This excerpt has been adapted from Chapter 13 of our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s seminal book, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (1996). The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.
Distortion of the Church’s Image
As mentioned in Chapter 11, the news outlets that placed the Church in a negative light were virtually all snuffed out or muzzled earlier in this century by the Knights of Columbus; this institution continues to take great pride in its early successes. Its efforts in recent years and the efforts of other Catholic institutions, such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, to suppress information that places the Church in a bad light have been mostly successful (the issue of child molestation being the only significant exception but even on this issue they do what they can.)
Any time a report appears in the press placing the Church in a bad light, almost without exception there is an immediate demand for an apology and retraction made to the reporter, editor and publisher by these Catholic thought police. Written responses and demands for publication are immediately forthcoming. These responses are usually published and it is amazing how many apologies are made and published. There are scores of examples each year and they can be found in the publications of these thought police. They eagerly share their successes with their members. But when a negative report appears in one newspaper or magazine it rarely appears in another, regardless of its newsworthiness.
Economic retribution as a tool to suppress criticism was used more commonly in the last century and earlier in this century than today because it is now largely unnecessary. The long history of its use and the success enjoyed with it makes the mere threat of its use highly effective.
Perhaps far more important than the outright intimidation practiced by many of the right-wing Catholic organizations is the self-censorship practiced by reporters, editors and publishers. All know there is a line that has been drawn by the bishops that they are not to cross—and they rarely do. They are aware of the rules formulated by the bishops regarding how Church matters are to be reported—and nearly always follow them. They know they will be punished if they do not conform.
Indeed, the bishops have had far greater success in intimidating non-Catholics than in retaining their own faithful. This is not limited to the press. With 26 years in the population field, I can say from experience that the fear of retaliation by the Catholic Church has paralyzed the population movement. I have also found that the fear felt by many American politicians aware of the undemocratic activities of the Church has resulted in their silence on this issue.
The Roman Catholic Church is a political entity headquartered in Rome and controlled in Rome. Its teachings and policies are set in Rome. All of its employees work for and represent the interests of the headquarters in Rome. It has awesome political power in the U.S. and the world over. It has inviolable territory, diplomatic representation to governments around the world and its minions sit on international bodies of a purely secular nature. It has political interests, including security-survival interests which are in direct conflict with those of the United States Government and its people. But the image of the Catholic Church presented by the American press does not reflect these realities. We are led to believe that this institution is primarily religious in nature. On the contrary; numerous observers over the years, including scholar Paul Blanchard, have correctly described the Catholic Church as a political institution cloaked in religion. Little has changed. The Church and its Vatican are firstly a political institution, now desperately trying to survive.
Much distortion is possible because relevant information that would limit distortion is not collected in the first place, since the Church has succeeded in blocking its collection. For example, for the bishops to claim “we speak for 59 million Americans” alone gives the Church an enormous amount of political power to manipulate government policy. It is not possible to challenge their present count of 59 million, though the actual number of Catholics who consider themselves adherents of the Catholic faith and who are willing to give the bishops permission to speak for them in the political arena is undoubtedly but a fraction of 59 million. But when politicians hear the number 59 million, they listen intently. The result—a lot of political power.
These are but a few of the reasons Americans have such a distorted view of the Church. However, American priests, nuns and laymen have a much less distorted view; it is amply documented that they are leaving the Church in droves. The test of the image is in the polling. The image of a healthy, robust and expanding American Catholic Church is clearly wrong. American Catholics are not conforming to the extent that our perceptions tell us. We are affording the Church far more deference than it deserves.
Dr. Stephen Mumford is the founder and President of the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security. He has his doctorate in Public Health. His principal research interest has been the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. He has been called to provide expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the implications of world population growth.
Dr. Mumford has decades of international experience in fertility research where he is widely published, and has addressed conferences worldwide on new contraceptive technologies and the stresses to the security of families, societies and nations that are created by continued uncontrolled population growth. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, he has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.
In addition to his books on biomedical and social aspects of family planning, as well as scientific articles in more than a score of journals, Dr. Mumford’s major works include American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984), The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1986), and The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996).
The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy
By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH
Paperback Publisher: Center for Research on Population and Security (October 1996)
Kindle Publisher: Church and State Press (February 6, 2015)
During the formative years of the World Health Organization (WHO), broad consensus existed among United Nations member countries that overpopulation is a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future. One of the founding fathers of the WHO, the late Milton P. Siegel, speaks to Dr. Mumford in 1992. He explains how the Vatican successfully stymied the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.
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