Large Catholic Families – “like rabbits”?

Pope Francis speaks with journalists aboard the plane from Manila to Rome, Jan. 19, 2015.

Pope Francis speaks with journalists aboard the plane from Manila to Rome, Jan. 19, 2015.

Aboard the papal plane, Jan 19, 2015 / 03:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to journalists aboard the Jan. 19 flight from Manila to Rome concluding his Asian pilgrimage, Pope Francis discussed what he learned from Filipinos; his upcoming trip to Philadelphia and other US cities; how one can be a responsible parent without resorting to birth control; the colonization of gender ideology; and the possibility of a papal trip to Africa.

Further along the interview, Pope Francis is asked by journalist Christoph Schmidt:

“Holy Father, … My question: you have talked about the many children in the Philippines, about your joy because there are so many children, but according to some polls the majority of Filipinos think that the huge growth of Filipino population is one of the most important reasons for the enormous poverty in the country. A Filipino woman gives birth to an average of three children in her life, and the Catholic position concerning contraception seem to be one of the few question on which a big number of people in the Philippines do not agree with the Church. What do you think about that?”

Pope Francis:

“I think the number of three children per family that you mentioned – it makes me suffer- I think it is the number experts say is important to keep the population going. Three per couple. When this decreases, the other extreme happens, like what is happening in Italy. I have heard, I do not know if it is true, that in 2024 there will be no money to pay pensioners because of the fall in population. Therefore, the key word, to give you an answer, and the one the Church uses all the time, and I do too, is responsible parenthood. How do we do this? With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do carry out a responsible parenthood.
That example I mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is a an irresponsibility That woman might say ‘no, I trust in God.’ But, look, God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this. You did well to ask me this. …” The full transcript of the interview is here.


With no intention to misunderstand or to quote the Holy Father ‘out of context’, the very idea that Catholics parents, open to life and who chose to generously fulfill God’s ancient commandment to “increase and multiply” so faithfully, could in any way be compared to “rabbits” is extremely insulting to many of us. I come from a pretty large Catholic family myself; one of my grandfathers was one of nine children, and the other was one of 11. I have lots of aunts, uncles, children, siblings, nephews and cousins, etc., and it has always been a source of great joy to all of us. Large Catholic families are a vivid symbol of the outpouring of grace and love-of-life (all the more contrary in this current Western ‘culture of death’), for every child brought into the world has an immortal soul destined for Heaven.



The Large Family: From an address by Pope Pius XII to the Directors of the Associations for Large Families of Rome and Italy in January 20, 1958, exactly 57 years ago today!

“Large families are the most splendid flower-beds in the garden of the Church; happiness flowers in them and sanctity ripens in favorable soil. Every family group, even the smallest, was meant by God to be an oasis of spiritual peace. But there is a tremendous difference: where the number of children is not much more than one, that serene intimacy that gives value to life has a touch of melancholy or of pallor about it; it does not last as long, it may be more uncertain, it is often clouded by secret fears and remorse.”

Read the rest of the article at One Peter Five, by Brian Williams (liturgy guy).

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12 Responses to Large Catholic Families – “like rabbits”?

  1. Its pretty insulting to those he just visited, many of whom have large families.

  2. I will now have to tell my children to give most of them back as God has made a mistake.
    Will you, Holy Father, please help me to decide which ones we should give back.

    I always thought that children are a gift from God. I am wrong again it seems

  3. Ponder Anew says:

    Argh…I don’t know if the Holy Father is trying too hard to use language that the non-Catholic, or at least the average ‘low information’ Catholic can relate to, but I wish the Holy Father would cease these plane interviews. It never fails that he will use language that trumps traditional Catholic sensibilities. And the media is already squeezing all they can get from this comment based on the evening world news tonite.

  4. Giovanni A. Cattaneo says:

    Can we start calling him Francis the Mad, yet?

  5. kathleen says:

    Bringing children into the world is the greatest joy for both men and women within the sanctity of their marriage. The wonder of this miracle brings such a beautiful sense of fulfillment of God’s plan. It is really sad to see any slur, however unintentional, on such a gift from God… but when that is uttered by the Holy Father himself – well, words fail me!

    I wonder what St. Gianna Molla would have had to say of likening those who have large families to being “like rabbits” – (Edit: or “irresponsible”, like the woman who was expecting her eighth child by caesarian section!) Gianna herself was the tenth of 13 children, and gave her life for the life of her unborn child; this sacrifice, together with her “heroic virtue” and love of Christ, earned her an everlasting crown in Heaven. She is a wonderful role model for all lovers of life and large families.

  6. kathleen says:

    I’m happy to announce that Pope Francis has clarified😉 his comments by pronouncing at Wednesday’s General audience that:

    “I have heard it said that families with many children and the birth of many children are the among the causes of poverty. I think that is a simplistic opinion,” he said at his weekly general audience at the Vatican.
    The economic system, which had placed money at its center and created a “throw-away culture”, was the main cause of poverty, not large families, he said

  7. johnhenrycn says:

    Has a whole year passed by since Pope Francis made that off-the-cuff? Well, I won’t criticize his words “responsible parenthood”, and the molehill about people who breed like rabbits should – being charitable – not be turned into a mountain; but I’ve been thinking today about large families, having just finished a grueling settlement conference this evening in a case where the five youngest children of a devout Catholic widow were suing her eldest three children (she had eleven) and I’ve never seen such a vicious family squabble. I was representing one of the three older ones who thought it was a zinger of a legal argument to mention that one of the younger five had plugged their mother’s septic tank by flushing used condoms down the toilet – not to mention many other lesser offences such as fraud, sex with underage girls and theft. Anyway, settlement offers flew back and forth between the rooms where the two warring parties sat until your faithful correspondent was able to break the ice and lead the parties to the promised land of compromise by reminding them that the movie rights to their half-orthodox, half-cafeteria, but wholly dysfunctional Catholic family were likely very valuable and should be placed on the bargaining table. Case settled. Poetic licence, but true.

  8. kathleen says:

    A fascinating story, JH, with a great underlying moral….

    It is certainly a good and wonderful thing for married people to fulfill the God-given commandment “to increase and multiply”, but to make sure all their little ones make it home to Heaven one day, parents have a challenging responsibility in guiding their offspring on the right path, whilst warning them of the dangers to their immortal souls if they lose their way! Not an easy task in this day and age.

    Glad the case got “settled”, thanks to your timely words of wisdom.🙂

  9. johnhenrycn says:

    Hey, Kathleen: I was just having a bit of a lark, late at night. I do respect large families – especially Catholic ones – and I hope the next generation will rediscover the magnificent adventure of having them.

  10. Robert says:

    Right lets understand what the Our Father means and the Sacraments of marriage and the yes ordination. Gods Rights before the opinion of Man.
    Whose children? Mine says the Eternal Father!! My Children says Our Lady! Suffer the Little Children to come unto me and forbid them not (forbid means prevent includes Abortion/Birth Control).
    The Sacrament of Marriage and Gods blessing of fecundity that His Children increase until the Numbers of the saved are made up! The Spiritual Children of the priesthood and the religious (a fact deliberately played down).
    Nothing new under the Sun. In Moses time this Egyptian decree against the Israel male babies!
    Time to stand up for the Faith against the lukewarm. Who is Like Unto God?

  11. kathleen says:

    JH @ 22:24

    “I do respect large families – especially Catholic ones”

    I never doubted it for single moment, JH.😉

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