Papal Power: U.S. Security Population Directive Undermined by Vatican with ‘Ecumenism’ A Tool

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 1992
The Human Quest

(Credit: Paolo Bona /

On April 24, 1974, President Richard Nixon directed that a study be undertaken to determine the “Implications of World Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.” This study would become one of the most important documents on world population growth ever written. Until now the study has received no public exposure since it remained classified for sixteen years. The Vatican’s anti-population growth strategy is part of the scheme to defend its own interests by influencing U.S. government policy.

In the National Security Council’s National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, acting for the President, directed the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Deputy Secretary of State, and the Administrator of the Agency for International Development to jointly undertake “a study of the impact of world population growth on U.S. security and overseas interests.” The quotes in this article are taken from that Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), exceptions as indicated.

The study was completed on Dec. 10, 1974, and circulated to the secretaries and agency heads here named for their review and comments. Before this date, on Aug. 9, Richard Nixon was replaced as President by Gerald Ford. Almost a year after its completion, on Nov. 26, 1975, the 227-page report was finalized and its recommendations endorsed by President Ford in National Security Decision Memorandum 314: “The President has reviewed the interagency response to NSSM 200…,” wrote the new National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft. “He believes that United States leadership is essential to combat population growth, to implement the World Population Plan of Action and to advance United States security and overseas interests. The President endorses the policy recommendations contained in the Executive Summary of the NSSM 200 response.”

President Ford, in recognizing the gravity of the world population threat to U.S. security, assigned responsibility for further action to the National Security Council (NSC): “The President, therefore, assigns to the Chairman, NSC Undersecretaries Committee, the responsibility to define and develop policy in the population field and to coordinate its implementation beyond the NSSM 200 response.”

NSSM 200 describes in detail how and why world population growth gravely threatens U.S. and global security. It also provides a detailed blueprint for U.S. response to this serious security threat, reflecting the seriousness with which this definitive interdepartmental study viewed over population. Both the findings and the recommendations—as relevant in 1992 as they were in 1975—are too numerous to list here in their entirety. Selected findings are:

Degree of Concern

NSSM 200 reports, “There is a major risk of severe damage to world economic, political, and ecological systems, and as these systems begin to fail, to our humanitarian values.” (p. 10) The sense of near emergency is electric: “…World population growth is widely recognized within the government as a current danger of the highest magnitude calling for urgent measures.” (p. 94) “…It is of the utmost urgency that governments now recognize the facts and implications of population growth, determine the ultimate population sizes that make sense for their countries and start vigorous programs at once to achieve their desired goals.” (p. 15)

Why Overpopulation Threatens U.S. Security

NSSM 200 reports in great detail how and why overpopulation gravely threatens U.S. security. Briefly summarized: “…population factors are indeed critical in, and often determinants of, violent conflict in developing areas. Segmental (religious, social, racial) differences, migration, rapid population growth, differential levels of knowledge and skills, rural/urban differences, population pressure and the spacial location of population in relation to resources—in this rough order of importance—all appear to be important contributions to conflict and violence…. Clearly, conflicts which are regarded in primarily political terms often have demographic roots. Recognition of these relationships appears crucial to any understanding or prevention of such hostilities.” (p. 66)

The report gives three examples of population wars: the El Salvador-Honduras “Soccer War”; (p. 71) the Nigerian civil war; (p. 71) and the Pakistan-India-Bangladesh war, 1970-71. (p. 72) The two-decade-long civil war in Lebanon would be regarded as a classic example of a population war. The civil war in the Sudan and in other countries across Africa are realizations of the projections made in NSSM 200. War in South Africa and between Israel and Arab countries as a result of population growth is all but inevitable.

“Where population size is greater than available resources, or is expanding more rapidly than the available resources, there is a tendency toward internal disorders and violence and, sometimes, disruptive international policies or violence.” (p. 69) This was a vital element, surely, in the 1991 U.S.-Iraq war, a war which cost more in dollars than would be required for decades of successful worldwide population growth control.

“In developing countries,” NSSM 200 continues, “the burden of population factors, added to others, will weaken unstable governments, often only marginally effective in good times, and open the way to extremist regimes.” (p. 84) The Sudan is a vivid recent example.

NSSM 200 Goals

The deep concern for this ominous and progressive national security threat is reflected in the objectives and goals outlined in the report. For example, “The World Population Plan of Action” and the resolutions adopted by consensus of 137 nations at the August 1974 U.N. World Population Conference, though not ideal, provide an excellent framework for developing a worldwide system of population/family planning programs.“ (p. 19) At the conference, only the Vatican opposed the plan. (p. 87)

“Our objective should be to assure that developing countries make family planning information, education and means available to all their peoples by 1980.” (p. 130) “…intense efforts are required to assure full availability by 1980 of birth control information and means to all fertile individuals, especially in rural areas.” (p. 9) [Emphasis added.]

“While specific goals in this area are difficult to state, our aim should be for the world to achieve a replacement level of fertility, (a two-child family on the average), by about the year 2000. Attainment of this goal will require greatly intensified population programs…. U.S. leadership is essential.” (p. 14) [Emphasis added.] The importance of this leadership goal has been clearly demonstrated over the past 17 years. U.S. leadership ceased to exist with the election of President Carter just one year after this report was made public policy, and the U.S. population growth control effort has been going downhill ever since.

“…After suitable preparation in the U.S., announce a U.S. goal to maintain our present national average fertility no higher than replacement level and attain stability by 2000.” (p. 15) [Emphasis added.]

“Only nominal attention is given to population education or sex education in schools….” (p. 158) “Recommendation: That U.S. agencies stress the importance of education of the next generation of parents, starting in elementary schools, toward a two-child family ideal. That AID stimulate specific efforts to develop means of educating children of elementary school age to the ideal of the two-child family…” (p. 159)

Despite the fact that the Helms Amendment forbade the use of funds from the U.S. Agency for Inter-Development for abortion assistance, the report made it clear there was a consensus that continued widespread use of abortion was vital to U.S. and global security. “While the agencies participating in this study have no specific recommendations to propose on abortion, the following issues are believed important and should be considered in the context of a global population strategy…. Certain facts about abortion need to be appreciated: [Emphasis added.] …No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion.” (p. 182) The obvious interpretation: Thus, all available information suggests that widespread use of abortion is essential to population growth control.

“—Indeed, abortion, legal and illegal, now has become the most widespread fertility control method in use in the world today.” (p. 183)

“—It would be unwise to restrict abortion research for the following reasons: 1) The persistent and ubiquitous nature of abortion. 2) Widespread lack of safe abortion techniques…” (p. 185)

Two reports later published by this author offer considerable evidence to support the position that abortion is vital to U.S. and global security. (Mumford SD. “Abortion: a national security issue,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1982; 142; 951-953. Mumford SD, Kessel E. “Is wide availability of abortion essential to national population growth programs? Experiences of 116 countries,”American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1984; 639-645.)

One of the most important goals in NSSM 200 dealt with leadership:

“These programs will have only modest success until there is much stronger and wider acceptance of their real importance by leadership groups. Such acceptance and support will be essential to assure that the population information, education and service programs have vital moral backing, administrative capacity, technical skills and government financing.” (p. 195)

The report recommended spending whatever could reasonably be absorbed to achieve these goals: “We recommend increases in the AID budget requests to the Congress on the order of $35-50-million annually through FY 1980 (above the $137.5-million requested for FY 1975)…. However, the level of funds needed in the future could change significantly, depending on such factors as major breakthroughs in fertility control technologies and LDC receptivity to population assistance.” (p. 24)

Accommodation by the Vatican Ruled Out

The report: “We cannot wait for overall modernization and development to produce lower fertility rates naturally since this will undoubtedly take many decades in most developing countries….” (p. 7)* “Clearly development per se is a powerful determinant of fertility. [This is the Vatican position which has been loudly espoused for more than twenty years.] However, since it is unlikely that most LDCs will develop sufficiently during the next 25-30 years, it is crucial to identify those sectors that most directly and powerfully affect fertility.” (p. 137)

“There is also even less cause for optimism on the rapidity of socioeconomic progress that would generate rapid fertility reduction in the poor LDCs, than on the feasibility of extending family planning services to those in their populations who may wish to take advantage of them.” (p. 99) This directly opposes the Vatican position on this matter.

“But we can be certain of the desirable direction of change and can state as a plausible objective the target of achieving replacement fertility rates by the year 2000.” (p. 99) [Emphasis added.]

These statements manifestly rule out any accommodation to the Vatican on the issue of population growth control.

The Vatican Response to NSSM 200

In an earlier article appearing in this journal, I described why the very survival of papal authority is threatened by population growth control (“‘Right to Life’ Derivation,” The Churchman’s Human Quest, Mar Apr. 1989, p. 14). This grave threat was recognized at the time by the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control which met from 1964 until 1966. Indeed, it was the mission of the Commission to find a way of changing the church’s position without destroying the pope’s authority, which is absolutely essential for the continued survival of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic church as we know it today. The Commission, of course, failed to find a way and the result was the encyclical, Humanae Vitae.

The Vatican rightfully sees that if the solutions to the population problem are applied, there will be an erosion of Vatican authority. Thus, the Vatican is in no position to compromise with the United States. NSSM 200 forthrightly opposes the Vatican positions on population strategy, family planning, and abortion—all of them.

For this reason the Vatican moved swiftly to block the implementation of this gravely threatening policy detailed in NSSM 200 and approved by President Ford. No doubt the Vatican had acquired a copy of the report by the time it was circulated among the relevant department secretaries and agency heads on Dec. 10, 1974, and recognized that it spelled the end of a powerful papacy.

Much discussion had already taken place among Roman Catholic leaders with regard to the essential response by the Roman Catholic hierarchy to the growing liberalization in the U.S. policies toward family planning and abortion and its emergence as the world leader in population growth control. I have discussed some of the elements of the proposed response in my article in this journal, mentioned above.

Jesuit priest Virgil Blum, outlining what he felt the nature of the response should be in the Jesuit magazine, America (March 6, 1971), defined what has become one of the pillars of the papal strategy to block the implementation of NSSM 200. He states: “If a group is to be politically effective, issues rather than institutions must be at stake.” [Emphasis added.] Abortion was chosen as the “issue,” the weapon with which to do battle against the protectors of U.S. security. Great care was taken to insure that there was never any public discussion of the fact that population growth control efforts, so vital to U.S. security, gravely threaten the very survival of papal authority as we know it today.

The Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities

The Vatican rightfully recognized the only way that it could insure the survival of papal power, given NSSM 200, was to boldly seize control of the population and family planning policy decision-making of the U.S. government. On Nov. 29, 1975, just six days before President Ford made NSSM 200 the U.S. policy, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops released the internal document, Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities (copies available from Center for Research on Population and Security, P.O. Box 13067, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709).

This papal plan was a bold, frank blueprint to seize control of these dimensions of our government. With U.S. assets of 200-billion dollars and worldwide assets exceeding 2-trillion dollars, the Vatican has the resources to fully implement this plan.

Through implementation of this plan, the Vatican has exerted exceptional pressure on the U.S. executive branch and achieved through judicial appointments a high degree of control over the U.S. judiciary on abortion and family planning matters. It has also acquired sufficient influence in the U.S. legislative branch to kill the political will of our government to implement any of the policies in NSSM 200. (Mumford, SD. “American Democracy & The Vatican: Population Growth and National Security,” Humanist Press, 1984; “The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning.” Ctr. for Research on Population and Security, Research Tr. Pk., NC 27709.)

Within months after implementation of the Papal Pastoral Plan began, the Vatican was able to stop the implementation of NSSM 200. In the March-April 1992 issue of The Human Quest, John M. Swomley described a deal between presidential candidate Jimmy Carter and the Roman Catholic bishops made at an Aug. 31, 1976 meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Carter, in effect, turned over to the Vatican control of elements of our government vital to population growth control efforts in return for the support of the Roman Catholic bishops in the upcoming election. The plan was not sufficiently implemented for the Vatican approved candidate Ronald Reagan to win the Republican Primary in 1976. However, the implementation process was sufficiently advanced by 1980, and with the election of President Reagan, control of population-related functions of the executive and judicial branches moved to completion.

Time Magazine Says It Like It Is

The cover of the Feb. 24, 1992 issue of Time magazine reveals the subject of an article by Carl Bernstein with the title: “Holy Alliance: How Reagan and the Pope Conspired to Assist Poland’s Solidarity Movement and Hasten the Demise of Communism.” The article is discussed in an editorial in this issue. But it should be noted that the most significant revelations since the Pastoral Plan was implemented in 1975 appear in the Time article. Bernstein reports, “The Catholic Team: The key administration players were all devout Roman Catholics—CIA chief William Casey, Allen, Clark, Haig, Walters, and William Wilson, Reagan’s first ambassador to the Vatican. They regarded the U.S.-Vatican relationship as a holy alliance: the moral force of the pope and the teachings of their church combined with…their notion of American democracy.” Protestants in the Reagan administration were apparently either unaware or unconcerned about this far-reaching maneuver.

It is clear that Vatican interests in preventing population control are diametrically opposed to American security interests as outlined in NSSM 200 and that the U.S. has succumbed to Vatican pressure.

As the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican explained: “American policy was changed as a result of the Vatican’s not agreeing with our policy. American aid programs around the world did not meet the criteria the Vatican had for family planning.”

If the American people realize what is at stake in the conflict between American security and Vatican authority, they will be able to grasp more clearly why the pope and the hierarchy are willing to go to such desperate lengths, even to the extent of invading the decision-making processes of national governments and undermining that leadership.

Protestant Leadership

Where has the Protestant leadership been during the seventeen-year implementation of the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities? It has been skillfully neutralized by the Roman Catholic bishops’ own plan and their creation of the ecumenical movement which I described in an earlier Human Quest article (“How ‘Ecumenism’ Is Used By Roman Catholic Bishops and How Protestant Leadership Serves the Roman Cause,” May-June 1989). Jesuit Virgil Blum, in the 1971 America article cited earlier, recognized that it is essential to use “ecumenism” as a Vatican weapon to blunt criticism of the Vatican’s deep involvement in U.S. political policy-making.

Silence of the Protestant leadership has been vital to Vatican success in changing U.S. policy.

Bernstein, in Time, quotes Protestant Robert McFarlane, who served as a deputy to both Clark and Haig and later as National Security Adviser to the President: “I knew that they were meeting with [Vatican ambassador to the U.S.] Pio Laghi, and that Laghi had been to see the President, but Clark would never tell me what the substance of the discussions was.”

Reagan and the pope undermined and seized control of the Polish government because the Polish government seriously threatened papal security interests in Poland when that country outlawed Solidarity in 1981. Regarding direction of their operation to overthrow the Polish government, Bernstein quotes Laghi: “But I told Vernon [Vernon Walters, American ambassador to the U.N.], ‘Listen to the Holy Father. We have 2,000 years’ experience at this.”

This may suggest that the Vatican would stop at nothing to defend its own interests, even to the point of planning to overthrow a government. Although it has not in the Polish sense over thrown the U.S. government, it has been able to determine U.S. policy. Time reports: “In response to concerns of the Vatican, the Reagan administration agreed to alter its foreign-aid program to comply with the [Roman Catholic] church’s teachings on birth control. According to William Wilson, the President’s first ambassador to the Vatican, the State Department reluctantly agreed to an outright ban on the use of any U.S. aid funds by either countries or international health organizations for the promotion of birth control or abortion. As a result of this position, announced at the World Conference on Population in Mexico City, 1984, the U.S. withdrew funding.

Vatican policy gravely threatens U.S. security. If we do not reject its anti-population-control pressure and go back to the proposals of NSSM 200, our nation, and perhaps the world, is not likely to survive the chaos and ecological disaster sensibly projected in that very important document.*

*NSSM 200 Executive Summary.

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)
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