Highlights from the week online

Following the money on population control

At the Catholic News Agency, Kevin Jones argued that the Humanae Vitae controversy “cannot be understood” without its financial context. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, whose 50th anniversary falls on July 25, was opposed by a “well-funded advocacy network” which resented Pope Paul’s reaffirmation of Church teaching on contraception.

Many members in the network had a “neo-Malthusian” agenda of population control, according to the historian Simon Critchlow. For instance, the businessman Hugh Moore, a population control activist, responded to Paul VI’s encyclical by publishing full-page ads in the New York Times and other newspapers, organising petitions of priests, and sending bishops anti-Humanae Vitae material in three languages. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation arranged for Catholic leaders to meet senior figures in Planned Parenthood and the Population Council.

Politeness and the Spanish slavery debate

At the Christian website Mere Orthodoxy, Catherine Addington asked how we should engage in debate, and looked at an example from the mid 16th century. Two Spanish theologians, Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, argued over whether the Spanish could reasonably enslave the indigenous people of America.

Las Casas, himself a former slave-owner, campaigned passionately against slavery, controversially refusing the sacraments to slave-owners. Sepúlveda, who was close to the Spanish Crown, argued that the conquerors had “a perfect right” to rule the “barbarians”: after all, “there exists between the two as great a difference as … between apes and men”.

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