How the Vatican’s enormous power undermines family planning worldwide

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 27 January 2017
Church and State

(Photo: João Lima / Flickr)

Adapted from chapter 5 of our chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s book, American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (1984). The book is available at Kindle here, and is available to read for free here.

For decades, there have been claims from within the population establishment (often made by Catholics) that the only way to get the Vatican to change its position on this issue is through “communica­tion.” It is now understood that the reason the Church has not “communicated” is that it recognizes that it cannot change its posi­tion and still retain its power. A change in position would result in a tremendous loss of authority, precipitating a loss of power. Communication with the leadership of the Church will not occur for reasons that are discussed in this report.

A “Catholic” Administration

If the stakes are high for the Church as an institution, they are critical for all nations and people, including Americans. That world popula­tion growth poses a serious security threat has been well established.[1] Under the Carter Administration, the National Security Council first acknowledged this threat,[2] which was subsequently reaffirmed.[3] The election of President Reagan has introduced an administration that is the most Catholic in American history. His first National Security Advisor, Richard Allen, a Catholic, halted within the Council further discussion of population growth as a national security threat. His second National Security Advisor, William Clark, a Catholic, announced that the Carter council had “erred” in this determination and that this “error” must be corrected. Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, a Catholic, ignores any intelligence that would indicate that overpopulation is a security threat. Alexander Haig, a Catholic who was Reagan’s first secretary of state, supported the Carter council’s position on this issue but, according to Haig, was drummed out of office by his Catholic colleagues. His replacement, George Shultz, a Catholic, remains silent in this regard.

Margaret Heckler, a Catholic, as secretary of Housing and Human Services, is responsible for the U.S. government’s support of domestic family-planning services. She is both anti-abortion and supportive of the administration’s restrictions on family-planning services. Attor­ney-General William French Smith, a Catholic, is responsible for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and for the execution of U.S. immigration laws. The attorney-general has chosen to give little atten­tion to this responsibility and to ignore the fact that our bishops and thousands of clergy commit a felony every time they aid or abet an ille­gal alien (90 percent of our illegal aliens are Catholic). The mathe­matical odds of this arrangement happening by chance are fantastically low in this nation which is only 20 percent Catholic. The Church has managed to cover all key highest level positions that would be con­cerned with the population growth and security issue.

Population Growth Control Losing Ground

There is a growing consensus among population workers that, for the past few years, wherever attempts were made to control population growth, losses have outweighed gains. For example, from a November 26, 1982, International Herald Tribune article:

The family planning programme in the Philippines, once highly regarded, is in danger of being dismantled. The head of the nation’s population agency has been dismissed because of his opposition to funding cutbacks, and the new five-year plan barely mentions family planning and, unlike previous plans, sets no specific demographic targets. Aid from Western agencies is held up by Filipino officials, and UNFPA is cutting back its funding because previous allocations have been underspent. The problem is … the influence of a senior governmental official, Placido Mapa, highly regarded by President Marcos, and a member of Opus Dei.

Opus Dei, of which Placido Mapa is a member, is a Vatican-controlled lay Catholic organization.[4]

Losses have also outweighed gains with respect to assistance given through bilateral and international donor agencies. The U.S. agency responsible for all international population assistance, the U.S. Agency for International Development, has seen its real purchasing power cut by 34 percent over the past ten years.[5] Among the interna­tional agencies, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and the World Bank, despite the good intentions of most of their staffs, have all been manipulated and compromised from within and without by the Catholic Church. The result? Most of their “population moneys” are being spent for “general development” and not on family planning. Astute observers have recognized for years that the Vatican’s strategy was to siphon off family-planning and population funds into “development” activities. The “development will take care of population growth” school of thought was an illogical concoction of the Vatican that has been propagated and promulgated primarily by dutiful Catholic laypersons. This strategy has successfully devastated family-planning activities of some international donor agencies and certain countries.

The successes of the Church have occurred despite a large unsatis­fied demand for family planning. Among countries studied by the World Fertility Survey, typically one-half of the fertile married women who want no more children are not using any method of contracep­tion. On the Indian subcontinent these levels exceed 90 percent. As a rule, one-third to one-half of those interviewed reported that their last child was unwanted.[6] Worldwide, more than two in three women at risk of pregnancy (about 450 million out of 670 million women) lack access to modern contraceptive methods.[7]

The decline of the world population growth control effort of the past couple of years has coincided with the activities of Pope John Paul II and his Vatican. Virtually every American is familiar with his position on family planning and population growth control: “The will of God and the law of reason demand an unrelenting fight against immoral contraception.” His position has been well covered by the American press. It is indeed unfortunate that the actions of the Vatican to intervene in our national affairs have not been equally publicized. This silence of the American press has given the Vatican enormous power to undermine family planning worldwide. The Church is completely candid about its implorable opposition to birth control and professes that it will do everything possible to accomplish its purposes.

The Vatican has called on its bishops, all of whom are completely loyal (though they may appear at certain moments to be otherwise) to thwart efforts for population growth control. The Church, through its two thousand years of experience, has learned that responsiveness to the chain of command in this truly monolithic organization can best be guaranteed by selecting persons for leadership positions who have an intense lust for power. In this monolithic organization, anyone who steps out of line faces an immediate and permanent loss of power. If they, as persons, have an intense need for power, they will not step out of line and face losing it. In this way, obedience can be maximized. The highly successful television mini-series, “The Thorn Birds,” based on the bestselling novel, was about just such a person. Father Ralph denied everything that made him human in order to satisfy his intense lust for power, only to become aware in the last few moments of his life of what had driven him to make this denial. Pastoral men remain as priests and are not driven by power. They never obtain leadership positions, but they serve a very useful purpose by creating the image that the Vatican wishes to project—that all priests are nice men and pastoral in orientation.

The Vatican has also called upon a tiny fraction of its laity who are also completely loyal for the same reason as the bishops—an intense lust for power. These men, who are more ruthless than religious, find that, if they are absolutely loyal to the Vatican, they can attain positions of power that they would never be able to obtain without Vatican support. These positions may be elected government posi­tions, appointed positions, in government bureaucracies, in public and private corporations, and in private nonprofit organizations. They are found within the population establishment or are peripheral to it. Under the protection of the power of the Church, they operate in complete secrecy, undermining the efforts of population organizations.

Since the election of President Reagan, they have acted with increas­ing impunity.

[1] R. E. Benedick, “U.S. International Population Policy and National Security,” testimony presented before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (April 29, 1980).
[2] U.S. International Population Policy, Third Annual Report of the National Security Council Ad Hoc Group on Population Policy (Department of State, January 1979).
[3] U.S. International Population Policy, Fourth Annual Report of the National Security Council Ad Hoc Group on Population Policy (Department of State, April 1980).
[4] “Threat to Philippines Family Planning Programme,” IPPF Open File (December 3, 1982), p. 18.
[5] IPPF Open File (March 11, 1983), p. 18.
[6] “World Fertility Survey Answers Some Questions That Have Long Puzzled Population Policy-makers,” International Family Planning Perspectives (1980), 6:3:114.
[7] “Population Crisis Committee: World Abortion Trends,” Population (1982), 9:4.

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: 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 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 American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984).

Related:
How far is the Vatican willing to go to insure its survival?
Why the Catholic Church has survived for 2000 years while all other tyrannies have failed
The Catholic Church and Sex
Vatican Rejection of Freedom of the Press
Eight kinds of power the Vatican exercises to control Catholics
Catholicism – both a religion and an ambitious, arrogant political institution
Postponing Self-Destruction of the Catholic Church

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.

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