The Vatican’s infiltration and cooptation of American population organizations

The Population Apologists for the Church

It is true that Murphy and McCormack contribute significantly to sup­pression of criticism within the population establishment, but there are Catholic and non-Catholic population specialists working in most population organizations, both in the United States and abroad, who are constantly apologizing for the Church, suppressing criticism of it, and spreading the word about how wonderful the Church, bishops, priests, and the pope really are. More often than not, these apologists are not identified as Catholics. Non-Catholic apologists are often nurtured by the Church, particularly if they are in positions of influ­ence. They are rewarded for these activities, and I have seen some of them in action that justifies these rewards. This strategy for the cooptation of the population establishment has been highly effective.

There is almost no significant criticism of the Church to be heard from population specialists. Their comments and discussions are limit­ed to private conversations; all too many of these exchanges I have heard myself, involving literally hundreds of population specialists around the world. Their silence allows the Church to act in secrecy or without review as it goes about undermining most population activi­ties.

Population organizations as such also contribute to this atmos­phere of secrecy to the benefit of the Church. Their literature actually misleads readers regarding the nature of the opposition to population activities. Nearly all population organizations, including those at­tempting to stop illegal immigration, are guilty of this, as are ERA organizations, environmentalists, and others working to achieve objec­tives that the Church is trying to thwart. For example, “ZPG [Zero Population Growth] has also met with strong opposition toward our ef­forts to create an effective national population policy” and “ZPG has also met with vigorous organized opposition from those who would block efforts to create an effective immigration policy” are two com­ments from a fundraising letter. It never identifies who this vigorous opposition is! From another fundraising letter, “From within our feder­al government . . . allies of the ‘New Right’ have launched an insidi­ous, behind-the-scenes campaign of harassment against Planned Par­enthood.” But who is the “New Right”? I have a file of examples such as these, and most population and related organizations are represent­ed in that file. These organizations (except Planned Parenthood on a few occasions) never identify the Catholic Church as their opposition.

Publications of population organizations are devoid of criticisms of the Church. INTERCOM, during its first two years of publication (August 1973 to July 1975), under the direction of Philip Harvey and Timothy Black, for Population Services International, showed their courage in frequently publishing items that the Church would have much preferred to have been kept secret. For example, the August 1974 issue contained the following article, “Population Booklet Draws Catholic Ire”:

A Roman Catholic group has threatened to sue the school board of Birmingham, Michigan, if it refuses to discontinue classroom use of a controversial booklet on population control by Septem­ber 15. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights charges that the booklet, published by Xerox Corporation, asks questions which amount to a defamation of the pope and the Catholic Church.

“Most of the authors represented in the booklet are from the Zero Population Growth movement,” stated Stuart Hubbel, ex­ecutive director of the Catholic organization. “I won’t quarrel with that, but it’s just not a balanced booklet.” He charged that it contains anti-clerical passages from the diary of a South Ameri­can woman, questions the ethics of Catholic doctors who refuse to perform sterilization operations, presents a petition signed by three thousand scientists attacking Pope Paul VI for immoral world leadership, and suggests—through a study question—that grounds exist for bringing the Catholic Church before an inter­national tribunal to be tried for crimes against humanity. The booklet, Hubbel charged, infringes on students’ “constitutional rights to have the public schools kept free from religious discrimi­nation.”

An earlier threat by the group to sue Xerox Corporation for distributing the controversial booklet to public schools was with­drawn when, according to Hubbel, Xerox agreed to discontinue its circulation in response to the threatened legal action.

This article draws attention to an important act of censorship by the Church. This Xerox sponsorship was one of the last corporate contri­butions to population growth control activities. American corpora­tions, during the early 1970s, were so intimidated by Church threats of boycotts that they halted contributions to population activities. There has been almost no corporation initiative in this regard since this Xerox incident. This is Vatican censorship in America in action.

Then in July 1975, INTERCOM was taken over by the Population Reference Bureau, and criticism of the Church all but disappeared. However in January 1976, INTERCOM in an uncritical manner did publish an article covering an announcement by the Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities of their creation of the lobbying organiza­tion that was later to become Moral Majority, Inc., and proposing the formation of interdenominational pro-life groups in all 435 congres­sional districts.[20]

By the time the Catholic Church recruited Jerry Falwell to be the nominal head of the Moral Majority, this organization was already fully developed by the Vatican. However, no population publication has ever revealed this. The most sinister act of secrecy thus far under­taken by the Church in population matters has been met with the most disturbing act of silence by the population establishment. While it is true that population apologists outside population organizations, both Catholic and non-Catholic, have crippled efforts to publish arti­cles which expose the Church’s acts of corruption affecting the popula­tion growth control effort, there are people who work within these organizations who owe their loyalty to the Vatican and who personally thwart the publication of such articles. There are hundreds of ex­amples of these actions.

A Request for a United Nations Fund for Population Activities Book Review

Since the inception of the United Nations Fund for Population Activi­ties (UNFPA), its executive director has been Rafael Salas, a deeply committed, honest, sincere, and courageous man. Salas has long recognized the national and global security implications of over­population. In September 1980, he invited a group of scholars to discuss the relationship between population and conflict. Out of this meeting came a conference on this topic which was held one year later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The report of that con­ference, “Population and Conflict,” was prepared at Salas’s request by Nazli Choucri, professor of political science at MIT.

Salas was aware of my long standing interest in the population-security relationship and my work in this area. I received a letter dated September 6, 1983, from UNFPA requesting that I review Choucri’s monograph for their Populi magazine, which I immediately agreed to do. The deadline was set for October 3, 1983. The following is the review I submitted.

Review of Population and Conflict by Nazli Choucri, United Nations Fund for Population Activities, 1983

On February 28, 1977, accompanied and introduced by former priest and close friend and supporter, Dr. E. J. Farge, I met George Bush, now vice-presi­dent of the United States. He had recently left the directorship of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and returned to Houston. As we sat before him, he read a two-page synopsis of a book I had completed a year earlier on the relationship between population growth and national and global security. His response was, “I agree with everything you are saying here and I can assure you that the people in the CIA agree with you also.” He readily agreed to assist in obtaining funding for a project designed to advance the discussion of this emerging national security threat. A few months later, William Colby, also a former CIA director, appeared in a television news interview stating that, “I believe that world population growth is the most serious threat to U.S. security.” Six-and-one-half years have passed since it became apparent that the U.S. security establishment had acknowledged this new major threat to security.

By the time these two CIA directors made their pronouncements, Profes­sor Choucri’s book, Population Dynamics and International Violence had been available for three years and her book with R. C. North, Nations in Conflict: National Growth and International Violence for two years.

In Population and Conflict, Professor Choucri summarizes her studies of 307 explicit conflicts between 1945 and 1980. The link between population issues and conflict is indisputable. She closely examines the related world forum since 1974: major international conferences; conferences dealing with population and development; and major reports prepared by the international community.

Major world conferences since the 1974 Population Conference in Bucharest have dealt with food, the role of women, employment, human settlements, desertification, technical cooperation among developing coun­tries, agrarian reform and rural development, and others. Major conferences dealing specifically with population and development that have taken place since 1974 include the International Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, Columbo, Sri Lanka, 1979; the Latin Ameri­can Conference on Population and Development Planning in Cartagena, Columbia; the 1980 International Conference on Population and the Urban Future in Rome, Italy; the 1981 Asian Conference of Parliamentarians on Population and Development in Beijing, China; and the 1981 International Conference on Family Planning in the 1980s in Jakarta, Indonesia. Major reports include: World Population and Development: Challenges and Perspectives (1979); the Global 2000 Report to the President (1980); North-South: A Program for Survival (1980); and National Agenda for the Eighties (1980).

These activities collectively represented the world forum for the discus­sion of population issues since 1974. Nowhere have the serious national and international security implications of rapid population growth been discussed; mentioned possibly, but never discussed. “In sum, the most notable interna­tional assessments during the latter part of the 1970s, and the early 1980s, show a singular disregard for the conflict-producing dynamics engendered by rapid demographic change both within and across nations.”

Professor Choucri examines annual world military expenditures and international population assistance expenditures over the past decade and rules out any hope that, even in this silence, international donors had sharply increased population assistance relative to military expenditures. In 1979, the last year included in her analysis, population assistance amounted to only 0.18 percent of the world military expenditure ($800 million and $446 billion respectively). Clearly, there has been no significant response to the realiza­tion that population growth is a serious security threat that had obviously occurred in the U.S. intelligence community prior to the comments made by Mr. Bush and Mr. Colby as a result of their extensive U.S. CIA experience.

Professor Choucri states that, “There is a continual lack of awareness by both policy-making and academic communities of the close links between population and security. It would be the height of myopia to continue to dis­regard the increasing evidence concerning the relationship of population variables to conflict dynamics.” With her second statement, I completely agree. However, with the first statement, I disagree.

I believe that there is no lack of awareness among policy-makers or academic communities of the population-security relationship. It is not lack of awareness but rather the profound conflict of massive proportions that immediately becomes apparent as soon as this relationship is recognized. Immediately, one realizes that the powerful religious institutions that actively oppose modern methods of birth control on the international, national, and local levels are themselves threats to national and international security and peace. Only a few have had the courage to speak up and then only briefly. In the meantime, this great threat to security and peace continues to increase and remains unattended, but recognized.

Population and Conflict is a major contribution to the world population literature. It should be considered required reading by all concerned with either population policy or security policy, though, admittedly, the writing style may make it a little difficult for persons who learned English as a second language.

Stephen D Mumford

I anticipated that there might be trouble with the next to the last paragraph. But to offer any other explanation would be merely mis­leading the reader and an exercise in intellectual dishonesty. Within this paragraph lies the heart of the world population problem.

On October 10, 1983, I received a call from a person who identi­fied himself as Hugh O’Hare, an editor with Populi magazine. Approxi­mately 70 percent of the Catholic component of the anti-abortion movement in the United States is Irish as is the proportion of U.S. Catholic bishops. The leadership of the anti-abortion movement is almost entirely Irish, despite the fact that only 20 percent of the Catholic population in the United States is of Irish descent. As soon as I heard the name, I thought to myself, “This book review is dead.” I asked him if there was a problem with the book review. He replied that he only needed to clarify how I had made the calculation that popula­tion assistance amount to only 0.18 percent of the world military expenditure. This I did. I also offered that I was a little concerned that the next to last paragraph might give somebody a little problem. He responded that he thought that the review was just excellent and that he did not think there would be any problems.

Two weeks later, I got a second call from O’Hare. I thought to myself, “This is it. It’s dead.” However, he said that he only wanted to reword one sentence and wanted my approval for the change, which I gave. He again said that he thought it was an excellent review and that he anticipated no further problems. He said that a book review was a set of opinions, that I was asked for my opinions, and that I have the right to express them.

On November 7, 1983, Hugh O’Hare called for the third and final time—with some bad news. He said that there had been a mix-up. UNFPA has two publications—Population, the UNFPA newsletter, and Populi magazine—with the same readership and mailing list. He had discovered that another editor, unknown to him, had asked some­one else to review the Choucri book for Population and that this review had been published just the day before (September 1982, 9:9:4). It would be inappropriate to publish a second review even though it was to appear in Populi. He mentioned that he had read my articles on population and the Catholic Church (chapters four and five) and that he could understand how I might be suspicious of the turn of events. He wanted to “assure” me that this was mere coincidence.

I read the published review. Written in the style used by Monsignor James McHugh or writers at the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the techniques for deprecation were clearly recogniz­able. The anonymous reviewer was able to find a few sentences and phrases in the work of some forty-eight pages that, when taken out of context, support the Vatican position. To fully appreciate the extent to which the reviewer went to mislead the reader concerning the link between population and conflict, one must read Choucri’s serious and profound book. The attempt to undermine and make light of Choucri’s work is not subtle. The reader is actually discouraged from pursuing the author’s argument. There is no suggestion of how a copy might be obtained. The entire review reads as follows:

There are no simple connections to be made between population and conflict, as Professor Choucri is quick to point out:

“Population size, growth, and density do not in themselves lead to conflict. Population increase is not in itself the source of crowding, stress, and conflict. Although there is some relation­ship between crowding and pathological conditions, there initial­ly must be a “critical mass,” [that is] a population “at risk” amenable to violence or using violence as a preferred strategy.”

So much for laboratory rats. Professor Choucri, professor of political science at MIT and the acknowledged leader in the study of population and conflict, takes her conclusions about the roots of conflict from the evidence of the conflict themselves—191 of them between 1945 and 1980. The evidence is very patchy, as she admits, and the conclusions are therefore tenta­tive, but some demographic connections can be determined. Among them are the effect of population composition and distri­bution, which seem to be more important than mere size. Change tends to exacerbate the effects of size, but “size and change fac­tors seldom have more than background significance because their effects are long-term and indirect.” Nevertheless, rapid change “invariably generates problems that go beyond those derived from an increase in numbers alone.”

Hence Professor Choucri’s conclusion that “thorough con­sideration of the consequences of rapid and pervasive demograph­ic change is essential to the formulation of viable domestic and international, social, and economic policies. . . . The incidence of peace, and peaceful resolution of conflict situations, rest most profoundly on an initial understanding of conflict-producing dynamics.”

The heart of the booklet—which is itself only a short sum­mary—is contained in ten “central propositions,” which set out tersely the state of knowledge in the field. Readers will look for­ward to Professor Choucri’s forthcoming collection, Multiple Dimensions of Population Conflict: Theory and Evidence.

This was but one of innumerable acts of censorship of population information carried out by those Catholics obedient to the hierarchy within the population establishment during the past two decades. They are free to do this because the lay press submits to censorship by the Catholic hierarchy and is unwilling to print stories such as this one. Thus the Church is allowed to act with impunity.

The Murphys, Sullivans, Zablockis, Gilligans, Donaldsons, Ganlys, and O’Haras all appear to be responding to the call of the Catholic bishops in their 1975 Pastoral Plan of Action (see, appendix two) for laypersons to undertake action to ensure “adoption of admin­istrative policies that will restrict the practice of abortion as much as possible.” The ultimate goal is to eliminate all effective contraception practices as well.


[1] M. Barone and G. Ujifusa, The Almanac of American Politics 1984 (Washington National Journal), p. 612.
[2] Paul Blanshard, American Freedom and Catholic Power (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1950), p. 77.
[3] Ibid., pp. 75-76.
[4] Ibid., p. 77.
[5] Ibid., p. 213.
[6] Ibid., p. 77.
[7] Ibid., p. 185.
[8] Ibid., p. 209.
[9] Ibid., p. 230.
[10] Ibid., p. 231.
[11] Ibid., p. 214.
[12] Ibid., p. 270.
[13] Ibid., p. 271.
[14] Father James J. O’Toole, What Is Catholic Action? (Paulist Press, 1940). Im­primatur Bishop of Toledo.
[15] Blanshard, American Freedom and Catholic Power, p. 271.
[16] Ibid., p. 272.
[17] Father Arthur McCormack, “Roman Catholic Perspectives on Population Ethics”, The Draper Fund Report (1983), 12:22.
[18] Osservatore Romano (December 6, 1982).
[19] J. Mann, “Globetrotting Pope: What Drives Him?” U.S. News and World Report (March 21, 1983), p. 22.
[20] INTERCOM (January 1976), 4:1:13.

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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