Paul VI Was Right to Warn Against Contraception, Pope Francis Says

The Holy Father spoke to families gathered at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila during his visit to the Philippines.

Pope Francis speaks with reporters aboard the papal plane.
Pope Francis speaks with reporters aboard the papal plane. (photo: CNA/Alan Holdren)

MANILA, Philippines — Pope Francis took the opportunity during an address to families in the Philippines to praise Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical opposing contraception and affirming Church teaching on sexuality and human life.

The Pope spoke Friday to families gathered at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila during his Jan. 15-19 visit to the Philippines.

After discussing various threats to the family, including “a lack of openness to life,” he deviated briefly from his prepared remarks, transitioning from English to his native Spanish in order to speak from the heart about the subject.

“I think of Blessed Paul VI,” he said. “In a moment of that challenge of the growth of populations, he had the strength to defend openness to life.”

In 1968, Pope Paul VI released the encyclical Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth), which affirmed Catholic teaching on sexuality and the immorality of artificial contraception, predicting the negative consequences that would result from a cultural acceptance of birth control.

“He knew the difficulties that families experience, and that’s why, in his encyclical, he expressed compassion for particular cases. And he taught confessors to be particularly compassionate with particular cases,” Pope Francis said.

“But he went further. He looked to the peoples beyond [that time]. He saw the lack and the problem that it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous. He was a good pastor, and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching, and from the heavens he blesses us today.”

Pope Francis’ comments come in the wake of Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s signing of a highly controversial bill in 2013 that drew strong protest from local bishops and members of the faith.

The legislation requires government-sanctioned sex education for adults and middle-school and high-school students, as well as a populationc-ontrol program that includes fully subsidized contraceptives under government health insurance. The nation’s bishops spoke out strongly against the measure.

Elsewhere in Pope Francis’ address, he spoke about the threats to family posed by natural disasters, poverty, migration and a redefinition of marriage.

He called for “good and strong families to overcome these threats.”

“Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life, from conception to natural death,” he urged.

The Pope encouraged regular family prayer to hear and understand the will of God, as well as action to be prophetic witnesses in the world.

He deviated from the text of his remarks on several other occasions as well, speaking about his love for St. Joseph and the importance of dreaming within a family.

“When you lose this capacity to dream, you lose the capacity to love, and this energy to love is lost,” he said.

In addition, Pope Francis warned against an “ideological colonization” that does not originate with God but tries to destroy the family.

The Pope asked Christians to ask St. Joseph to intercede for the wisdom to identify and reject ideas and initiatives that are driven by these false ideologies and threaten the family.