The Pope may have been expecting quite a reaction when he said on Monday that Catholics should avoid contraception but didn’t need to be “like rabbits” in the bedroom.
But he might not have predicted that he would cause offence to a small association in Germany – of rabbit breeders themselves.
Erwin Leowsky, president of the central council of German rabbit breeders, said it was “unacceptable that the reproduction of the world's poorest people is compared with the reproduction of rabbits”.
Stressing that it was only his personal opinion – in part because only wild rabbits are prolific breeders – he said that he felt the Pope should allow Catholics to use contraception and not resort to inaccurate clichés when discussing the topic.
In a statement on the website of the Zentralverband Deutscher Rasse-Kaninchenzüchter, he said: “It is worrying if the Catholic Church or the pope can't talk about family policy without saying such dumb things.”
On Monday, the Pope described the idea of regulating family sizes using an international institution as the “ideological colonisation” of the developing world.
“God gives you methods to be responsible,” he said. “Some think that - excuse the word - that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. Parenthood is about being responsible. This is clear.”
But Francis also cited the case of a woman who had become pregnant with her eighth child after seven caesarean sections, calling it “an irresponsibility”.
“This is to tempt God,” he said. “Does she want to leave the seven orphans?”
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