Pope Francis was surprised and saddened that his words on responsible parenthood were misunderstood by some people.
The concept of “responsible parenthood” appeared for the first time in the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes , no. 50. Later, it was explained in depth by Blessed Paul VI (whom Pope Francis praised at Mall of Asia) in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. The Philippine government, however, has distorted its meaning and introduced the phrase “Responsible Parenthood” in the title of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill. The main purpose of the bill is to enable couples to limit family size based on their means of livelihood by giving them the right to choose the birth control methods they want, including artificial birth control drugs and devices.
For Catholics, responsible parenthood means that when married couples engage in sex, they must be open to life. Should they decide to postpone or avoid birth for an indefinite time, there must be well-grounded reasons for choosing so. In spacing births, they may take advantage of the natural family planning methods – engaging in sex only during those times that are infertile. This will require dialogue, respect and self-control. The use of contraception, however, is immoral. In fact, the Church uses a very strong term, describing all forms of contraception as “intrinsically evil.” (CCC 2370) Contraception is every action that impedes the union of egg and sperm before, during, or after sexual intercourse. Examples are condom, spermicidal jelly, pill, ligation, vasectomy, and withdrawal.
Responsible parenthood is not to keep on having children. Rather, it means having more children if God sends them. Married couples need to be open to His will. Saying “Yes” to the possibility of children is actually saying “Yes” to God Himself, the author of sex, the Creator of life. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “The child is the beauty of God present in the world, the greatest gift to a family.”
(Reference: Faith Seeking Understanding Volume 2: “Marriage and the Family” by Fr. Charles Belmonte; Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae by Blessed Pope Paul VI; Familiaris Consortio by St. John Paul II; Catechism of the Catholic Church; “Pope Francis surprised by misunderstanding of his words on family” CNA/EWTN News Jan. 24, 2015; “A Law Each Day (Keeps Trouble Away)” by Jose Sison, The Philippine Star January 26, 2015; Mother Teresa by Susan Conroy)