Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

<% ballot="382895" ' Check nothing is broken broken = 0 if ballot = "" then broken = 1 end if set vt = Server.Createobject("mps.Vote") openresult = vt.Open("Vote", "sa", "") ' Created object? if IsObject(vt) = TRUE then ' Opened db? if openresult = True AND broken = 0 then ballotresult = vt.SetBallotName(ballot) ' read the vote votetotal=(vt.GetVoteCount(ballot, "yes")+vt.GetVoteCount(ballot, "no")) if votetotal <> 0 then ' there are votes in the database numberyes = vt.GetVoteCount(ballot, "yes") numberno = vt.GetVoteCount(ballot, "no") percentyes = Int((numberyes/votetotal)*100) percentno = 100 - percentyes ' fix graph so funny graph heights dont appear 'if percentyes = 0 then ' percentyes = 1 'end if 'if percentno = 0 then ' percentno = 1 'end if else ' summut went wrong frig it numberyes = 0 numberno = 0 percentyes = 50 percentno = 50 end if end if end if %> Friday, July 9, 1999 Published at 13:53 GMT

Is the Vatican wrong on population control?

The Vatican and its allies are superstitious throwbacks to the Dark Ages. What's so wrong about allowing people the knowledge and ability to control their fertility?
Simon Dresner, UK

The Vatican's track record on matters of morality is perfect for the past 2000 years. Perhaps we should listen to what they have to say on morality of birth control? Truth is not relative. It is eternal and unchanging.
Gregory Tereszczyk, USA

Just two of the comments Talking Point received, read more below.

Background ¦ Your reaction

The Background:

The UK International Development Secretary is accusing the Roman Catholic Church of trying to scupper international efforts to stabilise the world's population.

World Population
Clare Short, a Catholic, is outraged that the Vatican has made an alliance with strict Muslim nations opposed to contraception and sex education.

She says their behaviour threatens the Cairo Agreement made five years ago, which aimed to curb the growth in world population to around 10 billion people.

"The poor old Vatican has just got this wrong", said Ms Short.

It was thought that there was a consensus on the agreement reached in Cairo, but a small group led by Libya, Argentina and Sudan, and supported by the Vatican, now seeks to reopen the key issues of contraception, abortion and sex education.

However many Catholic countries, including the Republic of Ireland and Spain, have refused to endorse the Vatican's position.

Speaking at an international conference on world population, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said women in some countries were still missing out on education and the right to choose to get pregnant.

Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, also speaking at the conference, said: "Women are entitled to develop in an integral manner and to thus contribute to the national development."

Do you think the Vatican's stance is a threat to an already overcrowded planet, or are they merely staying true to their beliefs? Send us your views.

Background ¦ Your reaction

Your Reaction:

I'd rather listen to the advice of a woman with ten children, rather than to listen to a person who has no experience whatsoever of parenthood and its difficulties of rearing up children in good families.
Chua YM, Malaysia

No. Moral responsibility and sense of discipline is easy for those who can understand the use of Condoms! Only commerce benefits while we go on harping on for technical solutions!
Manoj, UK

I was educated Catholic. I found that Catholic family follow the Pope until they can NOT afford another child. Then they use contraception. The reality is thus that you end up guilty in any case. It is only a question of when you run out of money. The Pope's position is non-sense; and surreal.
Joe Phillips, USA

I think it is time Vatican to wake up to the reality of the real world. The masters in the Vatican have been living in world of their own, ignorant and impervious of the problems facing the world. Theology and beliefs are not going to save the world from being gradually destroyed from over population. Neither is it going to assist a commoner from feeding his family. If the Vatican gives all the wealth that it has amassed to the needy and the poor, then I suppose it has got a right to broadcast its views. I think if the Vatican does not recognise the problems in the world soon, it will become nothing more than a museum of theology.
Nimish Patel, UK

Religion is the no 1 cause of wars and death in this world so how can such organisations have any say on the morals of the people. Man invented gods to explain natural phenomenon, he then found that working for such gods gave him power and the religions have been developing that power base ever since. It is about time mankind removed the religious blinkers that have so long hindered its moral progress.
Ian Thomas, England

There are only so many resources, and frankly we don't need so many people. Let the Pope pay for the children's upkeep, he'll soon change his mind.
Mark Earls, UK

Why doesn't the Vatican preach to the rich nations of the world to distribute their wealth and give the poor nations a chance to equalise in income? Today having kids in the US involves totally different issues than in India or China. The Vatican should try to preach richer nations to become less greedy, rather then to preach everyone same formula.
Shilesh, USA

Contraception is illegal. Do God's will.
Geoff Ward, Australia

The Vatican has no intentions of ever condoning contraception. The debate is hopeless and is futile, forget it.
Paul Austin, Dubai

In response to Mr Joshi's (USA) comments, surely you're not suggesting the Vatican is a 'modern and progressive constitution'??!!!
Mr. Ravi Arora, UK

The Vatican has got it wrong - as usual. They don't seem to understand that more mouths to feed means less food in third world countries. Taken to extremes, this leads to famine and mass starvation. If the Vatican had to bear the entire cost of famine relief from its own coffers, then perhaps it wouldn't pontificate quite so much.
Michael Franks, UK

Whilst not a Catholic, I admire the Catholic Church on taking this stance. In an age of nominal Christianity (ridicule the church except at births marriages and deaths) and processed pre-packaged pick'n'mix designer religions of dubious background (scientology, paganism, wicca) it is nice to see someone standing proud and proclaiming their beliefs be they right or wrong. Personally I believe they are mistaken on this one, but at the end of the day belief is what it comes down to and truth is pretty subjective if you think about it.
Christopher, UK

Of course the Vatican is wrong and, as in some other matters, there is a great deal of hypocrisy in their position. The poor Catholics in S. America for instance are denied access to modern birth control methods while there rich fellow believers in the USA disregard the Vatican position with impunity.
Philip Wykes, USA

Religion have done enough harm to our development . . . it's time to open our eyes and open out mind and thoughts before its too late.
Saif M Aman, Bangladesh

The Vatican only cares about capitalising on the misery of millions. The greater the millions, the greater the misery, they win both ways. A REAL solution is needed NOW. I suggest a generous pay-out to those who opt out of fertility. This would be tax money well spent.
Robert, USA

There is a much simpler way of controlling population and that is to stipulate criteria to be fulfilled before allowing people to have children. A minimum income, a level of education and a stable heterosexual relationship is all that is required. This would stop the wrong people having children that turn into criminals at an early stage of their life.
Mike, UK

Why does the Vatican think that people having children they cannot afford to feed is the RIGHT things to do? Their birth control policies, or lack of, are seriously irresponsible - the world can't support its population as it is! They really should take a look around them at the misery over-population is causing. And realise that they might not have a world to populate in the not too distant future!
Agneis, Scotland

Of course the Vatican is wrong. It's wrong about most things. How can anybody trust a religion which has as one of its main doctrines that Idol worship is wrong, and then to ask it's followers to bow down before statues of who knows what saint or who else. I don't understand on what the Vatican's policy is based.
Ben Synnock, UK

It never ceases to amaze me how a bunch of guys living in luxury and celibacy can have the gall to give advice on child rearing *or* birth control. The RCC's stance on population control is, frankly, appalling.
Kalle Helenius, Finland

The institution's existence is dependent upon the existence and growth of its believers. Therefore the policy will not change until it starts losing followers due to these outdated views.
N Yates, UK

Okay, all religions out there, let's face facts. One - you don't need to add to your congregations, there are plenty of souls in your thrall already. Two - women die from having too many children too soon. Three - your God has provided you with many many options on how to plan how to bring His children into the world. So maybe He's trying to tell you something?
May Hardt, USA

No, it isn't wrong. The intent is not being looked at here. The intent is not to make people fertile, its to stress that sex is a holy union that is intended for bringing into existence another life. People are way too infatuated with sex these days. They aren't in the "dark ages," they are sticking to something they believe in. If there is nothing you believe in, nothing you think is True, then I feel sorry for you.
Brian, USA

Yes, it is very wrong of the Vatican and its un-savoury associates in the UN to try and deny education and choice from vulnerable people who need it.
Andrew Witham, UK

The Catholic Church has no relevance in modern life. Remove Catholic ideology and dogma, and you would free so many people from the trauma of 'Catholic Guilt'. More importantly, women would be regarded as equals in every respect, and once more be able to have control of their bodies. Whilst the Vatican, and the Islamic faith maintain their patriarchal discourse, women will never be freed from domination by men....I am a man by the way!!!
Nick Lynn, UK

I am appalled at the ill-informed nature of Clare Short's comments, certainly as they were reported on the BBC web site. The Vatican is a member of the community of nations - at least as much as organisations such as International Planned Parenthood Federation - and as such is perfectly entitled to make its contribution in diplomatic and "expert opinion" types of activity at UN Conferences. That Clare Short feels it necessary to launch an attack on the Vatican is a tremendous complement to the effectiveness with which the Vatican has been making its case...Can Clare Short come to terms with the fact that someone is putting a different point of view successfully? That after all is the essence of the idea of democracy!
Joseph Sowerby, UK

Right or wrong, you have to laugh at the Papacy's "distinctions" between 'natural' and 'unnatural' methods of birth control methods when the intent in both is exactly the same -- offspring-free sex! The same with divorce and annulment. Just Papal posturing and doublespeak.
Frank Giles, USA

A fundamental hallmark of any modern and progressive constitution is the unfettered right to exercise one's religious beliefs irrespective of their plausibility provided that they are sincerely expressed. The Vatican's stance has been widely documented but whether it should be followed lies solely with the individual.
Sunit K Joshi, USA

I find it unbelievable and distressing that in this day and age women's reproductive choice can still be impacted , and subject to criticism, by anachronistic institutions such as the catholic church that: i) does not allow women equal rights in its hierarchy; ii) over the centuries persecuted women and burned thousands of them as witches; iii) is not a democratically elected government body. Churches should not be allowed to influence the rights of millions of WOMEN, often condemning them to a life of reproductive slavery. It is high time to ignore institutions such as the Catholic and Islamic religions that promote the subjection of women to the control of men under the guise of "morality."
ML Beuchert, USA

The obvious bias against the Catholic church is very sad. What about other religious beliefs and views? Why don't we compare them? All the church is trying to say is that all human life is important. Are any of you complaining about your being here? Who are you to decide who can be here and who can't. How pompous are you?
Kim, USA

No, there aren't too many people in the world, just too many doing nothing.
In poor countries and also in rich ones, some people have around 9 children who grow up and live off aid. If every one in the world had a job and did their 'bit' we'd have a great world.
Watto, UK

Population is a problem for every person living in this world. While some understand the downside of this problen, others are either ignorant or could not care less. Illiteracy and poverty go hand in hand.

We sometimes see it as industrialised and non-industrialised issue or East/West problem. It is not. Why should we keep blaming the United States for reducing their contribution, or for that matter the food muontains of EC countries?. People must take some responsibility.

The Vatican policy, the attitude of Muslim countries and the political will of many governments needs to be changed.

I was born in India where we have all the regulations available on the books but they are not seriously implemented. This is the state of affairs be it health, education or population.

You need to go to villages in Bihar where hundreds of children wander around with no future. Where is the government's policy? The West must make these countries aware of the problems since the behaviour of the people depends upon the government of the day.

The time for punitive measures has come and stop blaming West for all their shortcomings.
Dr. Lakhinder Bhatia, India

People around the world should be allowed to make their own informed decisions regarding birth control. The decision should not be made for them by an aged virgin in Rome.
Robert Elson, USA

Over population is a serious concern and people must have the ability to control their own fertility.
George C. Best, USA

It is ironic that the Pope, presiding over one of the richest countries in the world (Vatican City) continues to condemn millions of poor people in third world countries, to a life of continual childbearing with resultant poverty. That is just one reason why I am no longer a catholic.
John West, UK

The Vatican is being faithful to the teachings of God. It is God who Opens and closes the Womb, as much as we would like to believe we are in control. Jesus loves all his children. They are all precious in His sight.
Pamela Russell, USA

Over population is a major concern. Also many women in (Catholic) third world countries, who have 11 children by the time they are 30, are crying out for access to the pill or similar. I don't see the point of a child being born only to die from hunger or illness before they reach their tenth birthday. Would it not make more sense for these women to have the choice as to how many children they have. Given the countries are so poor, two, three or four children would have a much better chance of survival (as in food, water, medicine, education, jobs etc) than eleven children. Also mothers would be living longer as they would not be so "worn" out. I have read a number of articles, where the mother has died at the age of 30, after giving birth to many children. The children are then forced into prostitution or stealing, which leads to jail, drug dependency and death. All this seems so very cruel just to satisfy the catholic church's views.
Jill, Australia

The Vatican is the last bastion against the agents of death. We are now living in a country that won't defend its young ... mothers go against their very nature and kill their children yet we admire mothers in the animal world. We are cannibalising and using other defenceless human beings in horrific experiments and no one speaks out. Shame on us and God bless those countries who won't buckle to the business people who support population control.
Mary Cuddy, USA

People who choose not to have children do so for many reasons. However, there are some people who, having suffered physically abusive childhood's do not wish to repeat the same abuse onto their children. Why is it that some-one who has no children because they do not wish to harm a child, is seen as selfish but someone who has children but who physically emotionally, or verbally abuses them is seen as a better person. How many people are there who have suffered abusive childhood's and turn to drugs, or who vent there rage onto society and we all suffer for it. Many people do not have the temperament or ability to raise children.
Susannah, Australia

The Vatican wants to deny the choice of contraceptive method to those who want it. This is apparently for reasons of morality. That's fine with me - as long as they follow that morality through and donate all of their vast and unnecessary wealth to support the children born into poverty as a result. Now how likely is that?
Paul Anderson, UK

Those of your correspondents who argue that poverty is not caused by over-population are simply wrong. Of course other things contribute to thrid world poverty - unequal distribution of wealth, overconsumption by the west and so on. But recognition of these ills is no reason to deny that fertility control is a prerequisite before other things can be tackled.
Leslie, UK

Religious values are laid down by the diety, not by what is currently politically correct. The Catholic church is being consistent with its beliefs, it is the critics of these beliefs and actions who are wrong.
Richard T Ketchum, USA

I find it astonishing to be continually lectured by "progressives" and liberals about sexism, racism, homophobia et al, only then to hear these same persons rant on about population and the "need" for abortion and contraception. Anyone who will honestly study the question will find that population control is a political tool that the developed countries seek to wield against the undeveloped in the name of developed standards of living and the contemporary economic order. That is a shame. When will our progressive brothers and sisters put their money where their mouths are and defend not only the fashionable or the convenient but the truly oppressed, needy, and forsaken? People are our greatest resource. Why don't we exert ourselves to develop, promote, and benefit as as great community from this gift of human life? What higher priority could we ever have?
Ken Hendrickson, USA

Yes the Vatican is staying true to its beliefs. Their stance on this issue is entirely consistent with their previous positions. The one thing that you can rely on the Vatican to be is consistent. They are consistently archaic on every issue. They consistently misjudge public needs and expectations. They consistently cover up all the corruption and scandal that has been the bedrock of Vatican life since it's inception. They consistently preach bigotry, intolerance and sex discrimination. And they consistently put their own self-importance and retention of power before absolutely everything else.
Graeme Foster, England

The term "playing God" is most annoying because it is used to counter people's natural desire to be self-determining. Most humans of most cultures tend to agree on basic moral issues. We no longer need the church to be the administrator of morality. I know that it is wrong to kill and did not need a religious youth to teach me this. The church plays the oldest game of warfare known, outbreed the opposition. Islam has it's Mecca nodding and Catholics have their guilt. I have both of them as my neighbours and I have technology, education, a strong moral core, compassion and humility, and I think we need to manage the population because of it's total dependence on a very very fragile world, no matter how it was created.
Mike Staley, Hong Kong

We think that the Vatican has no rights to tell women what is right or wrong. For every woman her body is a private matter.
Monika, Inga, & Kathi, Germany

Of course the Vatican is wrong about birth control. It's wrong about everything, else, why should contraception be any exception? However, the whole argument is flawed as it assumes birth control regulates human population. Wrong - paradoxically contraception mainly enables people to decide when they tend to have children. The main factors related to the number of children individuals have is offspring survival. Richer people's children have a higher chance of survival and people have less of them.
Derek Dunn, UK

I'm siding with the Vatican on this one: Who should decide how many children I have -- me and my wife or a government agency? Who should decide how I educate my children -- me and my wife or a government agency? Quite simply, in this case, the Vatican plan stands for personal liberty; whereas, the UN plan is only a short step from totalitarian-like government control. A lot of people may hate to admit it, but, whether you like the Vatican or not, they got this one right.
Dave, USA

The Vatican's inhumane refusal to permit artificial birth control increases poverty misery and overpopulation. Forbidding condoms furthers the spread of diseases incl. Aids. The Vatican should lose its special status at the UN for taking such positions, and for trying to prevent ethnic Albanian women raped by soldiers in Kosovo from receiving emergency contraception.
National Secular Society, UK

It is a woman's body and a woman's right to choose. The Pope and his Church are living in the past if they think they can dictate to today's women how to live their lives.
Mary Urdarar, USA

While the church does tend to be archaic in its views on this situation I find a lot of peoples stances on this issue laughable. The people who seem so irate at the church's stance seem to be Westerners from 1st world countries (USA, UK etc) where population growth is levelling off / decreasing in some cases. And they are irate that the church is telling them that they don't have the right to curb the population of countries with a high growth rate (usually 3rd world countries). Get off your high horse folks. While I appreciate the need for birth control it's solely an issue for the countries with the problem.
Matt, Ireland

If beliefs, however deeply held, fly in the face of established fact then those beliefs should be abandoned. If a rule of morality is counterproductive then it is immoral.
Peter, The Netherlands

Claire Short's outrage is over the Vatican allying itself with countries that are against population control. That may or may not be legitimate. However, there does not seem to be any problem with the basic Vatican approach to contraception. They have a set of beliefs which do not oppose contraception. The argument is over the methods that are used for contraception. There seems to be no inconsistency with their position and the requirement to aim for population control.
G Krishnamurthy, India

Church leaders sit in Rome and do not need to see the consequences of their policies. I live in Africa and see it every day. Population growth is out of control and must change.
Ute Norman, Togo

It will be suicidal to ignore the regional disparities in population. If we allow the current trend to grow it will lead to unimaginable consequences. Possibly wars to wrest land from less dense countries. The Vatican should also look at such ethical issues and not just anachronistic dogmas.
Shashank Mohan, Singapore

Final Votes:


> >
Yes: <% =percentyes %>% No: <% =percentno %>%

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Relevant Stories

01 Jul 99 | UK Politics
Vatican gets Short shrift

01 Jul 99 | World population
Population: Why we should worry

30 Jun 99 | World population
Vatican is family planning stumbling block

Internet Links

The Vatican

Department for International Development

UN Population Information Network

Catholics for a Free Choice

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Live Talking Points

Orissa cyclone: Is enough being done?

Is Russia's action in Chechnya justified?

Should motorists face city tolls?

Should Ian Brady be force-fed?

How would you end the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Should embryo testing be restricted?