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Go forth and multiply, less often, says Catholic church.

Updated on February 3, 2016
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Contraception was at one time, considered "obscene" by the Roman Catholic church,” against the “natural laws of God” to go forth and multiply, often.

Before birth control was in widespread use thanks to the relentless work of Margaret Sanger, women around the world birthed babies without pause, some even squatting in the streets to deliver because they had no time to reach a doctor.

Poverty soaked families barely survived. Babies regularly died en utero, at birth or during early infancy. Mothers' bodies wilted from having too many children too close together. Many women dangerously aborted multiple pregnancies to spare their babies from a life of famine. Impoverished, sick and hopeless many weary mothers committed suicide.

And so I ask, which God sanctions such benevolent “natural laws?”

Of course today’s pragmatic Catholic largely ignores this arcane dictate.“They’re well aware of the Vatican’s pronouncements. They just prefer to plug their ears,” wrote Frank Bruni in his Op-Ed piece, “Be Fruitful, Not Bananas.”

Never mind that civilized societies insist women have the right to control if, when and how many babies, the fight to end poverty can’t co-exist with finger-wagging the use of contraception.

Sanctioning women as Godly baby-makers while poverty skyrockets around the globe is anything but holy. I'd bet unless Pope Francis, a sincere humble man of the people dedicated to eradicating poverty, lives in practiced denial, he knows the church is fallible and hypocritical on this issue.

Even as the Vatican sticks to ingrained contradictions the push back from followers is making inroads in the once unbudging doctrine. Reason, thank God, often outweighs obedience to nonsense.

Forgive me, Father,” she’d say time and again, in church after church, to confessor after confessor. “I use contraception,” writes Bruni about his mother.

She never met a priest who didn’t respond with some version of the following, and I’m paraphrasing with abandon:

“Of course you do. You’re sane. Ignore Rome. Forget about the pope. There’s La-La Land, and then there’s the real world, in which you are clearly living. Say three Hail Marys because it can never hurt, and be on your way.”

While Pope Francis isn’t quite ready to hand out condoms, like all sensitive issues that have confronted him to date, gays, divorce, he’s doesn’t sanctimoniously throw the rules in follower’s faces. While his more permissive language is popular and moving in the right direction, his words only temporarily placate us from the fact that nothing's changed at RC central.

“He’s not refashioning doctrine;” writes Bruni, “he’s reassessing the frequency and stridency with which it needs to be flung at people, especially when it contradicts their experience of the world and undercuts their connection to the faith and the church.

“He’s wildly practical,” said the Rev. James Keenan, a moral theologian at Boston College.

I wouldn’t go as far to say “wildly practical.” The Pope told reporters that Catholics needn’t feel compelled to breed “like rabbits,” which is wildly impractical family planning advice. His solution to follow God’s natural laws but not reduce women to involuntary motherhood or large families boils down to this removed-from-reality advice:

1) Rely on the highly unreliable rhythm method where women abstain from sex when she ovulates (and so “oops” is merely God’s will vs the woman's)

2) Abstain

I’ve yet to hear the church admit to one of the most humble of spiritual teachings, that while God is never out of step with the times, the human church as His/Her mouthpiece often is.

Rather than have to admit its failings, which Franco writes the church fears will open the flood gates to fallibility on other teachings, if the church would meet its followers where they stand in 2016 it might at least slow the mass exodus, and perhaps even reverse the alarming trend.

Fortunately no denomination is immune to the natural questioning each new generation insists. Most thinking Catholics know that following family planning advice from the celibate is like taking parenting advice from the childless, all theory and no practice.

If you don’t have any skin in the game, stay out of it.

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