Solutions to Population Growth Weaken Catholic Church Authority

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 25 April 2016
Church and State

(Credit: icosha /

Excerpt from our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s book, The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (1984). The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.

Chapter 4: Vatican Takeover

Following the death of the Simpson/Mazzoli Immigration Reform Bill, designed to limit illegal immigration into the United States and set a ceiling on legal immigration, on October 11, 1984,[1] a group of workers was discussing the demise of the bill. “What went wrong? Why were we defeated? We believed we had covered all the issues. We know a majority of the Senate and a majority of the House were in favor of the Senate version of the Bill. We know that 75% of the Hispanics were for employer sanctions and for an unforgeable social security card; among Blacks, 66% were for employer sanctions and 69% were for stepped­-up control,[2] and that in 1977 and 1980 Roper polls 91% of the American people voted that they wanted all illegal immigration into the United States stopped.”[3]

Privately, one of the group told me, “What went wrong is really a rhetorical question. Obviously, at least one thing that went wrong is that not one of the population groups in the United States, those good folks in the population establishment, has had the courage to identify and challenge the obvious enemy—that is, the political Roman Catholic Church—more specifically the Vatican Curia. Until they do, further defeats of any really substantial efforts to control immigration almost certainly will follow.”

Conflict of interest

The political Vatican Curia must be distinguished from the religious, spiritual Church—the Holy See. Both Catholic Clergy[4] and Catholic laymen[5] have stated that the political Catholic Church often acts at the expense of the religious Catholic Church. The political Church sometimes hides under the skirts of the religious Church. It uses the religious Church to achieve political and economic goals which are sometimes clearly not in the best interests of the country concerned.

In 1980, Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, a Canadian Roman Catholic professor of sociology at the University of Montreal, published a book titled Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites (Berkeley: University of California Press). Vaillancourt states,

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.

Certainly, no other church is so influential, or as opposed to birth control and restraints on immigration across U.S. borders as the Vatican. The best interests of the Vatican and the best interests of the United States are not always the same. Nowhere is this conflict more evident than in their responses to population growth in the U.S. and the world.

The solutions to world overpopulation—modern methods of contraception, voluntary sterilization, abortion as a backstop for contraception, illegal immigration control, expanding opportunities for women, sex education, incentives and disincentives for no more than two children—are, I am convinced, grave threats to the survival of the power of the Vatican, at least in its political dimension. Once these solutions have become the law of the land and are integral parts of public policy, the Vatican leadership believes they will seriously undermine the authority of the Church over its communicants. It is from this authority that the Vatican’s political power is drawn. (For a more complete description of the ways in which Vatican power is threatened by population growth control, please see Appendix 2.)

According to Father Andrew Greeley, Vatican leaders are concerned not so much with the religious aspect of the Church as with its worldwide political power. States Greeley, “This sort of religion is the traditional concern of the Roman Curia, it always has been since the temporal power of the pope began … They are concerned about politics, administration, and finance.”[6] The greater the number of their communicants, the greater the power of the hierarchy. These prelates, recognizing their jeopardy, have placed the religious dimension of the Church at risk in order to prevail politically—at least it appears that way to many observers inside and outside of the Catholic establishment.

Why overpopulation threatens national security

The United States National Security Council in 1979[7] and 1980[8] determined that severe pressures on land, water and air caused by current rates of world population growth seriously threaten the security of all nations, including the United States. The 1979 report concludes, “Much is being done, but the situation requires a major and urgent expansion of effort, if the world is to be spared unprecedented deprivation and turmoil.”

The threat to the United States is two-fold: internal and external. Internally, a 0.7% natural growth rate of 1.7 million enlarged by an unreported 0.8% immigration rate of 2 million (1.4 million illegal,[9] 0.6 million legal[10] for a total growth of 3.7 million in 1984 would increase the current 236 million U.S. population to more than 300 million by the year 2000 if these rates continued. The resulting densities would exceed the carrying capacity of resources in most areas, increase unemployment with the advent of automation, cybernetics and robotics, along with almost surely increasing inflation, taxes and regulation; all of which predictably would increase poverty and cause social instability and strife within our own country.

Externally, the realistic possibility that unemployment and hunger may cause widespread disruption of social organization makes world population growth a serious national security issue, according to Ambassador Marshall Green.[11] Current examples are the overpopulated countries of the Middle East, including Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Iran and the overpopulated countries of Central America, including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, the Middle East having an unsustainable average growth rate of 2.9% and Central America 2.7%.[12] Unless these growth rates can be stabilized and substantially reduced, no amount of U.S. military and economic aid can be expected to bring peace to the Middle East or Central America.

One serious study has produced a crude estimate of the number of aliens who will attempt illegal entry into the United States between 1980 and 2000 from all sources at 161 million.[13] This estimate was made through a country by country assessment of the number each country was expected to send. All parameters and assumptions used are discussed in detail in this study published in 1981 and their reasonableness has not been effectively disputed. Mind-boggling though it is, it is a solid fact that there are 0.5 billion U.S. border crossings annually by aliens: tourists, students, temporary workers and others.[14] If just 1.6% of this number chose to attempt to stay in the U.S. as illegal aliens, that would not be surprising. And if this number did stay, then 161 million people would have attempted to become illegal aliens between 1980 and the year 2000. If just half as many were successful in remaining, it would surpass the “invasion of the barbarians” which destroyed the Roman Empire. Even according to the most conservative figures, the illegal human tide of U.S. border crossings is rising undeniably. Apprehensions of illegal aliens in the Chula Vista border sector just south of San Diego have increased in the last 20 years from 6,000 per year to 407,000 per year.[15]

It is demonstrable that crowding brought on by overpopulation has long been an underlying cause of war. Recent examples from World War II are Germany and Japan. A chapter in Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is devoted to explaining the need of the German people for greater “Lebensraum” (Living Space).The square mile area of the five main islands of Japan and of California is equal, each with a mountain range running through them. In 1940, the population of Japan numbered 72 million. California 7 million. To justify Japan’s aggression throughout Asia and the Pacific, Japanese apologists have asked what Californians might have done if their populations four decades ago had been reversed. By 1984, Japan’s population had grown to 120 million and California’s to 25 million. Though Japan is now a strong U.S. ally, it is struggling to support its further enlarged population by waging what has been called “economic warfare” against Europe and North America.

Thus the dimensions of the conflict are defined. The political Catholic Church (the Vatican) is pitted against the national security interests of the United States. Clearly, to ignore the overpopulation problem outside and within our borders, fostered and aggravated by the Vatican, will be to invite severe consequences and, ultimately, a severe undermining of our national security.

Politics and Catholic power

(Credit: Riccardo De Luca – Update /

That the Vatican views the solutions to the population problem as threats to its authority over its communicants, and thus its political power, is well supported. Thomas Burch, one of the 64 lay members of the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control (1966), recently revealed in the National Catholic Reporter that the tacit purpose of the Commission was to find a way for the Church to approve contraception without undermining Church authority.[16] So surely the Church is, or was, aware of its own dilemma. At the time, Burch was on the faculty of Georgetown University, and today is chairman of The University of Western Ontario’s Department of Sociology. In the recent article cited, Burch said:

Cardinal (John) Heenan (of Westminister, England) announced that it was the wish of ‘the high authority’ that we consider two propositions during the day.

First proposition: suppose the Vatican changed its mind on contraception. What can we do to present this in such a way that the church will not lose its moral influence over people?

Second proposition: Suppose the Vatican does not change its mind on these issues. How can we preserve our (the church’s) influence over the marital behavior of individuals?

I think my very strong reaction was, ‘What the heck’s going on here? You are saying that you might have been wrong for nigh on 30 to 40 years on some details about methods; you’ve caused millions of people untold agony and unwanted children; brought on stresses and strains and tremendous feelings of guilt. You’ve told people they were going to hell because they wouldn’t stop using condoms, and now you’re saying maybe you’re wrong? But you want to say it in such a way that you can continue to tell people what to do in bed?’

I think at that point, the absurdity became very clear. My feeling was that what the church was most concerned with was exerting its own authority. It was not terribly concerned with human beings at some level.

Thus, the Vatican’s position on population growth control and family planning is reduced to a question of authority, the control of individuals; it is reduced to a question of power—political power.

The Commission voted 64 to 4 that a change in the Church’s stand on artificial birth control was both possible and advisable. The report had to be submitted in mid-1966 to a smaller commission of twenty cardinals and bishops, and that’s where the crunch came. Obliged to record their own views of the report, six of the prelates abstained, eight voted in favor of recommending the report to the Pope, and six voted against it (including Pope John Paul II, then a Cardinal).[17]

This small minority vote was sufficient to enable Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, the prefect of the Holy Office, room to maneuver. Ottaviani was the most powerful person in the Roman Catholic Church next to the Pope and a bitter opponent of the liberalizing aspects of Vatican Council II. These few negative votes allowed the Cardinal to rally the old guard and throughout 1967 and early 1968 bring sufficient pressure on the Pope so that he ignored the advice of the Commission and published Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968,[18] retaining the ban on so-called ‘artificial contraception’. The powers of the Curia obviously had decided that the Vatican could not change its position without losing much or all of its political power.[19]

Humanae Vitae was an admission by the Vatican that the solutions to the population problem—modern methods of contraception, abortion, sterilization, expanding opportunities for women, sex education and the like—are in fact gravely threatening the survival of the Vatican, at least its political dimension, because they all undermine its authority.

For all practical purposes, therefore, Humanae Vitae was a declaration of a “holy war” against family planning and population growth control. Recognizing their jeopardy, the prelates placed the religious dimension of the Church at risk in order to prevail politically. The encyclical seriously divided the Church. On a disaster scale for the Roman Catholic Church it measures higher than the treatment of Galileo in the seventeenth century or the declaration of papal infallibility by Pius IX in 1870. This document, which was intended to strengthen papal authority, had precisely the opposite effect.[20]

From its perspective, the Vatican’s actions are not as unreasonable as would appear on the surface. Illegal birth control and abortion, for example, are no threat to Vatican survival because, being illegal, they do not weaken Church authority. Their illegality means that civil authority is not pitted against Church authority—Church/State confrontation is avoided. Between 7 and 12 million abortions are performed illegally in Catholic Latin America each year.[21] The Church makes no attempt to stop them. Illegal abortion does not threaten their authority. The lives of thousands of women in those Roman Catholic countries who die from illegal abortion each year and the suffering of millions of others who survive apparently is a small price to pay to maintain Church authority.

Sadly, the institution of the Roman Catholic Church appears to have become a political one above all else. To survive and expand for so many centuries it was compelled to become a political power; and it has become a financial power as well. Sometimes the Church undertakes activities that are political or economic under the guise of religion. Menaced by public population policy in the U.S., which legally sanctions birth control, sex education, abortion and family size limitation, the Vatican is resorting to desperate and bold political measures here.

In his book, American Freedom and Catholic Power (The Beacon Press, 1949), Protestant minister, lawyer, and former State Department official, Paul Blanshard discussed what theoretically could happen to American democracy if the Catholic Church conducted itself as it had in most other countries in recent history, skillfully manipulating governments. He recognized that the Vatican and the U.S. at times do have conflicting interests, such as birth control. A person cannot always be loyal to the Pope and to the United States at once. When interests clash, choices must be made. Blanshard’s book was labeled heretical and rabidly anti-Catholic by the Church. Librarians were ordered to remove it from their shelves.


[1] Conner, R. Special Washington Report, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Washington, D.C. October 11, 1984. p. 2.
[2] “Gallup Poll Confirms Increasing Numbers of Americans Want Immigration Reform,” FAIR/Immigration Report 4(3):2, 1983.
[3] “Public Opinion on Immigration,” Federation for American Immigration Reform, Washington DC, 1984.
[4] Greeley, AM. The Making of the Popes 1978: The Politics of Intrigue in the Vatican. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, Inc., 1979.
[5] Vaillancourt, JG. Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
[6] Greeley. p. 37.
[7] U.S. International Population Policy, Third Annual Report of the National Security Council Ad Hoc Group on Population Policy, January, 1979, Department of State.
[8] U.S. International Population Policy, Fourth Annual Report of the National Security Council Ad Hoc Group on Population Policy, April, 1980, Department of State.
[9] “Apprehensions Top 1.3 Million in 1985,” Federation for American Immigration Reform, FAIR/Immigration Report 6(2):1. 1985.
[10] “Why Immigration Reform?” TEF DATA: The Environmental Fund, Washington. D.C. No. 19, August 1985. p. 1.
[11] Testimony of Ambassador Marshall Green, Coordinator of Population Affairs, Department of State, before the Select Committee on Population, U.S. House of Representatives, February 7, 1978.
[12] Overpopulation Primer. The Environmental Fund, Washington D.C. 1984.
[13] Mumford, SD. American Democracy & The Vatican: Population Growth & National Security. Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984. p.23.
[14] Vining D.R., Jr. Airborne Migrant Study Urged. Population Reference Bureau, Washington D.C. INTERCOM 7(11):3, 1979.
[15] “Non-Mexican Apprehensions Increase,” FAIR/Immigration Report 5(10):3, 1985.
[16] Jones, A. Vatican, “International Agencies Hone Family, Population Positions,” National Catholic Reporter (reprinted in Conscience, May/June 1984, p. 7).
[17] “The Words of a Future Pope,” Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1978, p. 7.
[18] Yallop, DA. In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I. New York: Bantam Books, 1984, p. 24.
[19] Jones. p. 9.
[20] Ibid, p. 28.
[21] Mumford, SD. and Kessel, E. “Is Wide Availability of Abortion Essential to National Population Growth Control Programs? Experiences of 116 Countries,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 149(6):639, 1984.

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.

Lester R. Brown interview with Rob Stewart

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

How the world went from 170 million people to 7.3 billion, in one map

Be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here