AP 06/18 16:34 EDT V0273 1994 The Associated Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- For the second time in a week, the Vatican has warned against concluding the Roman Catholic Church might change its stance on controlling population growth, including its adamant opposition to abortion and contraceptives.
Speculation that Pope John Paul II might modify his position was sparked by a June 10 report by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which warned against unchecked population growth.
Population questions are on the pope's agenda going into a U.N.-sponsored conference to be held in Cairo, Egypt, in September. He fears the conference on population growth might encourage the use of contraceptives and support abortion.
The Vatican strongly reaffirmed its teachings in a nine-page statement written by the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family and released Saturday by the press office.
The speculation that the Church could change its doctrine on the basis of the scientists' report "is the fruit of a superficial reading, or perhaps represents, on the part of some commentators, an attempt to weaken the position of the Holy See in the international arena by means of self-serving and misleading information," wrote the secretary, Elio Sgreccia, an Italian bishop.
The attack on the media was much sharper than the Vatican's first attempt to distance itself from the report. A commentary June 11 by the Holy See's radio network accused some news media of fueling "confusion" about the Vatican's stand on population issues.
The Vatican says the scientific advisory panel includes non-Catholics and functions only to provide reliable, updated data. The June 10 report offered no specific recommendations on how to limit population growth and did not contradict Roman Catholic teachings condemning abortion and the use of artificial birth control.
One element in the report that led some to wonder whether the Church might change its stance was a mention of a statistical average of 2.3 children per couple needed to sustain population at present levels.
Sgreccia said this average cannot be applied to individual couples. "One must take into account childless people who die and are replaced by births, not to mention the ethical considerations, for which no one can impose a fixed number of children on a family," the bishop wrote.