The Journal of
Social, Political and
Council for Social and Economic Studies
NSSM 200, the Vatican, and the World Population Explosion
Center for Research on Population and Security
On March 30, 1995, Pope John Paul II made public his encyclical letter entitled Evangelicum Vitae,which assailed both abortion and contraception, in the strongest terms, charging that they are crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize and condemned even democratic decisions which did not conform to his concept of what constituted morality. This encyclical was the most sweeping attack on measures designed to save planet earth from the impact of the ongoing population explosion currently taking place in the poorest countries of the world. If followed it would effectively condemn the planet to deforestation, desertification and eventual ecological disaster. Sadly, the fact is that even prior to this latest ruling, the Vatican had already blocked one of the most conscientious efforts to slow down the slide toward world-wide disaster which has been increasingly evident to informed observers for several decades: this was the Vatican's success in blocking an American policy decision to combat this threat which dated from Richard Nixon's presidency, but was never put into effect.
In 1992, President Richard M. Nixon reasserted his long-held belief that overpopulation gravely threatens world peace and stability. In his book, Seize the Moment (Simon & Schuster, 1992), he ranks assistance in population growth control as the most important effort the United States can undertake to promote peace and stability - and, thus, protect U.S. security. He goes on to say:
We must help break the link between spiraling population growth and poverty . . . Where they have been tried, family planning programs have largely worked. . . . Many pro-life advocates . . . contend that to condone abortion even implicitly is morally unconscionable. Their view is morally shortsighted . . . if we provide funds for birth control . . . we will prevent the conception of millions of babies who would be doomed to the devastation of poverty in the underdeveloped world.
President Nixon did not have the grim lessons of Somalia and Rwanda when he wrote this book. However, he undoubtedly foresaw disasters of this kind more than 25 years ago. From his first days in the Oval Office, he understood the grave dangers of high rates of population growth - more than any other president. He responded appropriately when he perceived that the American people and their way of life were gravely threatened.
In 1974, the President requested the authoritative interagency study that came to be known as "NSSM 200" - National Security Study Memorandum 200. In order to effectively examine the content and fate of NSSM 200, we need to backtrack a bit to "the Rockefeller Commission." In 1969, seven months into his first term, in a rare move for a president, Nixon delivered his Special Message to the Congress.(1)
The message set forth a far-reaching commitment to limiting population growth. It set in motion a broad range of government activities, both domestic and international. It called for creation of the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, of which John D. Rockefeller 3rd was named Chairman. Other government activities initiated by the message included: (1) Increased research on birth control methods of all kinds and on the sociology of population growth; (2) Expanded programs to train more people to work professionally in the population and family planning fields, both in this country and abroad; (3) Expanded research on the effects of population growth on our environment and on the world's food supply; and (4) Increased domestic family planning assistance, to provide effective family planning services for all Americans who want them but cannot afford them.
The Special Message concluded as follows:
In an equally rare move, Congress voted to endorse this Special Message.
Design for a Population Policy
In March, 1970, Congress created The Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, which completed its work in March 1972. The tasks assigned the Commission are described in the Preface of the Commission's final report:
The 24 member Rockefeller Commission and its staff conducted an extensive inquiry, enlisting many of the nation's leading scientists in more than 100 research projects and hearing more than 100 witnesses in public hearings. The data collected and analyzed made it possible, for the first time, to formulate a comprehensive U.S. population policy.
After 2 years of intensive study, the Commission made more than 70 recommendations. They included: passage of a Population Education Act to help school systems establish well-planned population education programs; extension of widespread sex education, especially through the schools; passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA); extension of contraception for all, including minors, at government expense if need be; provision of abortion for all who want it, at government expense if necessary; vastly expanded research in many areas related to population growth control; and, elimination of all employment of illegal aliens.2
Killing the Commission Report
1972 was a presidential election year and President Nixon was facing a difficult re-election bid, so when a delegation of the Commission presented the final report to him on May 5, 1972, six months before election, he sharply condemned its most important recommendations.(3) Why was he attempting to distance himself from the report that he had anticipated so earnestly? In the words of a Commission member, Congressman James Scheuer (D.-NY):
During the two years that followed, it became clear that there would be no further response to the Commission's recommendations. In May 1973, a group of pioneer population activists acknowledged this inaction and asked Ambassador Adolph Schmidt to speak with his friend, Commission Chairman John D. Rockefeller III. They met in June 1973, in New York City. Schmidt noted his own disappointment and that of his colleagues because no programs of any kind had been mounted as a result of the Commission's recommendations. What had gone wrong? Rockefeller responded: "The greatest difficulty has been the very active opposition by the Roman Catholic Church through its various agencies in the United States."(5)
The Rockefeller Commission's recommendations were not shaped to fit the political realities of the day.2 Rather, taken collectively, they constituted a detailed blueprint for a broad and sophisticated national population policy. None of the recommendations was ever implemented. To this day, unlike many countries, the U.S. has no population policy. It is shameful that the American people have been kept in the dark about this quite undemocratic and un-American intrusion by the Vatican. Surely, both Catholic and non-Catholic Americans would have strongly rejected such interference in the American democratic process had they been aware of it. Lay Catholic Americans desire the same number of children,(6) use contraceptives(7) and obtain abortions(8) in the same proportions as non-Catholics. They support school-based population and sex education(9) for their children, and advocate a halt to illegal immigration(10) into the U.S., in the same proportions as non-Catholic Americans. The quality of life for all Americans has been significantly diminished by this secret unconstitutional manipulation of American policy undertaken for the purposes of protecting papal interests.
Nixon's Next Bold Move
Despite the intense opposition of the Catholic hierarchy he encountered in the wake of the Rockefeller Commission, the President's assessment of the gravity of world overpopulation and his desire to deal with it remained unchanged. On April 24, 1974, in a forthright effort to contend with this crisis, Richard Nixon, in National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), directed that a comprehensive study be undertaken to determine the "Implications of World Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests."(11) Its findings promised to be momentous indeed.
I can only speculate, but the President surely must have been aware that this new study would meet with the same intense Vatican opposition as the earlier one. However, perhaps he felt that a definitive study of the national and global security implications of overpopulation, revealing that the very security of the United States was seriously threatened, would generate public demand for action to curb population growth. Hopefully, it would overcome the blocks mounted secretly by the Vatican. Why else would he have undertaken this new study, given his painful experience after the Rockefeller Commission?
In NSSM 200,11 National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, acting for the President, directed the Secretaries of Defense and Agriculture, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Deputy Secretary of State and the Administrator of the Agency for International Development (MD), to jointly undertake "a study of the impact of world population growth on U.S. security and overseas interests." This work was completed on December 10, 1974 and circulated to the designated Secretaries and Agency heads for their review and comments.(12)
Meanwhile, on August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford had succeeded to the presidency. Revisions and refinements of the study continued until July, 1975. On November 26, 1975, the 227-page report and its recommendations were endorsed by President Ford in National Security Decision Memorandum 314. Wrote the new National Security Advisor, Brent Scoweroft:
The blueprint for a global population policy adopted by the nations attending the 1974 UN world Population Conference in Bucharest, Romania.
President Ford, recognizing the gravity of the situation, asked the National Security Council (NSC) to take further action. Writes Seowcroft:
NSSM 200 was intended to be and became a broad and definitive interagency study of the threat of overpopulation to U.S. security. NSSM 200 details how and why world population growth gravely threatens U.S. and global security. It also provides a blueprint for the U.S. response to this burgeoning problem, reflecting the deep concern of those who produced the report. Because of the bold nature of the recommended initiatives, the authors recommended that the report remain classified for 5 years in order to provide time to educate the American public as to the necessity of these initiatives. The NSSM 200 report actually remained classified for 14 years.
Both the findings and recommendations are as relevant in 1995 as they were in 1975, but too numerous to list here in their entirety. To select a few:
The sense of near emergency is electric:
The World Population Plan of Action and the resolutions adopted by consensus of 137 nations at the August 1974 U.N. World Population Conference, though not ideal, provide an excellent framework for developing a worldwide system of population/family planning programs" [Executive Summary, page 19].
At the 1974 UN World Population Conference, only the Vatican opposed the Plan:
Suggested Goals and Plans
It is now all too clear how crucial U.S. leadership was..and is. The U.S. withdrew from this role shortly after the election of President Carter, just one year after the initiation of public policy based on the NSSM 200 report. Government initiatives for curtailment of population growth have been going downhill ever since.
Recommendation: That US agencies stress the importance of education of the next generation of parents, starting in elementary schools, toward a two-child family ideal. That AID stimulate specific efforts to develop means of educating children of elementary school age to the ideal of the two-child family ...[Page 159].
Despite the Helms Amendment passed by Congress, which clearly ruled out abortion assistance in U.S. foreign aid programs, there was a clear consensus that continued widespread use of abortion was vital to meeting/attaining the population stabilization objective:
-No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion [Page 182].
-Indeed, abortion, legal and illegal, now has become the most widespread fertility control method in use in the world today [Page 183].
-It would be unwise to restrict abortion research for the following reasons: 1) The persistent and ubiquitous nature of abortion. 2) Widespread lack of safe abortion techniques ... [Page 185].
An important goal in NSSM 200 dealt with leadership:
The report recommended spending whatever could reasonably be absorbed to achieve these goals:
Even after a country reduces fertility to the replacement level, the population continues to grow for another 70 years before stability is achieved. The study frankly dismissed the arguments that had been raised by the Vatican to counter efforts to reduce population growth. The position of the Roman Catholic Church on population growth centers on the need for economic development in Third World countries as a way to bring growth rates down - following the concept that as families ascend the economic ladder, they will choose to have fewer children. NSSM 200 takes an entirely different tack:
There is also even less cause for optimism on the rapidity of socio-economic progress that would generate rapid fertility reduction in the poor LDCs, than on the feasibility of extending family planning services to those in their populations who may wish to take advantage of them. ... But we can be certain of the desirable direction of change and can state as a plausible objective the target of achieving replacement fertility rates by the year 2000 [Page 99].
These statements manifestly rule out any accommodation to the Vatican on the issue of population growth control.
NSSM 200 Implementation Quickly Stymied
The Vatican moved swiftly to block implementation of NSSM 200 recommendations already approved by President Ford, for reasons to be discussed later. Absent were the activities one would expect if a concerted effort were underway to implement NSSM 200. By the time the report was circulated among the relevant Department Secretaries and Agency Heads on December 10, 1974, the Church had recognized that NSSM 200 could spell the doom of a powerful Papacy.
Within months, the Vatican was able to stop progress toward any implementation of NSSM 200. During 1976, Catholic activists worked diligently to undermine all such population growth control initiatives. Dr. R.T. Ravenholt, who directed the global population program of the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Department of State from 1966 to 1979, tells the story. On March 4, 1991, he addressed the Washington State Chapter of Zero Population Growth (ZPG) on "Pronatalist Zealotry and Population Pressure Conflicts: How Catholics Seized Control of U.S. Family Planning Program ."(16) He described some of these activities:
As in the case of the Rockefeller Commission Report, none of the recommendations of NSSM 200 was ever implemented. The study had identified a grave threat to U.S. and global security. It was a definitive analysis by the most powerful departments in our government - departments representing virtually all of our intelligence gathering capability. President Ford's approval of the policy recommendations of NSSM 200 in his Decision Memorandum 314 represented the high point of American political will to deal with the population problem. Then it plummeted.
Dire Predictions Coming True
The Rockefeller Commission Report and NSSM 200 are arguably the two most important documents on overpopulation ever written. Our country and the world would be very different today if the recommendations contained in these two documents had been implemented. For example, had illegal immigration been controlled and legal immigration adjusted to meet the needs of Americans in 1971, as called for in the Rockefeller Commission Report, the U.S. population would have peaked at 243 million in 2035. Instead, in 1992 our population stood at 255 million and will not peak until it reaches 383 million in 2050--assuming there was no more immigration after 1992.(17) The lives of all Americans will be significantly affected as we attempt to accommodate these additional 128 million people. And this number can explode if we do not deal with current tides of immigration.
In 1974, NSSM 200 predicted that growing scarcities of critical resources would lead to ever increasing dislocations and conflicts all over the globe which would diminish security for everyone, everywhere. The January 31, 1993 issue of The New York Times contains an op-ed piece by Thomas Homer-Dixon, entitled "Destruction and Death," which documents that the predictions of NSSM 200 are already coming true around the globe. This article examines case-studies of violent conflicts which are attributed to overpopulation by researchers from four continents: the migration of millions from Bangladesh to India, which led to brutal ethnic conflicts; the persistent conflict in the Philippines driven by desperate poverty resulting from overpopulation; severe shortages of ground water in the Jordan River basin which are leading to intensified conflict between Israelis and Palestinians; destruction of ecologically sensitive territories in South Africa, forcing a migration to violent urban squatter settlements; expanding populations in Senegal and Mauritania which have spurred violent conflict in the Senegal River Basin; similar factors which have stimulated the growth of the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas in Peru; the irreversible clear-cutting of forests and loss of soil which has led to violent social strife in Haiti, and which in turn has caused an exodus of boat people. There are many other examples.
Maurice King of the University of Leeds School of Medicine has studied extensively the collapse of Rwanda:
NSSM 200 predicted that the U.S. would find itself in wars like the recent Iraq-U.S. war, as regional powers invade their neighbors to secure resources needed to provide for their ever expanding populations - just as Iraq invaded Kuwait. It also predicted that the expense of U.S. involvement in these wars would far exceed the costs of worldwide population growth control.
The Threat to Papal Authority Worldwide
Why is the Catholic Church obliged to halt legalized abortion and contraception despite the strong wishes of Americans? When our government legalized contraception and abortion, it pitted U.S. civil authority the against authority of the pope in Rome. The Vatican demands supremacy over civil governments in matters of faith and morals, but our government has rejected this concept. As a result, Papal authority is undermined.
There are many Catholic countries in Latin America which have abortion rates 2 to 4 times as high as the U.S. rate. But the bishops ignore abortions there. Why? Because they are illegal abortions, not legal ones. They do not threaten Papal authority! Only legal abortions do, because their legalization establishes their morality. Thus, the bishops take no significant actions to halt abortions in Latin America.
In Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites(19), published by The University of California Press in 1980, Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Montreal, closely examines the sources of papal power. It is derived in significant part from papal authority. If the Pope's authority is diminished, papal power is diminished. However, some authority is derived from papal power and if papal power is diminished, then authority is undermined. The relationship is circular. Less authority means less power which means even less authority. With diminishing power, survival of the institution of the Roman Catholic Church in its present hierarchical form is gravely threatened. Thus, the very survival of the Vatican is threatened by programs to control population growth.(20)
In April, 1992, in a rare public admission of this threat, Cardinal John O'Connor of New York, delivering a major address to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, acknowledged,
This threat was recognized decades ago by the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control which met from 1964 until 1966. The Commission was created by Pope John XXIII but completed its work under Pope Paul IV. According to Commission member Thomas Burch, Pope Paul himself assigned the Commission the task of finding a way to modify the Church's position on birth control without destroying papal authority,(22) which is essential for the continued survival of the Vatican and the Catholic Church as we know it today. The Commission, of course, failed to find a way and the result was the encyclical Humanae Vitae which banned the use of contraception.
The Vatican clearly sees that if the solutions to the population problem are applied, the dominance of the papacy will be vitiated. Thus, it is in no position to compromise with our national policy. NSSM 200 forthrightly opposes Rome on population strategy, family planning and abortion. But the Vatican simply cannot adjust to U.S. security interests and survive in its present form.
The Rigidity of the Catholic Dogma on Family Planning
A thorough understanding of the Catholic principle of papal infallibility and how it evolved is needed to understand the reasoning that underlies the position now taken by the Holy See on contraception and abortion. Catholic theologian and historian, August Bernhard Hasler, in his book How the Pope Became Infallible (1979), explains this reasoning.(23) Hasler had served in the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity for five years during which he was given access to the Vatican Archives. There he discovered numerous documents which had not been studied before, revealing the history of Vatican Council I and adoption of the infallibility dogma in 1870.
Hasler learned that in 1870, the Papacy, until then a powerful institution, feared that it would soon face extinction.(24) Pope Pius IX and his advisors were convinced that a declaration of papal infallibility was vital to the continuation of papal authority. According to Catholic Sociologist Jean-Guy Vaillancourt:
Faced with the loss of most of its traditional sources of power, the Holy See recognized the enormous potential power offered by the dogma of Papal infallibility, since with it would come almost endless possibilities for normative means of control. Indeed, until the mid-1960s, when the Church began to self-destruct following the proclamation by Pope Paul VI of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae banning contraception as intrinsically evil, this new arrangement worked just as Pius IX had hoped, and the Papacy continued to be a politically powerful institution.
However, in 1870, as Hasler discovered, the intellectual leadership of the Church was strongly opposed to the concept of papal infallibility on the grounds that some time in the future, as the world changed, the Church would find itself down some blind alley from which there would be no escape, with disintegration of the papacy inevitably following. In the 1870s, intellectual leaders left the Church in droves,(26) with no idea what the nature of the future "blind alley" would turn out to be.
We now know that the central issues of family planning are the blind alley. Recognizing this more than a century later, the renowned Swiss Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, wrote in his 31-page introduction to Hasler's book, "The only way to solve the problem of contraception is to solve the problem of infallibility."(27) Few dilemmas, if any, have received so much thought from so many intellectuals in the Church over the past few decades. No solution acceptable to the Holy See has been found.
Once the nature of the principle of infallibility and its origins are understood, it is evident that no solution to the birth control dilemma, short of the demise of the papacy as we know it, is likely. This became widely understood by Vatican decision-makers in the 1960s, as a result of Pope John XXIII's creation of the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control, noted earlier. The two-tiered commission consisted of a group of 15 cardinals and bishops and a group of 64 lay experts representing a variety of disciplines.(28) Finding a way to change the Church's position on birth control without destroying papal authority was the only assignment given the Commission. The Commission failed. None was found.(29)
The failure came after the Commission studied the dilemma for two years. The laymen voted 60 to 4 and the clerics 9 to 6 to change the Church's teaching on birth control,(30) even though it would mean a loss of papal authority, because it was the right thing to do.(31) However, the minority also submitted a report to the pope. Among the authors of the minority report was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, now Pope John Paul II. Hasler quotes from the minority report:
Thus, change in the Church's position at this point would mean destruction of the principle of papal infallibility. The logic of the minority report was flawless and the result was publication in 1968 of Humanae Vitae, banning the use of contraception as noted. But the problem was even deeper. As one examines the principle of infallibility and it origins, it becomes evident that as soon as this principle was adopted in 1870, it immediately became the fundamental principle of Catholic teaching and authority. If this principle is somehow destroyed, the foundation upon which all other Catholic principles rest is also destroyed. Pope John Paul II has said this in his own words. In a May 15, 1980 letter to the German Bishops' Conference, John Paul II said:
In these two quotes, Pope John Paul II acknowledges the obvious - and inevitable. Birth control had indeed become the "blind alley" the Church intellectuals so feared in 1870. The Church cannot change its position on birth control without destroying itself. The institution has defined morality in such a way as to attempt prevention of self-destruction - by asserting that birth control is morally wrong.
There is much wishful thinking that the next pope, or the pope after him, will support family planning. But this wishfulness does not take this dilemma into account and can be very destructive. Indeed, if I were a decision-maker in the Holy See, I would be spreading such wishful disinformation - in order to discourage any current efforts to confront the Vatican, forcefully and forthrightly, on the issues of abortion and contraception, a tenacious confrontation by people who are concerned, morally and practically about global stewardship - stewards who recognize that contraception and abortion are vital to the survival of our species - and many others.
Since his installation 17 years ago, Pope John Paul II has now appointed 84 percent of all voting cardinals. They are like-minded. There is precious little chance that the next pope, or the one following, will change the Church's position on family planning.
The Vatican and U.S. Immigration Policy
Many polls and studies show that U.S. Catholic lay couples exhibit the same family planning behavior as non-Catholics and hold the same beliefs about U.S. and world population growth. The Vatican is in conflict with many lay American Catholics on family planning, abortion and immigration. For example, a recent study by Catholic priest Andrew Greeley of the National Opinion Research Center found that only 7 percent of U.S. Catholics support the Vatican position on abortion.(34) The security-survival interests of the Catholic laymen are pitted against the security-survival interests of the Papacy. For many reasons - economic, medical, and social - family planning enhances the security of the layman and his/her family and increase their odds of survival and well being. But, family planning, abortion, etc., because they undermine papal authority, also undermine the security of the Papacy and threaten its very survival.
Likewise, Vatican demands for open borders of the U.S. are rejected by a large majority of U.S. Catholics.(35) American Catholic lay persons are statistically as opposed to unrestricted immigration into the United States as non-Catholic Americans. Yet, a recent study of the positions of religious denominations in the U.S. toward immigration highlighted the role played by the Catholic Church in respect of large-scale immigration:
A November 8, 1992, National Catholic Register article reveals why the Vatican is taking these positions. In it, Father Richard J. Ryscavage, executive director of the Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Catholic Conference noted that immigration is the
Another recent study(37) examines some of the Catholic leadership stances which many Americans will find shocking: Catholic leaders assert that the US. does not have an inherent right to limit migration; that every human has a right to migrate to the U.S. and take up residence there - to seek better living conditions; that the Catholic Church rejects the concept of national sovereignty; that all immigrants and their offspring have a right to keep their native language primarily; that most immigration restrictions are immoral; that the U.S. government distinction between political and economic refugees is unacceptable. These are all official papal positions. The author of this study is David Simeox. He is a Roman Catholic, a former foreign service officer, and the first executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), 1985-1992. He offers the following comment:
The reasons for American lay Catholic opposition to the Vatican's stance on unrestricted immigration into the U.S. are obvious. While the security-survival of the Papacy is greatly enhanced by this migration, as described by Ryscavage, the security-survival of Catholic layman and their families is undermined economically, educationally, medically, socially and in other ways bearing on the quality of life. Thus, as with family planning and abortion, the security-survival interests of the Catholic layman is pitted against the security-survival interests of the Papacy.
The Vatican Claims Protection from "Harmful Laws"
The Vatican claims the right to protect itself against "harmful laws" - even when democratically legislated! The central difficulty here, of course, is that what the Vatican considers "harmful" to itself and its authority often is exactly what lay Catholic men and women thoughtfully consider beneficial to themselves and their families. In a letter to American bishops from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the most powerful Vatican office - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger reminded the bishops that "The Church has the responsibility to protect herself from the application of harmful laws." This letter was keep secret from 55 million American Catholics until a brief notice written by Peter Steinfels for The New York Times appeared July 10, 1992. The actual text remained hidden from the public until it was leaked to the press on July 15, 1992.(38) Obviously, if an institution has the "responsibility," it also claims the "right." The Vatican exercised its "right" to protect itself from the application of harmful laws, in the autocratic way it defines as "harmful," when it blocked U.S. adoption of the Rockefeller Commission recommendations and implementation of the NSSM 200 policies approved by President Ford. "To protect herself," the Church moved quickly and efficiently to kill the two most important initiatives to control population growth in American history.
The Bishops' "Pastoral Plan"
Two decades ago the Vatican determined that if it were to survive, it must become much more active in U.S. politics at the national level. Up until this time the Vatican's involvement was more concentrated at the local level than national. Vatican influence over politics in large Catholic cities is well known and undisputed. Then the bishops decided that only by being highly organized and active politically on all levels of government could the Vatican overcome the mounting surge of political will seeking world population growth control.
On November 20, 1975, the American Catholic bishops issued their Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities.(39) This was just 6 days before President Ford made NSSM 200 public policy. The success of their Pastoral Plan is confirmed in an excellent February 24, 1992 article in Time which I will touch on later.
This Plan is a frank and superbly detailed blueprint of the bishops' strategy for influencing and working through the American democratic process at the national, state and local levels. It maps out a national political machine controlled by the bishops. A prime purpose of the Plan is to kill the political will of the United States to seriously tackle the global overpopulation problem. In the Plan, abortion was the issue chosen to galvanize the movement as proposed by Jesuit priest Virgil Blum in his 1971 America magazine article.(40) The Plan details a 3-pronged attack, one devoted to each of the three branches of our federal government: legislative, judicial and administrative.
As the Time article shows, with the election of anti-abortion Ronald Reagan and anti-abortion George Bush in 1980, the views of the Vatican gained substantial influence within the administrative branch of the U.S. government in the area of population and family planning policy. In their 12 years, these two presidents appointed 5 Supreme Court Justices and 70 percent of all sitting judges in the federal court system. All were anti-abortion, another goal of the Pastoral Plan. The legislative branch has been more difficult for those opposed to family planning, although they did achieve sufficient influence in Congress to the extent that pro-choice Congressmen could not override a presidential veto of family planning bills. As long as the anti-family planning interests controlled the White House, however, this was sufficient for their purposes. As noted earlier, even in the Carter years, the bishops were highly successful in undermining federal government population growth control efforts.
During the period 1976-1980, all of the organizations that became known as the "New Right Movement" were created, with one exception: The Christian Coalition was created later to replace the Moral Majority. In their Plan, the bishops said the favored such a movement. Catholics were key players in the creation of all of these organizations and influential in their leadership. This assessment of the creation of this movement and the influence in it of the bishops is well documented.(41) (42) Many Protestant churches, especially some of the Fundamentalist denominations, feel that their institutions are threatened by the solutions to the population problem. Their members are serving in the ranks of the so-called New Right Movement and their influence has been pivotal to the policies of that Movement.
TIME Magazine says the Pope Calls the Tune
The February 24, 1992 issue of TIME magazine published a story on the alliance between Reagan and the Pope to undermine Communism in Poland, by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, which included significant revelations about matters other than the overthrow of Communism. According to Bernstein:
In a section of his article headed "The U.S. and the Vatican on Birth Control," Bernstein includes three more revealing paragraphs:
'American policy was changed as a result of the Vatican's not agreeing with our policy,' Wilson writes, 'American aid programs around the world did not meet the criteria the Vatican had for family planning. AID [the Agency for International Development] sent various people from [the Department of] State to Rome, and I'd accompany them to meet the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and in long discussions they finally got the message. But it was a struggle. They finally selected different programs and abandoned others as a result of this intervention.'
'I might have touched on that in some of my discussions with [CIA director William] Casey,' acknowledges Pio Cardinal Laghi, the former apostolic delegate to Washington. 'Certainly Casey already knew about our positions about that.'
Thus Bernstein indicates what the cadre of devout Catholics in the Reagan Administration did to protect the Papacy from NSSM 200. He quotes our ambassador to the Vatican, William Wilson, who reveals that during the Reagan Administration, Papal policy on birth control and abortion, in effect, simply replaced the policy set forth by NSSM 200. (The bishops enjoyed considerable success with their Pastoral Plan at the state level as well.)(43)
Presidents Reagan and Bush were arguably the most pro-Catholic Presidents in American history. The bishops gained influence over the Republican party just as they set out to do, according to their Pastoral Plan. In November 1992, outgoing Republican National Committee Chairman Richard Bond told the members of that committee on January 29, 1993, that it was time for the Republican Party to abandon the papal position on abortion. Bond said that the party should not be governed by "zealotry masquerading as principle."(44)
Silence Cloaks NSSM 200
Although President Ford endorsed the recommendations of NSSM 200 on November 26, 1975, the report was never printed. There are only a handful of photocopies available. Those who wrote the report recommended that it be classified for 5 years. Werner Fornos, President of the Population Institute, with the aid of several members of Congress, succeeded in getting the NSSM 200 report declassified for a brief period in 1976. Despite his best efforts, and the explosiveness of the report, he was unable to achieve any press coverage whatsoever. Instead, he soon found the report reclassified as a result of the objections of "members of the national security establishment" to the early declassification.(45)
In the end, the document remained classified for 14 years, rather than the recommended 5 years. The only institution that benefits from this continued silence is the Roman Catholic Church. Says James Scheuer,
Congressman Scheuer put it succinctly:
NSSM 200's most important accomplishment was that it defined U.S. security interests regarding world population growth control, and identified the opponents of population growth control as enemies of the United States. U.S. security interests are personal and profound for us all: the peace, well-being and prospects of the American people. Papal security-survival along with the influence of fundamentalist Protestant opposition to birth control is now pitted against the U.S. and world security-survival. Intervention is now crucial if the overpopulation trajectory projected by NSSM 200 is to be broken. The alternative is chaos and ecologic disaster.
Political will has always been the most crucial element in seeking solutions to the population crisis. No matter how concerned we are as individuals or organizations, nothing substantial and significant is likely to happen to reach our goals in this endeavor without mobilizing our political will as a nation. Therefore we must direct our energies now to identifying obstructions to rebuilding our political will to deal with overpopulation and converting this will to action.
We have everything to lose - and so very much to save.
1. Nixon R. Special Message to the Congress on Problems of Population Growth, July 18, 1969. Public Papers of the Presidents, No. 271, p. 521, Office of the Federal Register, National Archives, Washington, DC, 1971.
3. Nixon R. Statement About the Report of the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, May 5, 1972. Public Papers of the Presidents, No. 142, p. 576, Office of the Federal Register, National Archives, Washington, DC, 1974.
10. Illegal Immigration. Special Report of the Environmental Fund. November 1978. The Roper Poll reported on showed that 91% of the public want all illegal immigration halted. To achieve this proportion would require that the vast majority of both Catholics and nonCatholics concur.
15. Mumford SD, Kessel E. Is wide availability of abortion essential to national population growth control programs? Experiences of 116 countries. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1984;149:639-645.
16. Ravenholt RT. Pronatalist Zealotry and Population Pressure Conflicts: How Catholics Seized Control of U.S. Family Planning Programs. Center for Research on Population and Security, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709. May 1991, 27 pp.
23. Hasler, AB. How the Pope Became Infallible. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1981. Originally published in German under the title WIE DER PAPST UNFEHLBAR WURDE: Macht und Ohnmacht eines Dogmas. Verlag, Munchen: R. Piper & Company, 1979.
39. United States Catholic Conference. Pastoral plan for pro-life activities. Washington, D.C., 1975. 13 pp. (Copies are available from the Center for Research on Population and Security, P.O. Box 13067, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709)
43. Mumford SD. The Catholic bishops' pastoral plan for pro-life activities and its implications for Democracy in North Carolina. Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1987.