Catholics should not breed like rabbits and gender theory is a bit like the Hitler Youth. Yup, the Supreme Pontiff is giving another of his in-flight interviews and yet again he leaves everyone shaking their heads: ‘He said what?’
Now, let’s be clear. Francis reaffirmed Catholic teaching on birth control (sort of) while observing that ‘God gives you methods to be responsible. Some think that – excuse the word – that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No.’
I know what he means. I think. Contraception and family planning are fine so long as you don’t artificially block procreation. But the subliminal and unintended messages are (a) that Catholics have a reputation for breeding like rabbits and (b) birth control is OK, full stop.
Now, I won’t pretend that I’ve ever agreed with the Church on the wickedness of the pill, but better Catholics than me who observe Humanae Vitae to the letter will be dismayed. Because they know that the media will seize on this interview as evidence that Francis is softening Church teaching.
It’s a bit like his ‘Who am I to judge?’ comment regarding homosexuality. In context, you could argue that nothing had changed. But journalists filing to deadline aren’t into magisterial context and canon law, and so they settle for the easy option: ‘unprecedented’ signals from Rome that the Church is easing up on sexual matters. Which it isn’t, so far as I can tell, though cardinals do now feel free to shout at each other in public.
What is unprecedented is the sight of a Pope who, as soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off, jumps to his feet to improvise on the most delicate matters imaginable. He has the stream-of-consciousness manner of a standup comic, segueing from foreign aid to gender theory to the Hitler Youth in a matter of seconds – read the details here.
Like everyone else, I was impressed by the crowd of six million who assembled to hear Francis in the Philippines. But did it go to his head? The Vicar of Christ has (thanks to his own misjudgments) a gruesomely difficult Synod on the Family to run and rule on in October. At this rate it will all end in tears.
Meanwhile, I have this vision of an elderly Bavarian gentleman with his head in his hands, asking: ‘Lord, was this really what you wanted?’