Washington Post Faults Catholic Church Teaching for Filipino Poverty

The day after Pope Benedict XVI departed the U.S. after a six-day visit, Blaine Harden of the Washington Post lamented the Catholic Church’s influence in the Philippines, specifically, the government of Philippines "acceding to Catholic doctrine" by "supporting only what it calls ‘natural’ family planning," rejecting "modern contraception" as part of family planning." Throughout his article, titled "Birthrates Help Keep Filipinos in Poverty," Harden painted a bleak picture of "the fastest-growing segment of the Philippine population," which is "very poor people with large families," and sought to blame their poverty and backwardness on their following Catholic teaching, brushing aside corruption and other factors that contribute to poverty. A photo accompanying the article in the print-edition of the Post showed a poor Filipino mother in her shack with her four children, two of whom are naked.

Harden described the Church’s influence throughout the article, hinting that it had created a climate of fear in the country "An organization that is helping Espinoza [a poor Filipino woman who plans to get a contraceptive intrauterine device] agreed to introduce this reporter to her on condition that it not be named. The group’s health workers said they fear retaliation and harassment from officials in the national and city government, as well as from the Catholic Church." He immediately mentioned after this that in 2005, the "Catholic bishops in the southern Philippines announced that they would refuse Communion to government health workers who distributed birth control devices."

Later in the article, Harden compared the Philippines to another Southeast Asian country, Thailand, with regards to its population growth. "In 1970, the population of each country was about 36 million people and growing at about 3 percent a year. But with an aggressive family planning program that provides the poor with free contraceptives, Thailand has since reduced its population growth rate to 0.9 percent. In the Philippines, the rate has declined sluggishly to about 2.1 percent." In other words, Thailand’s population growth is at below replacement rate, and the Philippines is at the minimum replacement rate.

A graphic accompanying the article titled "Many Mouths to Feed," which described the Philippines as "an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country [which] has birth and poverty rates that are among the highest in Asia," put the comparison between the country and Thailand in even starker terms. One part of the graphic predicts that the population of the Philippines, which is currently at 91 million, will rise to just below 150 million by 2050. By comparison, Thailand’s population, currently at 65 million, is projected to flat-line during the same period.

The other part of the graphic showed that between 1970 and 2008, the Philippines had reduced its percentage of population below the national poverty line from 35% to 26%, and Thailand, during the same time period, had reduced it from 30% to 10%. Harden, pointing to Thailand’s apparent success, quoted Ernesto M. Pernia, a professor in economics at the University of the Philippines, who stated that "the evidence from across Asia is that good population policy by itself contributes to significant poverty reduction."

This doesn’t tell the entire story however. According to the UN’s own numbers, the total fertility rate had dropped significantly in the Philippines. In the period between 1970 and 1975, the average number of children Filipino women had stood at 6.00. Thirty years later, between 2000 and 2005, this had dropped to 3.54, a reduction of 41%. The UN projects that the total fertility rate will drop to an average 2.61 children per woman by the period between 2015 and 2020. Other factors will also undoubtedly impact the population growth of the Philippines, such as emigration (millions of Filipinos have emigrated to the Middle East, where their religious freedom isn’t respected).

In a January 2006 article, Joseph D’Agostino, formerly of Human Events and then working for the Population Research Institute, cited the same UN numbers and wrote that this dropping fertility rate, combined with the fact that "[i]nternational population controllers have targeted the Philippines," actually bodes a "coming demographic implosion" for the Philippines. According to D’Agostino, the country "will face the same graying population and lack of tax-paying workers that is beginning to crush Western Europe and Japan. Unlike the other two, the Philippines can't begin to afford financially such a situation." At the time of the article’s writing, the House of the Congress of the Philippines was considering a two-child policy for the country, similar to the one-child policy of China.

The article seemed to be prompted, at least partially, by the fact that the "[d]istribution of donated contraceptives in the [Filipino] government’s nationwide network of clinics ends this year, as does a contraception-commodities program paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development." He later reports that despite the impending end of this USAID program, the "USAID has increased its budget [spent in the Philippines] from about $12 million to about $15 million a year, to provide technical assistance to 700 local governments and ‘to help the private sector to grow the market’ for contraceptives." This means the U.S. taxpayers, millions of whom who are opposed to contraceptives, are paying for these contraceptive programs in the Philippines, not to mention other countries.

As a result of this, Harden pointed to a possible doom-and-gloom scenario for the Philippines. "The problems the poor face in finding contraception products will increase sharply this year as the Philippine government and USAID end the distribution of donated contraceptives, according to Suneeta Mukherjee, country representative for the U.N. Population Fund."

The same UN Population Fund has been involved in promoting abortion in Third World countries such as the Philippines, and, according to the pro-life organization Human Life International (which this author worked for in 2006), has "provided the funding, technical expertise and personnel that enabled the People’s Republic of China to begin its forced-abortion and population control program."

So the USAID and the UN Population Fund, two large bureaucratic outfits financed by Western nations, are actively working to promote the reduction in the number of non-white Chinese and Filipino people in the world. And Harden, by painting his bleak picture of the picture of Philippines, is advancing the cause of these organizations and their allies.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center