Here is what Vatican panelist Peter Raven actually said:
We need at some point to have a limited number of people which is why Pope Francis and his three most recent predecessors have always argued that you should not have more children than you can bring up properly.”
Uh, yeah….that’s different. The previous story was that the pope had advocated population control for the sake of “sustainability.”
The truth is that Pope Francis and the last three popes have said: If you can’t bring up children right, don’t have children.
The idea is known as “responsible parenthood”; Pope St. John Paul II spoke about it here. It is the duty of parents, he says, to “to increase the family in accordance with the criteria of prudence.” A mother and father can decide to limit how many children they have “for serious reasons” and “with due respect to the moral law.”
This was Pope Paul VI’s teaching in Humanae Vitae. (Pope St. John Paul II was quoting from §10.)
As for what these “serious reasons” are, Gaudium et Spes 50 says: “The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God.” They must act with due reverence for divine law; but whether they are able to bring up more children than they have is a question they must discern for themselves.
Many were outraged when the pope said that Catholics should not feel they must “breed like rabbits” in order to be good Catholics. Some misquoted the pope as having commanded: “Don’t breed like rabbits.” But as I noted here, the pope’s remarks were made while discussing a woman who had had seven C-sections. Another pregnancy could put her life at risk; another pregnancy could leave her children without a mother. Responsible parenthood, the pope said, would try to avoid another pregnancy. (Through licit means, of course.)
So nothing the pope has said is in any way out of harmony with what the Church has already said.
See? I told you so.