health are placed in quotation marks demonstrates that evidently one hand in the Vatican does not know what the other hand in the same department has done: one does not use quotation marks for names or expressions which one has created oneself. This expression reproductive health was rushed through at the World Population Conference in Cairo in 1994 at the demand of Pope John Paul II to replace the expression family planning and thereby eliminate the hated subject, which it denotes.

With regard to the matter of family planning itself, in 1975 U.S. President Gerald R. Ford had signed the National Security Decision Memorandum 314 which set out “to make family planning information, education and means available to all people of the developing world by 1980, and to achieve a 2-child family in the developing countries by 2000” and stated that “The U.S. would provide substantial funds to help achieve these goals.”

At the same time, though, there is evidence that Cardinal Wojtyla, empowered by Paul VI, prevented the implementation of this presidential decision. Furthermore, I know that the Vatican instructed three (and possibly all others except Hans-Jürgen Wischnewski 1966-1968) German Federal Ministers for Economic Cooperation not to fund family planning programmes. In this way Cardinal Wojtyla not only caused, but is responsible for, the population growth in most countries of the developing world, including millions of hunger dead. Moreover, it is noteworthy that no catholic hospital or school provided contraception as they just went with the teaching of Humanae Vitae.

It is possible that the most secret files in the Vatican are so very secret that today nobody remembers Wojtyla’s role in initiating this catastrophic development for mankind.

However, the encyclical claims that “At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of ‘reproductive health.’” Since donor governments had been instructed by Cardinal Wojtyla not to fund family planning programmes, how could these governments threaten developing countries to cut their economic assistance if they did not accept funds for family planning programmes!? In other words: First, Wojtyla prevented such funding and now Pope Francis accuses the donor community of using a forbidden and hence non-existent tool to exert immoral pressure on developing countries.

7. By getting this ban on funding pushed through, Wojtyla established himself as an antipode to Pope John Paul I. This deserves to be assigned a special place in the history of the Church. John Paul II ridiculed the continuity of the magisterium and reduced it to a useless fiction. It was not a predecessor in the historical haze of former centuries who had acted exactly contrary to him, but his very immediate predecessor – Pope John Paul I: prior to his inauguration mass he had called a meeting of all diplomats in the Vatican, accredited to the Holy See, and informed them about this part of his government’s policy: ‘Our possibilities for intervention are specific and limited and of a special character. They do not interfere with purely temporal, technical and political (sic!) affairs, which are matters for your governments.’” (See David Yallop, In God’s Name?)

In other words, it is a case of non-interference versus enacting a massive ban on funding regarding a question of life and death for mankind. (Willy Brandt: “It is not only necessary to tame the means of mass destruction but likewise to defuse the hunger bombs.”)

That puts the antagonism between the two in a nutshell. It seems that every pope can get away with doing his own thing. Here, one pope wanted to strengthen Jesus’ love among the faithful and his successor pursued his own egoistic aims to the detriment of mankind. To top it off, in 1994 Renato Raffaele Martino, UN-Ambassador of the Vatican, declared: “Our diplomacy is the oldest in the world and the Church speaks with one voice [meaning: over the centuries?].”

So what does the Church want us to believe?

8. (6th sentence) “Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and ‘whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.’”

This assertion is pub talk and not worthy of a pope. For it to be true, it would be necessary to establish a causal connection between the “discarded food” and “the table of the Poor” – which is something that cannot be done conclusively …

​* * *

It is possible that Pope Francis did not have the time to carefully read and to duly consider all the details of the encyclical – after all it runs to more than 100 pages.

Or, in the case of my quotations from the encyclical, the drafters may not have had the required background knowledge to be able to distinguish between the truth and falsehood of the suggestions and conclusions made by them – apart from the fact that these texts should never have reached the papal desk in the first place. Obviously, his staff was not up to the task.

Or, the pope wrongly assessed the competence and the mindsets of his conservative staff who drafted these texts.

​* * *

The containment of greed, the limitation of irresponsible consumption and the reduction of the birth rates are indeed tasks which have equal priority.

Dieter Ehrhardt. After a PhD in International Law at Marburg University, Germany, the author started his career as Visiting Scholar at UNITAR (UN Institute for Training and Research) in New York, then joined the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in Bonn to take charge of the world population issues and family planning for the developing world. He attended the World Population Conference 1974 in Bucharest as a member of the German Delegation, and the Mexico City Population Conference 1984 as a member of the UNFPA Delegation. From 1975 until 1980 he served as UNFPA Coordinator for the English Speaking Caribbean, based in Jamaica, 1980-1984 as UNFPA Representative for Kenya in Nairobi, 1984-1988 for Turkey in Ankara and 1988-1990 as UNFPA Director for the South Pacific, based in Suva, Fiji. In 1991, at the European Commission in Brussels, he was offered to guide the preparations for the “Rules and Procedures for Population and Family Planning” for the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) EU-territories, the former English and French colonies. He continued with the European Commission until 1995, when he returned to the German Ministry in Bonn to serve as Deputy Head of Division for Population and Family Planning, retiring in 1998. He is the author of The Family Planning Fiasco: How the Vatican Subverted Family Planning in the Developing World. The book is available as ebook at Amazon Kindle.

Professor Milton Siegel, who for 24 years was the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, speaks to Dr. Stephen Mumford in 1992 to reveal that although there was a consensus that overpopulation was a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future, the Vatican successfully fought off the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

Professor Paul Ehrlich: Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?

Al Bartlett – Democracy Cannot Survive Overpopulation

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