There are some women who have had many children already and are afraid to tell their friends and relations that they are going to have another child They fear the criticism of those who think that, now 'the pill' has arrived, large families are old-fashioned Indeed, it can be difficult to bring up a large family in contemporary society. What would you say to us on the subject?
I bless parents who, joyfully accepting the mission that God entrusts to them, have many children. Moreover, I ask married couples not to block the well-springs of life and I invite them to have enough supernatural outlook and courage to bring up a large family, if it is God's will. When I praise large families, I do not refer to those which are the result of mere physiological relations. I refer to families founded on the practice of human virtues, which have a high regard for personal dignity and know that giving children to God consists not only of engendering their natural life but also undertaking the lengthy task of their upbringing. Giving of life comes first, but it is not everything.
There may be particular cases in which God's will, which shows itself in ordinary ways, is precisely that a family be small. Nevertheless, the theories that make birth control an ideal, or a universal or general duty, are criminal, anti-Christian and humanly degrading. To appeal to a presumed post-conciliar spirit opposed to large families would be to adulterate and pervert Christian doctrine. The Second Vatican Council has proclaimed that 'especially worthy of mention among the married people who fulfil the mission entrusted to them by God, are those who, with prudent mutual agreement, generously accept a more numerous offspring to educate worthily' (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 50). Moreover, Pope Paul VI, in an address on 12 February 1966, commented 'that the recently concluded Second Vatican Council should diffuse among Christian couples a spirit of generosity in order to increase the new People of God… that they should always remember that this expansion of God's kingdom and the possibilities of the Church's penetration among mankind in order to bring about eternal salvation and the salvation of the world are also entrusted to their generosity'.
The number is not in itself the decisive factor. The fact of having few or many children does not on its own make a family more or less Christian. What matters is the integrity and honesty with which married life is lived. True mutual love transcends the union of husband and wife and extends to its natural fruits — the children. Selfishness, on the contrary, sooner or later reduces love to a mere satisfaction of instinct and destroys the bond which unites parents and children. A child who suspects that he has come into the world against his parents' will, who feels he was born not of a pure love, but because of miscalculation or oversight, can hardly consider himself a good son — a true son — of his parents.
I was saying that, in itself, the number of children is not a decisive factor. Nevertheless, I see clearly that attacks on large families stem from a lack of Faith. They are the product of a social atmosphere which is incapable of understanding generosity, trying to conceal selfishness, and unmentionable practices under apparently altruistic motives. Paradoxically, the countries where most birth control propaganda is found, and which impose birth control on other countries, are the very ones which have attained a higher standard of living. Perhaps their economic and social arguments in favour of birth control could be taken more seriously if they led them to give away a sizeable part of their great wealth to those in need. Until then it will be hard not to think that the real motive behind their arguments is hedonism and ambition for political domination, for demographic neo-colonialism.
I am not unaware of the great problems facing humanity, nor of the actual difficulties which a particular family can confront I often think of this and my fatherly heart, which I have to have as a Christian and as a priest, is filled with compassion. Nevertheless, it is not lawful to look for the solution in this direction.