ROME, June 26, 2013 ( – The first motivation for Pope John Paul to produce the landmark encyclical Evangelium Vitae, was a scholarly paper revealing the extent and brutality of the global population control movement. Evangelium Vitae was intended by Pope John Paul as a weapon against the international population control movement, “to oppose the economically stronger nations and powerful international lobbies.”

In an extensive interview with Lorenzo Schoepflin at the Rome-based newspaper Il Foglio, Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, the now-retired head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has described the history of the one of the most important intellectual tools of the global pro-life movement. Sgreccia assisted Pope John Paul II in every step of the encyclical’s preparation.

Having been known as a strong opponent of Communism, the pope was now standing against the Western democracies that were moving towards dictatorship, “because when you split love and life, life and with it the man himself become the object of domination,” said the cardinal.


Sgreccia said that in Evangelium Vitae, “Pope John Paul II has codified absolute and irreformable moral principles, the heritage of the ancient tradition of the Church. We must not forget that the condemnation of abortion is done, and I quote, ‘with the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the bishops’.” This places it at the highest level of doctrinal authority, to be accepted and affirmed by all who want to call themselves Catholic.

Asked whether it is still in force under the new pope, Sgreccia said, “The media, not without reductionism of various types, likes to describe the movement from Pope Benedict XVI to Bergoglio as a transition from a ‘doctrinal pope’ to a ‘pastoral pope’.

“But this cannot in any way constitute a door to possible discontinuities of these basic materials. Let us remember that Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, once said that ‘abortar es matar,’ abortion is murder. That is what is stated in the encyclical.”

Sgreccia, was described by Italian jurist Francesco D’Agostino as “the greatest Catholic bioethicist” and the scholar who embodies in the most accurate, consistent and systematic official positions of the Church today in the field of bioethics. His two-volume “Manual of Bioethics,” is thought to be the authoritative guide to Church positions in the field. In his 80s, he continues to write and was named Honorary President of the National Bioethics Committee, of which he is a founding member. He is currently working on the sixth volume of the “Encyclopedia of bioethics and legal science”.

Sgreccia noted that internal dissent from the Church’s teaching on life issues, even at the highest levels of the Church, is a longstanding problem. “We all know the initial dissent which met Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI [on artificial contraception] and then the silence that fell on the encyclical.”

“For Evangelium Vitae that did not happen,” he said. But there has been a similar problem within the clergy, whom he addressed directly: “Often you do not know bioethics and you consider its arguments too specialized, and do not always take into account the domain that modern science has on human life.”

In the 90s Sgreccia discovered first hand the true extent of the ruthlessness and brutality of the international population control movement. At a conference in a hospital in Mexico City, while giving a paper on the ethics of sterilization, he said, “While I was speaking of the distinction between therapeutic sterilization and contraceptive sterilization, the [doctors] told me that they had received orders to close the fallopian tubes of one in five women, even without their consent.”

This order, he was told, had come from a “pact” between the national government and the World Bank, as a condition of Mexico receiving international economic aid.

“Even in Italy,” he said, “parties were funding anti-life policies and cultural centers to spread these kinds of ideas. And the rich West, though they do not need to limit births, had to lead by example: the fewer children the better.”

The impulse to control global population came after the Second World War, he said, based on the now discredited theories of Thomas Malthus about the “balance” of global food and natural resources. “After every war we witness a boom in population growth, which is then followed by a natural adjustment. Nevertheless, the world powers were concerned for the balance of the planet and set in motion the birth control using contraception, sterilization and abortion.”

The paper, “Abortion and Politics,” that had alarmed the pope was by Belgian political philospher Michel Schooyans and described the extent and origins of the international population control movement, and their tactics.

After reading Schooyans’ book, John Paul convened a series of meetings with international leaders to find out the real extent of the movement. “The Pope wanted to know how many abortions there were worldwide. I found in the library of the Catholic University the proceedings of a conference of the International Society of Forensic Medicine, which provided data still considered valid: between 45 and 50 million per year of registered abortions,” Sgreccia said.

The encyclical grew out of a meeting of key curial cardinals; “The cardinals themselves asked for a document of the highest authority, that is, an encyclical… to speak out about the seriousness of abortion and decisively assert the identity of the unborn.” The encyclical went through three drafts and was then put aside for three years. In the meantime, Pope John Paul established the Pontifical Academy for Life, a consultory body that would examine bioethical issues and offer information and advice to the pope.

Sgreccia particularly addressed the notorious problem of the “lesser evil” argument that has been used by politicians to justify passing laws that condone or allow abortion. The Encyclical specifically addresses this in the famous section 73, which many have used as an excuse to support permissive legislation. Sgreccia was clear that this was an improper use of the encyclical, and not the intention of the pope.

Section 73 starts by stating, “Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize.” It goes on to identify “a particular problem of conscience” in the case of a legislative vote on “a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on”.

It instructs politicians, saying, “when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality.

“This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.”

Sgreccia commented that “not all theologians agreed” with the inclusion of this passage. So the pope clarified, “that it was not here to approve a lesser evil, but to limit damage produced by others”.

Pope John Paul, Sgreccia said, “Believed strongly in the ability of such a text to stop the mad rush of the world towards population control, driven by international authorities.” And yet, he added, it has not stopped. “The cultural influence of the Magisterium in this area was silenced.”

And so the damage continues to grow as more and more people are eliminated from the drama of human life. Sgreccia cited the work of Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker who has said that “the lack of human capital” is a serious injury that creates poverty. “Fewer men does not mean more resources are available,” he said, “as erroneously assumed by Malthus. And to repair that damage takes periods of time that are measured in generations.”

In a time of a “suffocating” and apparently insoluble economic crisis, Sgreccia noted, “Evangelium vitae reveals itself in many ways, prophetic”. The crisis, he said, has served as a shock that has in some cases awakened conscience. He quoted Benedict XVI saying in Caritas in Veritate that “openness to life is at the center of true development,” highlighting the “unbreakable bond” between socio-economic issues and anthropological and bioethical issues.

“The Church is the critical conscience of humanity,” he said, “and often plays a prophetic role. Man must touch bottom to go back, but history teaches us that there are regrets, albeit late, which bring him back on track. This time it was the economic crisis, the rude awakening” Cardinal Sgreccia said.