By Patrick B. Craine
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Kerala, July 1, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In an effort to encourage Catholics of their region to have more children, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) is encouraging medical interventions such as reversing tubal ligations and remedying infertility.
After visits to Kerala in the summer of 2006, LifeSiteNews (LSN) reported that, while the Catholic Church there is vibrant with a tradition of forthright public expressions of faith, the birthrate of Catholics has dropped below replacement level, and the Church is dwindling .
Fr. Antony Thamby Thaikkoottathil, Vice Chancellor of the Cochin Diocese, told LSN that when he was in seminary 15 years before, there were 900 other seminarians, but that as of the 2006 report, there were only 300. He said he was concerned that the Faith would dry up within 20 years due to the lack of children among Catholics.
The Bishops’ current move is part of a series of initiatives undertaken to address the population problem. In August 2006, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil issued a pastoral letter urging the faithful to have more children, and in 2008 the Bishops opposed a state family planning bill that would penalize families for having a third child.
Additionally, in the summer of 2006, LSN Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen was invited to Kerala to make a series of retreat talks where he shared the Church’s teaching on openness to life. While there, he was able to reach approximately 10,000 retreatants with the pro-life message.
Regarding the current efforts, ExpressIndia.com reports that Fr Jose Kottayil, secretary to the KCBC Commission for Family, stated that the Church wants families with sufficient economic means to have more than two children.
Further, “the church will extend support to women who want to undergo reversal of tubectomy or recanalisation,” he said. “For this, the church will work out cost-effective packages in the hospitals it runs.”
Fr. Kottayil said that after a campaign conducted in Kerala’s dioceses, many couples have already come forward for recanalization. The hospitals currently charge 40,000 rupees (approximately $800 U.S.), but, says Fr. Kottayil, “we want to bring down the cost below 10,000 rupees in church-run hospitals.”
The campaign seems to be working well, according to a doctor at a Catholic hospital in Kerala, as reported by ExpressIndia.com. “We are getting a good response for recanalisation,” he said. “The pro-life movement of the Catholic Church has prompted a section of the women to undergo the reversal process.”
The Kerala Bishops’ Council will be careful to ensure Church teaching is upheld in offering remedies for infertility, said Fr. Kottayil. “Addressing infertility will be a tightrope walk,” he said. “The issue has to be tackled from a Christian point of view. Medical interventions such as semen donation cannot be allowed as these would infringe upon moral teachings of the church. But we will try all possible means.”
In an interview with LSN LifeSiteNews Managing Director Steve Jalsevac who was also in India in 2006, Cardinal Varkey blamed the West for the encroachment of a contraceptive mentality in India. “Up to about 50 years ago, and myself I am from a family of 8 children, 12 children was very normal,” he said.
“Contraception became common because of the influence of loose Catholic doctrine coming from Western countries. So that thing has influenced the people and they won’t say it in confession because they say it’s ok because each one decides it in conscience. Nobody openly challenges Humanae Vitae but no priest also talks about it. So, it is not being discussed, but Pope John Paul said you must form your conscience according to the teaching of the church.”
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage: