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Pope: Good Catholics Don't Have to Mate 'Like Rabbits'

Pope Francis defended the Catholic Church's ban on artificial contraception, but he said that doesn't mean couples should "be like rabbits."

After a triumphant visit to the Philippines, where he defended the Catholic Church's historical opposition to artificial contraception, Pope Francis said Monday that the church's position doesn't mean couples should abandon "responsible parenthood" and "be like rabbits."

In a news conference aboard his flight back to Rome, the pope reiterated the church's opposition to government population control programs as a form of "ideological colonization." But he stressed that "this does not mean a Christian must make children one after another" and that it's a misconception to "think — excuse me if I use the word — that to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. But no."

The Roman Catholic Church has long accepted so-called natural contraceptive practices, which Francis specifically mentioned in his remarks Monday, according to news service reports. And his comments weren't the first time the modern Vatican has suggested that it was appropriate for Catholics to choose not to procreate.

In 1992, Pope John Paul II's Vatican issued an official statement on population control ahead of the Earth Summit in Brazil, saying: "The position of the Holy See regarding procreation is frequently misinterpreted. The Catholic Church does not propose procreation at any cost. It keeps on insisting that the transmission of, and the caring for human life must be exercised with an utmost sense of responsibility."