A Statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales
I N TR OD CTION . The United Nations has designated 1974 as World Population Year and a World Population Conference is to be held in Bucharest in August. The United Nations Organisation has made it clear that the topics under discussion during 1974 will be far-ranging environment, housing, food, old age, family life, employment, migration, education and health are to be brought to the attention of the people of the world:
"We believe that population policy should not be narrowly focused on family limitation but must be a part of the national strategy for social and economic development.",
2. in 1954 Pope Pius XII encouraged the experts who came to Rome for the first World Population Conference in their work: "The science of popu:ation is young, but it is basic since it touches immediately on human life and can clarify some of the most serious individual and social problems.
"The Church is not ignorant of these problems . . . We can only rejoice at the light that your labours and those of all sincere population experts bring to the knowledge and values which condition the development of nations.
"This is why we are also urging Catholics to take an active part in the researches and in the efforts which are being made in this 3. Pope Paul VI has emphasised mankind's responsibility of working out solutions to today's problem:
"Man endowed with intelligence and freedom is responsible for his fulfilment as he is for his salvation."3 ". . . Too frequently an accelerated increase in population adds its own difficulties to the problems of development; the size of the population increases more rapidly than available resources, and things are found to have reached apparently an impasse. From that moment the temptation is great to check the demographic increase by means of radical measures. It is certain that public authorities can intervene, within the limit of their competence, by favouring the availability of appropriate information and by adopting suitable measures, provided that these be in conformity with the moral law and that they respect the rightful freedom of married couples."'
4. The term "population problem" has many meanings. To some it means simply that there are too many human beings living on this earth. To others the growth rate is such that in the foreseeable future the population will be too large to be supported. Some hold that the problem is regional in the sense that one country will not be able to cope, while another
country will be able to support its people adequately, or in the sense that cities are overcrowded while the countryside is too thinly populated. Again, others will argue that the problem is one of the supply and sharing of resources, especially food and fuel. Finally, some say there is no problem at all or, if there is, nature will produce its own solution.
5. This is a confused situation. The first objective listed by the Secretary General for the U.N. World Population Organisation is:
"To advance understanding of population at global, regional, national and subnational levels, recognising the diversity of the problems involved.",
In other words the first step is to establish the facts.
6. While the fact-finding is in progress there is already discus sion on whose right it is to form population policies and on what basis and to what extent these rights are to be cxcerciscd. There are profound questions of principle at stake which no responsible citizen can ignore. We, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales draw attention to the following considerations.
WORLD POPULATION: STATISTICS AND TRENDS 7. The rate of increase in world population growth this century has been unprecedented. There are 2,000 million more people in the world today than there were in the year 1900. The rate of increase has become even greater in the past decade. By the end of the present century the population of the world would have doubled if past trends were to continue. It took the human race until 1600 A.D. to reach 500 million people. By 1830 it had doubled. By 1920 it had doubled again to 2,000 million, At present rates of increase it will have doubled again by 1976 to 4,000 million. The world has never before faced such a situation.
8. The figures for the world's population up to the present century are, for the most part, general estimate. During the present century, especially in more developed countries the statistics have become more reliable although by no means complete. These more sophisticated surveys are revealing not only the actual population of a country but also the rate of population trends.
These vary from the to country but it is in the developing countries that the most rapid increase is taking place. For in
stance, it is claimed that the population of India is increasing by about one million per month, while in contrast the population of Western Germany is falling. In 1972, the deaths of West German citizens exceeded live births by 29,000.' The United States of America and Russia are nearing a "zero" population growth. In the United Kingdom there has been a drop in the number of births every year since mid-1%4, except the year ended mid-1971. The rate of population increase for 1972-3 is the lowest since the 1950s.' Even the highest foreseeable rate of increase of population in Britain in the next twenty years will not be critical.
9. These statistics are but a small sample of the mass of information being assembled for World Population Year. It is important that this information be accurate and complete. It is equally important to interpret the statistics correctly.
For instance, there is growing evidence that there is a relationship between standards of living and rates of fertility.
"Changes in fertility are the most dynamic and problematic variables in population change, being intimately related to the social and economic structure of a nation, its cultural traditions and patterns of mortality. But the common result in all advanced nations has been that crude birth rates have declined, with modernisation and economic development, from about 30 per 1,000 to below 20."" 10. Medical advances play a substantial part in population size. The main reason for the increase in the population of India, according to the Indian Government. is the decline in the mortality rate in recent decades.,
In large areas of the world infant mortality has been reduced. Advances in medicine and hygiene have conquered diseases and controlled epidemics. This means that more children survive to become parents and for most people there is an increased possibility of survival to old age. Everyone rejoices at these developments. But the increased population requires comparable increases in food, houses, schools and social services.
11. Many experts consider the population problem to be mainly one of uneven distribution of people. Urban communities have become too unwieldy. Fifty years ago. Lima, in Peru, had a population of 175,000. Its population is now approaching three million. This example can be matched in almost every country in the world. An emergency plan to redistribute millions of humans beings into less congested communities might ignore the multitude of human needs which must he met before any real alleviation of the situation can take place. Great thought and planning are therefore necessary in any redistribution of population.
12. The increased production of food had already earned itself the title of "the green revolution". The Food and Agricultural Organisation is optimistic about the future, Under certain conditions total food products from conventional sources alone could be fifty times as great within a hundred years." This prediction • is encouraging but the transference of plans into practice depends on the goodwill of the present population of the world. All must work generously for future generations. Predictions on the supply of fuel are not so optimistic.
13. It is clear from these statistics and opinions that the world picture is far from complete. Even the facts which have been established are open to misinterpretation and distortion.
All men have the duty to seek and face the truth without bias. Population prediction has tended to he alarmist. This, together with the uneven world pattern of population growth, makes it difficult to establish facts. Facts must be assembled carefully and objectively, SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY 14. Because they believe in the brotherhood of man tinder the Fatherhood of God, Christians must help all people to live fuller lives with material goods sufficient for upholding human dignity, Social justice is based on the responsibility of each for all. Indeed. this is an objective shared by all men of goodwill in every human society.
15. If present predictions are valid, any rapid increase in population during the rest of this century will take place in developing countries. These are precisely the areas where millions live in poverty. Any population increase complicates the struggle for the social betterment of the people. Provision must be made both for those living today in substandard conditions and for those yet to be born.
16. The developed countries have a special responsibility. They have taken for themselves a disproportionate share of the world's resources in order to achieve the high standard of living which they now enjoy. They must be prepared to convert privilege into obligation and to make sacrifices proportionate to their wealth.
17. Developing countries will he able to provide useful employment for their people and raise their living standards provided no obstacles are put in the way of their trading with the developed world. It is inexcusable for 1-ch nations to put Lip trade barriers against poor nations in order to enrich themselves still further. It would be offensive to justice and charity for the rich nations to urge population control as a substitute for social and economic progress. It would he wrong to give aid while refusing trade, thus professing to give in charity what is denied in justice. Yet aid as well as trade is needed by the people of the developing countries. Generous aid will enable the people of the developing countries to help themselves to live fuller lives.
18. The world's resources must not be wasted. All communities must review their way of life to ensure a wise use of minerals. fuel and food. As the Synod of Bishops expressed it: "It is impossible to sec what right the richer nations have to keep up their claims to increase their own material demands, if the consequences is either that others remain in misery or that the danger of destroying the very physical foundations of life on earth is precipitated. Those who are already rich are bound to accept a less material way of life, with less waste, in order to avoid the destruction of the heritage which they are obliged by absolute justice to share with all other members of the human race.""
In particular, there is an urgent need to halt the waste of resources resulting from the arms race. The money. skill and resources of the community must be used for the improving of human life not its destruction.
There must be research and planning to alleviate the harmful effects which affluent living can have on the environment. Governments. industry and individual citizens must all bear responsibility for the control of environmental pollution.
19 There is a pressing need to increase and share food production. Undernourishment is very real in many parts of the world. Pope Paul wrote:
"Countless men and women are tormented by hunger, countless .children are undernourished, so that many of them die in infancy, while the physical growth and mental development of many others are retarded and as a result whole regions are condemned to the most depressing despondency."12
The efficient production of food implies the just use of
land. There must be a balance between acquired private rights and the needs of the community as a whole.
FAMILY LIFE AND HUM4N DIGNITY
20. Population policies and population programmes will undoubtedly emerge out of World Population Year and the World Population Conference. These policies and programmes must respect the rights of individual people and the family. There must he a respect for life and reverence for sex. There Must he firm support for marriage and family life which are prerequisites of a helathy society.
21. According to Catholic teaching the family is to be "fostered as a community of love." Its basis is the dignity and value of every human being, men and women alike. Parents co-operate with God in the continuing work of creation. This Meant; more than the giving of life to children. Parents must guide their children with love as they grow to maturity.
22. But a family does not live in isolation; it is part of the community. The society in which families must live can make demands which trouble the con,sciences of.parents bringing up a family. In certain parts of the world there are "disquieting problems arising from population increases.""
23. It is quite clear that
.ivernments have rights and duties when faced with population problems. This may involve the redistribution of population, sorne social and family legislation or the provision of information on the difficulties facing the community." This is within the competence of a Minister for Population and the United Nations.
The Vatican Council urged Catholics to be involved in such discussion and decisions.
"Since there is such deep concern about these problems today it is to be hoped that Catholic experts, especially in universities, will study them intelligently and on a larger scale."
24. This encouragement to examine problems and seek solutions does not permit solutions against the moral law. No government is justified in promoting, still less imposing, solutions which are an affront to human dignity and an unwarranted intrusion into family life. Specifically, the decision concerning the size of a family rests with the parents not with public authorities. There must be no compulsion, no undue pressure on poor nations or P°° r individuals to use methods of family planning which are not in accord with their religious beliefs and social customs. It is For parents to assess their moral and social duty in the light of their religious beliefs and the
circumstances within which they must bring up their family.
"They (the parents) should form a correct judgment by common reflections and effort, bearing in mind both their own good and that of the children born or expected. They will consider
. carefully the, conditions of the time and their own living conditions, material and spiritual, and they should take account of the good of the family community, of society as a whole and of the Church."
25. The task of parents is far from easy. They have to consider their duty to their own family and to the whole cornIn unity. Responsible parenthood m-cans much more than opting for a small or large family. Parents are parents of Almighty God in bringing new life into the world. That is, why they are called pro-creators. In so far as it depends upon them they should lovingly decide together on the number of children they are able and willing to accept from God. Those parents who are not blessed with children should consider offering a home to children who have no loving parents to care for them.
In making their decisions about the number of their children Catholic parents will be guided by the teaching of the Church. The voice of the Church was heard at the Vatican Council (The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium'et Spes: The Church in the Modern World) and in the Encyclicals of modern Popes especially Pope Paul's Ilumanae Vitae (On Human Life).
26. In addition to considerations which affect the family as such, respect must be paid to individual citizens. No person must ever be the victim of unjust social pressure. No person must be labelled as -unwanted". The use of such a term means that the brotherhood of the community has broken down.
No innocent person may be killed by direct and deliberate action. Abortion (the killing of a child helot+ it is born) and infanticide (the killing of a child after it is horn) are morally wrong, as also is the killing of old and sick people. None of these actions may be used as a form of population control.
27. The problems of world population are problems affecting human dignity. The Church is rightly concerned about these issues which affect the quality of human like. The Church has a duty to offer moral guidance on these matters. In ahe past, war and disease have reduced the pop toofrellhyeonwosuricltd. clot ntisroilns.
cc:i use disease is being contained the number of people living in the world today is greater than ever before. Now the task is one of ensuring the dignity, the quality of life for all people. This task is formidable but it can be done. The situation is serious but manageable. A defeatist attitude questions the Providence of God and our God-given ability to work for a worthy solution. Pope John said: "A provident God grants suf' ficient means to the human race to find a dignified solution to the problems attendant upon the transmission of human life.'nla
ISSUED: March, 1974
' Recommendation of U.N. sponsored conference on Population Growth and Human Development, New Delhi. November. 1973.
September 9th, 1954.
' Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI: Populorum l'rogressio pant. 15.
▪ Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul 1,1:
Popriiorum Proeressio para. 37. • U.N. Lcononiic and Social Council. Population Coinmission. 2 1st September, 1971.
• Report of the Fed nil Institute For Popillmior Research. August. 1973, • Registrar General's Quarterly Return No. 497. First Quart_ 1973_
• P. Matthias. Professor of Economic History. Oxford, writing on World Population Year, Ohscrver. December. 1973
' indian Clovernment Statistics Department: Statement for India Second Asian Population Conference. November. 1972.
' Pawlev, Director of fi,.A.O.'s Policy Divisiein, 141h April. 1971.
" The Catholic Bishops niectine at the 1471 international Synod in Rome. rora. 23.
" Encyclical Letter of Pope P:1111 VI' Populorum Progressio. para. 45.
Decree of Council: The Church in the Modern World. Gaudium Cl Spc, pera. 47.
'e Decree of V:ilictin Council: Thc Church Ill the Modern VVorld: Gaudium Ct Spec. para. 47.
" Id,. para. 147.
" Id., para. 117.
" Id,. mita 50. Encyclical 1 -otter of Pope John XX111 Mater et Magistra: para. 199.