It’s been a little over 24 hours since I woke up to Facebook hopping (pun unintended) because of a remark the Pope made on the plane to Rome from Manila, where he spent four days with the Filipino people, celebrating, teaching, loving.

Many are upset because once again, the Pope said something that just *hit* them the wrong way.

I am a Filipina who came to the US when I was 18. I’ve lived here, got married, had kids and raised them for the next 28. Today I also work with a pro-life group in the Philippines. The entire transcript is a must read if one wants to fully understand, but I ask that you not stop there. Please consider reading the transcripts from his four days in Manila. The Pope’s rabbit remark has to be evaluated not just within the context of everything he said on that plane, but ALL the teaching he did in the third world last week. I am hoping that today’s clarification helps.

In a nutshell, and because I tend to ramble on, he’s basically teaching BALANCE. In Manila he taught a lot about being open to life, about GENEROSITY. Prompted by further quetions on the plane, he continued the lesson, this time highlighting RESPONSIBILITY. These two go hand in hand. His words on the plane did not cancel out what he said in Manila, as some claim. On the contrary, they are but parts of a whole. But there are farther nuances I’d like to point out if I may.

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He came to the Philippines to be with the poor. While there he addressed corruption, the cause of so much suffering there, as opposed to the liberal anti-life mantra of overpopulation. He spoke against foreign ideologies, many of which are funded and exported by us US taxpayers. Instead of helping them with the basics like food, clothing, shelter, education that uplifts them and upholds their dignity — we give them instead contraception, abortion, pornography, and contribute to their corruption. Pope Francis described this ideological colonization as insidious. The colonizers of old may have used guns and swords to conquer other lands. Today they use books, movies, music, social media, to conquer hearts, minds, souls. In addition, programs brought in by population controllers and eugenicists do irreparable harm.

In that same homily, he reiterated the Church’s teachings on the value of human life. During his trip he also traveled to see the victims of Yolanda, and spent time with the youth, many of whom experience suffering as a daily reality. (The rest of the transcripts are at Salt and Light TV.)

When he got on that plane, it’s reasonable to assume that his mind was still on the people he encountered. I’d like to propose that his words on RESPONSIBILITY AND GENEROSITY cover so much more than what appears on the surface:

He was calling pastors to shepherd their flock well, to catechize better. In the Philippines, many are cultural Catholics. They live the faith, but have little understanding of the Church’s basic teachings, especially Her teachings about sex. Many men still think it is their right to have on-demand sex and many women still think they are obligated to comply. Yes, this is partly a failure on the part of the clergy. The Pope is saying they need to teach more effectively; their flock need to listen and understand better. It is a pressing need and Pope Francis addressed it, for which I thank him.

Each person with his pastor seeks how to do that responsible parenthood.

When the Pope talked about responsibility, however, he was addressing not the first-world mother who has access to modern hospitals and well-trained doctors and the newest technology. A woman having an 8th caesarean section in the US is different from a woman having an 8th child in a third world country, caesarean or not. Here in the US, we have 911; they don’t. Here we have a medical team, in the Philippines you’re lucky if you can afford to go to a private hospital. Midwives there are not the same as midwives here. The Philippine maternal mortality rate has improved, but it is not the same as first world numbers.

Please don’t get me wrong, as the mom of 5 who has a lot of mom friends, many of whom live heroic lives of sacrifice, I do have some sense of the confusion or, as one commenter put it, devastation, that some of them felt when they heard the phrase. I have great compassion for them who have been so generous with their lives and with their bodies; and it’s not about the number of children anyway. That’s not the point and never was. Church teaching is clear that it’s a prudential decision left to husband and wife, and that’s beyond the purview of even us pro-lifers. But while those of us who have more than “the experts’ ‘required’” 2.1 kids sit here, tweeting, Facebooking or blogging away, getting our voices heard, what about the moms who don’t even have access to a computer or even a phone, much less good medical care? What about their voices?

Pope Francis was talking to the parents about being responsible because each child needs a mother and a father. In the first world, a mother’s chance of surviving childbirth is higher than it is in the third world. A child losing a parent in the first world, while he/she would not be any less devastated emotionally, would almost certainly have better access to material support and resources than his or her third world counterpart. We may have homeless and jobless people here, but in poverty-stricken Philippines, if a mother is lost, where do the orphans end up? If not in orphanages such as the one Pope Francis visited, they end up in the streets, begging for their food, or prostituting themselves. Trafficking is a huge problem, and it is directly related to poverty. The Philippines is easy prey for those who believe contraception and abortion to be the answer to these ills.

Understanding what responsible parenthood is about and getting access to what Pope Francis refers to as licit ways to plan the family aren’t the same either. NFP instructors have a hard time promoting NFP because those “insidious programs” that Pope Francis talked about refuse to give it priority or simply pay them lip service. The recently passed RH Law, for instance, mandates that people get access to whatever contraceptive method they choose. Millions are budgeted for artificial birth control, with subsidy coming in from outside sources; zero for the Church-approved NFP, which is left entirely to the laity to fund and promote.

NFP instructors have to deal with the “Pinoy macho image”. They hesitate to teach NFP outside of the Catechism *because* they need the Catechism to provide the backbone — there are places where the secular or scientific approach won’t be adequate or appropriate. Often the responsibility falls on the woman. And while that in itself isn’t a problem specific to the third world, the difference is that in the poorest areas of a third world country, men who don’t understand NFP and/or Church teaching fully end up raping their wives during the fertile period — this from a veteran NFP instructor. In the population controllers’ eyes, this is one more reason to accuse the Church of inefficiency and oppression, and one more excuse to promote aggressive anti-life measures.

I ask that you keep these in mind as you read the Pope’s words. All these are part of the whole, and when we take that whole apart and nitpick what is offensive to us, we not only turn a blind eye to those who are most in need of compassion, we undermine our own Church’s and our Pope’s ability to speak out on these issues that we may not fully understand but nevertheless exist. More than that, I am afraid that we also undermine our own efforts to reach those who see the Church’s teachings as archaic and oppressive, and to open their eyes to the truth.

Recommended Reading:
Breed Like Rabbits: The Pope and an Anti-Catholic Slur
Someone is getting lost in all this talk about Francis and rabbits
Pope Francis and Catholic Rabbits–5 Points to Consider
The Pope Said What about Rabbits? And I said Ee-I-ee-I-oh!
“Breeding like rabbits”, eh?
About the Pope’s “don’t be like rabbits” remark UPDATED