This chapter from our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s book, American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (1984) presents the case for an American confrontation with the Vatican over its anti-family-planning efforts. The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.
Chapter 5: The Vatican and Population Growth Control: Why an American Confrontation
The rationale for the Church’s posture on population growth control as well as other social issues has been discussed in the preceding chapters. My purpose in this chapter is to document why an American confrontation with the Vatican over its anti-family-planning efforts is prerequisite to removal of this obstruction to the common good.
There has been little success in bringing the growth rate of the human race down at all, much less to a level that is sustainable in the long term. The most optimistic assessment is that this growth rate has fallen from 1.9 percent (1960-1965) to 1.8 percent (1975-1979), if we exclude China. Except for China, organized efforts to date have given us, through total births prevented, less than one additional year to deal with overpopulation. Population scientists have puzzled over the “determinants of fertility” to explain this irrational response. It has been demonstrated that, when all methods of fertility control are made readily available and political will exists to control rapid population growth, growth rates decline rapidly. A missing factor in their analysis to date is the role of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in thwarting organized family-planning efforts.
For decades, there have been claims from within the population establishment (often made by Catholics) that the only way to get the Vatican to change its position on this issue is through “communication.” It is now understood that the reason the Church has not “communicated” is that it recognizes that it cannot change its position and still retain its power. A change in position would result in a tremendous loss of authority, precipitating a loss of power. Communication with the leadership of the Church will not occur for reasons that are discussed in this report.
A “Catholic” Administration
If the stakes are high for the Church as an institution, they are critical for all nations and people, including Americans. That world population growth poses a serious security threat has been well established. Under the Carter Administration, the National Security Council first acknowledged this threat, which was subsequently reaffirmed. The election of President Reagan has introduced an administration that is the most Catholic in American history. His first National Security Advisor, Richard Allen, a Catholic, halted within the Council further discussion of population growth as a national security threat. His second National Security Advisor, William Clark, a Catholic, announced that the Carter council had “erred” in this determination and that this “error” must be corrected. Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, a Catholic, ignores any intelligence that would indicate that overpopulation is a security threat. Alexander Haig, a Catholic who was Reagan’s first secretary of state, supported the Carter council’s position on this issue but, according to Haig, was drummed out of office by his Catholic colleagues. His replacement, George Shultz, a Catholic, remains silent in this regard.
Margaret Heckler, a Catholic, as secretary of Housing and Human Services, is responsible for the U.S. government’s support of domestic family-planning services. She is both anti-abortion and supportive of the administration’s restrictions on family-planning services. Attorney-General William French Smith, a Catholic, is responsible for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and for the execution of U.S. immigration laws. The attorney-general has chosen to give little attention to this responsibility and to ignore the fact that our bishops and thousands of clergy commit a felony every time they aid or abet an illegal alien (90 percent of our illegal aliens are Catholic). The mathematical odds of this arrangement happening by chance are fantastically low in this nation which is only 20 percent Catholic. The Church has managed to cover all key highest level positions that would be concerned with the population growth and security issue.
Population Growth Control Losing Ground
There is a growing consensus among population workers that, for the past few years, wherever attempts were made to control population growth, losses have outweighed gains. For example, from a November 26, 1982, International Herald Tribune article:
The family planning programme in the Philippines, once highly regarded, is in danger of being dismantled. The head of the nation’s population agency has been dismissed because of his opposition to funding cutbacks, and the new five-year plan barely mentions family planning and, unlike previous plans, sets no specific demographic targets. Aid from Western agencies is held up by Filipino officials, and UNFPA is cutting back its funding because previous allocations have been underspent. The problem is … the influence of a senior governmental official, Placido Mapa, highly regarded by President Marcos, and a member of Opus Dei.
Opus Dei, of which Placido Mapa is a member, is a Vatican-controlled lay Catholic organization.
Losses have also outweighed gains with respect to assistance given through bilateral and international donor agencies. The U.S. agency responsible for all international population assistance, the U.S. Agency for International Development, has seen its real purchasing power cut by 34 percent over the past ten years. Among the international agencies, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and the World Bank, despite the good intentions of most of their staffs, have all been manipulated and compromised from within and without by the Catholic Church. The result? Most of their “population moneys” are being spent for “general development” and not on family planning. Astute observers have recognized for years that the Vatican’s strategy was to siphon off family-planning and population funds into “development” activities. The “development will take care of population growth” school of thought was an illogical concoction of the Vatican that has been propagated and promulgated primarily by dutiful Catholic laypersons. This strategy has successfully devastated family-planning activities of some international donor agencies and certain countries.
The successes of the Church have occurred despite a large unsatisfied demand for family planning. Among countries studied by the World Fertility Survey, typically one-half of the fertile married women who want no more children are not using any method of contraception. On the Indian subcontinent these levels exceed 90 percent. As a rule, one-third to one-half of those interviewed reported that their last child was unwanted. Worldwide, more than two in three women at risk of pregnancy (about 450 million out of 670 million women) lack access to modern contraceptive methods.
The decline of the world population growth control effort of the past couple of years has coincided with the activities of Pope John Paul II and his Vatican. Virtually every American is familiar with his position on family planning and population growth control: “The will of God and the law of reason demand an unrelenting fight against immoral contraception.” His position has been well covered by the American press. It is indeed unfortunate that the actions of the Vatican to intervene in our national affairs have not been equally publicized. This silence of the American press has given the Vatican enormous power to undermine family planning worldwide. The Church is completely candid about its implorable opposition to birth control and professes that it will do everything possible to accomplish its purposes.
The Vatican has called on its bishops, all of whom are completely loyal (though they may appear at certain moments to be otherwise) to thwart efforts for population growth control. The Church, through its two thousand years of experience, has learned that responsiveness to the chain of command in this truly monolithic organization can best be guaranteed by selecting persons for leadership positions who have an intense lust for power. In this monolithic organization, anyone who steps out of line faces an immediate and permanent loss of power. If they, as persons, have an intense need for power, they will not step out of line and face losing it. In this way, obedience can be maximized. The highly successful television mini-series, “The Thorn Birds,” based on the bestselling novel, was about just such a person. Father Ralph denied everything that made him human in order to satisfy his intense lust for power, only to become aware in the last few moments of his life of what had driven him to make this denial. Pastoral men remain as priests and are not driven by power. They never obtain leadership positions, but they serve a very useful purpose by creating the image that the Vatican wishes to project—that all priests are nice men and pastoral in orientation.
The Vatican has also called upon a tiny fraction of its laity who are also completely loyal for the same reason as the bishops—an intense lust for power. These men, who are more ruthless than religious, find that, if they are absolutely loyal to the Vatican, they can attain positions of power that they would never be able to obtain without Vatican support. These positions may be elected government positions, appointed positions, in government bureaucracies, in public and private corporations, and in private nonprofit organizations. They are found within the population establishment or are peripheral to it. Under the protection of the power of the Church, they operate in complete secrecy, undermining the efforts of population organizations.
Since the election of President Reagan, they have acted with increasing impunity.
Vatican Power Over Governments
It is also true that the Vatican controls governments whenever possible—either completely or partially. Until this strong hold on Catholic countries or those with substantial Catholic leadership is greatly reduced, we can expect very little improvement in world efforts to control population growth. The Vatican’s strong influence on international donor agencies must be eliminated as well.
Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, professor of sociology at the University of Montreal, a Catholic, and author of Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites, has studied extensively Vatican efforts to achieve this dominance:
[The] Vatican is, above all, an organizational weapon in the hands of the papacy and other top ecclesiastical officials. Religious ideology has increasingly become subordinated to organizational imperatives. Among these internal and external organizational imperatives, organizational control of lay elites seems to have become a major preoccupation and necessity for Church authorities.
No matter who the pope is, there are structural and institutional influences that operate because the Vatican is not only a religious institution and a center of political power but also an economic institution with vast financial and real estate holdings, a “fiscal paradise” which ranks alongside Monaco and Hong Kong as a haven for tax evasion.
In spite of the purely religious image that it endeavors to put forward, the Vatican is deeply involved in Italian and international politics and finance, promoting conservatism and capitalism while professing a Christian approach to democratic reforms. The Vatican is constantly intervening in Italian politics to protect its interests, including its economic interests. The Vatican is not only a political and a religious entity, it is also an important financial enterprise…. Church authorities have let themselves be used by political and economic elites as ideological legitimators of capitalism and conservatism, in return for economic advantage and political favors.
It is a fact that the Vatican exercises enormous control over governments in predominantly Catholic countries:
From its inception, the Catholic Church has moved gradually from grass-roots democracy and collegial authority to a vast concentration of power and authority in the hands of the hierarchy, and especially in the hands of the pope and his curia. This development has been accompanied by the alliance of these ecclesiastical leaders with the dominant classes and elites in civil and political society.
“Shogun,” another recent highly successful television mini-series based on a novel, dramatized the development of just such an alliance in an Asian country three centuries ago.
This alliance is truest in developing Catholic countries and developing countries that have substantial Catholic leadership and is less true now than it once was in countries in which the population is well educated, such as France, Italy, Belgium, and The Netherlands:
On the basis of its office charisma, the Church obtains certain privileges from the state, like tax exemptions, special subsidies, and protection from disrespect and even from secular jurisdiction.
In particular, the Church establishes a distinctive way of life for its officials. This requires a specific course of training and hence a regular hierocratic education. Once it has created the latter, it also gains control over lay education and, through it, provides the political authorities with officials and subjects who have been properly brought up in the hierocratic spirit.
From parochial schools to Catholic colleges, from minor seminaries to the pontifical universities in Rome, the Catholic educational system, with few exceptions, was organized under the central control of the Catholic hierarchy and the Vatican…. Building on all these educational institutions, with the help of a private taxation system and important investments, the Church developed a far-reaching system of socialization and controls which ultimately functioned to block threats to the established secular system. This ecclesiastical system of controls included, besides the various educational facilities, a whole network of mass media and meeting places for retreats, meetings, and various other kinds of sessions and congresses of groups and organizations, the most important of which have been examined in some of the preceding chapters.
The relative independence of the Catholic Church bureaucracy vis-a-vis political and socioeconomic forces permit it to fulfill better the role of agent of ideological control which the ruling class assigns to it, and which it willingly assumes because of its links with that ruling class. Conservative Church officials do not have to receive direct orders from businessmen and from politicians to act in accordance with interests, since their own interests coincide with those of the ruling class.
The Church functions optimally when it teams up with a right-wing dictatorship or single-party government such as commonly seen in Latin America, certain African countries, and the Philippines. The government offers an environment in which the Church can prosper and the Church reciprocates by controlling the masses—the laity—and ensures the status quo for the government. Referring to Italy as an example, Vaillancourt says:
The papacy gives religious legitimation to the socioeconomic and political status quo in Italy in exchange for political and economic advantages. It is itself controlled partly by the remunerative power of the ruling class, and in return it uses various kinds of normative and social control mechanisms to keep the laity loyal to itself and to the socioeconomic and political system that supports it. It helps reproduce the monopoly capitalist system and is in part determined in its own internal control activities by economic and political imperatives.
The Church controls the masses using techniques that took centuries to develop. These have been classified by Vaillancourt as: (1) ecological power; (2) remunerative power; (3) coercive power; (4) social power; (5) legal power; (6) traditional power; (7) expert power; and (8) charismatic power. (See, chapter four, p. 48).
Through its control of large segments of the population, the Church can and does perpetually intimidate governments. Persevering and monolithic (two well-recognized characteristics), the Church is eminently qualified to overcome the resistance of any government on any issue, given sufficient time.
The Church is accurately described as a totalitarian international government:
After the financial power which is practically uncontrolled, the ecclesiastical hierarchy exercises an authoritarian power. The accession to the episcopacy comes through a system of artistocratic co-optation. The people of God, the faithful, have no controlling power. The bishop’s power, once acquired, is nearly absolute, as long as one respects the supreme norms of orthodoxy that the ruling stratum itself has established. Without elections, without parties, without unions, ecclesiastical power rules according to the model of absolute monarchy…. In its relationship with political power, ecclesiastical power is in perfect symbiosis, as long as there is no mutual disagreement…. The financial basis and the power of the Church condition its doctrine and its ideology.
Its preoccupation with power also affects the way in which it defines morality. Because the Vatican answers to no one, it can define morality in any way it chooses—and it does. Anything that threatens its power is automatically deemed immoral. For example, legalized abortion seriously threatens its authority and thus its power. It is thus immoral and great attention is given to this immorality. Illegal abortion, on the other hand, does not threaten the authority of the Church, because the government has passed no law confronting the Church’s authority. Its authority over the people is upheld, and the government does not try by legalizing abortion to assume greater authority over the people than held by the Church. For example, Portugal, Argentina, and Uruguay all have illegal abortion rates greater than five hundred abortions per one thousand live births even higher than the rate seen in the United States. However, the Church pays only lip service to illegal abortion since it does not directly threaten Church authority and thus Church power. “Illegal” abortion is apparently much less “immoral” than “legal” abortion, and little attention is given it by the Church leadership. Abortion thus becomes an issue of power—not morality!
A Colonial Power
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.
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 censensus 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.
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.”
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. 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.
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.
 U.S. Bureau of Census, International Population Dynamics 1950-1979, ISP-WP-79(A). (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1980), p. 9.
 R. E. Benedick, “U.S. International Population Policy and National Security,” testimony presented before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (April 29, 1980).
 U.S. International Population Policy, Third Annual Report of the National Security Council Ad Hoc Group on Population Policy (Department of State, January 1979).
 U.S. International Population Policy, Fourth Annual Report of the National Security Council Ad Hoc Group on Population Policy (Department of State, April 1980).
 “Threat to Philippines Family Planning Programme,” IPPF Open File (December 3, 1982), p. 18.
 IPPF Open File (March 11, 1983), p. 18.
 “World Fertility Survey Answers Some Questions That Have Long Puzzled Population Policy-makers,” International Family Planning Perspectives (1980), 6:3:114.
 “Population Crisis Committee: World Abortion Trends,” Population (1982), 9:4.
 Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980).
 Ibid, p. 15.
 Ibid, p. 245.
 Ibid, p. 283.
 Ibid, p. 11.
 Ibid, p. 261.
 Ibid, p. 284.
 Ibid, p. 265.
 Stephen D. Mumford and Elton Kessel, “Is Wide Availability of Abortion Essential to National Population Growth Control Programs? Experiences of 116 Countries,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (July 15, 1984), 149:6:639-645.
 Vaillancourt, Papal Power, p. 270.
 A. Greeley, The Making of the Popes, 1978: The Politics and Intrigue in the Vatican (Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, Inc., 1979).
 Vaillancourt, Papal Power, p. 272.
 A. McCormack, “Countdown to Disaster,” The Tablet (London, November 6, 1982), p. 1109.
 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).
— Church and State (@ChurchAndStateN) June 6, 2018
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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