This excerpt has been adapted from Chapter 13 of our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s seminal book, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (1996). The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.
Distortion of the Church’s Image
In 1990, the Times Mirror Company, owner of a number of large U.S. newspapers, conducted a national poll, “The People, Press and Politics.” This poll asked interviewees questions that would permit the measure of “favorability.” Eleven political institutions were compared. The Catholic Church ranked number one with an 89 percent favorability rating, handily beating the Supreme Court, Congress and the U.S. military. Evangelical Christians were given a 53 percent rating. Among famous world leaders, including living U.S. Presidents, the pope ranked number one with a favorability rating of 88 percent. Only Vaclav Havel came within 10 points of the pope.
This is either an amazing phenomenon or an impressive accomplishment by the bishops, or both. The Catholic Church in America is in serious decline. As noted earlier, half of all American priests now quit the priesthood before age 60. The average age of nuns in the U.S. is 65 years and only 3 percent are below age 40. Nearly one-third of the Catholic schools and one-fourth of the Catholic hospitals have closed in the past 30 years. Contributions by members have fallen by half in the same period, with Catholics having the lowest contribution rate of any of the major churches. Were it not for the billions of dollars received by the Church in federal, state and local tax funds, the income from corporate gifts made as a result of Catholic influence within public and private corporations, and as a result of influence within major private foundations, the Church could not possibly survive in its current form.
As noted, millions of Catholics have left the Church and become Protestants. The September 1995 New York Times/CBS News Poll revealed that 28 percent of those who had been raised as Catholics no longer considered themselves Catholic. In other words, 17 million individuals whom the bishops claim as Catholics have left the Church. In November 1979, about half of all Americans surveyed regarded the pope as a universal moral leader. By 1995, according to this survey, the proportion had fallen to 31 percent, a 40 percent drop. A 1994 Los Angeles Times survey found that 43 percent of priests and 51 percent of nuns say that things in the Church are not so good. According to a study conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute and reported in USA Today on January 29, 1993, Catholics account for 31 percent of all abortions in the U.S. but are only 22 percent of the U.S. population. A September 1995 Washington Post/ABC News Poll queried: Is the Roman Catholic Church in touch with the views of Catholics in America today, or out of touch? Nearly 60 percent of both Catholics and non-Catholics responded, “out of touch.” To the question, “Do you think someone who is using birth control methods other than the rhythm method can still be a good Catholic?,” Ninety-three percent of Catholics said yes. To the question, “Do you think someone who gets divorced and marries someone else without Church approval can still be a good Catholic,?” 85 percent said yes. To the question, “Do you think a woman who has an abortion for reasons other than her life being in danger can still be a good Catholic?,” 69 percent said yes. The Catholic Church in the U.S. can only be described as an institution in serious decline.
How can the Church and the pope have such high favorability ratings under these circumstances? This is an important question for all Americans and the American political process. The answers will tell how the Rockefeller Commission recommendations and the NSSM 200 recommendations, and every major initiative taken thus far to control U.S. and world population growth have been killed by the Church without Americans being aware of it. We will return to this question in the next chapter.
The bishops have been permitted to make the rules on how they are reported on. This has been accomplished by using many different tools and devices and only a few will be discussed here. A 1991 study conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs and published by the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a study conducted by Catholics for use by Catholic activists, found that in spite of the fact that the Catholic Church is in precipitous decline and that half of its priest and nuns said that things in the Church are not so good, “the ‘Church hierarchy’ is cited more than 50 times as often as ‘identified Church dissidents’!” Given the state of the Church one would expect the opposite to be true. The dissenters obviously have something to talk about, but press reporting on dissension and dissenters has been successfully discouraged by the Church leadership. Given the enormous potential for dissenting opinion, the bishops’ accomplishment in suppressing media coverage of this opinion is truly impressive. A reasonable question is: what other information is the Church successfully suppressing?
As mentioned in Chapter 11, the news outlets that placed the Church in a negative light were virtually all snuffed out or muzzled earlier in this century by the Knights of Columbus; this institution continues to take great pride in its early successes. Its efforts in recent years and the efforts of other Catholic institutions, such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, to suppress information that places the Church in a bad light have been mostly successful (the issue of child molestation being the only significant exception but even on this issue they do what they can).
Any time a report appears in the press placing the Church in a bad light, almost without exception there is an immediate demand for an apology and retraction made to the reporter, editor and publisher by these Catholic thought police. Written responses and demands for publication are immediately forthcoming. These responses are usually published and it is amazing how many apologies are made and published. There are scores of examples each year and they can be found in the publications of these thought police. They eagerly share their successes with their members. But when a negative report appears in one newspaper or magazine it rarely appears in another, regardless of its newsworthiness—Carl Bernstein’s TIME magazine article is a good example.
Economic retribution as a tool to suppress criticism was used more commonly in the last century and earlier in this century than today because it is now largely unnecessary. The long history of its use and the success enjoyed with it makes the mere threat of its use highly effective.
Perhaps far more important than the outright intimidation practiced by many of the right-wing Catholic organizations is the self-censorship practiced by reporters, editors and publishers. All know there is a line that has been drawn by the bishops that they are not to cross—and they rarely do. They are aware of the rules formulated by the bishops regarding how Church matters are to be reported—and nearly always follow them. They know they will be punished if they do not conform.
Indeed, the bishops have had far greater success in intimidating non-Catholics than in retaining their own faithful. This is not limited to the press. With 26 years in the population field, I can say from experience that the fear of retaliation by the Catholic Church has paralyzed the population movement. I have also found that the fear felt by many American politicians aware of the undemocratic activities of the Church has resulted in their silence on this issue.
The Roman Catholic Church is a political entity headquartered in Rome and controlled in Rome. Its teachings and policies are set in Rome. All of its employees work for and represent the interests of the headquarters in Rome. It has awesome political power in the U.S. and the world over. It has inviolable territory, diplomatic representation to governments around the world and its minions sit on international bodies of a purely secular nature. It has political interests, including security-survival interests which are in direct conflict with those of the United States Government and its people. But the image of the Catholic Church presented by the American press does not reflect these realities. We are led to believe that this institution is primarily religious in nature. On the contrary; numerous observers over the years, including scholar Paul Blanchard, have correctly described the Catholic Church as a political institution cloaked in religion. Little has changed. The Church and its Vatican are firstly a political institution, now desperately trying to survive.
Much distortion is possible because relevant information that would limit distortion is not collected in the first place, since the Church has succeeded in blocking its collection. For example, for the bishops to claim “we speak for 59 million Americans” alone gives the Church an enormous amount of political power to manipulate government policy. It is not possible to challenge their present count of 59 million, though the actual number of Catholics who consider themselves adherents of the Catholic faith and who are willing to give the bishops permission to speak for them in the political arena is undoubtedly but a fraction of 59 million. But when politicians hear the number 59 million, they listen intently. The result—a lot of political power.
These are but a few of the reasons Americans have such a distorted view of the Church. However, American priests, nuns and laymen have a much less distorted view; it is amply documented that they are leaving the Church in droves. The test of the image is in the polling. The image of a healthy, robust and expanding American Catholic Church is clearly wrong. American Catholics are not conforming to the extent that our perceptions tell us. We are affording the Church far more deference than it deserves.
Too Much Evidence to Ignore
American Catholics, like the rest of us, cannot ignore the steady barrage of evidence that their church is in an untenable position and that the pope and the Church, as Father McCormack phrased it, “bear a heavy burden of responsibility” for much of the misery, suffering and premature death we see around the world.
There are numerous examples: The cover story of the February 1994 issue of the Atlantic Monthly titled “The Coming Anarchy” by Robert Kaplan links anarchy around the world, including the U.S., to overpopulation. In a follow-up column in the New York Times, Anthony Lewis writes that overpopulation-induced environmental destruction will be “the national security issue of the early 21st century.” A Los Angeles Times News Service article titled, “Massive Famine Predicted Worldwide,” reports on a symposium of international agricultural experts who predict eight times the shortage of food worldwide, as now seen in Africa, by the year 2000.
A recent Reuters dispatch is headed, “U.N. report lists developing countries in danger of collapse,” naming eight. (Rwanda was the first to go.) The New York Times News Service reports: Pontifical Academy of Sciences recommends that couples have only two children to curb world population growth. A USA Today article begins, “The Catholic Church, long outspoken in its opposition to abortion, is engaging in a massive and unprecedented lobbying effort to stop passage of an abortion rights bill in Congress … which would prohibit states from restricting abortion.” (The bishops won—the bill is now dead.) A Los Angeles Times News Service article is titled, “Roman Catholic bishops declare their intent to fight any legislation that provides coverage for abortions” (including the Clinton health care plan, or any alternative covering abortion). A New York Times News Service article reports on a newly released Episcopal Church document that terms the Catholic attitude toward women “so insulting, so retrograde” that women should abandon Catholicism “for the sake of their own humanity.”
The New York Times reports that taxpayers save $4.40 for every public dollar spent to provide family planning (based on costs of baby’s first two years). A Wall Street Journal article reports on a University of California finding that every $1 spent on family planning services saves the state $11.20 later. The results of a Washington Post-ABC News poll in 1993 shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor the availability of abortion, and the percentages increased over 1992. A Reader’s Digest article titled, “A Continent’s Slow Suicide,” reports, “Now the African continent is sliding back to a precolonial stage.” The nightly TV news stories on Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia reveal that these conflicts are all related to overpopulation.
These hideous stories seem endless. Of course they have the same effects on Catholics as they do on non-Catholics. “The truth shall make you free” and this steady diet of information countering the Vatican’s position has emancipated Catholics from dogmas which have contributed to papal control. We have a distorted view of what American Catholics think. For decades, the Bishops have been telling us what Catholics think and most Catholics and non-Catholics alike have failed to question this arrangement. How did this arrangement come about and how is it maintained?
More importantly—how has the Vatican managed to subvert all serious efforts to deal with the overpopulation problem without the American public’s awareness of these covert operations? This is the subject of Chapters 14 and 15.
Dr. Stephen Mumford is the founder and President of the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security. He has his doctorate in Public Health. His principal research interest has been the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. He has been called to provide expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the implications of world population growth.
Dr. Mumford has decades of international experience in fertility research where he is widely published, and has addressed conferences worldwide on new contraceptive technologies and the stresses to the security of families, societies and nations that are created by continued uncontrolled population growth. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, he has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.
In addition to his books on biomedical and social aspects of family planning, as well as scientific articles in more than a score of journals, Dr. Mumford’s major works include American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984), The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1986), and The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996).
The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy
By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH
Paperback Publisher: Center for Research on Population and Security (October 1996)
Kindle Publisher: Church and State Press (February 6, 2015)
During the formative years of the World Health Organization (WHO), broad consensus existed among United Nations member countries that overpopulation is a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future. One of the founding fathers of the WHO, the late Milton P. Siegel, speaks to Dr. Mumford in 1992. He explains how the Vatican successfully stymied 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.
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