Why did American political will to deal with overpopulation fade away?

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 15 August 2012
Church and State

(Credit: Shutterstock.com)

This chapter from 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) describes the increasing involvement of the Vatican in scuttling U.S. political will to overcome overpopulation. The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.

Chapter 6: Why Did Our Political Will Fade Away?

THE ROCKEFELLER commission report and NSSM 200 are arguably two of the most important works on overpopulation ever written. Our country and the world would be different today if the recommendations contained in these two documents had been implemented. Many of the dire predictions made in these studies are coming true.

For example, had illegal immigration been controlled and legal immigration adjusted to meet the needs of Americans in 1971, as called for in the Rockefeller Commission Report, the U.S. population would peak at 243 million in 2035.[26] Instead, in 1995 our population increased to 259 million. According to Peter Brimelow, in the Los Angeles Times, “The Census Bureau projects that current immigration policy will drive the U.S. population up to 390 million by 2050, of whom 130 million will be post-1970 immigrants and their descendants. And that’s moderate; the ‘high series’ estimate is 500 million.”[26a] The quality of life of all Americans will be significantly diminished as we attempt to accommodate this additional 130-248 million people, and we will all be less secure. And this number can mushroom if we do not deal with excessive immigration soon.

In 1974, the NSSM 200 study predicted that growing scarcities of resources would lead to ever increasing dislocations and conflicts all over the globe which would diminish security for everyone everywhere. The February 1993 issue of Scientific American contains an article by Thomas F. Homer-Dixon, Jeffrey H. Boutwell and George W. Rathjens titled, Environmental Change and Violent Conflict. This article reports on a study which documents that the predictions of NSSM 200 are already occurring around the world.

The authors state,

Within the next 50 years, the human population is likely to exceed nine billion, and global economic output may quintuple. Largely as a result of these trends, scarcities of renewable resources may increase sharply. The total area of highly productive agricultural land will drop, as will the extent of forests and the number of species they sustain. Future generations will also experience the ongoing depletion and degradation of aquifers, rivers and other bodies of water, the decline of fisheries, further stratospheric ozone loss and, perhaps, significant climatic change. As such environmental problems become more severe, they may precipitate civil or international strife.

To examine whether these problems are currently causing civil or international strife, the authors assembled a team of 30 researchers to review a set of specific cases. Their findings were then summarized:

The evidence that they gathered points to a disturbing conclusion: scarcities of renewable resources are already contributing to violent conflicts in many parts of the developing world. These conflicts may foreshadow a surge of similar violence in coming decades …

The article examines case-studies of violent conflicts that are attributed to overpopulation by researchers from four continents: the migration of millions from Bangladesh to India which led to brutal ethnic conflicts; the persistent conflict in the Philippines driven by the desperate poverty caused by overpopulation; severe shortages of ground water in the Jordan River basin which are leading to conflict between Israelis and Palestinians; destruction of ecologically sensitive territories in South Africa which is forcing a migration to violent urban squatter settlements; expanding population in Senegal and Mauritania which spurred a violent conflict in the Senegal River Basin; similar factors which have stimulated the growth of the Maoist Shining Path rebels in Peru; the irreversible clear-cutting of forests and loss of soil which has led to violent social strife in Haiti, and which in turn has caused the exodus of boat people. There are many other examples.

NSSM 200 predicted that the U.S. would find itself in wars like the recent Iraq-U.S. war, as regional powers invade their neighbors to secure resources needed to provide for their ever expanding populations—just as Iraq invaded Kuwait. It also emphasized that the expense of U.S. involvement in such wars would far exceed the costs of worldwide population growth control.

In 1996, 22 years after NSSM 200 was completed and 23 years after the Rockefeller Commission Report was delivered to President Nixon, it is painfully clear that these two studies were right on target. They were based on the best intelligence available and their analysis undertaken by the most competent of U.S. researchers. Time is bearing out their soundness and accuracy of prediction.

The United States and all other countries are undeniably less secure than they were 20 years ago.

We can say with certainty that American political will to address the population problem did not begin to disappear on November 26, 1975 because this grave national and global security threat had been overestimated or was diminishing on its own. Something happened to cause its disappearance.

To identify what caused this disappearance, it is reasonable to first examine the institutional opposition to overcoming the population problem. I noted earlier that NSSM 200 had identified the Vatican as the only major institution opposed to population growth control. Sophisticated observers of governments recognize that political will is vital to mounting a successful response to a problem of this magnitude. If the opponent of a government action can kill the political will, the opponent need not worry about effective government action. The Vatican is a most sophisticated observer of governments.

It is logical to determine whether the Vatican played a role in this disappearance of political will. After all, this would be nothing new in America. In his history of Catholic bishops in American politics, Byrnes provides overwhelming documentation that the “bishops had participated in the political process to defend the parochial interests of their church and the viability of its institutions” from 1790 to the present.

What motive did the Vatican have for intervening to block implementation of the recommendations of the Rockefeller Commission and NSSM 200 reports? This is the subject of the rest of this Chapter.

Vatican Council II Sets the Stage

Vatican Council II, which ended in 1966, set the stage for this intervention by the bishops. Recognizing that political changes were underway in the United States regarding family planning, abortion and population growth control, in significant part because of the discovery of the birth control pill and the rapidly growing awareness of the population problem, the Vatican prepared to respond. One of the outcomes, a product of Vatican II, was the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

Part 2 of the Constitution was titled, “Some Problems of Special Urgency.” Byrnes observes, “This list of problems to which the church was to turn its attention reads like a blueprint of the American hierarchy’s political agenda of the 1970s and 1980s.”[27] The first of these problems was abortion:

God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life—a ministry which must be fulfilled in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore, from the moment of conception life must be guarded with the greatest of care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.[27]

The Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church, another Vatican Council II document, created the NCCB which was instituted according to universal church law. It was created to serve as a political instrument of the Vatican.[28] During a meeting of the American hierarchy in November 1966, the bishops formally established the NCCB as their official collective body and instituted the United States Catholic Conference (USCC) as their administrative arm and secretariat.[29] The Jesuit weekly America, editorialized that the national conference had been “converted from a confraternity into a government.”[30] The Catholic lay Commonweal called the new organization, “a viable instrument with power adequate to national problems.”[31]

The Vatican had determined that legalization of abortion was about to become such a national problem. From the very beginning until now, there has been a common and correct perception that the Catholic hierarchy was primarily an antiabortion political lobby. Byrnes summarizes his study of the history of Catholic bishops in American politics by saying, “Before I end, I want to address one final matter, namely the unique position that abortion occupies on the Catholic hierarchy’s public policy agenda. Abortion is not simply one issue among many for the bishops. It is rather the bedrock, non-negotiable starting point from which the rest of their agenda has developed. The bishops’ positions on other issues have led to political action and political controversy but abortion, throughout the period I have examined, has been a consistently central feature of the Catholic hierarchy’s participation in American politics.”[32]

Vatican Rejects Concept of American Democracy

In 1974, the year the NSSM 200 study was ordered by President Nixon, the Vatican issued a document titled, Vatican Declaration on Abortion, which stated:

A Christian can never conform to a law which is in itself immoral, and such is the case of a law which would admit in principle the licitness of abortion. Nor can a Christian take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it. Moreover, he may not collaborate in its application.[33]

This statement is an unequivocal rejection of the legitimacy of our democratically elected government to pass laws legalizing abortion. Obviously, no American Catholic who chose to follow this Vatican declaration could pay taxes to a government that would use tax money to perform abortions, counsel on abortion, educate on abortion, or to undertake any of the other numerous abortion-related activities that the government would be involved in if the recommendations of the Rockefeller Commission and NSSM 200 were implemented. Nor could American Catholics participate in any other way in any of the abortion-related activities that these recommendations would necessarily involve.

The Vatican had placed papal authority on the line. It had pitted papal authority against the authority of our government. If the Vatican was to avoid the destruction of papal authority, it must block implementation of those recommendations by our government.

This overt Vatican rejection of the principles of American Democracy is by no means new. The Papacy is implacably opposed to separation of church and state, the freedoms of speech, press, worship and assembly, and legislative authority vested solely with democratically elected representatives of the people. Today all Catholic priests must take a solemn oath to uphold and promote these views.

From the Catholic almanac:

The Catholic citizen is in conscience bound to respect and obey the duly constituted authority provided faith and morals are thereby not endangered. Under no circumstances may the Church be subjugated by the State. Whatever their form may be, states are not conceded the right to force the observance of immoral or irreligious laws upon a people.[33a]

The 1974 Vatican Declaration on Abortion follows the instructions set forth by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical on the “Chief Duties of Christian Citizens”:

If the laws of the state are manifestly at variance with the divine law, containing enactments hurtful to the Church or conveying injunctions adverse to the duty imposed by religion, or if they violate in the person of the Supreme Pontiff the authority of Jesus Christ, then truly, to resist becomes a positive duty, to obey, a crime.[33b]

The condemnation of current errors set forth in Pope Pius IX’s encyclical Quata Cura and the list of 80 errors accompanying the encyclical were a direct assault on the American form of government. This is evident from even a partial listing:

#11 The Church has a right to occupy herself with philosophy, to refuse to tolerate its errors, and to assume the care of correcting them.

#12 It is false that the decrees of the Apostolic See and of the Roman Congregation impede the free progress of society.

#15 No man is free to embrace and profess that religion which he believes to be true, guided by the light of reason.

#19 The Church is [a] true, perfect, and entirely free association; she enjoys peculiar and perpetual rights conferred upon her by her Divine founder, and it neither belongs to the civil power to define what are these rights of the Church, nor the limits within which she may exercise them.

#20 The ecclesiastical power has a right to exercise its authority independent of the toleration or assent of the civil government.

#21 The Church has the power to define dogmatically the religion of the Catholic Church to be the only true religion.

#22 The obligation which securely binds Catholic teachers and writers is not limited to those things which are proposed by the infallible judgment of the Church as dogmas of faith for belief by all.

#23 The Roman Pontiffs and ecumenical councils have never exceeded the limits to their power, or usurped the rights of princes, much less committed errors in defining matters of faith and morals.

#24 The Church has the power of employing force and (of exercising) direct and indirect temporal power.

#27 The ministers of the Holy Church and the Roman Pontiff should be allowed the free exercise of the charge and dominion which the Church claims over temporal interests.

#30 Neither the immunities of the Church nor ecclesiastical persons have their origin in civil law.

#40 The doctrine of the Catholic Church is agreeable to the well-being and interests of society.

#42 In legal conflicts between both powers (civil and ecclesiastical) the ecclesiastical law prevails.

#44 No civil authority can interfere in matters relative to religion, morality, and spiritual government.

#53 Laws which protect religious establishments or secure their rights and duties may not be abrogated by civil government.

#54 Kings and princes are not only not exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church but are subordinate to the Church in litigated questions of jurisdiction.

#57 Philosophical principles, moral science, and civil laws may and must be made to bend (declinari) to divine and ecclesiastical authority.

#64 The violation of a solemn oath, as well as any vicious and flagitious action repugnant to the eternal law, is not only blamable, but is wholly unlawful, and deserving of the highest censure even when done from a love of country.

These are not medieval dicta, but indeed are current Church doctrine which the Vatican expects all Catholics to espouse, especially its priests. Every week these teachings are reinforced in the conservative Catholic press in America. For example, the August 1996 issue of Catholic Family News carries a front page article, “Religious Liberty and the Secular State,” by Michael Davies.[33b1] This multi-page article reads: “The teaching of the Popes on this question has been consistent and unequivocal—that the Church and State should be united and should co-operate in promoting what will assist man in achieving his ultimate purpose and in repressing what will frustrate it. Pope Pius X condemned the principle of separation of Church and State as “an absolutely false and pernicious thesis.”

Davies quotes Msgr. John A. Ryan in his book Catholic Principles of Politics (New York 1940):

If there is only one true religion, and if its possession is the most important good in life for States as well as individuals, then the public profession, protection, and promotion of this religion and the legal prohibition of all direct assaults upon it, becomes one of the most obvious and fundamental duties of the State. For it is the business of the State to safeguard and promote human welfare in all departments of life.

The Church’s teachings unequivocally state that the pope rules in America whether non-Catholics like it or not. Davies contends that we are discussing a fundamental teaching of the Catholic Church:

His rule extends not merely to members of the Church, as most Catholics would imagine today, but to all men both as individuals and grouped together in a corporate body as a state. No state can claim to be exempt from the Kingship of Christ simply by declaring itself to be secular, and in a secular state the Church should use the religious liberty which it quite rightly claims for itself to campaign vigorously, militantly, for the laws of the state to conform to the norms required by the Kingship of Christ.

He continues:

If asked where those who govern their country derive their authority almost every English-speaking Catholic would reply: ‘From the people.’ They believe that, as legislators are elected by the people, they govern in the name of the people and as delegates of the people. Nothing could be more false. This is the fundamental error of the masonically inspired French Revolution…. The Church is not opposed to democracy in the sense that legislators are elected by a ballot based on universal suffrage. What it cannot accept is that, once elected, legislators govern as delegates of the people and have a mandate to legislate only in accordance with the will of the majority. This evil concept destroys the basis of any objective standards of morality.

Davies presents the relevant Catholic teachings and then summarizes them in simple terms:

As I have already made clear, no one, Catholic or non-Catholic, can lay claim justly to anything that is contrary to the eternal or natural law of God, and this applies not simply to individuals but to states. No government can possibly have the right to legalize such moral abominations as abortion…. The Catholic position is, then, perfectly simple. A true right, that is moral liberty, can exist to choose only that which is good and true. No human being can ever have a genuine right to choose what is evil or false, and legislators, who must govern as legates of God, can have no genuine right to promulgate legislation favoring what is evil or false.

Here we have in an August 1996 Catholic publication in America the current teachings of the Church which legitimize the undermining of the implementation of the Rockefeller Commission and NSSM 200 Report recommendations, as well as all other efforts by our government to control population growth initiated over the past two decades. How many American Catholics are receptive to these teachings?

In her book, Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America,[33b2] Mary Jo Weaver estimates that the number of right-wing Catholics may reach as high as 10 million. Weaver has been for 21 years an Indiana University professor of religious studies. She has written five other books on Catholicism and this one is based on several years of research. According to her, right-wing Catholics can be defined by three dominant characteristics: (1) They express outrage at priests and laity who speak out in opposition of the pope. They point out that the Catholic Church is not a democracy and that error has no rights; (2) While they support the concept of the Second Vatican Council, they feel betrayed by its aftermath, believing most churches liberalized far beyond its intentions; (3) They feel extremely isolated because they believe there are so few true Catholics like themselves. They are filled with counterculture anxiety and anger.

In an interview with Cheryl Heckler-Feltz for the National Catholic Reporter,[33b3] Weaver offered the following findings: The right wing “avoids dialogue with outsiders in order to protect itself from contamination. It prefers the safe world of a shared outlook to the possibility of finding another point of view compelling. And it cannot afford to accept differences. Right- and left-wing Catholics live in parallel universes that will never meet. Being Catholic in the 1950s meant being right about God and belonging to a Church whose leaders did not make mistakes. But after 1968, the divide was ominous: American Catholics were increasingly described in bipolar terms as liberal or conservative. [The split between the two groups] is probably inexorable because liberals thrive in a climate of dissent, whereas conservatives, who stress obedience, cannot allow it to be part of any legitimate expression of Catholicism.”

Weaver has done a great service to this country by methodically examining the stark differences between conservative and liberal Catholics in the United States. Among the laity there are really two very different Catholic Churches in America. The liberal Church, accounting for 50 million or more individuals, is mainly concerned with personal, family, community and country security-survival interests, and is largely powerless. The conservative Church, where almost all of the power of the Church (ecological, remunerative, coercive, social, legal, traditional, expert and charismatic, as described by Jean-Guy Vaillancourt[35]) is vested, controls the wealth, decision-making, administrative and political power of the Church. It is obedient to and owes its allegiance to Rome and is mostly concerned with defending the security-survival interests of the papacy. These two groups are incapable of communicating with each other and this schism is probably permanent. The far more powerful group is very much in the minority but it is completely obedient to Rome. These Catholics live in America, but just as Pope John Paul II called for in his encyclical in 1995 (and popes before him), they are not of America. Recognition of this split and understanding its basis and implications explains much of the behavior of American Catholics regarding population matters described in this book.

It is largely conservative Catholics who have obstructed implementation of the recommendations of the Rockefeller Commission and NSSM 200. Conservative clerics and laity alike are directed to use extensive covert means to undermine every United States family planning and population growth control effort, including the implementation of the NSSM 200 recommendations. In this they are enthusiastically assisted by their opportunistic nonCatholic collaborators.

In no nation does the Church honor the principle of separation of church and state, because the hierarchy is convinced of its “divine right” to direct nations in matters of faith and morals (and “morals” in some way touches on all human activities).

Thus, Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) came as no great surprise. It is largely a restatement of the teachings of earlier popes in his own words. Evangelium Vitae is a strident frontal assault on American Democracy in which he asks American Catholics to do whatever is necessary to impose papal teachings on all Americans even if it means sacrificing their lives. In her National Catholic Reporter article, “Defending life even unto death,” Professor Janine Langan, of the University of Toronto, assesses Evangelium Vitae: “John Paul leaves no room for ghetto Catholicism. Excusing our silence about matters of truth because ‘we should not push on other people our Christian God,’ as one of my students put it last year, is not acceptable.”[33c]

The October 8, 1995 New York Times headline reads “The Pope vs. the Culture of Death.” According to The New York Times, in his Evangelium Vitae, the pope envisions a deepening war of the powerful against the weak [#12].[33d] In this war, the pope and his loyalists (a small minority of American Catholics) are on one side and American Democracy and Americans who support this government are on the other.

The Episcopalian publication, The Churchman’s Human Quest, in its January-February 1996 article “Czech Philosopher Accuses Vatican of Undermining Democracy,” cites the contemporary Czech philosopher, Vaclav Belohradsky’s reaction to Evangelium Vitae: “[it is an] ‘attack on the principles of liberal democracy.’ The document, he said, questioned the legitimacy of national parliaments by casting doubt on the principle of majority rule.”[33e]

This encyclical is so important to the security/survival of Americans and their democracy that all of us should familiarize ourselves with it. With insight will come recognition of the widespread subversion of our form of government and its processes by Catholics responding to this teaching, as well as nonCatholics collaborating with them to advance their own self-interests.

Included in the pontiff’s 194-page Evangelium Vitae are:

“I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the church’s tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium [#62].”

“We are in fact faced by an objective ‘conspiracy against life’ involving even international institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization and abortion widely available. Nor can it be denied that the mass media are often implicated in this conspiracy, by lending credit to that culture which presents recourse to contraception, sterilization, abortion and even euthanasia as a mark of progress and a victory for freedom, while depicting as enemies of freedom and progress those positions which are unreservedly pro-life [#17].”

“To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom [#20].”

“Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual…. Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity [#72].”

“Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection [#73].”

“It is precisely from obedience to God—to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty—that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for the endurance and faith of the saints [#73].”

“In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law or to vote for it [#73].”

“The consequences of this gospel [the gospel of life] … can be summed up as follows: Human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. For this reason procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable [#81].”

“No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the church [#62].”

“Christians … are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil…. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it [#74].”

“To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right [#74].”

“Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. Fundamentally, democracy is a ‘system’ and as such is a means and not an end. Its ‘moral’ value is not automatic but depends on conformity to the moral law [#70].”

“Today … the powerful of the earth … are haunted by the current demographic growth and fear that the most prolific and poorest peoples represent a threat for the well-being and peace of their own countries [#16].”

“… it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak…. A person who …, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of ‘conspiracy against life’ is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting at the international level, relations between peoples and states [#12].”

“By virtue of our sharing in Christ’s royal mission, our support and promotion of human life must be accomplished through … political commitment [#87].”

“[On]… the issue of population growth…. It is … morally unacceptable to encourage, let alone impose, the use of methods such as contraception, sterilization and abortion in order to regulate births [#91].”

“Service of the Gospel of life is … a valuable and fruitful area for positive cooperation with our brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities … [#91].”

“In the proclamation of this gospel, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world’s way of thinking. We must be in the world but not of the world [#82].”

The Vatican is, in effect, reminding its faithful: We must be in America but not of America. We must be in America, but we must reject American democracy and the laws by which its citizens are governed.

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who spoke on October 3, 1995 on “Culture of Life, Culture of Death in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae,” makes it clear that the Church is at war with democratic America with its civil laws:

The Pope invites us with courage to the boycott of unjust laws which suppress the imperative of natural law carved into consciences by the Creator. And legislators, politicians, physicians, and scientists have the duty of conscience to be the defenders of life in the war against this culture of death.[33f]

According to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the possibility of invoking “papal infallibility,” was discussed but had been rejected as unnecessary because, as it is, the Pope’s language on abortion invokes the full power of church doctrine, even if the word “infallible” is not there.[33g] This is true of all of the pope’s pronouncements, and for this reason, for the believer, all of the pope’s pronouncements are de facto accepted as infallible—just as Hasler reasons in Chapter 11.

In her National Catholic Reporter article to which we have referred,[33c] Professor Langan does not acknowledge that this encyclical is extremist in nature but she describes it forthrightly, referring to item #73: “In a situation as grave as the present one, Christians are bound to come into conflict with their co-citizens. They must have that courage…. Evangelium Vitae is thus a challenge to defend life even at the cost of martyrdom. But it’s also a promise that, with God, everything is possible. Finally, this encyclical does not merely state that being ‘prochoice’ is not an option, but that every one of us is also morally bound to oppose, at any cost, any public attack on any human person’s right to life [#104].” Langan quotes the pope, “life finds its center, its meaning and its fulfillment when it is given up.” [#51] In her view, and the pope’s, martyrdom is admirable: “Martyrdom is the one witness to the truth about man which everyone can hear. No society, however dark, can stifle it.”

This chilling view of martyrdom held by the pope and Professor Langan is not shared by most Americans when fanatical Moslem extremists resort to it. Martyrdom is almost universally condemned as religious extremism. Why should it be admirable behavior when exercised by Catholics?

In Italy, Evangelium Vitae was strongly criticized in the press, according to the National Catholic Register. The Italian press takes the Vatican much less seriously than does its American counterpart. In its article by Jeffrey Donovan, “At Home the Pope’s Encyclical Takes Beating,” the negative reactions were widespread and strongly worded.[33h] For example, the Rome daily II Manifesto termed the encyclical “fundamentalist and desperate” and offers: “The Pope multiples his condemnations, repeats his classic arguments and searches for new ones, too, but fails to consider the realities of modern life, which contradict everything he says.” According to the Register, “Many commentators accused the Pope and the Church of interfering with the political process.”

On the other hand, in the United States there was not one critical report of Evangelium Vitae. Not one American journalist or publisher declared that this encyclical calls for anarchy in this country in the attempt to destroy the principles of our government that so threaten the Papacy. This is perhaps the most serious attack on American democracy since Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors.

Associate editor of the liberal Catholic Commonweal magazine, Paul Baumann, in his October 8, 1995 New York Times OP-ED article, “The Pope vs. the Culture of Death,” writes “Americans are a notoriously pragmatic lot, and being lectured to about the theoretical foundations of democracy by those with little practical experience of democracy arouses an instinctive skepticism.” This is a reasonable assumption.[33d]

However, amazingly, not a single American journalist published a report critical of this encyclical. The New York Times devoted nearly two full pages of text to it. None of the journalists involved offered any criticism whatever. Collectively, the articles simply spread the word on behalf of the Vatican, never questioning its implications for our cherished institutions.[33g], [33i], [33j]

In his contribution, Catholic New York Times writer, Peter Steinfels quoted only the responses of four other Catholics—Rev. Richard A. McCormick, Pamela J. Maraldo, Francis Kissling, and Richard Doerflinger—and their quoted criticisms were remarkably mild. No reactions of Protestants, Jews or secularists were cited in any of the New York Times articles.[33i]

Pope John Paul II has obviously dismissed the idea that American Protestants, Jews and secularists, who are in the majority among our democratic law makers, are capable of determining what is moral. Only he and other popes, as God’s representative on earth, can make this determination. When the pope ruled that peace and the well-being of the peoples of the world are insufficient justification for the use of contraception, sterilization and abortion in this encyclical, it appears that he was referring to the NSSM 200 report.

Vatican Claims Right to Protect Itself Against Harmful Laws

At the same time, we must remember that the Vatican claims the right to protect itself against what it determines to be harmful laws—even when democratically legislated! The central difficulty here, of course, is that what the Vatican considers “harmful” to itself and its authority, is just what nonCatholic and lay Catholic men and women consider beneficial to themselves and their families (see Chapter 13). In a letter sent to all American bishops by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the most powerful Vatican office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger reminded the bishops that “the Church has the responsibility to protect herself from the application of harmful laws.” This letter was keep secret from 55 million American Catholics until a brief notice written by Peter Steinfels for The New York Times appeared July 10, 1992. The actual text remained hidden from the public until it was leaked to the press on July 15, 1992.[34]

Obviously, if an institution has the “responsibility,” it also claims the “right.” The Vatican exercised its “right” to protect itself from the application of harmful laws, in the autocratic way it defines “harmful,” when it blocked U.S. adoption of the Rockefeller Commission recommendations and implementation of the NSSM 200 policies approved by President Ford. “To protect herself,” in Ratzinger’s words, the Church moved quickly and efficiently to kill the two most important initiatives in American history to help control world population growth.

How Population Growth Control Threatens the Papacy

Why is the Vatican obliged to halt legalized abortion and contraception despite the strong wishes of Americans? When our government legalized contraception and abortion, it pitted civil authority against papal authority. The Vatican demands supremacy over civil governments in matters of faith and morals, but our government has rejected this concept. Thus, while the Church is saying that family planning and abortion are evil and grave sins, our government is saying they may be good and should be used. Obviously, most American Catholics are accepting morality as defined by the government and rejecting morality as defined by the pope. As a result, Papal authority is undermined.

There are a number of Catholic countries in Latin America with abortion rates two to four times as high as the U.S. rate. But the bishops ignore abortions there. Why? Because they are illegal abortions, not legal ones. They do not threaten Papal authority! Only legal abortions do, because their legalization establishes their morality. Thus, the bishops take no significant actions to halt abortions in Latin America.

In Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites,[35] published by The University of California Press in 1980, Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Montreal, closely examines the sources of papal power and how it evolved. He found that papal authority is vital to the maintenance of papal power. This power is derived in significant part from papal authority. If the Pope’s authority is diminished, papal power is diminished. However, some authority is derived from papal power and if papal power is diminished, then authority is undermined. The relationship is circular. Less authority means less power which means even less authority. With diminishing power, survival of the institution of the Roman Catholic Church in its present hierarchical form is gravely threatened. Thus, the very survival of the Vatican is threatened by programs of population growth control.

In his book, “Persistent Prejudice: Anti-Catholicism in America,” published by Our Sunday Visitor in 1984, Michael Schwartz summarized the position of Catholic conservatives on the abortion issue:

The abortion issue is the great crisis of Catholicism in the United States, of far greater import than the election of a Catholic president or the winning of tax support for Catholic education. In the unlikely event that the Church’s resistance to abortion collapses and the Catholic community decides to seek an accommodation with the institutionalized killing of innocent human beings, that would signal the utter failure of Catholicism in America. It would mean that U.S. Catholicism will have been defeated and denatured by the anti-Catholic host culture.[36]

In April 1992, in a rare public admission of this threat, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, delivering a major address to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, acknowledged,

The fact is that attacks on the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion—unless they are rebutted—effectively erode Church authority on all matters, indeed on the authority of God himself.[37]

This threat to Papal authority was recognized decades ago by the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control. The two tiered commission consisted of a group of 15 cardinals and bishops and a group of 64 lay experts representing a variety of disciplines. The commission met from 1964 until 1966. According to commission member Thomas Burch, Pope Paul VI himself assigned them the task of finding a way to change the Church’s position on birth control without destroying papal authority.[38]

After two years of studying the dilemma, the laymen voted 60 to four and the clerics nine to six to change the Church’s teaching on birth control even though it would mean a loss of papal authority because it was the right thing to do. The minority also submitted a report to the Pope.[39] Coauthor of the minority report was the young Archbishop of Cracow, Karol Wojtyla, now Pope John Paul II.

In 1967, two newspapers published without authorization the full texts of the Papal commission’s report. Thus the world knew that a substantial majority of the double commission had recommended liberalization on birth control.[39] The commission, of course, failed to find an acceptable way to accomplish this, and the result was the publication in 1968 of the encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which banned the use of abortion and artificial means of contraception, such as birth control pills. It is true that Pope Paul VI is credited with authorship of Humanae Vitae; not until 1995 was Karol Wojtyla revealed as a major contributor. A Polish theologian who worked with him declares that “about sixty percent [of materials for the Encyclical of our draft] is contained in the encyclical.”[39a]

It was not until 1985 that Thomas Burch, a professor at Georgetown University in the 1960s and more recently chairman of Western Ontario’s Sociology Department, revealed to the world the real assignment of the commission. When Pope Paul issued Humanae Vitae, he admitted to the world that the Church cannot change its position on birth control without undermining papal authority—an unacceptable sacrifice. However, it was not until 1979, when August Bernhard Hasler published his book, How the Pope Became Infallible, that the world was given the text of the minority report which persuaded Pope Paul VI to reject the majority position.[40] Hasler was a Catholic theologian and historian who served for five years in the Vatican secretariat for Christian unity. During this period, he was given access to the Vatican Archives where he discovered numerous documents, never studied before, that revealed the story of Vatican Council I. Dr. Hasler died suddenly at age 43, four days after writing a critical open letter to Pope John Paul II and six months after completing the second edition of this book.[41]

The declaration of papal infallibility was a product of Vatican Council I, which preceded Vatican Council II more than a century ago, and was considered vital to the continuation of papal power. According to Vaillancourt, “During the Middle Ages and under feudalism, when the Catholic Church was a dominant institution in society, papal power grew in importance, relying often on force to attain its ends, which were political as much as they were religious. The Crusades and, later on, the Inquisition, stand as the two most notorious of these violent papal ventures. But with the decline of the Portuguese and Spanish empires, with the advent of the Reformation and of the intellectual, democratic, and industrial revolutions, the Catholic hierarchy lost much of its influence and power. Unable to continue using physical coercion, the Papacy was led to strengthen its organizational structure and to perfect a wide range of normative means of control. The declaration of papal infallibility by the first Vatican Council (Vatican I), in 1870, was an important milestone in that direction. The stress on the absolute authority of the pope in questions of faith and morals helped turn the Church into a unified and powerful bureaucratic organization, and paved the way for the establishment of the Papacy-laity relationship as we know it today.”[42]

Pope Paul VI was faced with the prospect of personally destroying the concept of papal infallibility, a concept vital to the continuation of papal power. Hasler notes, “But for Paul VI there already were infallible declarations of the ordinary magisterium on the books concerning contraception. And so, unlike the majority of his commission of experts, the pope felt bound to these declarations by his predecessors.” Thus the pope was forced to agree with the minority report of the commission.

Origin of Today’s Anti-Family Planning Crusade

Hasler quotes from that minority report—a paragraph that defined today’s anti-family planning crusade:

If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubii was promulgated), in 1951 (Pius XII’s address to the midwives), and in 1958 (the address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died). It should likewise have to be admitted that for a half a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now be declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved.[43]

Hasler concludes, “Thus, it became only too clear that the core of the problem was not the pill but the authority, continuity, and infallibility of the Church’s magisterium.”

This is at the very core of the world population problem. The Papacy simply cannot survive the solutions—i.e., contraception, abortion, sex education, etc. The Vatican believes, probably correctly, that if the solutions to the population problem are applied, the dominance of Vatican power will soon wither. Grasping the implications of the principal of infallibility are crucial to understanding the underlying basis of the world population problem. Chapter 11 is devoted to this topic.

It is most important to understand that the Vatican leadership can visualize a world where it no longer exists. It was this chilling vision that drove the conservative members of the Vatican leadership and Pope Paul VI to reject the majority report and accept the minority report of the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control in 1968. This vision has driven Vatican behavior on family planning ever since. Thus, the security-survival of the Papacy is now pitted directly against the security-survival of the United States. The Vatican simply cannot accommodate the security interests of the United States.

This is not the first time our security interests have been in conflict. There are many examples of the American Catholic hierarchy supporting papal security interests at the expense of U.S. security interests. One example is the Spanish Civil War between the democratic constitutional government and the Vatican supported fascist Franco. Byrnes states, “The bishops also broke with Roosevelt over the issue of the Spanish Civil War…. The bishops instinctively supported Franco in the war…. Caught between mainstream views on foreign policy and the interests of their church, the bishops … opted for defense of the international church.”[44]

It is institutional survival that governs the behavior of the Catholic hierarchy in all matters. The claim that “morality” governs its behavior in the matters of family planning and abortion is fraudulent. The hierarchy has a long history of determining which position is in the best interest of the Papacy—including the survival of the Papacy—and then framing that position as the moral position. Father Arthur McCormack was for 23 years the Vatican consultant to the UN on development and population, leaving that post in 1979. In 1982, he went public with his conclusion that the Vatican position on family planning and population growth control is immoral. A summary of his reasoning is offered in Chapter 13.

American political will to deal with the overpopulation problem fell victim to the Vatican’s inexorable position. In the next chapter we will discuss how the Vatican achieved this vital objective, as it set about protecting its security interests.


[26] Beck
[27] Byrnes, p. 41.
[28] Ibid., p. 48.
[29] Ibid., p. 49.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid., p. 143.
[33] Ibid., p. 144.
[33a] Blanshard P. American Freedom and Catholic Power. Boston: The Beacon Press, 1950. p. 46 [Quoted from the Catholic Almanac]
[33b] Ibid., p. 50. [Quoted from Leo XIII’s encyclical, Chief Duties of Christian Citizens.]
[33b1] Davies M. “Religious Liberty and the Secular State.” Catholic Family News, August 1996. p. 1.
[33b2] Weaver MJ. Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America. Huntington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
[33b3] Heckler-Feltz C. “The burden of being Catholic and right.” National Catholic Reporter, August 9, 1996. p. 13.
[33c] Langan J. “Defending life even unto death.” National Catholic Register, September 17, 1996, p. 1.
[33d] Baumann P. “The Pope vs. the Culture of Death.” New York Times, October 8, 1995, OP-ED.
[33e] “Czech Philosopher Accuses Vatican of Undermining Democracy.” The Churchman’s Human Quest, January-February, 1996, p. 21.
[33f] “Be Defenders of Life, Says Cardinal Lopez Trujillo.” The Wanderer, October 12, 1995, p. 7.
[33g] Bohlen C. “Pope Offers ‘Gospel of Life’ vs. ‘Culture of Death’.” New York Times, March 31, 1995, p. A1.
[33h] Donovan J. “‘At home,’ the Pope’s encyclical takes beating.” National Catholic Register, April 23, 1995, p. 1.
[33i] Steinfels P. “U.S. Responds on Established Lines.” New York Times, March 31, 1995, p. A5.
[33j] “Pope’s Letter: A ‘Sinister’ World Has Led to ‘Crimes Against Life’.” New York Times, March 31, 1995, p. A4.
[34] Likoudis P. “Vatican letter calls on bishops to oppose homosexual rights laws.” The Wanderer, 1992 July 30;1.
[35] Vaillancourt JG. Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
[36] Schwartz M. “Persistent Prejudice: Anti-Catholicism in America.” Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 1984. p. 132.
[37] King HV. “Cardinal O’Connor Declares That Church Teaching On Abortion Underpins All Else.” The Wanderer, April 23, 1992. p. 1.
[38] Jones A. Vatican, “International Agencies Hone Family, Population Positions.” National Catholic Reporter (reprinted in Conscience, May/June 1984. p. 7.)
[39] Murphy FX, Erhart JF. “Catholic perspectives on population issues.” Pop Bulletin 1975;30(6):3-31.
[40] Hasler, AB. How the Pope Became Infallible. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1981.
[41] Ibid., (cover)
[42] Vallancourt, p. 2.
[43] Hasler, p. 270.
[44] Byrnes, p. 29.

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)
Kindle Store

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.

Lester R. Brown interview with Rob Stewart

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

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  1. Speaking as a colleague and friend of Paul Ehrlich, I would say Paul had it basically right: there are now enough humans to significantly impact all three of the biosphere's species, resources, and hygiene.

    The devil is in the details.

    With regard to species, the irony is that Paul's original scientific interest lay not with humans but butterflies. Whereas Paul portrayed us humans as the imminent victims of our profligacy, the same almost supernatural abilities that wrought it have allowed us to dodge its bullet better than any other species. Far fewer monarch butterflies come to our Pacific Grove home just across the road from the Stanford Hopkins Marine Station than formerly. Lions and elephants in Africa have almost vanished since The Population Bomb appeared. Rare are the species that have done so well as humans in that time.

    With regard to resources, how to apportion today's water shortages between drought and humans? Every almond shipped from California almond trees to the almond-hungry millions in China consumes a gallon of our water, yet we in California have seen hardly any rain in several years. Is nature to blame, or overpopulation? And what of the other species besides humans that depend on water for their survival? Who should they blame?

    With regard to hygiene, the most immediate impacts of humans on the biosphere as a whole are the carcinogens from many sources, not least automobile exhausts, the warming impact of the several greenhouse gases, of which CO2 contributes some 80%, and the lowering of ocean pH by that same increase in CO2, impacting more of the planet than land whether measured by area or volume. On its face the C word, whether cancer or chemo, is more terrifying than mere warmth, until you realize that we are all tuned to function optimally at the prevailing temperature; change it, and only a few species benefit. Exactly the same holds of ocean pH: most species impacted at all by its reduction are dissolved and only a few benefit.

    Was Paul right? Well, if the worry was that we humans would starve to death, there's been little sign of that easily understood, overly simplistic, and (in hindsight) easily avoided future. But was he right about human overpopulation being hazardous? Most assuredly: the biosphere in general, if not its population of nimble-minded humans, faces a death by a thousand cuts.

    We humans will need to learn how to get along in a reduced biosphere. Just how reduced remains to be seen, but there can be no question that the reductions are already well underway.

    • And yet, what is that but natural selection running its course? Survival of the fittest places no value on the survival prospects of other species that are not useful to us. If they cannot adapt, what is that to us?


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