The Vatican: The World’s Last Great Colonial Power

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 14 May 2015
Church and State

(Credit: Riccardo De Luca – Update /

This excerpt has been 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 to read for free here.

A Colonial Power

Jean-Guy Vaillancourt also points out that the world is really faced with Vatican imperialism to some extent. The modern Church is little changed from the days when its Holy Inquisition burned heretics at the stake.

In certain aspects, the Church also resembled the mode of production known as oriental despotism, since an absolute ruler (the pope) governed with the help of a bureaucracy (the Roman Curia) centered in the imperial city (the Vatican) but having local ramifications (bishops and pastors). That despot was not served by a hereditary nobility but by educated eunuchs (the clergy) co-opted by a complex system of socialization and favoritism legitimated by canon law and tradition.[18]

Catholic countries with right-wing dictatorships are, de facto, colonies of the Vatican, making it the world’s last great colonial power. It is true that the clergy is rarely an officer of a government. The Vatican fears such an arrangement, because the clergy represents a greater immediate threat to its authority than the laity. For this reason, the hierarchy prefers to manipulate lay office holders instead. Priests are normally more dependent upon Church authorities than laymen; but, once that dependence is broken, they are potentially much more dangerous, because they influence their constituents, even when they disagree with their superiors, and because they are insiders who cannot easily be dismissed as heretic.

The Church, in effect, controls most governments in Latin America and many in Africa and the Philippines. Authorities in these countries live under constant intimidation by the Church, which can threaten to bring about the downfall of a regime by arousing its citizens through pastoral letters and other means should the government refuse to conform to the Church’s agenda. This ultimate step is ordinarily avoided through manipulation—by weeding out “troublemakers” before they rise to power. On the other hand, those who are loyal are well rewarded in their search for positions of power; they are assisted by the Church in their ascension to high positions in government. Government leaders who owe their first loyalty to the Vatican represent different proportions of office holders in different governments.

For the reasons presented here, many senior decision makers are responsive to the Church and its perceived needs on such matters as family planning and population growth control. The most democratic Catholic countries, such as France and Italy, are no longer completely dominated by the Vatican. At the same time, they have excellent family-planning programs (which include the wide availability of government-funded abortion) and a very positive attitude toward population growth control.

Why an American Confrontation?

Unfortunately, none of the Catholic countries with right-wing dictatorships can confront the Vatican on family planning and population growth control issues and survive. This is the consensus of our own intelligence agencies. The only government in modern times to successfully eliminate Vatican influence in domestic affairs is China. Mao Tse-tung recognized the Church’s attempts to dominate the government of China for more than half a century. In 1949, he terminated all contact between the Chinese Catholic Church and the Vatican. Mao made no attempt to eliminate the Chinese Church, which continues today as the Chinese Catholic Church and is completely independent of the Vatican. The Chinese government has rebuffed all attempts by the Vatican to regain control over the Church in China.

Such an arrangement is quite consistent with Catholic teachings. The late Cardinal Leo Suenens urged the elimination of the current “super pope” position and the creation of four “mini popes,” pointing out that Catholicism did not require churches to report to a central authority.[19]

It is nothing short of ridiculous to expect right-wing Catholic countries to seriously approach family planning. They cannot do so and survive the blandishments from the Vatican. In Latin America, for example, resistance to the Vatican on this issue would undoubtedly destabilize any regime in a matter of months, to be replaced by one sympathetic to the needs of the Church.

A case in point is Mexico. Despite the lengths to which the Mexican government has gone to check Vatican influence, it is powerless to fully implement the rigorous family-planning program (which necessarily must include wide availability of legal abortion) the country desperately needs. Throughout the 1970s, their program grew at a phenomenal pace. Then with the election of John Paul II, the reactionary Vatican began to bear down on Mexican officials. Now losses appear to exceed gains and, certainly, the momentum of the mid-seventies has been lost. Mexico’s failure to keep its population size in balance with its resources by bringing into the world millions for whom it is utterly incapable of providing has tremendous implications for Mexican and U.S. national security. All Americans will find their lives directly affected and less secure as a result; of course, Mexicans will be in even greater jeopardy. Attempted illegal immigration of tens of millions of Mexicans into the United States can be expected in the coming decades.

This holds true throughout Latin America, a region of the world with substantial overpopulation. The Church is evidently strongly promoting illegal immigration to the United States, and for two salient reasons (see, chapter two): first, to achieve a Catholic majority in America, the most powerful nation on earth. Second, the overpopulation of Latin America is driving its followers to communism, which, through its similar indoctrination techniques, strongly competes with the Church for the “claim to a rightful empire over the minds of men.”[20]

Catholic theologian Father Arthur McCormack recently pointed out that the Vatican, because of its position on population growth control, threatens the security of all nations.[21] Latin governments cannot proceed with the efforts necessary to achieve population growth control as long as Vatican resistance continues. There is only one nation equipped to challenge the Vatican on population issues and survive: the United States. It has the power, stability, and leadership for this absolutely critical undertaking.

Until the United States confronts the Vatican on this issue, nothing significant is likely to happen in the population growth control effort. And if we do not do so, as Americans, we are faced with a tremendous loss of security as projected in the Global 2000 Report.

There are many in the population field who demand that the Church be given “ample time” to change within and that confrontation from without be avoided at all costs. This position is often taken by those Catholics in this field who consciously or unconsciously coopt others and by coopted non-Catholics in this field. It is inevitable that American Catholic laypersons will be held ultimately accountable for the Vatican’s actions. The Vatican is not going to change its position. As Vaillancourt has pointed out:

Papal control over the laity is not an end in itself but rather a means to attain certain goals, some of which are political and economic rather than purely and uniquely religious. Since it is unlikely that the Vatican will abandon in the near future its preoccupation with economic and political power to revert to its original religious goals, it seems rather inevitable that manipulative means of control will continue to be part of the standard operating policies of the Roman Catholic Church.[22]

Separation of the American Catholic Church from the Vatican is therefore a prudent objective of concerned American Catholics.

For over thirty years, the attempts of thoughtful members of the Church, both laypersons and clergy, to impress the hierarchy with the terrible consequences of overpopulation have met with failure. Since the Church thereby seriously threatens the security of all Americans, it would seem that the time for the Church to change from within has run out. American non-Catholics, consciously or unconsciously, are certain to hold Catholic laypersons responsible for the actions of their Vatican. American lay Catholics must break the American Church away from Vatican control.

The Vatican’s carefully orchestrated, well-synchronized resistance to population growth control must be firmly dealt with so that humankind may live in harmony with the resources of the planet. Weak governments would not survive such an effort; only the United States is strong enough to undertake this essential confrontation, survive, and succeed.

[18] Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 270.
[19] A. Greeley, The Making of the Popes, 1978: The Politics and Intrigue in the Vatican (Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, Inc., 1979).
[20] Vaillancourt, Papal Power, p. 272.
[21] A. McCormack, “Countdown to Disaster,” The Tablet (London, November 6, 1982), p. 1109.
[22] Vaillancourt, Papal Power, p. 175.

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).

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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